Have you happened to notice some strange folks wear shoes that look like feet?
Well, that’s not surprising because these are becoming more and more common nowadays. People wear them while walking, running, hiking and in the gym.
These thin shoes with toes, kind of like “foot gloves”, completely adapt to the outline of the foot and allow the feet and toes to perform their natural motions. Now, humans have only been wearing modern running shoes since 1970 and these shoes are engineered in such a way that they restrict the motion of the foot.
Shoes that look like feet – Vibram Fivefingers
The company that produces shoes that look like feet is called Vibram, the shoes are known as Vibram Fivefingers, and there are multiple different product lines.
Some are specifically made for casual wear, others for running, sprinting or hiking.
Personally, I believe these shoes are best suited for athletic endeavours. I’m not sure the world is quite “ready” yet for people to be wearing these in their day-to-day lives, but who knows if things will change in the next few years.
The science on shoes that look like feet
The point of these shoes that look like feet, is that they’re supposed to enable people to walk and run in the same way as if they were barefoot.
Think about it. Humans haven’t been wearing shoes for millions of years of evolution. These shoes are relatively new to the human race, and the modern running shoe was invented in 1970.
In fact, until in relatively recent times, humans were barefoot. All the time. And there are still plenty of populations in the world that have probably never even seen shoes.
Well, some clever Harvard researchers noticed this, and decided to do some experiments. They compared modern shoe runners with barefoot runners (from Africa), and discovered that those who run barefoot land completely differently (1).
The barefoot runners land on the forefoot or mid-foot before they put their heel to the ground, using their calf muscles to resist the strike of the heel.
Modern shoe runners land directly on their heel, assisted with the elevated and cushioned heel of the shoe.
It turns out that barefoot running (and forefoot striking) produces a much smaller impact upon landing than running in shoes, and researchers believe that the large impact caused by heel striking in shoes might be causing those repetitive injuries that are common in runners today (2).
How this affects endurance training
It seems clear that it is much more natural for humans to run barefoot, or in minimalist shoes that look like feet, and it might reduce chances of injuries significantly.
My recommendation is to consider these kinds of shoes in order to prevent injuries from endurance training and to properly strengthen the calves and muscles of the feet.
The human foot is a miraculous feat of engineering, and it seems like a waste to spend a lifetime on running with shoes that prevent the natural functions of the foot.
I believe these shoes have come to be, and that we will see a lot more of them in the near future.
When running barefoot, or in shoes that look like feet, then it is very important to ease into it gradually.
For those who have been running in modern shoes their entire life, changing to barefoot or Vibrams is a massive change and it can take a while to adapt. The calves and soles of the feet can be sore in the beginning.
Finally, here’s a video of a Harvard professor discussing barefoot running, which should also apply to those strange shoes that look like feet: