Have you seen them before? Because I have. I've seen them a lot. Every single time I've encountered them, I'm blown away.
Did I think they were funny looking? Obviously. But did I also want to give them a one week no-holds-bar trial period? Absolutely.
I have so many questions...
* Are they comfortable?
* What are they actually called?
* Do your feet get cold?
* Are they secretly stylish?
* Are they supportive?
* How do they work?
* Are other people as curious as I am?
* WHAT ARE THOOOOOOOOOSE???
After some research, it seems the goal of these shoes is to simulate a ~barefoot experience~. To my understanding, moving and running ~barefoot~ will ideally strengthen your toes and feet, and in turn improve your balance and performance.
I reached out to the folks at Vibram and they hooked me up big time. Within five days, I had them. I had the shoes with toes. Specifically, I had the "KMD Sports LS" model of Vibram Five Fingers. HOT DOG, were they everything that I hoped for and more. It was show time.
Did I make a horrible mistake?
I am not exaggerating in the least when I say it took 25+ minutes to get these shoes on my feet. To be fair, I have the feet of a clammy half-transformed werewolf. In my time of crisis, I turned to the only place I could depend on — YouTube. I watched an actual YouTube video which showed me how to put on a pair of Five Fingers shoes.
After working up a sweat while wrestling my own feet, I still couldn't tell if this was going to work. Some laps around the office proved to be painful. Only after a closer look did I realize that I had two toes in one sleeve, on each foot. So, in reality, it took me more like 35+ minutes to put them on correctly.
My coworkers looked at me with pain in their eyes and my fiancée was ashamed of me. This was going to be a long week.
The shoes deserved a REAL test drive.
Coincidentally, I needed fresh air. Walking outside was actually a pleasant surprise. The bottoms of the shoes weren't as thin as they looked. I thought every rock and every crack would rattle me, but in reality I had a pretty strong foundation beneath me.
Physical comfort wise, I was doing so-so. Emotionally, I was not doing as hot. I could feel everyone's eyes divert down towards the fashion statement I was making. If I could've flipped my middle toe I would have. One day down, and my feet were definitely confused. Each of them, trapped in a dark, sweaty polyester prison.
Apparently you are supposed to avoid going from zero to 100 with toe shoes.
The inside of the actual shoe box had information about how often you should wear these shoes when you get them. The first couple weeks should be minimal; around the office, at home etc. That way your feet become accustomed to their new life. I didn't have time for that. I was here to make a statement for one week.
On the second day, I went to the gym in the morning. I did not, however, have the courage to wear my toe shoes while working out. I needed to wear my normal sneakers. The fear of dropping a weight onto my feet and smashing them into a pulp was ever-present. I showered, got changed and OOPSIES time to sweat some more! My toe shoe assembly time DID come down significantly from the first day, at a blazing 10 minutes.
The walk to work hurt. My stride had devolved from "hurried New Yorker" to "injured baby giraffe." Once I was at my desk, I wriggled my toes, and tried inching them into their respective homes. Amazingly, a few extra minutes of concentrated toe wrangling made the biggest difference. The shoes were... becoming comfy? Not necessarily the shoe I'd pick first, but they were definitely growing on me.
One aspect that took some getting used to was the sound I made while walking.
Slap. Slap. Slap. Everyone could hear me approaching. This was probably for the best, as it allowed people ample time to avoid making eye contact with me.
Riding the subway scared me the most.
What if I stubbed my toe? What if someone stepped on my foot? The danger was REAL. Also people have to look at me. Normal citizens who are just going about their business have to look at my toe situation. For that, inhabitants of New York City, I'm very sorry.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" - Kelly Clarkson
The time it took to put on my shoes was STILL coming down. With the assistance of a pen to boss around my toes, I stepped into those bad boys in about four minutes. I was feeling good and I was looking good. My walking speed still wasn't top gear, but my stride was definitely less cautious.
It was time to have a little fun and experiment.
Hell, I HAD EARNED IT. What was this new power I wielded? Should I use it for good or for evil? I settled somewhere in the middle...
We are talking three minutes to put on my shoes. I had a lot of positive momentum built up, so I threw caution to the wind, and decided I would wear them to the gym. Was that a stupid idea? Probably. Working out is a substantial part of my life, and if I was going to give these shoes a fair shot, it didn't seem right to avoid toe-shoeing while exercising.
Everyone was looking at me. I know they were, I could feel it. MY EYES ARE UP HERE.
Every dumbbell I grabbed was a dance with disaster. Luckily I was able to avoid any catastrophic accidents. My feet were so naive. "Nothing could happen to us! We're covered!" After some weights I stuck mostly to body weight exercises.
I don't know for sure, but I felt that my balance seemed stronger.
With less material and padding separating my feet from the floor, I think I had a better grip on the ground when performing exercises.
I won't lie: I was getting ready for my experiment to be over.
My feet smelled like death and my toes hurt. However, I surmised that the pain was coming from the shoes just being flat-out new, rather than something being wrong. I remembered that becoming accustomed to Vibram Five Fingers can take weeks and weeks. PSHH! ONE WEEK AND WE OUT!
I made it. I made it to the end of the work week. Between you and me, I wore socks and shoes to the gym again, and it was orgasmic. The warm, dry love that I felt was unparalleled. I wasn't cocky enough to wear the toe shoes at the gym a second time. Your feet can only cheat feet-death once. Regardless, I HAD TO FINISH STRONG!
Putting on the shoes was EAZY PEAZY! I was now a master.
For the final trek into the office, I felt like a nearsighted penguin, waddling without a cause. In addition to my wounded toes, the balls of my feet were really starting to scream.
There were some last-minute jabs at my ego.
The time had come to decide if I continue my passion project.
Deep down, I want to say "Yes, I will continue to wear these shoes in order to reap the benefits of superior balance and athletic performance." But realistically, I just don't think it's going to happen. The toe shoe game is a long con, and my body just isn't ready.
But hey! I'm proud of myself!
Before I started, I thought I'd be able to tackle this easily. I mean, they're just shoes. Wrong. So wrong. It takes someone who is both mentally and physically strong to rock Vibram Five Fingers. Moving forward, when I see someone out and about, with their toes exposed, I'll know. I'll know ALL about the pain and commitment that goes into toe shoes.