April 27, 2010

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 80, Issue 14

Five Finger Shoes: Running revolution?

"Five Fingered" shoes. Photo by Abulic Monkey.

"Five Fingered" shoes. Photo by Abulic Monkey.

In September, the Italian shoe company Vibram premiered a shoe that has since revolutionized the running world. The "Five Fingered" shoe is a barefoot runner's dream shoe, because it has little to no cushioning compared to its counterparts.

Barefoot running is not a new fad. The world's leading running magazine, Runners World, has found that the trend has been around since Bill Bowerman put the famous swoosh on his Nike shoes, thus starting the jogging phenomenon in the 1970s.

As running shoes have developed over time companies have added more cushion to help runners keep good form and prevent injury. Doctors are now finding that cushioning is causing humans to run unnaturally and causing injury. With this in mind, runners began to throw off their shoes and run the way humans were genetically supposed to: barefoot.

The Five Finger Shoes are different from regular running shoes in that they separate the toes and use very little cushioning. They are water proof, and help protect the feet from hot asphalt and glass. Niagara University's assistant cross country coach, Michelle Fox, works at Runner's Roost in Orchard Park and says, "The Five Fingers are a lot more popular than I had expected. Once word got out that we were going to be selling them, we had numerous phone calls inquiring about them. On the same day that our first shipment arrived, we had already sold about a third of our inventory."

Fox, herself, has used the new shoe. She says, "Compared to a regular running shoe, the five fingers give my feet a lot more freedom and flexibility. My feet do not feel confined or overprotected like in a running sneaker; it is more of a natural feel."

The shoe does have some down sides. A new time user may be sore after the first couple of uses because the shoe makes the runner hit the ground with their mid foot first instead of their heel. This works different muscles in the calves, upper legs and back. Fox thinks this new way of exercise is what has made the Five Finger shoes so appealing.

"The theory that barefoot running strengthens your feet and lower legs, which ultimately reduces injury risks, is a very ideal concept for runners. I think that a lot of the runners are willing to try a product that produces results that can guide them to more efficient, injury-free running," she says.

Vibram named the shoe Five Fingers because in Italy toes and fingers are the same word. Fox says that the shoe is "unique," and "is one of the most useful ways for runners to strengthen their legs and prevent injury." Vibram has made pamphlets stating that the popularity of the shoe has led to more and more runners removing their shoes and running barefoot.

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