It's just hard to beat several million years of evolutionary adaptation, even accounting for the fine craftsmanship of Church's handmade English shoes (all the rage in France, when I lived there).

Nonetheless, just as I blogged in my entry Learning to Walk a few months back, barefoot or nearly so is best. I love my Vibram Five Fingers (which have been dubbed my "feet" by my wife; as in: "should I toss down your feet?") and I even walk just plain barefoot now and then. People tease me about the soles of my feet, often on display, and thoroughly black.

It's quite easy to get used to.

Matt Metzgar dug up a study, and guess what? Shoes increase stress on your knees and hips (pdf). He quotes a portion and I can personally attest to part of the speculation: "A final explanation of the biomechanical advantages of barefoot walking may be attributed to increased proprioceptive input from skin contact with the ground compared with an insulated foot contacting the ground." This is exactly what I have been noting when discussing the issue with people (the Vibrams are quite a conversation piece). Just as I have often commented that flexible, intermittent fasting gives you high resolution into your personal hunger and appetite signaling, so too does going barefoot outside where there exists all manner of things that can cause pain and injury give you high resolution into your walking. After a time, you don't even notice small sharp pebbles as you lighten your step on the fly, instantly. You also gain awareness of your peripheral vision and avoid stepping on things you shouldn't — without even being conscious of it. At first, it's sensory overload. After a time, it becomes thoroughly natural. Go figure.

Now, I don't know about you, but my gut reaction is that any modern thing that actually cuts me off from sensory perception (the root of knowledge of reality) had better be good and damn necessary. Guilty, until proven innocent, I'd say. Given the added stress on joins and hips, and the resultant chronic injury with surgery and replacement experienced by so many, I'd say the jury is in. …So go frollic barefoot. What the hell? You know people are going to envy you for it.

Walking. Bi-ped hominoid. It's pretty damn fundamental.


  1. Jeff on October 20, 2008 at 18:09

    Hey Richard,

    I have the FiveFingers classic model and love them. Have you looked into a more dressy or causal shoe that are more barefoot like? I have looked all over to find something, but everything has a heel and tons of support I don't want. I would gladly buy any dressier shoe style that let my feet be feet. Any suggestions?


  2. Diana Hsieh on October 20, 2008 at 21:14

    Oh man, I am so going barefoot!

    I've had pretty serious problems with my feet for the past few years. In particular, I've developed a morton's neuroma (inflamed nerve) and capsulitis (inflamed tendon) in the balls of both feet. They flared up seriously a few months ago, so I've been resting them (i.e. no running or using the elliptical trainer), always wearing comfy shoes with custom orthotics (including a metatarsal pad), icing or heating them almost every day — since April. The day-to-day severe pain has subsided, but my feet feel uncomfortable nearly all the time. And if I try to resume normal activities, even just a bit, I get two weeks of pretty severe pain.

    So I'm happy to try something very different. As a kid, I used to run around the farm barefoot all the time. I think it's time to resume that.

  3. Richard Nikoley on October 21, 2008 at 12:27


    Terra Palna has some good stuff, though it looks like they no longer have the moccasin type of dress shoe I got from them:

    Diana, in the "Learning to Walk" post I linked I described some of the process I went through to retrain myself, so if you didn't see that, it might be helpful.

  4. Keith Norris on October 21, 2008 at 02:33

    I do all of my sprint work, as much as practicable, Barefoot, on grass. When I am forced to wear shoes, it's something minimal — Nike Frees — but even with these, the increase in foot contact time (and resultant decrease in speed)is astonishing.

  5. Jeff on October 22, 2008 at 18:14

    Hey Richard,

    Thanks for the answer. I will look into those.
    One more question. Maybe it is just me, but my FiveFingers get pretty "ripe" since I use them a lot for workouts. Any suggestion on how to rid them of the man stink?


  6. Richard Nikoley on October 23, 2008 at 12:24


    According to the info, they're completely machine washable, but you should hang to dry. In between such washings, just running under water would probably help.

  7. Jeff on October 23, 2008 at 17:36

    I just checked out the T shirts. I love the design, but shouldn't people like us get athletic or slim fit? I didn't see those there, unfortunately.

  8. Ryan Mc. on October 25, 2008 at 10:38

    I've always preferred walking barefoot. People used to call me "Hawaii" when I was little.

  9. Running on Vibrams :PaleoSnow on December 11, 2009 at 13:06

    […] some point I ran across a couple posts on Richard’s blog, then read through the New York Magazine article on “You Walk […]

  10. […] me just get this out of the way: Vibram Five Fingers shoes are…'Just OK' for me. Sure, I loved them, at first, but I later realized that was mostly the novelty of it. It wore off and pretty quickly. […]

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