Robin * Slomkowski (rslomkow) wrote,
Robin * Slomkowski

Shoes for Happier Feet

I have funny shaped feet.  I always have and now I see my son will as well.  My feet are both high and wide, with moderate arch.  The widest part of my foot is the ball of my foot which has often been painfully squished.

On my birthday back in 2008 I was in Chicago and went into a shop that was selling Vibram barefoot shoes.  I had read the research on barefoot running, and knew about the Nike Free concept they were working on.

Eventually I used my REI dividend and bought myself and my wife a pair (which she only will wear when nobody is looking.) 

Now after having lived with "barefoot" style shoes for over a year I can say they are best thing that every happened to my feet.  Running and letting my foot spread to absorb the shock make my feet feel great!  It is like a foot massage every time I go running.  In my daily life my feet have less fungus, feet feel much better day in and day out, I have better posture, and fewer leg sores.

Basically there are two strategies to foot issues.  One is orthotics which basically are crutches for your feet.  They prevent you from tearing yourself up if you have messed up feet, but they don't lead you to completely heal your feet.  If you used crutches all the time your legs would remain week and you would never actually walk well, to really recover you have to give them up.  That is barefoot shoes, you give up the crutch of support and you walk and engage all 26 muscles in your feet and make them strong and at first they make your calves sore, but eventually they make them feel better (at least for me.)

Vibram Fivefinger aka Toe Shoes
Blue Camo Sprint
Red Black SprintBlack KSOblack KSO trek, leatherBrown Classic
Yes I have 5 pairs of these.  They are the best shoes I have ever owned.  They have great traction wet.  They are good to run in (yes on concrete), Yes you really have to measure your feet with a tape measure and it makes sense to get them exactly the length of your foot (a 41 for me, though in normal shoes I wear a 44) if you wear them barefoot or with thin socks (yes your socks must have toes).

The blue clouds were the first ones I got from REI with my dividend, The sprints are great for running, climbing, going around town.  The one weakness is cold and wet.   The toes get extremely cold when wet in all of these (except the Trek KSO).  They take a while to get used to, you cannot start running long distances in these right away, and people who are used to heavily structured shoes get sore in them even with long walks, but you adjust within a week.  The sprints have a strap to really hold your foot in place, but a very light weight sandal like structure.  I have torn up my blue ones a bit, scraping my foot in funny ways on rocks does tear up the lycra.  The soles are bit thinner from hundreds of km of running on concrete.  I got a second pair (the red ones that look a bit nicer).

The KSO (Keep Stuff Out) has a mesh top so you don't get as much stuff in the shoe, but it also has a different strap and a thicker heel.  I like the straps better on the KSO but the sole is better on the sprints.  The KSOs also run bigger.  I blew mine out, not sure why they failed but the stitching didn't hold up very well.  I have sewn them up by hand twice, but have a new tear on my left foot.   Came while doing some "tight rope" style walking on a fence log.  These are also good running shoes.  The KSO Trek is a very different shoe.  The sole is much thicker, it remains very flexible, but it actually has lugged tread and a lot more cushioning.  The Kangeroo leather is great, makes it look nicer and the thicker sole combined with the leather makes it dramatically warmer.  The KSO Trek I can wear in the snow and be reasonably happy.  The feel is very nice, but it is also a much narrower sole.  I consider them more of a hit and miss kind of fit than the other models.

The classics I just use as house shoes, and use them for working out on the deck.  I like them for the the very flat standing position and excellent grip both wet and dry and extreme splinter resistance.  What I don't like is that the front cinch strap bites into my foot a bit (not a problem with the sprints) I think this comes from my high feet.

Vivo Barefoot by Tera Plana aka Eco Hipster Shoes
Red Vivo Barefoot AquaBrown Vivo Barefoot Dharma
For these I ordered a 44 which is my regular size for shoes.  They fit very wide and quite comfortable.  If I was going to wear them without the inside liner I would go a size smaller, I could almost go a size smaller anyway.  They fit pretty ordinary for a wide cut shoe.  The soles are comfortable, thin, and flexible in all directions.  The styles are a bit funky but stylish.  The sole has no grip in wet snowy conditions, but is fine on dry surfaces.  They look very ordinary, but do have an extremely flexible sole, but still protect you from everything that is happening.  They do leave shoe shaped footprints and I would consider them a good compromise for normal footwear and helping your feet.
Feelmax Shoes aka Puncture Resistant Socks
Black Feelmax Niesa
The Niesa is an interesting shoe.  The sole is 1.3mm with a thin insole.  The big problem for me is ordered a 42 (one size larger than I wear in the VFF) and it was far too narrow for my EEEE wide right foot, but the length was pretty ideal.  They look like pretty ordinary shoes and you can wear them most place where you could wear a fashionable sneaker.  They really feel like you are just wearing socks outdoors, you leave footprints that are foot shaped rather than shoes shaped.

My favourites remain the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF).  This is what really activated my toes for the first time.  But each has its place, general out and about climbing, short to medium runs go to VFF.  Going to work, semi-formal occasions, things that need enclosed shoes I go with the Vivo Barefoot.  I haven't found the real use case of the Feelmax shoes, partically because they are too narrow for me.

For winter running I still wear a pair of Asics trainers (but they are much harder on my ankles and knees) and for races I have a pair of Piranha SP2 which have a relatively small heel, and are ultra light-weight.

Now I also have gone over to toe socks.   For sports socks Injinji are the best, for daily socks I like some local German ones, and for just basic relativly cheap I go with feelmax.
Tags: feet, shoes

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