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Well, as life would have it (and has had it multiple times in the past), this blog got a little away from me.  So here we are, almost a year later, and what has changed?  Well, a LOT.  First of all, we have moved into a different home, and so far are enjoying it immensely.  Lots of space to roam, a pool, great neighbors, and closer to all the things and people we love.  Secondly, my employer finally put their, ahem, “foot” down on the usage of VFF’s at work, so I went with my plan B, the Vivo’s, which served me well, but were never quite as comfortable or made me nearly as happy as my Vibrams.  So, I quit.  Well, ok, that wasn’t the ONLY reason why I quit, but for the sake of argument, it started there.  🙂  I went back to pursuing my own business, a mobile optical dispensary and repair service, and now spend my days driving around town fixing people’s glasses and helping them get back on with their lives.  Its a great career, and while financially its been tough, emotionally and spiritually it has been a blessing for me, giving me back LOTS more time with my family and friends that I had lost working myself to the bone at my previous employer.  And my feet thank me too, as I can now wear whatever I feel like to work (and play, and swim, etc etc).  So of course, my collection has grown.  Oh, come on, you couldn’t see that one coming?  I now am the proud owner of my brown Treks, black KSO’s, grey camo KSO’s, charcoal smartwool classics, and another pair of KSO’s that I can’t for the life of me remember what they call the color, but basically khaki and green.  My wife’s collection has grown too, and she now owns 4 pairs as well.

I plan on writing more again, but I also plan on writing on a variety of topics.  My interests are many, and hopefully people that are interested in finding out about barefoot shoes might also share some of my other interests as well.  And if not, well, skip those posts.  🙂

I hope those that have found this blog from the birthdayshoes website will continue to read, and I pray that I find the time (of which I have a lot more of lately!) to continue to write interesting and informative articles.

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Due to a recent, um, complication at another location where employees were threatened with their jobs if they didn’t stop wearing the Vibrams, I decided I needed a back up plan.  Mind you, my job has been far from threatened, and at this point in the game, I actually think my fellow employees and managers have gotten quite accustomed to my choice of footwear, but I learned long ago never to trust the norm, so I went on a hunt.  I needed to find a VFF alternative that looked like a normal shoe, felt like being barefoot, and didn’t cost an arm an a leg (or a foot!).  My search led me to Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot line of shoes.

I was impressed with the overall company and the principles it encompasses, and I found the Oaks to be a quite attractive shoe.  A little research on the web scored me a website with a (presumably) discontinued color style available at half off the normal price, and a little more searching found me a coupon code that gave an additional $10 off and free shipping, so I managed to pick up a pair of Oaks for under $65.  Good buy!

Oak in Dark Brown Suede

Well, they arrived about a week ago, and the box was quite impressive.  Terra Plana prides themselves on being ecologically responsible, and it starts with the box.  From the recycled (and recyclable) box to the cloth bags to the tags on the shoes, everything looked very earth friendly.  The shoes were no disappointment either, and I was quite impressed with how soft and pliable they were compared to what a shoe normally is.

Per suggestions I’ve read all over, I removed the (removable on purpose) insole liner they come with to give a more minimal footbed feel, and donned a pair of Injinji’s.  Here’s my impression after wearing them for a week:

The toe box is HUGE!  I can move my toes up, down, and sideways and don’t hit the shoe!  This is nice as my toes tend to get claustrophobic in regular shoes, and don’t have issues at all with these.

I like the feel of the sole.  At 4.5mm thick, they’re a little thicker than the Treks I’ve gotten so used to, but I still have excellent ground sensation.  They have a very aggressive tread, and I don’t seem to have any slippage, even on wet polished concrete at work.

The shoes run wide.  I think I have a narrow foot to start with, but these suckers feel like slippers!  Not that that’s a bad thing, just very different from what I’m used to.  I’ve never been a huge loafer-style shoe fan, usually opting for something more secure feeling and tie on.  These shoes have laces, but solely for decoration – they don’t do squat for tightening the shoes.  As a result, the shoe “moves” with every step I take.  Imagine walking barefoot inside of a shoe.  I step, and then the shoe steps.  It took a few hours to get used to the feel, but once I did, its not bad.

Overall impression?  Usable, but not my favorite.  Again, maybe its from my narrow footsies, or maybe just my insane brain that wants either tight fitting shoes or none at all, but I couldn’t see myself wearing these day in and day out.  But that said, I don’t mind wearing them, so long as I have a choice.

These shoes seem to give me the option I was looking for in a shoe that allowed the barefoot feel and foot movements with the cosmetics of a “classic” shoe, so my problem is, at least for the time being, solved.

Want to keep your pants from falling on the ground, but don’t want to shell out the $15 for the Trip Clip? A quick visit to my local Wal-Mart scored me a pack of a dozen badge clips (in the office supplies area) for around $3.50, and a pack of 14 XL black elastic hairbands (in the hair accessories aisle) for about $3.50.  Here is one of each

Putting the two of them together is simple: just wrap the strap of the badge clip around the black elastic, and snap.  You want the “clip” to be facing upwards, as this is the part that will be holding the bottom of the pant leg.  Repeat x 12.

I think I have relatively average sized ankles, and while I feel a little pressure from the elastic, it gives quite a bit and is a pretty thick cord, so it is still quite comfortable on my ankle.  Note that this is WAY higher than I actually wear it, I just wanted to show it compared to the black KSO’s.  Once again, when putting these on your ankles, make sure the clip facing up and is on the outside.  The plastic strap of the badge clip will be concealed inside the pants, only the small silver clip will be visible from the outside.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a picture of the back of your leg while standing upright??  🙂  Here is the finished result, pant leg clipped at the bottom seam (you can fold under the hem if you want to give it a little thicker material to grip, especially useful in more dress-like pants).  The pants are only allowed to drape down a few inches past your ankles, keeping the back of the pants well up off the floor.

Under $7, less than 5 minutes, and you have 6 PAIRS of clips to wear!  Give one to a friend and spread the word!

Hope this helps all the barefoot/minimalist wearers out there!  Happy barefooting!

Found another great site with tons of information and dedicated mainly to the VFF’s…birthdayshoes.com.  Great stories, great people, and a newsletter you can sign up for to track when the leading online retailers get updated stock of the VFF’s (these suckers are hard to find sometimes, especially if you have an “average” size foot!).  Check them out and see what you think!

Vibram Five Fingers fan community - free your feet!
Vibram Five Fingers free my feet!

Well, I managed to go about 3 weeks at my workplace before management started to take notice of my new “shoes,” and so far the response has been less than stellar, though I have yet to be told to remove them.  I have scoured over dress code policies up, down, and sideways, and haven’t found anything in there that could even possibly be detrimental to my wearing of VFF’s at work, and so far, the responses I’ve gotten from my customers, though sometimes a little embarrassed to ask, have been very positive and encouraging.  In fact, business seems to have picked up since I starting wearing them, and I’ve even gotten a few customers and other employees coming in at the recommendation of others to see my feet and ask me about why I’m essentially barefoot!  I’ll take increased traffic any day of the week, no matter what the reason!

There were a few things that I did find out reading the dress code policies, however, that made me change a little of my attire.  First off, and probably most importantly, the dress code does specifically state that “socks or hose must be worn at all times.”  Ok, I can do that.  How do you wear socks with five-fingered shoes?  Five toed socks, of course!  My favorites so far (in all fairness, the only ones I’ve tried so far) are the Injinji performance tetrasocks.  Not cheap, about $12 a PAIR, but thin and comfortable, so I can make due with them.  Injinji also has a bamboo “liner” type of sock that I’d like to try, but I can’t seem to find it in stores, so I’ll have to order from their website.

My other concern, or rather a concern that might be brought up, is the super thin mesh-like material that covers the top of the KSO’s I now wear exclusively.  The first comment I always get from management is “what happens if a forklift drives over your toes?”  to which I answer “let me drive one over yours first and we’ll see how your shoes hold up!”  🙂  Seriously, people, unless you’re wearing steel toed industrial boots, a pair of sneakers is going to offer zero protection against something like that!  And even then, the steel toed boots would still most likely result in loss of toes if a freakin’ forklift drives over them!  Anyhow, off the soapbox, I decided that maybe to shirk the issue, I’d look into getting a pair of KSO treks, which are the same type of design as the KSO (full foot coverage), but are made from leather uppers rather than the thin breathable mesh.  At a cost of $125 shipped, not the cheapest shoes I’ve ever bought, but also not the most expensive.  I managed to find probably the only pair of Treks left in the U.S. in a size 40 for sale on sandalshed.com, and ordered them promptly.  Customer service was great and they had fast, free shipping available for my order.  I was so sure that it was an error on the website that they actually had the 40’s in stock that I called to confirm after I placed the order, and the woman I spoke to was very helpful and friendly, and even packed my order up early since I was so eager to get them!

These pictures really don't do the supple leather justice...

Today, after only about a week’s wait, they have arrived.  The pictures on the websites made them seem like much thicker, more shiny leather, but the pair I received has the most luxurious, soft, suede-like leather I’ve ever felt in my life!  Made from kangaroo (yes, really), it is incredible, and from the little booklet that accompanied them, also very water friendly, both in getting wet and getting dry again.  The Treks have a very different sole to them, still thin enough to be flexible in all the right areas (and thinner than some of the other models on the “hinge” points of the sole), but thicker throughout and have these unique rubber “cleats” on the bottom that give the most traction possible in this kind of shoe.

I took them out for a spin for the first time almost immediately after returning home from work (where they were waiting for me), and while they feel a little different than my KSO’s, they are super comfy!  The inner sole lining is a smooth leather, which from what I’ve read does a great job combating the odor that builds up on the regular soles (more about this in another post), and with my Injinji’s on, they are the perfect fit.  The other thing I like about them is the lack of the very obvious Vibram logo on the left big toe.  This was a dead giveaway on my KSO’s, and actually was the part of the shoe one of the managers that saw them at work had the biggest complaint about!  So for there to be no logo, I think the Treks are some very classy looking shoes – at least in the way of five toed barefoot-like shoes.

They’ll be making their maiden voyage with me to work tomorrow, so we’ll see how the responses go, but I’m excited about it.  I don’t know what kind of battles are in store for me and my feet at work, but now I feel like there really isn’t ANY possible way they can squash my choice of footwear, at least without being completely discriminatory for cosmetic reasons, which I think I could fight.

In the meantime, my feet are the most comfortable they’ve been probably in years, I haven’t had even a twinge of knee pain, I managed to run almost 2 miles on the treadmill tonight, and when I’m out and about, I just feel energized and connected with my surroundings so much more than when I was shod.  That, to me, is worth the price and worth the fight if it comes down to it.

And call me crazy (everyone else does!), but I really find them attractive.  🙂

Soft Star Shoes

Found this website tonight, and I am salivating at the thought of being able to measure my little guy’s footsies for a couple of pairs of these!  I’m enjoying the barefoot lifestyle so much that its only fair that he gets to partake in the same health benefits and exhilaration of running around with the world under his feet.  And what great looking styles!  They do adult sizes, too, and even say they will custom fit ANY size foot!  Totally great site, awesome thinking company, can’t wait to be a customer of theirs once my little guy’s feet are back in my house in a day or two after he spends some time with his Gammy!

A must read for anyone thinking about going barefoot (or for those so opposed to it to learn from!):

How We’re Wrecking Our Feet With Every Step We Take — New York Magazine.

I discovered something yesterday while waiting outside the changing room at Victoria’s Secret for my wife to try on some new undergarments. My toes have a more active social life than I do! Wearing my VFF’s gets me a lot of gazes and glances, and for those brave enough to approach, a fair share of questions.

Luckily, I’m still happy to answer, and as last night showed, what starts as questions about my toes can quickly develop into other topics, and before I knew it, my toes had introduced me to a new friend with similar interests and a child my son’s age who lives nearby.

Thanks, toes! Who knew you’d be so popular?

What’s that you say? What’s that on my feet? No, they’re not water socks. Yes, those really are my toes. No, they’re not uncomfortable in the least bit.

Come into my optical department these days, and you’re more than likely to hear me answering these questions to my customers amidst my regular optical explanations. What sparks these comments, you ask? My Vibram Fivefingers, of course! Let me explain…

About a week ago, my wife was browsing the internet when she came across a shoe that caught her eye. It looked ridiculous, and went against everything you think a shoe should be, and so she came and showed them to me. Intrigued, I had to know more about these shoes, and why people all over the U.S. are running to stores to find them sold out.

Vibram Sprints Black

The pair that started it all, Black Sprints

The shoes we found are made by an Italian rubber company called Vibram (which I soon found out is pronounced vee-brum, named after the company’s founder, Vitale Bramani). The line of shoes is called the Vibram Fivefingers, or VFF’s, and there are several styles and designs within the line, each with a different look, fit, and use in mind. The sole of the foot is made from an ultra-thin, ultra-durable rubber that allows you to feel every pebble, soft patch of grass, or plush carpet you walk over. Each toe has an individual compartment, which allows each toe to move independently from the others to provide the ultimate in balance and agility. There’s no support on the bottom of the sole, just a natural contour to match the basic shape of the foot. The tops of the shoe vary by style, but mostly are made from a thin, breathable material that allows your foot to flex and fit snugly, much like a well fitted glove would fit your hand. In Italian, the word for fingers is the same as for toes, so the shoes go on your five “fingers,” hence the name.

How can walking around essentially barefoot all day possibly be comfortable? What about arch support? Don’t your heels hurt from walking barefoot all day on concrete? These and many other questions get barraged at me now that I’m a proud barefooter, so I’m putting this blog together to unify the information I’ve found, share some stories of my own, and answer questions for those that aren’t quite yet ready to jump in barefoot.

A lot of information, and pics galore, can be found on Vibram’s official website, http://www.vibramfivefingers.com.  You can also order directly from the website, however I highly recommend finding a local store to try them on first as the sizing is quirky to say the least…they’re pretty unforgiving in sizing errors, so make sure you have the right size before you start wearing them around.

The Past Is Not Forgotten