Wait. Do I want to feel every blade of grass, every earthy bump of dirt, and every pebble when I wear my VIVOBAREFOOT Evo Mesh shoes?
Advocates of the barefoot/minimalist footwear movement would say YES, YES and YES, it's part of the master plan of increasing sensory feedback so you can re-learn how to run (or walk) barefoot. Become one with the earth, reclaim your natural stride as you rid the feet of layers of memory foam, structured arches, EVA midsoles, heel lifts and toe spring. Run like the wind. Run, Forrest, RUN.
So why do I feel like I need a doctor's note to exercise in these shoes?
As a 44 year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis, I'm a huge fan of all shoes padded, cushioned, supported, structured. I'm certainly no poster child for anything barefoot. Custom orthotics? Got 'em. Shoes with rocker soles? Five pair. Cork-wrapped latex anatomical footbeds? Please and thank you.
So what's a girl with metatarsalgia, occasional plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, and one fallen arch doing in a pair of Vivobarefoot minimalist shoes? Many podiatrists and orthopedics would say, "ruining your feet for life." Fellow RA sufferers might weigh in with the same sentiment. But I was curious and the shoes looked so hipster-trailmix cool. Heck, I've lost a few pounds over the past three months, the RA is under control, I've adopted some healthier eating habits and I feel great. Now is as good a time as ever to see what this minimalist shoe-buzz is all about.
Now understand, I'm not a runner and I doubt I'll ever be one. It jars my brain. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. But I love a fast walk in my Asics Gel Pulses. They're like memory foam contour pillows for the feet. I could walk over rusty nails and shards of glass and never know it. But in the spirit of minimalism, I've put them aside for these VivoBarefoot Evo Mesh super-fly shoes, which are really more like protective gloves for the feet--or maybe mittens as the Vibram Five Fingers wins for making the foot look like a hand.
Guess what? I walked for 25 minutes on a indoor track in the Vivos. There was no limping or favoring one foot over the other due to ankle or forefoot pain. Sure, the track felt hard at first, but I adjusted my stride so I wasn't pounding the track. Have you ever seen those crazy race-walkers? I felt like one of them today. How to explain...hips forward, feet just hovering off the ground, arms pumping--get the picture? The shoes encouraged a different stride, no hard heel strike. I plan on trying the same workout today and will report back. So far, I've experienced no added foot pain due to the workout. Will I be a minimalist fanatic? That I can't say at this point. I do love the sleek profile, roomy toe box and narrow heel--they sure FIT well.
How about you? I've heard from a few readers over at the BDS facebook page. Some of you say NO WAY and others have found relief from RA and PF pain in your Vibrams, Vivos, Merrell Barefoots and other minimalist shoes. Add your opinion here or there. Understand I'm not endorsing this type of shoe for people with rheumatoid arthritis. My curiosity got the best of me and I'm trying them out.
If you're interested in trying a pair, the style I'm wearing is the VivoBarefoot Evo Mesh available at PlanetShoes.com for $81.75 (on sale) with free shipping and returns. The size 41 fits my 9.5-10 feet well.