A Case for VFF
Yea, taking two years, or more, to get used to being naturally barefooted seems like a lot of effort. Even if it is, I see it as worth the effort. The posture and utilizing the natural spring flex takes a great deal of stress and inflammation out of the body. The muscles that support the spine are better exercised. Joints are less stressed, preventing injuries and wear. Looking at a reflexology chart, or how the spinal nerves are attached to organs in a chiropractor’s office desplay, shows how the internal system can be affected by shoes and improper adjustment. Some natural adjustment and effort, even for a couple of years, will be worth so much in terms of long term health and quality of life, as the body gets older. AND don’t forget to do anything to avoid debilitating, or irritating back-pain. It is a complex, interrelated system that we live in. It is designed to work best, just as that.
By reducing inflammation, the new pains from body use and recovery time can be mitigated. Using something like Ibuprofen helps to minimize the downside. I have been experimenting with an Earthing half-sheet. This has given surprising results. The blood structure obviously changes as documentation shows and inflammation subsides. This has dramatically reduced aches and pains. But then, that’s another story.
Life obviously feels even better, or joyfully bare when completely nude. To get a grip on that freedom is a tantalizing goal. There is a greater wisdom to that phrase “Nude and Natural.” It IS more healthy being nude than in modern unnatural clothing and fashions, many of which are plainly unhealthy, particularly shoes.
Because trails tend to have prickers, sharp rocks and I can’t be out on them every day, I have tried different shoes to arrive at as close to barefoot as possible.
The ultimate walking machine.
Do my feet need to learn how to walk in the shoes, or should my shoes compensate for my feet’s needs?
I just got done watching a few “thru hiker” movies on youtube. Each adventure displays the hikers taping, popping blisters, and losing mutilated toenails. I used to have these problems in all kinds of shoes, even custom made ones. I grant that these thru hikers carry heavy loads. Soldiers carry up to like 100 pounds. On the other hand, I’ve seen many camposinos carrying extreme loads on their backs barefoot.
I see that the military has shifted to lighter weight, softer and more breathable boots with good ankle support. That made sense. I found boots like this back in the seventies trekking South America with a 45 pound pack. I hiked in them for years. It was a snide kick seeing the army’s change in uniform. The military grunt’s boot is for young bodies that take stress. But what about the long term studies about that particular kind of stress? The philosophy seems to be to march through anything, conquering nature. The same footwear attitude seems to affect European hiking culture. Expensive boots built to last are like stiff armor and you have to put a lot of sock in there to compensate. The break-in period can be a battle between foot and boot. Perhaps this goes back to scientific modern mania, which is the idea that man can always improve upon nature.
It is more than shoe choices:
I’ve had weight gains and losses through the years. A pack is much like gaining that many pounds very quickly. It throws off the balance and puts more stress on the feet and their response to the environmental surfaces. I move and have less sore feet with less weight; hence Ultralight backpacking is a part of my practical solution.
I acquired Morten’s Nueroma from wearing cowboy boots and other boots for years. It is from the unnatural activity of squeezing toes into shoes, particularly shoving them by an elevated heel. My back also suffered from footwear. My endurance, I notice, is greater with a more barefoot lifestyle.
My best solution, so far, has been Vibram Five Finger Shoes (VFF, the ones with the toes).
I have had no problems with blisters or toe nail pain and loss (from walking down hill) since getting my Vibram Five Finger shoes (VFF). I have been saved by their rubber bumper-like toe arrangement numerous times. They fit like a custom glove because the strapping encases the heal in place, and also holds the instep. This makes it so I don’t slide forward in my shoe, or get heal wobble. The material between each toe also keeps my feet from slipping forward, keeping pressure off of my toenails traveling downhill. My movement is more natural, my balance better. My awareness of the surfaces is increased, so that I can react. I flow with the surface, whereas a stiff boot sole is like that old ”tame nature” philosophy.
The Vibrams are not very water proof and I can feel a chill in them. I purchased the Injinji sock that is worn inside the regular sock and that problem is solved. It wicks and works amazingly well. The feet are now kept more dry and breath well, so fungus problems and soft wet skin that wears down in boots don’t cause these usual problems. The VFF shoes are soft and not abrasive. The VFF Spyrodon worked wonderfully in Aravaipa Canyon, trudging through water and out, and straight up the creek over river rock. When there is often a lack of trail, the creek is the trail, all day long. They never felt sloshy. They breathed.
I honestly haven’t hiked over ten miles at a time in them, as of yet. They have been over many various surfaces and weather conditions. I would have had problems with other shoes in similar times and places. The difference is dramatic. The KSO’s have thinner soles. They are great for the barefoot feel, but don’t grip on some rocks as well as the Spyrodon, which has more tread. DF wears KSO’s and never has the sore foot problems that I have. She loves them. I prefer the thicker more tready soles over the hot granite, the round and slippery river rock, sharp rock and climbing that we deal with in the desert and mountains of Arizona. The KSO’s tend to have sand stick to them and then be slippery on the next rock surface. If I was in a forest of dirt and leaves, I would get back to KSO hiking, or go barefoot.
I don’t backpack in snow, like many thru hikers do. I have no solutions for that.
If I’m using a shovel, risking something falling on my feet, or need to kick, I’ve got boots with thicker soles, which are similar to the newer style military boots. If I am in the moment and enjoying my awareness, I will do things like cut wood with an axe, or chainsaw, barefoot all over. If I’m not hurried, careful and mindful, these tasks can be enjoyed safely naked. It is a case of application to circumstance.
A couple of ways to go about it:
Hiking/backpacking is a different story than chores. Enjoying the awareness of the circumstance, which can be opposed to marching toward a goal, are two important factors. There is a decision there. How do you wish to hike? Do I have to get back home on Monday, am I hurrying to a water source, am I just into exercise in a fun place, do I want a sense of accomplishment, or to conquer, prove myself, inflate my ego? With any of these, I’ll march. I’m a naturist, more often, we like to stop and enjoy and savor each miracle. We like to photograph and not hurry. Carrying an extra day’s food isn’t that heavy dehydrated, if we decide to stay an extra day. If we have a water resource, we are good. In nature, do you want to have a wandering goat shepherd’s consciousness, or a modern western man’s point A to Point B consciousness? When I get out and away, I want vacation, to declutch, to not think like work and schedules, to enjoy every moment like the shepherd. Deciding on footwear, or wearing none, or close to none, can have everything to do with this.
The VFF’s should not replace bare feet.
I read that after more barefoot living, the foot is typically wider. The front spreads, as well as the toes. This gives the foot more sensitivity and dexterity. There is a wider foundation to work with, while running, gripping, etc. One of the exercises is to actually to practice picking up a piece of cloth with the foot and pass it over to the other foot. I saw an inspirational film in India that showed an armless woman doing all the chores of a regular Indian wife with her amazing feet. The potential is phenomenal. There is much exploration of our own amazing feet to be fascinated by.
This video is stunning:
When I’m in my VFF’s, particularly when hiking and backpacking, my hips move, actually my whole body moves like it was designed to do, in a healthy efficient manner. There is a much better balance and awareness, instead of a stiff body in less motion on a platform. I don’t need a study for that. It is obvious.
If I start out about running, I’ll run out of space
This suggests that five fingers could be better than a running shoe’s unnatural gait, on an even and unnatural surface. Many barefoot proponents and doctors of all kinds believe this. I’m not about to rant either way. At the end of this series, I’ll have a list of resources. We all need to make our own decisions with the best information. The unnatural repetitive running in the streets causes injuries. The cross country running, barefoot, or in fivefingers, or thin leather sole huaraches can be dangerous. I ran everywhere as a kid and have the scars to prove it. Maybe we should stop blaming the shoes and start blaming the sport. Concrete is hard and way too redundant. I have noticed the discomfort compared to natural surfaces when my feet were sore.
Vibram trashed a good thing!
News Flash! There has been an alarming change at Vibram. They no longer produce shoes with the ankle straps that wrap around. With my feet, I’m screwed again. My heels slip off in these limited shoes that they now make. They are sized for the masses, but not for my feet. Before, they worked like ancient shoes and huraches. Before, as my feet swelled and contracted, I could adjust the shoes to that. These only adjust at the instep. The rest, for feet like mine, is like running or hiking in clogs. As people’s feet adjust to barefoot, they spread out, but not in the heal. There will be many duck footed barefoot people looking for shoes. Apparently executives only care about profits for the shareholders. They make decisions for that reason, and not helping people. Vibram has lost its integrity. If you have popular sized feet, they may still work for you, for now. I tried the new ones. Like clogs. The sole felt like a platform not a barefooting. They suck.
Whatever you do, ya gotta love your feet
I massage my feet roughly and very deeply. I have stretched them for hours. They like this. This has dramatic results on gait, posture and natural movement. When I get up and walk, after an hour or two of massage, I stand straighter and my feet point with my second toes when I walk. My bare feet will immediately operate on uneven surfaces with dramatically more efficiency. They act like they are tougher, but they are actually just more flexible. If I massage just one and ignore the other, there is a striking difference in them.
Feet need to be taken out for a real walk. They were born for this. I live in a desert. Since prickers, etcetera, render barefoot impractical in some instances, I can’t always be barefoot. I realize the value of being at least as near barefoot as possible.
Next week, I’ll share my experiences with making my own barefoot shoes.