In the first part of this series, I briefly mentioned “Barefoot Shoes,” but had no experience with them. Yet… Then, a few months later I purchased a pair of “Primus Lite Knit” shoes from VivoBarefoot to do my own assessment. Before getting them, I wondered: would I actually enjoy wearing a shoe like this? Would it be comfortable on the concrete sidewalks of the city? Is it too strange looking? Would I draw stares everywhere I went? Will this technology be helpful to my students and peers in the somatics community?
My hopes for this shoe were simple:
Look like a human shoe, not a science experiment (sorry Vibram 5-fingers)
Do what my current shoes already do, i.e. protect my feet
Improve the movement and strength of my feet beyond what traditional shoes offer
Immediately, I felt the difference in these shoes: lack of padding in the sole. I feel shorter and less bouncy, I didn’t even realize how bouncy walking had come to feel.
My heels are even with my toes, whereas in my old shoes, my heel is a bit higher. This contributes to a feeling of being further back in space.
Without padding to absorb shock, I feel my ‘heel strike’ (the action of stepping down onto the floor) sending ground force up my skeleton, particularly on concrete or stone floors.
There is a lot more movement and awareness in my feet, and awareness of my environment when wearing these. It is easier to feel rocks, cracks, and textures underfoot, the bones of my foot flexing, extending, rolling in, out with each step.
After the first day of wearing them, my feet were fatigued, my ankles and calves were as well. The additional movement requires using parts of my middle foot and toes that I’m not used to.
Over a week or two, it has become more natural to adjust my stride so as to prevent a clunky heel strike. This meant placing my foot down more carefully rather than slamming it, and it meant aiming to ‘strike’ more with my mid-foot rather than my heel as well as to move my weight towards the lateral (outside) edge of each foot.
While walking is more free, it requires more concentration and control of my legs and feet. This is a trade-off I don’t want to make everyday so I am continuing to wear my old shoes on and off.
I can dance outside, my feet easily point and flex to their full range in these shoes.
There is no hard ‘lip’ around the edge of the soles, so I don’t feel liable to trip on the shoe or twist my ankle.
When traveling to Europe during the summer, I took my barefoot shoes and my crocs. The barefoot shoes fold up or roll up and take no space at all in my bags, very convenient.
Final thoughts and scoring
These shoes look like human shoes, albeit small, unassuming, casual ones. So they are great for blending in with humans. Some barefoot shoe aficionados have noticed them and commented on how much they like theirs, including our condo’s construction contractor. I plan on getting a second pair in another color.
Basic shoe function: 4/5
Feet will be protected from the ground and covered from the elements. As my partner will tell you, I am very hard on my shoes, and so far these have not worn down at all. These shoes were very easy to clean because of their flexibility. These shoes require conscious attention to wear (at least initially), which is both the source of their benefit and their drawback if you are looking for a simpler footwear experience.
Improvement to strength and flexibility: 5/5
My feet are definitely stronger; ankles, calves, legs too. Walking feels more like kneading the ground than stomping. Weightlifting feels safer and easier to control. Range-wise, I have not noticed any change in ankle flexibility, my toes however have spread more to take up the space available in these shoes.
These shoes were a great purchase for a movement nerd like me. Depending on your level of interest and lifestyle, you too may really enjoy the possibilities these shoes open up. You may also dislike the adjustments required to wear them comfortably, I expect that is the primary drawback for most.
If you decide to get a pair of barefoot shoes, either from Vivo or another company (there are many), let me know what you think. If you want Vivo shoes, use this link to get 15% off. Also, check out Xero shoes and Origo shoes for different options.