Here they are, taking a little rest after their first official "work out".
So, why are my feet wrapped in these goofy glove-like things and looking a bit like they should be attached to the legs of The Creature From The Black Lagoon?
These are "five-finger shoe-less" shoes. The first time I saw a pair in the athletic shoe section of the sporting goods store, I almost fell on the floor laughing. "What the hell are those supposed to be, and why would anyone ever wear them?" was my initial response. And that was just about the end of the matter.
Til I came across someone who was wearing a pair. A very reasonable, intelligent, health-minded person. Not a whacked-out sports junkie who spends every waking moment climbing rocks or running mountain trails or jumping off cliffs. Just a nice, normal kind of person. So, we had a conversation about them. She assured me they were very comfortable, very good for your feet and legs, and she wears them almost exclusively, not just for exercising, but for all-day, everyday activities like shopping and breathing.
So, I did some research. I asked around. I read some reviews. And I decided these just might be a good idea. And, I decided that now would be a good time to get started, so I would have plenty of time to break them in (in reality, it's actually retraining my feet and legs, not breaking in the shoe) before the JDRF Walk later this month. I'd already started aerobic walking again in preparation for the Walk, and needed to replace my ancient sneakers. Might as well "do it right" and get some really "good" walking shoes.
What is supposed to be so great about these shoes? Here's a pretty good article about it which goes into some detail (be sure to check out the pictures of feet). But, in a nutshell, "shoe-less" shoes are designed to strongly encourage you to walk in a natural manner, as though you are barefoot, while giving your feet protection. Traditional shoes encourage you to walk (and run) heel-toe, which is hard on your joints and which is why you see all of these expensive athletic shoes with fancy springy gizmos on the heel to absorb some of the shock from this unnatural stride. Your natural, bare-foot gait should have your foot striking the ground either across the middle of your foot (arch), or on the ball of your foot; toe-heel instead of heel-toe. It's a completely different way of walking. You're actually using all of the muscles in your feet and legs that were put there to enable bipedalism.
So, on Wednesday the boys and I made a trip to REI (always an event) so I could try some out and possibly get a pair. Now, these funky things are not cheap, but you can easily spend as much on a good pair of athletic shoes. And you want to be sure you're getting proper size and fit. Everything I've read led me to the conclusion that you want to try these on, preferably with the guidance of someone who actually knows what they're doing. REI fit the bill, so that's where we went (also, with my member rebate I saved close to $40). I quickly found someone who knew what they were doing and actually had a pair that they used. We measured my foot (they come in European sizing), settled on the KimodoSport as the best option for my proposed use, and I slipped on a pair. I had done my homework, so knew there is definitely a trick to getting these things on without looking like Mr. Incredible trying to squirm his oversided self into his old super hero spandex, and managed to get them on fairly easily. My first impression?
I'm pretty sure I released a sigh indicative of a small o. The most comfortable and cozy things I had ever put on my feet. Like slipping them into goose-down socks. With support. Wow.
So, I bought 'em and wore them most of the afternoon for casual running-around stuff. You have to train your feet and legs slowly with these things, or suffer the consequences. Thursday, I wore them around the house, but not for running errands, and wore them most of Friday and Saturday.
Today was the big test. I wore them on my half-hour low-aerobic morning walk (I've been easing back into an exercise routine...subject of another post). Results? They felt really good. I was a bit cautious in my gait and where I was stepping, but was able to get my heartrate where I wanted it. At the end of the walk I could feel a bit of grumpiness in my right arch, but I was pretty much expecting that from my flat feet having to actually work while walking. Most surprising, though, are the muscle groups that I can feel got the best workout from my walk: my posterior thighs and butt. That's right, I am walking, on mostly level terrain, with my butt. Go figure.
Overall, I think these funky feet are going to do the trick for me. They're comfortable, and both protect and support my feet in ways that will build the strength in my feet and legs that I'm looking for. I'm reviewing the audiobook "Younger Next Year For Women", and The Boys point out that people fall more often as they get older not because they trip more often (they don't) or because they're clumsier, but because they don't have enough strength and agility in their legs to catch themselves before they exceed their tipping point and crash to the ground. So, strong, agile legs equals no broken hip. Sounds like something to work toward.