stretching in my Alien Shoes

Last week I picked up some Vibram FiveFingers Bikilas.

Brian calls them my Alien Shoes. I call them minimalist bliss.

This goofy, unconventional, amazing footwear is meant to simulate barefoot running. I’m not even sure what inspired me to jump on this granola-ish train, but I think it has to do with injury prevention. I’ve been mildly and kind of unnecessarily paranoid about injury lately. But I also just thought they’d feel cool.

Um, injury prevention? That does sound a bit backward, when athletic shoe giants are forever promoting bells and whistles designed to shield you from the supposed dangerous impact of the sport. Don’t you need support, people often ask.

Well, no, I don’t.

According to a Runners World article (and plenty of others), it’s been difficult to scientifically prove that running in shoes benefits you more than running with a naked foot. The argument is simple: people were not built to run in shoes. So booking it clad in those bells and whistles might actually promote injury and create muscle imbalances, because running in shoes neglects some muscles that are engaged while running in the buff (feet, that is).

This article even suggests the body doesn’t fully realize it’s running when it’s wearing shoes and isn’t operating as effectively:

When you run barefoot, your body precisely engages your vision, your brain, the soles of your feet, and all the muscles, bones, tendons, and supporting structures of your feet and legs. They leap to red alert, and give you a high degree of protection from the varied pressures and forces of running.

On the other hand, when you run in socks, shoes, inserts, midsoles and outsoles, your body’s proprioceptive system loses a lot of input. “This has been called ‘the perceptual illusion’ of running shoes,” says Warburton. “With shoes, your body switches off to a degree, and your reaction time decreases.”

That’s just bizarre. But it makes total sense to me.

There’s also something very primal and wonderful about running in my Alien Shoes. Granted, I can feel that my legs and feet are working much harder, and my calves and Achilles tendons are screaming at me the day afterward (which I attribute to the muscle imbalance mentioned earlier).

But the first time I took these bad boys outside for a ride, I felt that sensation that can wash over you when you hear a certain song and you’re instantly transported to a different time and place. Suddenly, it was 2004 and I was in Southern Michigan working at a summer camp on Corey Lake, having the best time of my life. Speedboats. Sunscreen. Bug juice. Silly songs. Campfires. Shenanigans. Nature. Running around barefoot, because you can never find your flip-flops on the shore, without a care in the world.

How very Sci-Fi: Alien Shoes that make you time travel.

I think these are keepers.