I have a lot of shoes. Most of them are sneakers, specifically Converse All-Stars, and the rest range from sandals to boots and everything in between. I get oodles of compliments on my footwear, but nowhere near as many as when I wear my Vibram FiveFingers.
FiveFingers have been called "creepy," "toe socks with rubber soles" or "very primitive" when I encounter people inquiring about what is on my feet. But little do they know the years of research that went into making these ground-breaking shoes that are slowly winning people over in their strikingly lovable ugliness.
Vibram FiveFingers: The Barefooting Alternative are easily the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. It's like being barefoot but with protection on the bottom of your feet -- which is exactly what the creators were banking on.
The Vibram brand name was founded in 1937 by Vitale Bramani. He invented the first rubber soles for mountaineering, but that was just the beginning. The company is still recognized for their quality of performance footwear.
In the East, they are an uncommon thing to see on someone's feet, but go to Boulder, Colo., and they're a part of everyday life.
I have received some of the best reactions to these shoes. My favorite being when I was at Tim Hortons one evening, it had been raining and I walked over dry concrete. As I was leaving, my friend's boyfriend yelled, "Someone walked through here with bare feet!" It was comical because I hadn't even realized that it would look like I was barefoot.
I get asked quite a few questions about them, too. The most common is, "How could they possibly be comfortable?" Other usual ones are, "Aren't your feet cold?" and "What do the bottoms look like?" Sometimes people ask if they can squeeze my toes or they just go ahead and squeeze the little piggies.
The colorful commentary is just one benefit to these shoes.
These are truly innovative shoes and worth every penny.
In Western New York, Vibram FiveFingers can be found at Eastern Mountain Sports, Tony Walker and Co., Jainlee Shoes and Tri Spot Enterprises. The prices range from $70-$125, depending on the model.
There are seven variations of the original four designs.
The latest invention of Vibram is the aegis microbe shield. This is a bonded antimicrobial technology that guards against odor, staining and deterioration.
When your FiveFingers are filthy, you can clean them two different ways or even a combination of both. One way is to throw 'em in the washing machine on a cold and gentle cycle with a powder detergent. Or you can take them in the shower with you and clean them there. Hang them to dry no matter how you clean them.
Before you run out to buy these fantastic creations, know that the sizing isn't the same as conventional footwear. Go to www.vibramfivefingers.com, click on your continent, select products, then select footwear. There you will find a video on sizing and how to find your correct size.
To put FiveFingers on, the best method is to first line your toes up with the respective toe pockets, wiggle them in and then pull the back up around your heel.
I have learned that for some people, Vibram FiveFingers captivate them and it's something they're willing to embrace. For others, it evokes feelings of creepy crawlies or dislike of things between their toes. The only way for you to find out if they are for you is to try them.
Ashley Yager is a senior at Kenmore East High School.