Friday, October 30, 2009

Quick Review: Vibram FiveFinger Sprint

My third pair of minimalist shoes (after the Vivo Barefoot Dharma and Aqua styles) came on a significant day in my life. On Aug. 5 of this year my wife and I also welcomed a brand new baby girl into our family. I will be reviewing the former here, because the latter is perfect and needs no review. :-)

As a barefooter, I was very interested in trying on a pair of Vibram Fivefingers and putting them through their paces to see just how good of a "barefoot alternative" they are. I have worn them a lot and for many different uses -- and therefore taken longer to post a review -- because I wanted to find out just how versatile a set of toe shoes can be. The answer? Very.


The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are like no other footwear...except other Fivefingers. Anyone who has worn these in public knows that they get looks and a lot of comments and questions. What's fortunate is that they're almost always positive in nature. People seem really drawn to the idea of toe shoes. For me personally, I've never been self-conscious while wearing these, though I know others are -- or would be, and that's why they don't buy them. (looking in my wife's direction) I think this line of shoes is very stylish and unique.


The build quality on Fivefinger Sprints is very good. All seams feel very secure, the materials seem to be of good quality, and the shoes even hold up well in the laundry. No complaints here. They may not be as "green" as the Vivo Barefoot shoes, but they're just as well built or better.


Some see the cost of these shoes as exorbitant. To me, $80 USD seems reasonable considering the research that likely went into designing them, the materials used to build them and their overall quality. For all the things you can do with these Vibram Fivefingers -- and I'm only commenting on the Sprints -- and the length of use that you can likely get from them, I believe these are priced at an okay price point.


The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are very comfortable footwear...for an item of footwear. As for a hat, they don't work so well. But seriously, I like the fact that these shoes are a lot less on the foot than any other standard shoe-styled footwear. I tell people that they kind of feel like a second skin with a very flexible protective sole. If you get the right size -- which the chart on Vibram's site is very good to help you accomplish -- all is well. I would suggest finding a local store, if available, to try these on and get just the perfect size before you plop down your hard-earned nickels and dimes. I think once you get them on you'll be hooked.

Barefoot Sensation/Movement

Going barefoot so much before wearing minimalist shoes spoiled me. Nothing can replace the feeling of bare sole on the ground below, so I have to take a mental step back and review these on their merits: a flexible shoe with an ultra-thin, durable sole.Vibram Fivefingers certainly get closer to a barefoot feel than either of the Vivo Barefoot shoes that I've tried. With your toes able to flex individually and a very flexible structure all around, natural foot movement is far greater than any other footwear I've worn. The open top of the Sprints also helps your foot feel a greater sense of freedom than other shoes, giving this style of Fivefingers a bit of a sandal-type quality. Because they fit so snugly on the foot, they do feel like a sort of second skin, so you sometimes forget that you're wearing them.

This is where I drop in my word of warning: Vibram Fivefingers are VERY good at giving enough sense of going "barefoot" that anyone who's used to regular shoes and wants to try going barefoot would likely stop here if they tried to use them as a gateway shoe. They are that comfortable. But there really isn't anything like putting a bare sole to the ground. I recommend to any barefooter -- or someone who wants to begin barefooting -- to get comfortable with being totally unshod first. Rediscover and get to know your feet and how awesome they feel without anything on them before you jump into Fivefingers. That way you'll be able to know and remember what you're missing even when wearing such comfortable footwear.

Like other minimalist shoes, you can definitely feel the ground below better than "normal" shoes. When I went camping recently, my feet felt well massaged as I walked across the gravel and acorns covering the ground of our campsites. In Fivefingers it was fine. Barefoot it was uncomfortable.

Fivefingers are great for those places where bare feet are not usually allowed. I wore them recently to my son's pediatrician visit.

The Final Words

My Vibram Fivefinger Sprints have become my "go-to" footwear when I know I can't/shouldn't go barefoot, such as businesses that have a "No Shoes, No Service" policy. I've literally walked, run, mowed the grass, hiked, shopped and more in these shoes and they've always risen to the challenge. I obviously still prefer to go barefoot, but these are a good alternative if footwear is required. While they may lose "style points" in some peoples' minds, they certainly make up for it in function and comfort.

Twitter: @Vibram5Fingers
Fan Sites: and

Next Review Coming Soon!: Terra Plana Trip Clips

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Autobiography of the Beginning of a Barefooter

During my time as a "barefooter," I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know others who like to go sans shoes. Through Twitter, Facebook, this blog and other sites I've been able to connect with and get to know lots of people who go barefoot in one way or another. For some it's just going barefoot around the house. For others it's a way to improve their running and decrease injuries. For many it's a lifestyle that crosses real and figurative boundaries.

As I've come to know others there have been some requests for me to tell my story and how I got into barefooting. I thought, as the weather gets colder and many of us take a "break" from barefooting for the autumn and winter months, that this would be a good time to fill you in. Now let me see...

(Cue flashback and harp sounds.)

It was the Spring of 2005. I was living with an old buddy from church and college activities to help him pay the mortgage on his new house. In the summers previously I'd come to embrace wearing sandals and flip flops. Before then I'd mostly worn shoes during the summer. The thought of exposing my feet was undesirable for quite a while, but one day -- like my acceptance of drinking ice tea -- I just decided I'd enjoy life and summers more wearing sandals.

Ever since I started wearing flip flops I drove barefooted. I "knew" at the time that it was "illegal," like so many people are told, but I found that I didn't feel as safe driving with flip flops on. The flops would slide around on my foot causing me to feel unsure about my grip on the pedals or my ability to have enough control over them.

At some point in late May or early June of '05 I put in a Web search: "driving barefoot illegal." Though I can't say for sure, I may have questioned the law or wanted to read it for myself. Lo, and behold, right there near the top of the search results was a link to the Society for Barefoot Living's Web site.

Besides being comforted to discover that driving barefoot is perfectly legal, I was fascinated by this group which I'd just run across. "These people hike barefooted?" "They go in public without shoes?" "Isn't THAT illegal?" So many questions, and all the answers were laid out right there. The site showed that going barefooted is a good thing and can be very safe.

A certain photo album on the SBL's site got my attention. It was of a small group of folks who decided to go barefooted around New York City. I thought to myself, "If they can do that, why couldn't I go barefoot other places besides home?" It was time for me to give barefooting a try.

My nephew's birthday party was on a weekend in early June of 2005. I decided to spend that entire weekend barefooted, and I did! Well, I technically was barefooted all weekend, however I didn't do much. I mostly stayed home, but I did go out in the driveway barefooted to get in the car, drove unshod and attended the kiddo's party sans shoes as well (pictured). I was proud of myself. Despite the questions from family at the party as to why I didn't have shoes on, I had a positive barefooting experience for an entire weekend.

Over the next four years leading up to 2009, I explored barefooting off and on. I never started going barefooted in earnest, but I would go unshod around the house and other "safe" places more often than I previously would have. When I shopped at Target -- I don't know what it was about that store -- I would slip off my flip flops and shop barefooted (all while staying in the more out-of-sight aisles to avoid being spotted). At summer Middle School Camp, where I was staff, I would walk barefooted around our lodge and do other tasks in "safe" places without shoes. Any time I wore flip flops I would drive while they sat unused on the floorboard. All in all, you might say I was a "closeted" barefooter.

Well in early 2009 my feet came out of the closet, so to speak.

It was late February or early March of this year when I somehow rediscovered the SBL's Web site. Knowing that it's comfortable, and after reading up on the health benefits of going barefoot, I decided that I was going to become a tried and true much as possible. I posted to my Facebook status on March 4, "Michael is officially ready to stop wearing shoes ALL the time. Bring on the nice weather 'cause my feet need to breathe!"

It had begun. On March 20 I posted to Facebook, "I'm thinking that with the weather being so nice this weekend, I might go barefoot most of the time. Even out and about in public. Who's with me?" And I generally did. Though it was a rainy weekend, I wore flip flops into wherever we shopped or went and then would slip them off.

Over the course of this Spring I grew in my barefootedness. I began posting to Twitter about going barefoot. I'd kick off my flops at various places and started going into places without shoes on at all.

It was at my son's school carnival on May 2 that I feel like I cemented myself as a "barefooter." Except for the muddy petting zoo at the very beginning, I walked around the whole event barefoot. At the end of the day, two of my wife's co-workers -- she worked in the same district -- began talking to me about why I wasn't wearing shoes. After explaining myself and sharing its benefits, one of them said, "I think it's really great that you're doing that. You're doing what you feel is best for you, no matter what anyone else thinks, and I really admire that." Two days later I changed my Twitter username to "barefootmichael," and the rest is history.

(More harp sounds. End flashback.)

Today, I go barefooted or wear minimalist footwear about 99% of the time. At home or other people's homes I go 100% barefooted, indoors and out. When out and about I go either barefooted or wear my Vibram Fivefinger Sprints. They are usually worn in places that have a policy prohibiting bare feet. Occasionally, if I don't feel like taking the time to put on the Sprints, I'll wear flip flops for very brief trips into stores when I don't feel like or have the time for being hassled. That's the other 1%, because I don't consider flip flops to be minimalist footwear.

There's one hitch in my giddy-up: Unfortunately, I am required by policy to wear shoes and socks at work. That said, I have switched to wearing Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot shoes exclusively there. I hope to transition to Vibram Fivefinger KSO Treks over the coming year or so as finances allow. I work in a hospital where people regularly wear strange footwear (e.g. clogs, Crocs, Z-Coils, MBTs, etc.), so I think I'll be able to get away with them.

I hope that you've enjoyed reading a bit about how I got into going barefoot. I challenge you, even though it's a bit cool outside, to try going barefoot one step more than you're used to. Pick sometime when you'd normally wear socks or shoes and just take them off. See what you think. Rediscover the feet that the good Lord gave you. Reconnect with the sensations of the floors and ground all around you. Give it enough time and you will be positively transformed.

I welcome your questions or comments below.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Tweet Because I Am

You may know that I not only blog, but use the social networking site Twitter. If you follow me already, that's great! If you don't, check me out sometime as @BarefootMichael.

This morning a fellow barefooter contacted me through a private message to inform me that I post so much that they cannot sort through it all. As a result, this person that I consider a barefoot "friend" unfollowed me, choosing not to get my posts as part of their feed. This was upsetting to me at first, hurting me personally. I was shocked that someone who also enjoys going unshod wouldn't support someone who shares the same thinking, no matter how much they have to say.

I polled my Twitter friends: Do I "tweet" too much? The responses were very supportive overall. Most said it's not a problem, and I even got one response that I need to tweet more -- however I'm not sure that one was totally serious.

A couple of followers did share that I tweet too much, one saying that I "push the limits of excessive tweets." Another shared that they'd have unfollowed me too, if I wasn't so "interesting." Very good feedback.

One message got me thinking, which sparked this blog post. They suggested that "the issue with your tweets might be related more with topics than frequency." That clarified things for me.

I may be "Barefoot" Michael on Twitter, but going barefoot is only how I keep my feet. As my bio on Twitter states:
"I'm a dad, husband, Christian, runner, Mac user and media pro who goes barefoot
whenever possible because I was born that way."
So I will not only tweet about barefoot topics, though that's certainly something that I like to talk about. I am also a dad, so I'm going to share things about my kids. I am a husband to a beautiful woman who also follows me on Twitter, so there's times that I post things that I know she'll find interesting. I am a Christian, so I will occasionally share about my faith. I am a runner, so I'm going to share about the challenges and accomplishments of those experiences. I am also a Mac user and media pro, so sometimes I'm going to share about techy things I find interesting or are related to my job. Finally, my location shows that I live in the Kansas City metro area, so there are times that I'm going to talk about local goings-on.

I don't have the time or interest to post to multiple Twitter accounts about each thing that I am. Doing so would always leave out a part of me, and that's not who I am. That said, I have things to say about a lot of topics, so I may post more than other people do. I apologize if that seems excessive.

I follow more than 350 users on Twitter and find myself ignoring a lot of what many of them tweet. In the end, however, I am also interested in a lot of what they ALL have to say. Likewise, I appreciate the more than 500 followers who keep up with my tweets.

If part of me is no interest to you, I hope that you'll find enough that is. Follow me if you'd like, but you're always going to see the big picture of who I am.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Rights are Going to the Dogs (and Other Service Animals)

A fellow poster* on the forums at the Living Barefoot site brought up an issue that continues to poke holes in the notion that going barefooted in public places is unsafe and unhealthy. It also casts serious doubt on the logic used to create such policies.

If going barefooted at the local grocery store or Wal-Mart is unsafe and unhealthy for those doing it and the customers around them, we must address the subject of service animals. They almost always go bare pawed/hooved/footed and yet no one complains about the health and safety ramifications of this practice.

Before I go any further, I must adamantly state that I believe it is appropriate and right to allow service animals to accompany the disabled wherever they need to go. This blog entry is solely for the purpose of exposing ignorant managerial policy of many businesses that require human customers to wear footwear.

Ann Edie and her guide miniature horse, Panda, check out at a Staples.
(Photo courtesy:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows for service animals to accompany disabled people nearly wherever they go. On its Web site, the ADA puts it this way:
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed."
So the ADA allows for the animals without considering any sort of health or safety ramifications? Well, not exactly. Farther down the page there is a caveat:
"(A business) may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from (its) facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded."
I added the bold for emphasis.

While the ADA's site addresses the issue of "maintenance" or a "cleaning fee" in the event that a service animal makes a mess (in one way or another), no mention is made regarding the business' responsibility to keep the establishment safe or healthy for the service animal. If we are to assume -- because we barefooters are told this -- that a business' floor is unsafe for our feet due to the possibility of stepping on broken glass, sharp objects, germs or any various kinds of spilled items, then we must assume that the same holds true for the exposed paws of service animals.

Interestingly enough, the ADA's FAQ page linked above never addresses a question about whether a business can require service animal to wear booties or footwear. (Doggie shoe photo courtesy: So I called by phone the ADA's "Disability Rights Section." After holding for only a brief couple of minutes, a specialist quickly answered, "No," when I asked if businesses may request or require that service animals put on such footwear. A disclaimer: The ADA's phone system recording made it very clear that information given over such a call is not binding legal advice or opinion, however I have to think that these employees know what they're talking about.

So where does that leave us? It leaves me with the realization that I have fewer rights than many dogs. It tells me that the federal government of the United States of America believes that the floors of businesses should be generally safe enough for a service animal's bare paw/hoof/foot insomuch that said businesses may not request footwear to "protect" them.

It makes me think that businesses need to give up several outdated excuses and let me and others go barefooted if we so choose. Service animals already do it, so it seems silly that we humans can't.

Owners and managers certainly have an obligation to protect their own interests. Yes, glass breaks sometimes. But, we should remember that when a jar of spaghetti sauce shatters at the grocery store, somebody quickly cleans it up as well as they can. What's left is typically negligible and is no more a risk to my bare feet than a product display tipping over.

You could argue that service animals shouldn't go barepawed/hooved/footed into a business -- and that's your prerogative and a whole other discussion -- but the law is what it is and most people never second-guess the cleanliness or safety of a business' floor when a service animal comes in. Why, then, should they second-guess my ability to stay safe while barefooted in a restaurant, grocery store, retailer or other establishment? Most only have a fleeting thought about what a service animal may be tracking onto the floor of the business, yet many are quick to assume that my bare feet are slathering the floor with disgusting sweat, bacteria and disease.

Honestly, folks, so long as we keep our "paws" generally clean and off of the merchandise, it's perfectly reasonable for us barefooters to be allowed to go unshod in a business.

* - Thanks to "Rascal" for the idea for this blog entry!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Ode* to Baby Wipes

Oh, baby wipes,

When first I started barefooting, my feet, they would get so dirty.
And then I discovered the solution was near in a diaper bag.
You -- baby wipes -- you, the very same moist cloths
Used to de-poop my daughter's rear end
Could also cleanse my sole...and the other.

Oh, baby wipes,

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways:
One, the little piggie that went to the market.
Two, the little piggie who stayed home.
Three, the little piggie who had roast beef.
Four, sadly, the little piggie who had none.
Fifth, and most importantly, you might agree dear wipes
Is the piggie who cried so sadly.
You bring comfort and cleanliness to
The little piggie who went "Wee, wee, wee,"
All the way home.

Oh, baby wipes,

The piggies are but one portion of my sole...and the other
Which you doth clean.
For your overarching cleaning abilities
Do also come to the fore...and the other.
Your heeling cleansing brings completeness
To a troubled, dirty pod...and the other.

Oh, baby wipes,

In your wake lies peace and cleanliness.
In your stead you leave softness.
After being touched by you
I can go on, head held high and
Feet on the ground for
I have been made freshly anew!

And I, baby wipes, am forever grateful.
So many people who shun the idea of barefooting do so on the grounds of not wanting their feet to get dirty. The fact of the matter is, however, that the feet can be easily cleaned if stuff gets on them. While the best way is to clean with soap and water, that isn't always a viable option.

Baby wipes are the #1 easiest way to clean your feet throughout the day while barefoot. There are times where you really want to wipe your feet off because of how dirty they've gotten. It really is an appropriate thing to do when you wish to curl your feet up on a piece of furniture, put them up on a coffee table or any other number of times where you'd like your feet up off of the floor. In those cases, baby wipes are the next best thing to a shower and are essentially as effective at cleaning off the foot. Hey, if wipes work for cleaning all of that off a kiddos bum, wouldn't they work well cleaning dirt off of our feet?

Through my wife's and my bouts of diaper rash with our little ones, we no longer buy wipes with any kind of alcohol or propylene glycol. These products tend to dry the skin out and make such conditions worse. I imagine that the same would occur with the feet. I prefer to buy Huggies Natural Care unscented wipes** (pictured above). They don't contain the above products, are easy to find, reasonably priced, strong and very effective at cleaning off all kinds of dirt and grime from the foot. What's more, I feel like they leave the foot moisturized.

If you're holding off on going barefoot because of concerns about dirt, grab a package of baby wipes next time you go to the store. Go barefoot for a while and bring them along. You'll be surprised at how effective they are at keeping your feet clean, moist and happy!

* - Okay, so it's not an actual ode, as typically patterned in the ABABCDECDE rhyme scheme. It's more of an homage without any real lyrical structure. So sue me. ;-)
** - I do not receive any compensation from Huggies or any of its subsidiaries or related companies. Product endorsement is made solely on my use of the product.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Camping in Bare Feet & Minimalist Footwear

Last weekend I had the opportunity and privilege to go camping with my son at Wallace State Park here in Missouri. We joined my sister and her family for a couple of days of food, relaxation, hiking, fishing and most importantly...s'mores!

While there, I continued a lifestyle of going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes. Although I wanted to go barefoot most of the time, the gravel and acorns covering the ground of our camp sites made it uncomfortably prohibitive to go barefoot with any speed or efficiency. That said, I did manage to go barefoot some of the time, walking around our sites a little bit and doing some barefoot hiking on one of the trails. A significant majority of the time I wore my Vibram Fivefingers Sprint (VFFs) footwear, but on the last morning I caved to the 39F/4C temperature and wore socks with my Vivo Barefoot Dharma (Vivos) shoes. All in all, I'd say I wore my VFFs about 80% of my awake time while going barefoot about 15% and wearing the Vivos the final 5%:

Mmm, pie...charts.

I also took my Terra Plana Trip Clips with me. After getting them "dialed in" just right they worked well at keeping my jeans cuffs off of the ground. That was very helpful since barefooting and wearing minimalist shoes like the VFFs and Vivos usually keeps my cuffs low enough to rub the ground as I walk. I will certainly be doing a review later on to offer additional thoughts and tips on how best to use the clips.

Some more thoughts on barefoot/minimalist footwear camping:

  • Your active feet quickly get used to cold temperatures. Even in the early morning my feet did generally well barefoot or wearing just the VFF Sprints. I only wore the Vivos for the first couple hours of the coldest morning because I wasn't very active yet. If I'd started off with a run or hike or lots of walking around then the VFFs Sprints would have been enough.
  • Vibram Fivefingers, compared to bare feet, provide just enough sole protection to guard against uncomfortable gravel and acorns on the ground. I could feel the surfaces pretty well with them on, but it felt more like a foot massage instead of discomfort.
  • Terra Plana's Vivo Barefoot shoes, for all of their wonderful qualities, really don't provide anywhere as close of a "barefoot" feel as Vibram Fivefingers. This really became apparent on the camping trip. On smooth surfaces the differences are much less noticeable. On gravely, rocky surfaces the flexibility of the Vibram Fivefingers really shines. Not only that, but Vivos are much more loose on the foot and I would be hesitant to go hiking in them.
  • Hiking barefoot on non-gravely trails is spectacular! Nothing makes you feel more connected with nature and the earth like walking through the woods with your bare soles on the ground. Definitely try it if you get the chance. Yes, your feet will get a bit dirty, but it's worth it.
As a side note, my nephew Austin also took some opportunities to go barefoot during the trip. While he didn't hike barefoot, he did kick off his shoes a couple of times. Once, at the end of a trail as we walked back on paved roads to our sites, he went barefoot and stayed unshod for quite a while. I'm proud of him.

Overall, camping barefoot and in minimalist footwear was wonderful. It helped me feel so much more connected with the ground below and the trees above. At no point did I feel a sense of danger for my feet, even when walking over rocks in the dry riverbed or up some steep trail inclines in my VFFs. The trip got me even more interested in learning more about and exploring the concept of MovNat, which is kind of like parkour in nature. The trip was refreshing for body and soul and I can't wait to go back and do even more things barefoot. It certainly makes me want to get outdoors more and enjoy whatever nature is around me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm Not Going to "Fall" Down

I'm going camping this weekend.

But when I return, so will more information and discussion right here at Barefoot and Grounded. I've got a lot to talk about from product reviews to my thoughts on all things barefoot.

A new poll will open up next week, too. Check out the results from the last one. Even though we've got a lot of barefoot fans, we have a lot of work to do to help you "shoddies" step INTO your comfort zone.

Many people take a hiatus from barefooting for the colder months. I assure you that I'm going to head full steam into fall and winter determined to stay as barefoot or minimalist as possible.

I'm looking forward to talking with you about it all...after I come back from camping. :-)


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