Toe Story

I find myself in Wales without a bicycle (or a unicorn, but I don’t have one of those at home either – though I quite fancy my chances taming one, subject to availability), and so am reduced to shanks’ pony (or nag if you’re Scottish) for my personal mobility.

Whilst arguments derived from the theory of evolution are often applied way beyond the point at which they become nonsense, I do use one to support my preferred walking footwear.  I posit that my feet (whilst things of beauty) are of basically the same design as those of my ancient ancestors – back even before homo sapiens.  The fossil record has not preserved any shoes worn by homo erectus, and so I theorise that my feet did not evolve to wear brogues.  On a more personal level, almost the only good thing about wearing shoes is the joy to be obtained when they can finally be taken off – and this is rather akin to the “joy” experienced when you stopping banging your head against a wall (so, probably better not to start at all).

Some do espouse the barefoot lifestyle, but I’m not keen on dirty feet and fear the transition could be quite painful as my feet “toughen up”.  So, I sought a solution which kept my feet clean and protected from sharp objects but which otherwise maintain the barefoot experience.  My answer is the rather curiously-named FiveFingers (which seem to refer to the wrong set of phalanges).  These provide just enough “shoe” to protect my soles, but still allow a “natural” gait.  The name comes from the individual toe-pouches in the shoe providing a separate home for each of the wearer’s toes – much as a glove provides a separate home for each finger (a traditional shoe in this view, is the analogue of an oven glove).  As a bonus, FiveFingers never need polishing – I just stick then in the washing machine with the rest of my laundry.

I use them whenever possible when walking outside (indoors, barefoot is fine) and very comfortable they are too.  They do attract a degree of comment (occasionally positive) as they are a rare sight (in Cambridgeshire at any rate) – but I take this in my stride!

But, sometimes when I ride Bayard of ten toes, I cannot use my FiveFingers:

  • In snow or frost,  my feet would get terribly chilly;
  • For business meetings, I have yet to find a “formal” FiveFingers model; and
  • Hiking – especially on boggy ground – can leave a pair of FiveFingers swamped

which sadly leaves me forced to go abroad conventionally shod.  In the first two cases, I am generally walking only shortish distances (though airports can involve quite a route march) – but it is in the third case where my feet take the most punishment.  My hiking boots are pretty good, but are still of a conventional design and my poor pedal extremities object to their unfamiliar confinement.  I need the folk at Vibram to develop a FiveFingers model suitable for hiking in these (sometimes) soggy islands (they do have good hiking options for drier spots) – and some formal-wear would be nice too!

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