Friday, June 4, 2010

What's UR Fave Barefoot Shoe And Do Your Feet Stink?

Looking For A Barefoot Shoe...

I don't really wanna hear about Vibrams... I know I know... everyone RAVES about them. The problem is my feet sweat and I need something non-synthetic that breathes somewhat.


The 'Gear' spot has a brief discussion on non-Vibram varieties like Puma H-streets, Puma Saloh's, FeelMax (from Finland -- favorite of Barefoot Ted and Mark Sisson), Nike Free's, Vivo's and aqua socks. They all sound stinky except the manly looking FeelMax and the Puma's.

Pose Technique

Pose fans appear to like the Puma H (which are discontinued), Saloh's and K-street's the most. My hubby tried the Saloh but without appropriate adaptation I think it aggravated his old plantar fasciitis when we were walking miles and taking the subway in Shanghai and Beijing (btw is fine now).


Wool socks work nice for me on asphalt but haven't tried it too often... (They are excellent stand-ins when I forget my shoes for the gym or Xfit.) Soles that are bullet-proof or puncture-resistant aren't absolutely necessary for me but stink-resistance would be nice. Getting a grip is good too.

Thoughts? Thoughts for an over-protonator w/flat arches?

[Currently veering toward the Puma K-street IIs and maybe Terra Plana...]



Tyler said...

Hi- You have a great blog here, your knowledge is much appreciated. It has really contributed to my understanding of nutrition and body systems, so maybe some of my knowledge can help you out...

This is a little long, but it may help you with your shoe/foot question.

Just to give you a little background from where I'm coming from on this:

I am D2 Collegiate athlete in the Decathlon. My feet (and body) have taken a beating over the years from tons of sprinting, jumping, and weightlifting. My area of study is nutrition and kinesiology w/ a focus in strength and conditioning, and I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what works best to prevent and treat foot dysfunction, and after a lot of research and trial/error, I have a little insight in this issue.

You are on the right track by looking for minimal shoes- getting motion control, stability, or arch support to help with a flat arch and pronation would be treating the symptoms of a problem and not the cause, which seems to be a repeating theme in our society. I once believed that a flat foot and pronation were a permanent aspect of my own and others foot structure, however, I have found that very few people truly have collapsed arches or permanent excessive pronation.

One cause of these problems may be weak muscles in the foot and arch. As I'm sure you know, immobilizing or supporting the foot will cause the natural support systems to atrophy.

However what I discovered was causing my foot problems (flat arch and excessive pronation) was a variation in foot structure seen in about 35% of the population called mortons foot. It is characterized by a first metatarsal that is shorter than the second metatarsal. Often, but not always, the second toe is longer than the big toe. This causes a dysfunction that results in a flat foot and excessive pronation.

Once I treated the morton's foot (cheap fix), my foot pain that I had for years disappeared, and a chain of dysfunction up my legs to my neck was corrected. My arch returned to a normal high shape and my foot no longer pronates.

I have seen and treated this condition in many other collegiate athletes as well. There's no guarantee that you have morton's foot, but if you do, fixing it will return your arch and gait pattern to normal and prevent later foot problems.

You can see if you have a short first metatarsal by bending your toes forward and looking at the "knuckles".. if the second toe knucles is farther forward than the big toe knuckle, you probably have morton's foot.

As far as the shoes, I have used vibrams, nike frees, and thick socks with great success and loved them all. Nike frees are great in certain situations where there is higher amounts of impact- sprinting and jumping specifically, or on harder surfaces.


Anonymous said...

there is a company round that makes socks with individual toes in them which you can wear inside vibram's. Fortunatetly I dont sweat much in the feet dept so I havent had to bother with them. I have found vibrams very good --they do seem to do something for my feet. OB1
PS the sock company was Indo or some other "I" name.

Jezwyn said...

My feet don't smell like daisies either, but I wear Vibrams (KSOs) and just wash them regularly. I also have Injinji socks to wear underneath them, and they're even easier to wash after each wear.

In my opinion, nothing else will even come close to being as barefoot as Vibram FiveFingers.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

Put a little baking soda in the Vibrams and odor problem solved.

Unknown said...

A friend of mine has the Feelmax and really likes them.

I do not have the cash, but if I did Terra Plana would be my choice, those are some of the best looking shoes I have ever seen!

New Balance is also coming out with a Minimus. I am not sure when though.

Methuselah said...

For what it's worth, here's my two penneth. Buy Vibrams, but wash them regularly. I find that a couple of minutes in the sink is enough every couple of days to keep the hum at bay. Like underwear, you just need a few pairs so that you have something to wear when the others are drying out...

Dr. B G said...


I really appreciate your input and insights -- you bring up the excellent point how connected our bodies are from our toes to our neck! Like Clay, decathletes TOTALLY ROCK -- you guys were into HIIT and tabata far ahead of the crowd... (Have you seen what Clay squats??!)

I think that is extremely neat you figured out the cure for your feet!! May I ask how you corrected the Morton's? Taping the 2 toes to compensate or spread the pressure?

Anatomically, my big toe is far longer than the 2nd toe... As long as I stick w/yoga AND swimming the various hip, shin, knee and shoulder dysplasias are controlled. [All Hakka people have also a crinkle in their 5th toenail and only one of my daughters who looks like me has it partially]


Thank you! I've read your informatives posts and comments elsewhere for the Injinji -- I have to check them out! Alright. Vibrams. Why do they have to be so high-maintenance??

Aaron -- SOOO high maintenance!

I Pull 400W -- I liked the Terra Plana too but to get several pairs would be a little prohibitive... Asics my favorite #1 shoe has one but I just didn't read any reviews on it...the sole is kinda thick but maybe it's like the Nike-free more suited for asphalt surfaces.

Methuselah -- Great solution! (That's why I have 3 dozen underwear...)

zim said...

i didn't see Soft Star shoes on your list. i can't say how they are with odor, as i just now have a pair of Run Amoc's on order, but thought it worth a mention.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

G, I presume you were being tongue in cheek about VFFs being high maintenance. But if not, let me disabuse you (and anyone else on the fence about getting a pair) of the notion. I keep a box of baking soda by the door. Every coupla weeks I tap a little in the VFFs, tap them a bit to spread the powder, don the "shoes" and head out the door. It takes all of 10-30 extra seconds--every coupla weeks. And I've only had to wash each pair of VFFs twice in the past 6 months. Could be that the LA climate is particularly kind to VFFs--it barely rains here and is a very dry climate. Not bad for a bare foot alternative!

Kevin said...

I started wearing Vibrams in January of last year because of achilles tendonitis. I still have AT but it's manageable. One other thing I noticed about Vibram KSOs is they don't wear out. Averaging running 120 miles per month times 18 months is over 2000 miles and they still seem good as new. I can't run nearly as fast in them as regular shoes but my regular New Balance running shoes never last more than 300 miles before the heels are worn.

I wear Injinji socks under the KSOs. I throw them in the laundry every couple weeks. Without the Injinjis I tend to blister on both big toes.

In two weeks is the ACS 24hr relay run. I hope to run for 24 hours straight while wearing Vibrams.


Dr. B G said...

Aaron, I don't even comb my long dreadlock hair (too busy making breakfast in the AM)... but 30 seconds every couple of wks is managable...! Thanks!

Thanks Kevin!

Zim -- I saw Run Amoc at Ted's website and they look good too. I hope I read some reviews or hear your thoughts later :)


Unknown said...

Yeah, I had the same problem. I notice Erwan Le Corre wears the leather Performa Vibrams everywhere, even though they are not intended for outdoor use. He said he doesn't like the synthetic materials of the outdoor models. It seemed to be working for him...even in NYC in January.

I have the regular vibrams, but I keep a spray bottle of baking soda and water that I use on my feet before wearing them and on the shoes after wearing them. Then I also wash them weekly.

Tyler said...

Dr. B G,

The basic problem is when the second metatarsal joint contacts the ground before the first metatarsal joint. The human foot is meant to operate like a tripod- with the heel, the little toe joint, and the first metatarsal joint contacting the ground (ball of foot). This creates stability, and a rigid structure to push off of in running, jumping, etc.

The problem arises when the second metatarsal joint contacts the ground before the first metatarsal joint. The foot becomes like an ice-skate instead of a tripod. This can be caused by either or both of two things:

1) The first metatarsal is shorter than the second.

2) The first metatarsal is hypermobile, allowing it move out of the way, and the pressure rest on the second metatarsal joint.

When these things happen, it creates instability at the foot that eventually stretches out the muscles and arch, creating a flat foot and excessive pronation.

Excessive pronation of the foot causes the ankle to travel inward, the knee to become displaced inward, and the angle of the femur at the hip to change. Big problems if the dysfunction is compounded by repetitive motion or impact.

How I treated it:

1st: Taping a small pad under the first meta tarsal can take up "slack" in the ligaments and correct for it being shorter than the second. This was a major part.
Picture here:

2nd: Release of trigger points in the foot and calf to allow muscles to return to correct lengths and strengths. This is critical; every single athlete's foot structure has improved after treating the trigger points in the foot. This allows the arch muscles to return to a functional length and strength level, effectively fixing the flat foot.

Another long-winded answer, but treating this can vastly improve performance- if the joint that interacts with the ground is dysfunctional, every other athletic movement will suffer.


moises said...


Thanks for your informative post. I never knew I had had Morton's Foot till I read your post. I echo Dr BG's question: what was your fix?

Is this is it:

In the meantime, I've been on the minimal footwear kick since September 2009. There is no perfect solution. The best compromise that I've found are the Feelmax products. The best price that I found for them was Extreme Outfitters. But this might change over time.

The toughest thing for me was dealing with snowstorms in the winter. The Feelmax boots that I purchased let me down as they leaked significant amounts of icy water. But they still seemed to be better than anything else out there.

Jae said...

Love your blog, although sometimes the science is a little over my head. =)

I know you said you don't want to hear about VFFs, but I think you are under the impression that it is difficult to get the stink out.

Please check out these threads on how to get the smell out of VFFs. Very easy and foolproof.

Personally, they never start to stink unless they get wet (puddles, rain).

Also, it's great having two pairs, as Methuselah suggested.

Scott Pierce said...

For odor, stick'em in the freezer over night. For my vibram's, it takes little time for them to thaw. I personally wouldn't use any kind of powder.

Dr. B G said...


Erwan is nuts and a total BAD*SS. Can't wait to meet him someday! Thanks for the spray bottle tip.


Neat-O!!! You should patent that!


Ck out Tyler's thoughts.


Don't know why but I sweat a STORM.

Am a big fan of Paleo Hacks... need spend some time posting... You guys ROCK. Thank you for the links. Gonna meet up with Patrick soon YAAA :)


Dr. B G said...


Freezer? That is novel!


lightcan said...

I wanted to propose Terra Plana as I'm going to London soon and I would like to try them. I see it has been done.

do you have any suggestions for children's flat foot/fallen arches? (5yo) Should they just wear socks at home?

lightcan said...

I checked vibram's site, they seem to be geared towards all kind of sports, great, but what about everyday shoes (what about matching shoes to your clothes, not only socially or culturally necessary but grok forbid because of a certain style requirement?) We don't all live in California and we don't wear hunting gear all the time. Puma looks ok but I don't know how much toe room there is and they're synthetic. Are birkenstock not ok because they have too much arch support?
Great idea to post about paleo shoes! (oxymoron?)

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

David loves his vibrams, but he does wash them often. See for test drives and reviews of various minimalist shoes. also for other reviews, interesting stories and links.



Dr. B G said...


Mark has a great post on flat feet (don't know if totally applicable to children?)

I'm from BERKELEY. I lived in Birks for a while *wink* and they are stiff and not prone to bare-foot adapations I don't think...

Got my puma's -- both K2 and Lanai XTS come in. Need to run in them now :)

The leather vibrams that Erwan Le Corre sports (in the middle of NYC winters) appears to be the next best candidate for me. Better start saving my $$$ !

Would love to hear how your feet fare esp if you try out the Terra Plana! There are 20% coupons -- email me! Richard N. sent me one-- thanxxx dude!

Drs.Cynthia and David,

I'll ck out!! Those links look fantastic!!


Tyler said...


I'm not sure what the best solution for a 5 year old would be. Did you do the assessment for morton's foot? The earlier you catch it the better.

If the kid does have morton's gluing or attaching a first metatarsal pad on the insole of whatever shoes they where most often would be a really smart thing to do.

The other thing I would look at is overall posture of the child- position of the pelvis effects knees, ankles, spine, and shoulders and can also cause flat feet. Babies naturally have good alignment/posture, but in our culture that tends to change pretty quickly... by 5 it could be messed up. If you think this is a possibility I'd check out Esther Gokhale's book. In short, she traveled around to societies where there is no back pain, flat feet, etc and looked at what they had in common, similar to Weston Price with nutrition. Her book '8 steps to a pain free back' is the best resource for learning about how our bodies are designed by evolution to sit, stand, walk, and sleep.

Other than that, your right on with having them go barefoot or socks as much as possible.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


lightcan said...

Thanks a million Tyler. I have to check that.

the K street II look great. Yes, the leather vibrams look cool too. Unless you feel you're like a hobbit with gloves on your toes.

Dr. B G said...

Oooohhh... I just tried out the Puma KII's this AM standard 4mile w/one long phat hill 20-25% grade. I flew! No ankle or toe blisters or probs! I was so happy!

(20X 36" boxjumps and metcon 7 rounds of 100m sprints last wk didn't hurt the speed)

Matt Metzgar said...

I've been going all the way barefoot on pavement. I think any type of shoe just gets in the way.

Dr. B G said...


I just worry about asphalt and potential cuts. That is wonderful! I love the barefoot discussions you've had.


rocky said...

Abit late to respond to this, but just stumbled upon it.
Tyler, I have a couple of question to ask you regarding the very interesting ideas shared in the comments if you have the time. Would be much appreciated!
Contact me @


radical new york said...

Puma H Streets are BACK, by the way!

Dr. B G said...

Great!! -- I'll have to check out. I love the PUMA KII's which I have 2 and still don't STINK!

Actually I've decided that asphalt is neolithic, not paleo and therefore I've gone back occasionally to regular running shoes with thick soles. Yeah. It's lame but my I need my feet to last and last. Might try the Nike free's later since they highly recommended and it has some cushion...