Comfort level and practicality seem to have always been inversely proportional to cuteness. Which explains Uggs (excusable only on surfers, et al., sorry), Crocs, braces, orthopedic shoes, sweat pants, Skechers and going braless.
Guys and gals, you’re looking at Vibra FiveFingers, which, as their website promises, “offers the exhilarating joy of going barefoot with the protection and sure-footed grip of a Vibram sole.” While the 8-year-old in me does think it’s kind of cool, I’ll have to mark this one in the only-on-a-desert-isle column.
Here’s that whole practicality part of it: Vibram have long been known for their reliable soles—everyone from military service people to Bear Grylls (meow) are known for sporting the lightweight, heavy-duty, lug shoe soles with excellent traction and a high-abrasion surface. As a result, Vibram soles have even been up Mount Everest and back. So, yeah, that means the Vibra FiveFingers, which kind of look like a prodigiously sturdy foot condom of sorts, make for the perfect accompaniment for low-impact sports such as kayaking, rock-climbing (extra toes and extra surface area mean extra traction!), yoga and even something called chi running—which combines the inner focus of tai chi with running and a supposedly painless result. Yeah. Vibram FiveFingers are supposed to help strengthen feet, improve posture, etc., etc.
The downside to it all?
They freak me out.
Though, it must be said, I’ve never really enjoyed anything that accentuates the foot too much—French pedicures, rainbow-colored toe socks, toe rings, anklets—but these things just make me nervous. Vibram FiveFingers are molded and sculpted to the foot down to the minutest curvature. Pick up a VibramFiveFinger shoe, and it feels like you’re holding a hollow human shell in your hands. Creepy! Fucking creepy!
Exercises in foot fetishism have even extended into the realm of high fashion. Belgian designer and general god Martin Margiela has caused a stir with his cloven-shoe line of boots, heels and sneakers for some years now. Sarah Jessica Parker was recently photographed out and about in Manhattan in a black-leather high-heeled boot with split toes. A literal camel/pig/horse toe? Yes. Does it stir up the same feelings of ill ease and discomfort as toe socks with different colors for each toe? Also yes. The footwear transformed Parker into a short, well-coiffed centaur—and Margiela into Dr. Moreau.