Jun 1 2009

My New Carbon Footprint

by andrew

My conscience has been bothering me for years about my boots. They are big and bulky. Heavy. Probably made in China by grossly underpaid and mistreated workers. I’m sure none of the materials are from recycled sources. And when I walk in them… to think of the scars they leave on the land: the crushed grass, the ruined flowers, the shattered twigs, and the horrendous indentations in dirt and mud alike! Oh the shame. They have no soul… I mean sole left (well, I’ve had them for years and years after all).

No longer!

I am now clad in the closest thing to my own two bare feet that can still get me past those dastardly “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs! I am as silent as a ninja. I bend scarcely a blade of grass when I glide across the land. It’s marvelous – rocks and sticks practically roll out of the way when I step so that the bare earth can cup my friendly feet. I am wearing Vibram FiveFingers where ever I go now.

These are the most amazing invention of the 21st century. Hands down. Or, feet down as it were. I recommend them without reservation. Unless, of course, you are the kind of person who prefers to check your toes into a normal 5-star shoe resort, letting them bask in a jacuzzi, sip rum and cokes, get pedicures and their hair styled, and sunbathe under the kind of arch support that could suspend the Golden Gate Bridge while pounding heals and knees against asphalt… well, then in that case these marvels of modern technology will not really interest you.

However, if you are anything like me and would much rather feel the mud between your toes, the general texture of each rock – sharp or smooth – on your arches (think reflexology, not coal walking), the water from creeks and streams flowing in and over and through and leaving your footwear, the soft ground soft, the hard ground hard, the steep inclines stable with 10 points of contact instead of 2, the climbing effortless (trees, rocks, and other obstacles like tall buildings), and the land itself – the terrain – the feedback from every chunk of 12 inch ground contacted and passed at a time… then you too would be in a blissful state of trekking paradise in these foot-gloves.

My one main concern was breatheability… Actually, I’d prefer to be barefoot 100% of the time. In fact, but for the aforementioned prejudicial policy many commercial facilities insist on maintaining – and for the tendency of terrain that I like exploring to be more impervious than my own skin – I would be barefoot all the time. In fact, my feet can manage to sweat in flip-flops, so breatheability was a top priority. In this and every other respect the Vibram KSOs have performed flawlessly.

This past week I’ve been helping set-up a 100 Km adventure race course across urban and wilderness environments. With my predisposition for barefooting I experienced practically zero break-in time for these “shoes” and found the course set-up to be the perfect excuse to put them to the test. I have walked, run, climbed, waded, and sparred across pavement, grass, railroad tracks, gravel (large and small), creeks, trails, swamps, forests, mud pits, rivers, trees, rocks, streets, churches, malls, restaurants, basketball courts, and more.

My feet were initially delightfully sore in the way that only using forgotten muscles regularly again can achieve. No blisters. No raw spots. It was as if my feet grew an impervious second sole. There, now I’ve used impervious twice in one post. Your mileage may vary. So far, only two complaints – they were slightly chilly wet in 45 F temp at night. But certainly not as cold as barefeet I suppose. The other problem that is likely not solvable by anyone or any footwear: I managed to stink them up in one week of swamp tromping despite the space-age-antimicrobial-odor-suppressing imbuement the soles are supposed to bear… washing them twice (once by hand and once in the laundry) didn’t even cure them. But I suspect a good soaking in miracle soap would.

So, all that said, I am ready for the course! I will be traveling much more light-footed this year while I’m shooting video and photos for the race, shadowing the student teams as they self-propel their way through the final challenge of the year. And I must close this by saying THANK YOU BEN for barefooting with me and for sending me the Vibram info years ago (it seems like years anyway). I certainly did not forget about it.