Testing Adidas’ Barefoot Shoes: When Fashion Collides With Function

by Charlotte on December 15, 2011 · 43 comments

Impatience has been a lifelong struggle for me. When I decide to do something, I want to do it rightthisverysecond, a charming trait that has made my husband make a blanket rule that I’m not allowed to talk about anything of import after 10 p.m. lest he end up helping me repaint the living room at 2 a.m. (In my defense I made the horrible choice of painting it canary yellow when all the accent colors are dark red. I couldn’t go to sleep in the Ronald McDonald house!! It ended up going back to white two hours later. And then “Almond Toast” the next day. Then “Antique” a few months later. I’m now petitioning him to let me paint it apple green. With faux wainscoting. Surprisingly he is unenthused.) BUT. We are not talking today about my epic lack of decorating skills. We are talking about my lack of common sense skills. (Yes, again. Hush.)

Adidas recently sent me a pair of their new Adipure Barefoot shoes to try out and rather than work up to exercising in them as is recommended, I brought them to the gym and decided to run my scheduled Tabatas in them. (See? I do live what I preach! Sometimes!) I was not deterred when the man next to me harrumphed loudly. I was also not deterred when Gym Buddy Allison said about 10 times, “Are you sure this is a good idea? Didn’t those things come with instructions??” I was only slightly deterred when I tried to put them on and discovered that my pinkie toe wants to permanently spoon with my 4th toe. I might as well have webbed toes you guys. They do not like being separated.

It took me a solid 5 minutes to put them on the first time. Getting each toe in its own little sleeping bag was the gym equivalent of watching someone park their RV at Wal-Mart. In a compact spot. With a cart left in it. But at last all was good and I was set to run my heart out. “Those are some shoes!” the gentleman next to me exclaimed. “Don’t trip.”

They are some shoes, indeed! Here’s a close up:

And then right as I was about to start running Krista jumped on the back of my (MOVING) treadmill with me. That’s one way to get your heart rate up, I guess! Scared the nervous pee right out of me. (Or back in to me. I didn’t pee on the tready. Promise.) Behold the blurry photographic evidence:

I did it! And it felt weird! Wearing not-quite-barefoot shoes really made me change my gait. You learn very quickly that heel-striking, as most people do in regular running shoes, hurts like a beast without cushioning. So I focused on hitting midfoot and not bouncing as much. This is one of the big selling points of these types of shoes: specifically that they allow your foot to move as nature intended and so you strengthen your feet and lessen your risk of injury. I suppose it works. I’ve seen people run whole marathons in them. I was surprised at how good it felt wearing them and even more surprised that nothing hurt the next day (given that I went from no practice to all-out sprinting in them I figured I’d at least have some wicked shin splints but no!).

Unfortunately they are not as flattering as they are comfortable. The term “monkey” came up more than once. Zoo noises were invoked. But in the end all the Gym Buddies wanted to try a few laps around the track in my fancy new shoes. Even though I wear an 8.5, Megan wears an 8, Krista wears a 9.5 and Allison a 10, like magic slippers they fit all of us! But here’s where I confess: I haven’t been wearing them much because, well, they’re just not cute. I’m sorry! I’m shallow. They have a permanent place in my gym bag (it helps that they fold up so easily!) and I think they do have some great benefits – squatting in “bare” feet is a whole new challenge! The function is definitely there, I just wish there was more fashion. Maybe some glitter? Manga cartoon faces on each toe? Neon?? I mean, if you’re going to wear weird monkey shoes might as well really make a statement, right?

Do any of you wear “toe” shoes? (Holla, Naomi!) When it comes down to fashion vs. function anyone else have kind of a hard time choosing the latter??

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

radioactivegan December 15, 2011 at 12:13 am

There is a guy in my building who wears this type of shoe to work every single day. Surprisingly enough, it’s not the least stylish thing he wears …


Gourmande December 15, 2011 at 2:32 am

Are they safe ? You’re sure there isn’t a risk to get your toes pinched into the treadmill ? A number of people have got amputations after accidents wearing awful Croc clogs. They probably wouldn’t let you in with that in my local supermarket. Well be careful.


Elisa December 15, 2011 at 3:42 am

I’ve been wearing the vibram five fingers for the last two years. It took quite a while to feel comfortable in them, but now they just slip on and off! They are super ugly, so I wear cool boots to and from the gym- at least in the winter. A few months ago, I bought the merril trail gloves and totally love those. They are much cuter and are basically the same thing.


Juliet December 15, 2011 at 4:46 am

I have a pair of vibrams! As Elisa said ahead of me, they took a long time for my feet to adjust to and I had to build some nasty calluses on my heels…. BUT! Now they are my absolute favorite shoes.

Downside: I don’t wear socks with them and they start to stank realllll quick. Good thing they can be washed with my laundry.


Josh December 15, 2011 at 5:22 am

I love my Vibram FiveFingers (and in other news it turns out Vibram also makes the soles on pretty much every other shoe I’ve tried on and felt comfortable in over the last year — no, I’m not getting paid for this). But I hate them on machines. My gym has a track (too round for sprints, unfortunately), so I can more or less avoid the treadmill and ellipticals with them (the stair-stepper is fine). I’ve even taken to wearing them out enough that they’ve stopped being a conversation starter.


Crumpled Moments December 15, 2011 at 6:19 am

I have three pair of Vibrams. I love them! I think they fall into the so ugly, they’re cute category.
I have different colors to match my gym outfits. I run faster when I’m wearing hot pink or lime green. *GRIN*


Naomi/Dragonmamma December 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

Are you talking to me? No, I’ve never worn toe shoes, not because the idea doesn’t intrigue me, but because I can’t justify spending that kind of dough on something that I’m not guaranteed to love. (But if you get tired of dragging them around, I’m size 8.5!) I do occasionally run around the gym and work-out in my socks when there are no rat-finks around.


Michel December 15, 2011 at 7:49 am

I want vibrams or minimalist shoes hoping they will solve my foot issues.

I’m surprised your calves didn’t hurt after never running like that before! My husbands hurt for awhile but then again he was out of shape and you are not!


James December 15, 2011 at 8:09 am

When my wife and I went Christmas shopping last Friday we swung through Dick’s Sporting Goods and I pointed out these to her and she couldn’t get past how ugly they were.

If I had the money, I’d probably try these or the Vibram Five Fingers. But, I don’t and I still have 2 more pairs of Nike Free trainers deadstocked in my closet. So, I won’t be in the market for new workout shoes for another 4 or 5 years.


JavaChick December 15, 2011 at 8:15 am

I’m curious about ‘barefoot’ shoes but concerned that they wouldn’t work for me because I need arch support if I’m doing anything high impact. I haven’t wanted to spend the money on something that might not work. Happy to hear you got to try them and liked them though!

And yes, it does bug me when I don’t like the look of my athletic shoes. I am a shoe-aholic and all shoes must be pretty or cute. :)


geosomin December 15, 2011 at 8:23 am

I’d love to wear them as I’ve heard they are very comfy, but my feet pronate a lot, and I’d get ridiculous shin splints and knee problems if I did. I have been forbidden to wear them except for walking…and it’s too much $$ for a walking shoe :)
Currently I dislike the look of my awesome workout shoes. They’re pink. Bleh. I picked them for comfort and support but I try not to look at them. :)


Saraj December 15, 2011 at 8:25 am

I love my vibrams. I bought them for hiking since I used to hike in my teva sandals.

When I joined a crossfit gym it turned out they are popular there too. No squishy souls allowed so it is vibrams, chucks or fancy weight lifting shoes.

I don’t wear them out often normally but have found them excellent for playing saxophone gigs where I need to stand for an hour. Usually our wardrobe doesn’t allow it, but if we are playing in jeans I’ll wear them.


Jenny C. December 15, 2011 at 8:49 am

I’m not going to lie, barefoot shoes creep me out. I’m happy for other people that like them, but I remember hating the knee-high toe sock phase a few years ago. I think that all of my toes just don’t like being separated.

Regardless, I do have a lot of friends that swear by them for running. Some of them even wear them for when we go rock climbing!


Brandy E. December 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

I have vibrams and love them. I really think the key is to stay away from the black ones because they do have the “gorilla feet” look to them. Mine are light blue and white and I think they look decent at the gym or with jeans. They have actually been better on my knees than the squishy asics too. :) When I wear my shoes out in the world I do wear injinji toe socks with them, they are the only ones that are thin enough to work IME.


Liz December 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

To be honest, I’ve always thought that these look like the weirdest shoes, but they sound awesome. I’d give them a try too, but maybe they could find a way to make them look more like regular shoes–at least on top. :)


Josh M December 15, 2011 at 9:30 am

Charlotee (& anyone else interested),

If you want Vibram / Adipure barefoot capability without the odd looks (my wife always scowled at my vibrams), might I suggest Merrel’s Barefoot collection (normal looking shoe made in cooperation with Vibram that brings all the barefooty cgoodness without the odd stares) I’ve also heard grood thins about Alta ‘s Adam./Eve collection. My wife actually likes my Merre’lls , I think they’re even more comfortable than my vibrams


Laura December 15, 2011 at 10:25 am

I have a pair of Vibrams, and while at first it took me a while to learn to get them on, eventually it got easier. However, I too didn’t like how they looked. I actually think the pair you got is super cute – the separate toes may be weird looking, but at least yours are cute colors!


janetha December 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

i saw these at the mall the other day! i want to try them, because i only wear vibrams and would love to feel how they compare.


Man Bicep December 15, 2011 at 10:46 am

I love my barefoot shoes! They are really great for lifting.

Now running…you definitely have to work up to running long distances in them slowly. The first time I ran in them, random muscles were sore the next day.

Also, Ryan has some and he sometimes wears them to teach preschool in. Once when he was wearing them one of the kids said to him, “Your shoes is feet!”


deb roby December 15, 2011 at 11:04 am

I promised myself that when I healed from my surgery I would buy a pair of toe shoes. (probably Vibrams -but these Adidas look nice!). My favorite gym in the world lets (heck- encourages) us to workout barefoot and I love it. Unfortunately, said gym is 55 miles from my home. I visit only every couple months.

My home commercial big box gym requires us to wear shoes. But they accept the VFFs. So not the best -but the best local solution I can find. Until I open my own gym and let the barefeet fly.

When I first saw the toe-shoes, they squeeged me out -but now I will consider myself as being “fashion forward”.


Amy December 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

I know those type of shoes are supposed to be the bestest thing ever, but I really can’t get over the whole toe thing (ewww) and the fact that I worry about weights being dropped on the toes. I realize most standard athletic shoes don’t have a ton of protection, either, but at least I feel like there’s something more there! For walking or running on the treadmill, however, I say they are probably safer as far as that goes.


colleenzo December 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

Love, love, LOVE my vibrams! I have three pairs now; one for summer running and mudruns, because they’re the base model and easiest to throw in the wash, one for winter running because they’ve got more top-foot coverage to keep me warm, and one just for kicks and walking around because they were given to me for free and they’re JUUUST a smidgen too small so they’d bang the heck out of my toes if I wore them for actual activity.

I have ultra-flat feet and terrible knee and back problems, to the tune of 5 past surgeries. I had sadly resigned to never becoming a runner until I tried these shoes. I’ve had no joint issues or shin splits since wearing them, and now I’m training for a half-marathon. Heck, I even like the way they look! Did I mention LOVE???


Alyssa December 15, 2011 at 11:52 am

I’ve been wanting to try these shoes! And since I have no fashion sense, I’d wear them all the time.
Interestingly, Hubby & I have never repainted any abode we’ve lived in (and there have been quite a few). That lack of fashion sense extend to interior decorating. Both traits I admire greatly in others.
Wait, sorry! Our first house WAS redecorated, just not by us! Our friend was the creator and executive producer of “Design On A Dime,” and we were the first home they ever designed! (Alas, our friend retired from the show after giving birth to 3 boys, including a set of twins. She’s been a bit busy refereeing!)


Courtney December 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I really like those shoes! They are kind of funny looking, though :P


Nicky December 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I have 4 pairs of Vibram Five Fingers. I tore an Achilles tendon nearly 5 years ago and wasn’t having any luck running again (too much pain with heel strike) and these shoes have cured all my ills (including plantar fasciitis and shin splints). I lift in them, run in them (even in the snow–with socks), hike in them, play racquetball in them and occasionally wear them to the office. I don’t always like their “rubbery-ness” and, at first, putting them on was like trying to put gloves on a toddler, but my toes seem to have spread out a bit and now they go on without problems. I love the stability and ground feel they give me, especially when lifting heavy things, and they come in lots of fun colours.


Nicky December 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

BTW–I have a teenage son who seems to get inspired late in the evening and starts complicated projects at ungodly hours (when he’s tired and easily frustrated). I have instituted a “no projects after 10 pm” rule and it’s helped a lot.


Steph December 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Wow, i was reading about you. Not only do you have an incredible sense of humor you are quite a strong women. The commitment and dedication you put towards your health and fitness is unreal.

I want to become Vegan but i find its hard cause i never like the flavors of their cheeses (and i love CHEESE). I have tried to maintain a vegetarian diet though, and so far, so good.

Keep up the hard work and dedication. You are an inspiration.


Steph December 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

ps, those shoes are stinkin cute!! Did they work out for you??


Jody - Fit at 54 December 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Charlotte, as you know with my bad feet, not going to do any minimalist shoe stuff but they sure look cute on you!!!! Me, sticking with my Hoka shoes! :-)


Valerie December 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Check out the merrell barefoot line if you want cuter barefoot shoes. I have the pace glove in blue & get compliments on them all the time. I had wanted a pair of barefoot shoes for a long time but I couldn’t get over the look of the toe shoes! Fashion still trumps function in this case!


Robyn December 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Hee, you and the Gym Buddies have formed the Sisterhood of the Traveling Barefoot Shoes!


Casey Kay December 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I’ve never worn those kind of shoes, but considering my propensity for walking barefoot in any month that isn’t winter (pretty much any time except December and January) I have wanted to try them for a little more protection on my feet. Those Adidas ones are definitely cuter than any others I have seen. :-)


Cheryl December 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I like that these ones are pink. I think you 100% pull them off.

PS I feel like you would be amused by lulu lemon’s $100 tutu: http://shop.lululemon.com/products/clothes-accessories/women-skirts-and-dresses/Rehearsal-Tutu . Not judging, I used to work for the company and still like the clothes, but $100 for a tutu? cmonnnnn!


Sandy December 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Sorry, but those are really ugly. I don’t think I could wear them but I will take a look at the Merrell’s.


Katie December 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I think these would annoy my toes. My toes get annoyed easily though.


Judy December 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I’ve been enjoying your blog. Love my Vibrams. I am a shoe-whore and love to have lots of cute shoes to wear and I think my toe shoes are cute in an odd way. And so comfy. I do all my work-outs in them and have a hard time wearing my other cute shoes even when I’m just out-and-about because they’re so comfy it’s hard to take ‘em off.


Lindsey December 16, 2011 at 8:14 am

I have the Merrell Pace Gloves and love them! They don’t look quite like regular running shoes, but they have all the benefits of five fingers without looking quite as funny! I don’t run in them often, but love them for stability exercises in the gym.


Dawn December 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Wait, you don’t think Vibrams are fashionable? Dude, I think they look awesome and badass. They look like you’re the nature-y, tree-climbing type that could Tarzan through the trees on a vine, or maybe you’re the Parkour type that is all in touch with the urban landscape. They have that modern-nature-girl kind of look.


Pam December 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm

I have three pairs of VFFs…I love them! I wear them whenever I can…at the gym, out for a run, casual use, and yes even the grocery store, whatever as long as it’s warm enough. I have never had a “gorilla feet” comment aimed at me, but all my pairs are colour combos and I have heard from other VFF wearers that the gorilla comments only happen with the black shoes. A couple years ago I used to get lots of “well aren’t you odd”-type questions, but the most common question I am asked now is “are those comfortable?” with genuine interest. People are seeing them more often so there’s less disapproval.

It’s funny so many people are mentioning shin splints, IMHO the barefoot style corrects the type of stride that causes them, I have never had splints or foot pain from the VFFs the way I often did in traditional sneakers.


Jenn (GH) December 19, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I saw these at the Perform Better Functional Fitness Summit a few months ago and was really curious. I don’t think they look too bad and I would love a pair. At the RKC Pavel referred to them as “frog shoes” (it was the Vibrams) and that made me really giggle. They totally look like frog feet!


Chelsea Bjork December 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I have seen these! I went to NY INC Marathon and these were everywhere! I really want to get a pair- I hear they are really comfortable when working out- even thought they do look a bit silly!


Elizabeth May 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Gostaria de saber si esse sapato esquenta quando caminhamos?


Elizabeth May 14, 2012 at 6:50 pm

tenho um grande problemas com algum tenis que esquenta, acho que esse seria ideal, mais queria saber si esquenta quando andamos muito com eles aos pés ?
to aguardando sua resposta


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