As a kid who grew up idolizing Jean-Claude Van Damme, I spent many an hour studying Tae Kwon Do and hitting the heavy bag, being in bare feet was just kind of normal. Sure you wear sneakers or boots during the day but after hours I was always sans shoes at home or the McDojo. Plus I have wide feet so skinny shoes were not my friend. Some people don't like bare feet so when Vibram's Five Finger shoes started hitting the market, they were instantly deemed weird and silly looking as each toe was given an individual slot versus being covered a la a regular sneaker. Up until a couple years ago, I hadn't been a member at a gym for some time, preferring to work out in my makeshift living room gym at a spacious house I used to share. When I joined a Gold's for a holiday special, I had to get some new kicks and ended up grabbing two pairs of Vibram's, one for training and one for walking around. They weren't available at a Foot Locker or Finish Line, I actually found them at an Outdoor/Sporting Goods store. Meant to mimic the flexibility and natural movement of bare feet training made popular by Hawaiian's, Africans, America's indigenous people, Arnold and the guys at Gold's Venice in the 70's as well as the king of weirdcool himself, Thomas Jane. Vibram's took a little getting used to, from their non 1-12 style sizing to the fact that your toes are separated. I couldn't wear sweat pants very well because they'd go right to the floor under my heel, etc. But overall, I liked them, they accommodated my wide stumps and I wouldn't have to take my shoes off and do squats in socks.
Running outside was a little trickier, there was a dirt path by my next dwelling so if it was just a little wet, my ankles would be covered in crud, my shoes caked in crap and then my feet would be a little sore. The minimum amount of padding and rubber just wasn't enough I suppose. It's been two years since I bought those Vibram's and everywhere I went, people would ask me about them, if I liked them, etc. I tended to answer that I did like them but I probably wouldn't buy another pair, they just weren't versatile enough I guess. Cut to last night and I picked up a pair of Nike Free's, another style of minimalist shoes designed to let your feet move more naturally but more traditional as there's decent soles and your toes are all crammed together. They felt very tight on the top of my foot at first so I wondered if I was supposed to wear socks or not as with Vibram's and their bare foot sensibility, you didn't. I opted for some ankle socks though to keep the stank away. Taking the Free's for a test spin at the gym today, they seemed to loosen up a little bit and provided very good support as I lifted weights, pushed a sled, jumped rope, etc. Plus I can wear them to a convention or Disneyland.
Michael Jai White on training, eating and "karate feet":