Dig In

I bought a pair of those silly, er, trendy toe shoes that have been popping up everywhere. Why would I do that, you ask? Well, not to jump on the minimalist footwear bandwagon, that’s for sure. Humanity may have survived shoe-less until the last few centuries, but they did it with lots of broken toes, mutilated nails, and parasite-infected barking dogs. No, I did it because I’ve lost 44 pounds in five months by walking between two and six hours every day, and there simply is no footwear up to the abuse.

I’ve worn hiking shoes, walking shoes, pool shoes, good leather sandals, two kinds of boots and a pair of steel-toed anti-static sneakers. All have their place, but most of these have the side effect of crowding the toes together. This fosters the further side effect of asymmetrical callouses that eventually become hard and get pinched and generally become noisome.

The toe shoe, a shoe in which each (or at least most) of the toes gets its own little pocket, is a rather obvious solution to this particular problem. Fortunately, I live in an age in which most obvious solutions (and many, many far from obvious ones) are for sale within walking distance of my home—at least in principal.

So I bought a pair of Fila Bay-Run-Some-Damn-Thing-Or-Others and here’s what I think. They work. That is, they solve the problem without immediately presenting any intractable new ones. They do cause my stride to wobble and my knees to hurt a bit, but I’m provisionally okay with that because that just means they are bringing into play fine motor skills and muscles that have spent too much of the last two decades sleeping while hard leather uppers and synthetic soles went “clomp clomp clomp” along life’s byways. That’s fine. That means, if anything, that I’ll be burning more calories. Aside from that, they stink. Well, they smell a little.

Unfortunately, the impetus for this product is not good solid practical Americans like me, it’s the aforementioned fad. As a result, few toe shoes come with any sort of arch support or sole, and many take a positively narcissistic pride in the omission. In fairness, Fila makes a better shoe called the “Voltage” which has characteristics more suitable to humans living in the modern world, but the local store only carries these things—suitable only for the beach or for the lighter heft of Martian gravity. Well, perhaps I’ll order something from Amazon.

In the meantime, to those who think anti-shoism is a sensible idea, I say this. The whole idea of minimal shoe running arose from a spate of African bare-footed masters who emerged in recent decades and went on to Olympic fame. Despite their successes, the rest of the running world has not followed suit. Why? Because careful scientific analysis has revealed what most knew and some suspected. First, hard use without proper support destroys human feet. Second, Kenyans dominate the track for the same reason minorities dominate American sport: from the time they are small, that’s the only path they see out of poverty.

But, like the rest of my paw wrappers, these have their place, and so I march off into the dream-studded twilight of modern consumerism. At least when these puppies go to the beach, they offer a somewhat less painful alternative to Edward Abbey’s advice to “unzip your fly, piss hearty, dig your toes in the hot sand, feel that raw and rugged earth, split a couple of big toenails, draw blood!, why not?”