Vibram’s FiveFinger minimalist shoes have recently made headlines for settling in a class action lawsuit that alleged the company made false health claims that their shoes make your feet stronger. According to the settlement, Vibram will deposit $3.75 million into an escrow account to be distributed to those filing a claim, and will reimburse for up to $94 per pair of FiveFinger shoes bought. If any of the $3.75 million is not claimed, the remainder will be donated to the American Heart Association. Since I’ve already been asked several times this last month, I’d like to go on the record and say, No – I will not be asking for a refund for my beloved VFF shoes.
I bought my VFF minimalist shoes in June of 2009 to celebrate my graduation from Bastyr University’s naturopathic medicine program. It was love at first walk; and I’ve walked 100s of miles in these shoes over the last 5 years, throughout California, Washington, Colorado and Washington D.C. Rather than going into detail about the research benefits I will simply note that there are in fact studies like the 2005 Nike Free study and a follow up study at the University of Cincinnati that have shown that walking in minimalist shoes like the VFF minimalist shoes can strengthen the abductor halluces muscle.
But that’s not why I wear my VFFs. I wear my VFFs because I love walking barefoot and they protect my soles from hot Fresno asphalt, pointy rocks and sharp objects that riddle my walking path. I wear my VFFs because I practice Mindful Walking.
Yes, you’ve heard correctly: Mindful Walking. Walking in minimalist shoes is how I practice mindfulness in a way that is comfortable and feels natural to me. This is my time to put aside my electronic devices and walk upon my favorite dirt and asphalt path. Being able to feel the various textures beneath my feet helps me feel connected to the Earth and content with the simplicity of having a quiet walk.
Interested in giving it a try? Follow these simple steps below (FiveFinger shoes are optional but no smartphones!)
- Take a few deep breaths and set your intention to practice mindful walking to be aware of your internal state of mind and reconnect with your environment. Walk with awareness, one step at a time.
- As you walk, notice the ground beneath your feet – is it soft, hard, bumpy, smooth? Feel the connection of your body to the ground.
- Expand your awareness to include your other senses: what do you hear, smell, feel and see?
- If your mind wanders, take a moment to acknowledge what thoughts are on your mind? Acknowledge the emotions you feel at that very moment. Notice these thoughts but let them be. Return your focus to the sensation of walking.
- As you complete your walk, smile. It is ok if you had to remind yourself to be present during your walk. The intention to be mindful is what counts!
I believe Eddie Cantor said it best: “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”