I took a bit of a walkabout on the North Slope of Sonoma Mountain yesterday, covering about 7 miles of trail and not-quite-trail and not-trail-at-all. Part of my motivation was to try out the Vibram shoes pictured here. I'm not sure what they call them; they fit like a glove. I wasn't sure if I would feel enough support for longish walks like this. As it turned out, they worked well.
On the plus side, I feel very much more connected to the ground with these than I do with boots. It's much easier to walk along logs at stream crossings. They do an amazing job of keeping foxtails and other seeds out...I walked about mile in tall dry grass along a ridge and had nary a foxtail problem. My feet were well-supported, and no sign of my recent bout of plantar fasciitis appeared. I found I walked with more awareness of the ground, often more quietly than I would with boots and also more slowly.
On the slightly negative side, after 5 miles or so my knees were aching, probably from lack of cushioning when walking downhill. They were a bit slippery when off-trail on sidehill traverses, where I was glad to have a walking stick along. They did not perform as well as I hoped for boulder-hopping up creeks; the soles on this model are not very sticky. I was a bit more worried than usual about poison oak and ticks around my ankles.
There was a section of trail where many small rocks were scattered and these were a bit bruising through the thin soles. I had the idea of getting some oversized flip flops to wear with these for rocky trail sections, just for more padding...I had my regular flip flops in my pack and I tried them to test my theory but they were too small and slipped off. Nevertheless, I could tell from even this test that the idea was sound. I prefer the Spenco flip flops because of their solid construction and much better than average arch support.
Overall I'm very happy with these shoes. I see their niche as a combination of creek crawling, exploration of favorable terrains such as open desert and forest, and walking meditation where attention and quiet are important.
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.