During the 3.5 years I’ve been studying Iyengar yoga, I’ve learned the importance of having “active” feet. I used to think that if I was standing or walking my feet were active but how wrong I was! Activating my feet means being able to connect each toe and various parts of the sole with the ground in an intentional and purposeful way, ultilizing the 4 layers of muscles in the feet, driving the movements up above. Usually wearing socks, shoes or slippers is like trying to manipulate your hands while wearing thick mittens; recently I discovered an exciting alternative.
I came across Jordan Vezina’s YouTube video “Kettlebell Swing Corrections” in which he describes why not to use running shoes when practising kettlebells (“it’s like doing (weight training) standing on a mattress”). He recommends practicing barefoot or using a Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) shoe. That piqued my curiosity. I practise barefoot at home but thought that when I find a class, I likely couldn’t go barefoot so I started researching the very weird looking Five Fingers and learned that Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) sells two models: KSO (Keep Stuff Out), and Flow (the warmer model).
I’d planned to try a pair of VFFs but as I hadn’t found a kettlebell class in town, and was struggling with elbow tendonitis (a knitting-related RSI), there didn’t seem to be any hurry. Then, much to my delight, I learned of a thrice-weekly kettlebell class here in town, and happened upon MC’s Begin 2 Dig blog posting about how fantastic he she found it to be wearing his her Flows for the past five months. My elbow isn’t yet ready for a class but knowing that I could wear the shoes walking and hiking with the dog, I picked up my KSOs on Friday; I tried them on but was in a hurry and didn’t walk around in them. I wore them around the house on Friday night and found myself tripping over the “ring” toes when I wasn’t paying attention. It turns out (as explained in another Begin 2 Dig posting) that one should go down a shoe size with two of the four VFF models, including the KSO. Even so, I had happy feet while I was wearing the KSOs.
Saturday I returned to MEC to make the exchange and, as it was nearby, stopped in to view the kettlebell class in action and meet the RKC certified instructor. There were about ten people in the class and three of them were women. I learned that their lightest kettlebell is 18 lbs (as is mine). I’m looking forward to joining the class in a few weeks once my elbow improves.
I returned home, slipped into my KSOs and headed out for a long walk around the neighbourhood. It was about 12 Celcius and, without socks, I noticed the cool air on the top of my feet. That didn’t last long. My feet warmed up very quickly even though I was only walking. I found that walking along a gravel path was like having random reflexology. After years of wearing shoes or slippers, I am very tender-footed but there were very few moments when I resisted putting my whole body weight on my foot because the pressure of a larger piece of gravel was too intense (no risk of puncturing the sole).
I also walked on a packed dirt trail and the concrete sidewalk. My feet felt great the entire time, although my 1.5 hour walk was a bit too long for a first outing in new shoes. I developed a small blister on one heal and a hot spot on another during the last 20 minutes. Blisters with new shoes is common for me. I did say that I am tender-footed. All in all, I think I’ve found my new favourite footwear.