Prior to my surprise trip to Disney (which I will get around to writing about soon, promise!) SharkBoy and I purchased a pair of Vibram’s Fivefingers shoes. As you can see by the picture they’re a bit unconventional, and have a tendency to make people react in some way.
Before I go on, I will answer the three main questions I get all the time when people see them:
• Yes, they are comfortable. Imagine wearing flip flops that surround your feet. But with better support.
• I do walk differently. Because you virtually walk “barefoot”, you find yourself rolling from heel, to outer foot to pad to toes. Is this better? I can say that last year about this time I was suffering from a knee that would “give out” when doing simple things like going up a sidewalk curb. I’ve been to a physiotherapist since then and have taken his advice on how to properly walk – meanwhile, these shoes have been helping me maintain the small walking “tricks” he suggested. I have not had any issues with my knee since.
• It is odd having your toes separated, but I’m now able to grab onto subway car poles like an ape. It does take me a little longer to put them on, my pinky toes seem to have separation anxiety and usually wind up in with it’s neighbour’s slot.
Now on to the general public’s reaction:
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I was crossing in front of a family of 4 to get a shot of a monkey so I had to scoot a bit to avoid collision. As I pass the mother of the group blurted out (in what I thought was an angry manner) “What is up with those shoes?!” I didn’t look back – I was too scared.
On the subway home I had a slightly eccentric dude sidle up to me while waiting for the doors to open. I say “eccentric” because he looked like a 35 year old skateboarding guy who looked like he was in between jumps and beer bongs. He looks down. “DUDE HOLY SHIT THOSE SHOES!!” He announces to the entire car. It was like pulling the cranium off a fresh kill amongst a crowded zombie apocalypse. Everyone turned towards me. “Yeah, they’re…”
“FUCKING COOL!!” And so on. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise through the declarations of awesomeness.
Generally people are nice and most will come right out and ask me about them. But there are the Torontonians who don’t want to directly acknowledge your difference. I would be walking with SharkBoy somewhere and if the sidewalk was crowded around us I may notice ambient conversations. I would also notice the sudden absence of conversation as people drop their register and whisper “Look. At. His. Feet.” This happens more than people coming right out and asking, which kind of saddens me.
Like many things that are different, I have a feeling that they will become the Crocs of this decade (when we were buying ours, there was another gay couple at Europe Bound purchasing them too – Gays! Fore-bearers of trends!) but for the time being, I’ll enjoy wearing them without caring what other people think.