So what's all the hype about Vibram FiveFingers?\u00a0I've started seeing them at the gym, on the trails, and even strolling around town on a Sunday afternoon.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe makers say they are like going barefoot. But I thought my mother told me never to go barefoot?\r\n\r\nRunning without shoes can strengthen the foot, ankle, and leg.\r\n\r\nThis is not a new idea. Not only has man been running around barefoot for centuries, but he's been doing so rather quickly. Tribal runners around the world have long since been running barefoot. We've even seen a few Olympic athletes run this way during competition. But is this the way all of us should hit the pavement?\r\n\r\nResearch tells us a few things. It is thought by many, if not all in the know, that the excessive cushioning provided by some shoe technology weakens the foot and leg muscles.\u00a0Hence we have Birkenstock and other shoes, which encourage the natural gripping and work of the foot.\r\n\r\nResearchers have also noticed that among those who run barefoot, the foot strikes in the mid or forefoot.\u00a0The cushion of our running shoes, shaped like a wedge, forces a change in the way we strike the ground.\r\n\r\nWithout the wedge, the mid- or forefoot naturally make contact before the heel. The arch is strengthened by this motion. And when the forefoot or mid-foot strike first, the likelihood of injury is far less as is the impact to the joints.\r\nEven more interesting to me was the fact that running with a forefoot strike actually uses about 5 percent less energy than running with a heel strike. That's like never paying the tax on your purchases again, or having your energy bill reduced by $5,000 over a lifetime. When we run barefoot, we also consume (or need) less oxygen.\r\n\r\nSimply put, we are more efficient.\r\n\r\nIt would seem that all signs are nudging us to run barefoot, or close to it. So why was the ultra cushioned running shoe created? We have become accustomed to shoes, namely to keep our feet protected. Protection developed into correction, but now it seems we are correcting the very problems we tried to avoid. Did we simply let this get out of hand?\u00a0Reversing this process can take time and practice. So if and when you decide to try running barefoot (or with FiveFingers\u2014gravel and glass don't feel good during your morning run), do so carefully and gradually. Just as you would start slowly when training for a marathon if you'd never run before; ease into your Five Fingers. Your foot, body, and mind will need some time to adjust\u2014be patient and your feet will keep you going the distance.