If you’re a physical therapist, chances are that you’ve heard of the Vibram FiveFingers craze. Take one look at these shoes, and you’ll think they’re just the next contestant in the recent string of shoes designed to look “unique” for people who would rather look fit than be fit.
I can tell you that Vibrams don’t fall into that category. I’ve had my Vibram FiveFinger Trek Sports for three months and I literally can’t wait to put them on every day when I get home from work. I only run about nine miles a week in them, but when I’m out there on the trails, I can’t believe how great it feels to be wearing these shoes. They have a wide range of health benefits that don’t just affect my feet – my whole body feels more natural when I wear them, and the old aches and pains I used to experience are slowly fading away.
Here are the five main benefits of wearing Vibrams. You might have some patients who could make better progress with these shoes, so take a look to find out whether or not you should recommend them.
- Building Strength in Targeted Muscle Groups
For patients who have suffered injuries in their feet or legs and are on the path to recovery, Vibrams can provide the potential to build muscle strength in atrophied regions more effectively. They stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, which reduces the risk of future injury while improving general foot health. Patients who are almost ready to “graduate” from physical therapy could benefit strongly from the injury prevention aspect of Vibrams.
- Improving Range of Motion
Because Vibrams separate the wearer’s toes, a whole new range of motion is opened up. Most shoes constrict the foot and impair natural motion, but Vibrams encourage the body to move without constraints. This helps the foot and toes to move more naturally. You can check out a story here from a patient who went through ankle surgery, then started wearing Vibrams after his physical therapist recommended them. He now enjoys an improved range of motion in the previously injured ankle.
- Increasing Agility & Balance
These shoes stimulate neural function, causing thousands of neurological receptors in the feet to send important information to the brain. As a result of this phenomenon, balance and agility are improved naturally. Many patients struggle with balance when recovering from an injury, and that’s one of my favorite things about Vibrams: their ability to help with this crucial step toward recovery.
- Aligning Spine & Improving Posture
As I mentioned above, my aches and pains (which were mostly in my hips and lower back) have all but disappeared after three months of wearing Vibrams. These shoes lower the heel during walking and running, which helps to distribute body weight evenly across the foot bed. This contributes to improved posture and spinal alignment.
- Enabling All-Natural Movement
The innovatively designed Vibrams feel great because they promote natural body movement. This reduces the possibility for practicing physical therapy exercises incorrectly because the body is encouraged to move naturally rather than being forced into certain positions.Tips & Caveats
If you do choose to recommend these shoes to a patient, there are some things you should know about the process of getting used to Vibrams:
- Wear socks at first. Try the athletic toe socks from Injini, which are designed for this purpose. This increases comfort and prevents rocks and sand from making direct contact with the feet.
- Ease into it. Wear Vibrams around the house and alternate them with other shoes before using them for exercise.
- Prepare to get addicted.