Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I looked at the picture and thought "EEEK! They're ugly."

They are barefoot shoes called "Toe Huggers."

Toehugger.com is promoting them, Amazon has a full range of Vibram Five Finger shoes for men and women, and ToeSox for Yoga/Pilates.

They're touted on Time Magazine's Fitness page by Bryan Walsh, staff writer, jogger. He made a video podcast of himself donning a pair, and jogging along an outdoor path, discussing the contact, the grip, the compression involved, and the recoil.

It's one more thing to buy that's not essential, and not very useful.. I know because I was a barefoot modern dancer. (Hired by Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman, who were the artistic offspring of Denishawn -- Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, the founders of Modern Dance.)

Rehearsing with the Weidman company (it was my first professional job as a dancer), the bottoms of my feet began to develop "splits," places where the friction of the foot against the floor created abrasions on the ball of the foot.

After a while, the abrasions got worse -- opened up -- split apart. Also, my fourth and fifth toes got sprained, doing "turns" (pirouettes). The toes had to be taped and splinted with a tiny piece of wood. It took about three weeks to heal. Later on, it happened to the toes on the other foot.

I tried elk sandals but couldn't anchor them firmly. I bought flesh-colored ballet slippers and that was the beginning of my moving away from being a modern dancer, and becoming a semi-balletic "contemporary" dancer.

Aside from my personal experiences with bare feet, I know dozens other people who've taken dance classes, who love running around in bare feet. It's fun, it's feels great, but they get "splits " or what I call the "creeping crud" (an itchy spot where dirt creates a rash, and the rash starts expanding).

Bryan Walsh's article quotes the Director of the University of Delaware Running Injury Clinic, who said -- "We evolved to run barefoot and when we put shoes on we are taking away the function of the foot."

I say we've evolved way beyond that, and for daily running or dancing, stick to slippers or your sneakers.

If you do Yoga or Pilates, you'll be slipping and sliding if wear toesocks. Spending $50 to $170 on Toe Huggers may make you feel that you're exercising better (for one or two wearings), but more than likely you'll begin to feel that the repetitive exercise is just plain boring.

What can you do?

Try exercising to music that makes you feel like dancing -- bombastic, romantic, symphonic classical, rock & roll -- whatever thrills you, gives you goose bumps. Tell yourself, "I'm dancing," while you're repeating the boring exercise routine over and over -- varying it in your mind -- continually re-inventing what you're feeling, and you'll find yourself enjoying the repetition.

It works!

Hey, I'm an expert!
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