Barefoot Walking, Vibram Five Fingers, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Last week we were in Wichita, Kansas visiting my family.  We were fortunate to have one day that was in the mid to upper 70’s and the other day in the low 80’s.  Beautiful.

Knowing the temperatures were going to be high, I opted to bring my Vibram Five Fingers with me on this trip.  How do I feel about them now that I have been able to wear them outside? Well, I have mixed feelings.

  • My left foot continues to fit into this glove like shoe quite easily and feels completely at home.  My right foot never seems to find a happy place. 
  • While my left foot feels no pain in these minimalist shoes, the toes on my right foot feel numb as in all shoes these days, even my reliable Dansko clogs.
  • I love the way my legs and hips feel when I am wearing these odd looking shoes.
  • The verdict is still out on how much I will wear these shoes.

After walking in the Five Fingers with numb toes and warm temperatures, I felt my feet calling out to me, “It’s time to go barefoot Cathy.”  As I have shared before, I grew up with strict instructions to always have shoes on when leaving the house, so this was a little scary, even though I have been dreaming about it all winter.  As I prepared to leave my sister Robyn’s house, I velcroed my Five Fingers together to take along “just in case”.  (They are super light and easily velcroed around the treat bag I carry for Izzy.)  Robyn has always defied the rules of wearing shoes and quickly slid out of her flip flops to join my feet as they felt the warm concrete.

How was my first official barefoot walk?  Lovely!  Besides walking on a few pebbles and fertilizer (yuck), my feet felt completely happy! Frequently when I finish my two mile walk with Izzy I can’t wait to get out of my shoes because the balls of my feet hurt so much and as of lately, my toes are numb.  I didn’t experience any of that while barefoot walking.  A few pebbles are nothing in comparison to how my feet feel in shoes and I figure with more barefoot walks my feet will toughen up a bit and handle the pebbles with more ease.

The sad news?  After such a wonderful first experience walking barefoot, I returned to my home in the Chicago suburbs and my feet are once again freezing which means no barefoot walking for me right now.  But I got a taste of it and I want more.  Come on warm weather!  I am ready for you!

To read more about shoes and rheumatoid arthritis, see my newest post at MyRACentral

For further barefoot reading check out this blog : The Barefoot Professor .  Dr. Daniel Howell wrote a great book on barefoot walking/running but also had lots of good information on his blog.

Although I am a walker and not a runner, I have been reading and watching a lot of videos about barefoot runners.  This is one of many videos I enjoyed.

From my Amazon Store: Widgets

13 thoughts on “Barefoot Walking, Vibram Five Fingers, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

  1. Hi Cathy

    I always enjoy your posts.

    I am doing a type of body therapy and my therapist encourages bare foot walking. I find this hard to do, even inside, because my feet are always so cold.

    I find it difficult outside as well because the bottoms of my feet are so sensitive, having been protected in socks and shoes for years.

    As a kid and even in my teens I felt very comfortable bare foot. I hope to get back to that.

    I tried on a pair of those “barefoot ” shoes once and I remember it felt pretty odd.

    Good luck in your barefoot adventures! hope spring comes to you soon. Prayers to you, your dad and your family

    and have a good week!


  2. Those are great looking “shoes.” 🙂

    How very nice you get to go barefoot. I miss it, but my foot pain has been so much less since getting orthotics that I put shoes on first thing in the morning and take them off when it's time to climb into bed at night. The couple times I've wondered if I could go back to barefoot walking, it's quickly become apparent that's not a good idea.

    Go barefoot lots – enjoy it for both of us!


  3. Heather, I would love to hear more about your body therapy. My feet and hands have also felt cold for many years now and I understand that. I am not sure what is changing in my body this year but I don't seem as sensitive to the cold. I walk around the house for periods of time without socks where in years past I couldn't go without socks and slippers. Thanks so much for leaving a comment Heather.

    WarmSocks, thanks as always for your comments. I love reading them. I think your comment is a good example of how RA is so unique for each of us. As I walked barefoot the other night at a conference I was attending, I thought of you! I enjoyed my bare feet for both of us.

    Tonya, thanks also for always stopping by my blog. I hope to have many more experiences to share!


  4. Hi Cathy,

    That sounds hopeful! I hope to be able to not wear socks if I don't want to. Today I took my socks off but I had to put another pair on right away because my feet were so cold. I have cold hands too. I've heard it could relate to thyroid issues, but I am sure there are other reasons too.

    The type of bodywork that I am having done is called Hellerwork. I found it through researching and talking to people. Someone recommended Rolfing for me, because of my TMD issues. Looking up Rolfing, I found hellerwork which is a type of rolfing just slightly different.

    It's really helping me with my posture, which has been out of sink and that's been pulling on my neck which makes the tension worse in my jaw. My practictioner also works in my mouth (with gloves on) directly on the muscles and the tempromandibular joint.

    I found this clipping that explains it way better than I could ever put into words:

    “Hellerwork therapy consists of a series of eleven sessions aimed at helping you in touch with different parts of your body and the emotions that affect it. The first Hellerwork session, for instance, focuses on the chest, seeking to release unconscious tensions that interfere with easy, natural breathing. To accomplish this, the practitioner will engage you in a discussion designed to draw out any emotional attitudes that may be impending normal movement. Therapy then moves on to the feet and arms, followed by the 'core' muscles deep in the body. At each step, the practitioner uses physical manipulation of the tissues to help release built-up tensions. In the final session, the practitioner endeavours to pull all the work together, fashioning a better understanding of the relationship between mind and body.”


  5. Hellerwork sounds somewhat familiar to me but I am not sure why. After the eleven sessions do they expect you to feel some reduction in pain or will it take time? I like how it integrates so many different things into the treatment. I hope to hear more about how you feel as the treatments progress.

    Hey, one thing I have been doing for the last year is taking contrast showers to help with circulation. I don't know if that is what is helping with the cold hands and feet but I noticed even last summer getting into the pool was easier after doing contrast showers for several months.


  6. i like five finger vibrams better ,i think that five finger vibrams makes the toe boxes on their feet nice and wide,and you will see your calves and bare feet in the process of your running which is the best way to train your muscles of feet and legs.Let's go to five finger vibrams to have a pair to have a try. i trust that you will agree with me


  7. With the bodywork I am doing, it should help overall and I guess in time it will show more improvement.

    This week is a bit harder for me, I am in more pain now and I have to skip my appointment. We are in the middle of moving. I think bending down, packing, stress, etc has taken a toll on me!

    I bet your contrast showers did help. I was doing them for a while. I think I will start again!


  8. Karen


    My RA started in my feet, following a toe fracture. All the advice was to reduce mobility – i.e., that I should wear shoes at all times, that I should R.I.C.E, that I should try orthotics, then custom orthotics. I wondered if I would ever feel the ground again! Well, since things have gotten under control, I have found myself wearing my orthotics and birkenstocks less and less around the house. In the office, I am sitting or standing at my desk now in stockinged feet. I've read your old posts and Mark Sisson's views on barefootedness, and have bought my first pair of Merrell Vibram Barefoot shoes (small steps until I get my “toe-gloves”!). I'm interested to know how you have been doing with yours since this post.


  9. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for commenting.

    With warmer temps coming, I have started wearing my VFF again. When it heats up more, I will go barefoot more often. It makes a huge difference in how my feet feel. Over the winter months, I wear my Danskos, which are supposed to be recommended by feet docs, and my toes and balls of feet kill me. On the weekend, when I am out of shoes, no problems at all.

    I am switching from VFF to the Merrell Barefoot Wrap this summer because my toes just seem to want to be free. Plus, they are easier to get on and off and look a little more normal. Good luck with your barefoot experience. I'd love to hear about it. This was the best thing I ever did for my feet.


  10. Karen

    Hi Cathy,

    Thanks for the recommendation! I already love the Pace Gloves I bought. I wear them for all outdoor use now, including a weightbearing workout this week. I feel like I am finally getting my toes exercised! 🙂


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