Women's gear, up first
I’ve been a slow convert to the barefoot-running phenomenon. What’s holding me back: jarring a body part, the cave-woman aesthetic, and my attachment to traditional running-shoe cush. But I have friends who swear by barefoot shoes and run trails in Vibram FiveFingers (vibramfivefingers.com). The benefits, they say, are that they feel lighter while running; have increased foot strength; enjoy the minimalist, comfortable, snug-yet-non-clingy fit; and can run the shoes through the spin cycle when they get dirty.
I may not run in barefoot shoes, but I have been building momentum by walking around my neighborhood in a pair of Fila Skeletoes ($60; fila.com) and admit that I’m impressed. It’s sort of like the flip-flop phenomenon: If you can be comfortable in less, why wear more? Like a high-tech sock, the four-toed Skeletoes (the fourth and fifth toes are combined for ease of wearing), made from a slip-resistant rubber sole topped by a four-way stretch nylon with a snugging Velcro strap, are designed more for recreational walking, boating, biking, or even swimming than for hard-core running. But even walking, the Skeletoes make me feel lighter and, you might even say, at one with the earth, especially on gravel. That’s a good thing: It makes me much more aware of every step I take.