As reported around the barefoot-minded blogosphere this week, the U.S. Army has banned Vibram FiveFingers and all other “toe-shoes” because they “detract from a professional military image.” That’s according to an official Army communiqué released this week. The aesthetic of the shoes, not their inherent performance (or lack thereof), is ostensibly the primary concern that the Army has with “foot gloves” like the Vibram FiveFingers and Inov-8’s silicone Evoskins.
Says the Army release, “There are a variety of minimalist running shoes available for purchase and wear. Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes detract from a professional military image and are prohibited for wear with the IPFU or when conducting physical training in military formation.”
Predictably, there’s been an impassioned backlash from FiveFingers fans. It’s interesting that “toe shoes” have become popular enough in Army ranks to warrant a wide-scale ban. They are incredibly odd looking, there is no doubt. But more and more people now want to wear these minimal shoes for training, exercise, and everyday use. The Army is saying “I don’t think so, clowny.”
Readers, what do you think? Is the Army shooting straight, or does this ban step on that very American right of the freedom to choose, including choosing footwear, even if the shoes you wear do look like monkey feet. —Stephen Regenold