U.S. Army Bans Vibram FiveFingers

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 communiquĂ© 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.

army bans fivefingers shoes.jpg

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

Related Content:

> “FiveFingers ‘Casual Shoes’”

> “Barefoot Craze”

> “Review: Vibram FiveFingers Running Shoes”

Posted by Tara - 07/06/2011 08:49 AM

Personally I think there are more important things to worry about.

Posted by Bill - 07/06/2011 08:56 AM

I agree Tara… I wonder if it has something to do with being ready at a moment’s notice… the question I guess goes to if they are allowed to train in anything but their boots. I have no idea.

Posted by Manny - 07/06/2011 09:01 AM

Safety (for the toes) and even the injuries due to a poor transition from shoes to barefoot like, both are better reasons to sustain such ridiculous ban. IMHO, this means only one thing: someone with a very high rank has a strong fetish with feet

Posted by @UpaDownaMtnMama - 07/06/2011 09:06 AM

I don’t get what the big deal is between “one compartment” or not. Obviously they are not concerned with the support of the “shoe” because they are still allowing other minimalist shoes. Sounds to me that some higher up just “doesn’t like the look”. Working for 2 years at a specialty running shoe store near Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, some of our biggest customers for the five fingers were Army soldiers, looking to use them for PT and weightlifting.

Posted by Top man - 07/06/2011 09:18 AM

Seems like a crazy ban, probably fueled by someone with a ‘Nike’ influence…..: http://blog.tfitinc.co.uk

Posted by GearJunkie Facebook - 07/06/2011 09:35 AM

From “Sarah Alden Jeror” via Gear Junkie on Facebook — “Bummer!”

Posted by GearJunkie Facebook - 07/06/2011 09:36 AM

From “Tara Molle” via Gear Junkie on Facebook — “LOL Really? Because this is high up on the ‘priority’ list.”

Posted by GearJunkie Facebook - 07/06/2011 09:38 AM

From “Sandy Hancock” via Gear Junkie on Facebook — “I’ve heard that Vibram is an Al Quaida front trying to undermine the social footing of the US military one toe at a time.”

Posted by GearJunkie Facebook - 07/06/2011 09:38 AM

From “Valot Villares Verde” via Gear Junkie on Facebook — “might be one of those uncovered in OBL’s Paki hideout!!”

Posted by David Haines - 07/06/2011 09:50 AM

Interestingly enough, the extra GI boots my dad brought back with him from duty in Afghanistan have Vibram soles. I now use them for hiking. The military must give the contract on all their soles to Vibram, so it’s not like they have anything against Vibram as a company. The five-finger shoes probably just detract from a uniform look, and the military is all about being uniform in appearance. I’m sure there are crazier “rules” in the military than this.

Posted by cee cee 99 - 07/06/2011 09:56 AM

so, the military is more concerned with image than they are with the comfort of our military personnel? that’s just great!

Posted by fivetoes - 07/06/2011 10:11 AM

The author said freedom of choice and the military in the same sentence. Clearly, they don’t understand how things work in the military.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 07/06/2011 10:47 AM

As ridiculous as this seems, I guess it falls under the same umbrella as the buzzed haircuts and matching uniforms. Military groups seem to want to snuff individuality in the troops – maybe the mindset is more the motive?

Posted by jpea - 07/06/2011 11:36 AM

The IPFU is the approved/improved military physical fitness uniform, so basically they dictate that you can wear your gray t-shirt with the army word on it, and the rest of the uniform, including shoes. It’s seemingly only about on-base training I would think… so, it’s the same thing as if you wanted to wear a Nike breathable top or something, but they said nope, you can only wear the cotton “Army” T-shirt. The military can do whatever they want since you belong to them. There’s no freedom of choice once you sign up :)

Posted by TJ - 07/06/2011 01:35 PM

Anybody I know who has worn them, could’t stand the smell eminating from their feet after less than days use…

Posted by Maxwell Klinger - 07/06/2011 01:49 PM

I just ordered 5 pair …

Posted by Michael - 07/06/2011 01:49 PM

Wow! I guess being in at least 3 wars isn’t reputation wrecking enough that they had to worry about this! I hope that they immediately ban Uggs, MBT’s and boat shoes as they are all infinitely more stupid than Fivers! I think placing the van at all kind shows just how “really” brilliant the Top Brass is and lends to they’re storied reputation and image.

Posted by flemdawg1 - 07/06/2011 01:50 PM

jpea:
The gray t-shirts are wicking material, not cotton.
http://www.armystudyguide.com/study-guide-online/online-study-guide.php?cat=41

Posted by Jeffzx9 - 07/06/2011 01:55 PM

That’s why I never joined the military. If I’m willing to get my butt shot off, I’ll damn well wear what I please. That doesn’t make me any less of a team player.

Posted by BIll - 07/06/2011 02:16 PM

Your Army wears Army Boots.

Posted by Donita - 07/06/2011 02:47 PM

A cigarette sticking out of someone’s mouth or their stomach hanging over their pants doesn’t distract from military image?

Posted by Casey - 07/06/2011 03:27 PM

Once you join the army, you lose freedom of choice. It does sound like they are worried about something silly to me. Donita- it is against regulation to smoke in uniform in public, so if you see someone doing that, they’re wrong. Also, the military is working pretty hard to get rid of the personnel with “stomachs hanging over their pants.” Personnel who fail PFTs in the Navy are being kicked out, same with the Air Force.

Posted by LeanMarine - 07/06/2011 03:45 PM

It’s very difficult for the military machine to change the way they want their troops to appear and even longer to adopt beneficial uniform changes. When I was in the Marines it was Hi-Tech boots and rigger’s belts. Of course there’s always something better for our warriors but getting the senior leadership convinced of this is difficult and sometimes impossible. As has been mentioned previously, there are more important concerns but this is an easily squelched one.

Posted by gnarlydog - 07/06/2011 06:28 PM

Great news!
I didn’t know the Army was digging Fivefingers.
I would hate to see something cool associated with the Army. The image I have of the Army is chunky, klutzy, dirty and above all meathead. Fiverfingers don’t represent those.

Posted by Colby - 07/06/2011 08:03 PM

The Army is not banning them from personal use. Just while on duty, including official physical fitness training. It does seem apparent based on most of these comments that few of you have served. Also, how many of your civilian companies would allow you to wear these shoes while at work? My guess would be few.

Posted by Joey - 07/06/2011 09:00 PM

Gnarlydog, the only meathead is you, I’m afraid.

This is big non-news. Like others said, since when do troops get to choose what they wear? I’m surprised they were ever wearing these to begin with.

Posted by Jeffzx9 - 07/07/2011 06:35 AM

Precisely. Did it ever occur to the brass that our soldiers stand out like the British in red coats; seen one, “there’s your target.” They are fighting folks who dress like civilians.

Posted by BigDanInTX - 07/07/2011 11:32 AM

So what they need to make now are socks instead of shoes to provide the proper support to each toe which subsequently go into the running shoes…

Posted by scorpion - 07/07/2011 11:47 AM

@Colby – We have 1 guy at work who wears them everyday. Officially we’re “business casual”, but we all wear jeans most days (not t-shirts though). We’ve nicknamed him “flipper toes”.

Posted by MinimalistChris - 07/07/2011 12:10 PM

I’m a runner who regularly runs marathons and logs over 60-70+ miles per week, strictly in Vibrams off duty. I’ve also been a Soldier for over 11 years. This ban is ridiculous… yet another example of how perception is more important to the current decision makers than performance. One only needs to look at the current UCP/ACU pattern that is being phased out quietly, when they knew it was not the best solution at the time they originally tested it.

Posted by J. Adams - 07/07/2011 12:43 PM

Freedom & Army is like Oil & Water, don’t like it, get out.

Posted by Rudgin - 07/07/2011 01:06 PM

I picked up a pair 18 months ago when I had to replace my running shoes. The official stance had been commander discretion for a while so I checked with my unit ahead of time, and they were really cool about it provided I got the ones with subdued colors. A fair number of others in my unit have done the same. I’m pretty disappointed, but not surprised, that this is how it finally turned out. Looks like I’ve got to buy another crappy pair of running shoes. Oh well, in 10 months, it will cease to matter.

Posted by Tim Letscher - 07/07/2011 02:04 PM

Next up, all enlistees will need to wear mittens and not just any old mittens but the kind with the string running up one sleeve and down the other. Individual compartments for each finger might lead to greater dexterity.

Posted by honeynutz - 07/07/2011 03:04 PM

Everyone here is forgetting something of the most importance: The army isnt a democracy it is a dictatorship. I am not saying this in a negative fashion either — in fact its important towards how our military works. If there is no structure, then we would be just as well off as the taliban. Dress Codes are a basis of structure. The military has lots of them. Different codes for different occasions. It should be of no surprise that they are explicitly banned — especially given that they have an official training shoe already. My guess is someone was going on liberty and decided to walk out in military attire wearing these things and it pissed off a ranking officer.

Posted by shythead23 - 07/07/2011 03:31 PM

As a member of this establishment, I agree with the ban. We as servicemembers GIVE UP OUR RIGHTS TO DEFEND YOURS!! That’s the choice we made. And besides, its not like we can’t wear them at all, they just look stupid in formation! That’s like a white guy with a shaving profile!

Posted by Dave Woodson - 07/07/2011 03:53 PM

Really! This is what the Army is wasting their time on? Did they do any kind of study to show their effectiveness? I am sure they did not.

Posted by SteveO - 07/07/2011 07:31 PM

A shoe is a shoe…….some have checks, some have Ns, some are good for your feet, some are bad, some are red, some are green….some look different than others….including these

Posted by Gavin - 07/07/2011 08:17 PM

When you run in these you love it! As a military personnel I have to say this is part of the reason we fight, for freedoms, simply banning them because some people don’t like them detracts from the goal of our cause.

For those crying “more important things” when basic freedoms are ignored who’s to say the larger ones will be attended to either?

Posted by whiskers - 07/07/2011 08:47 PM

I am not involved with the military, but my line of work crosses paths with military types once in a while.

The military is all about order and tradition, and I understand where they are coming from. Besides, in my opinion these shoes look stupid. I know a couple people who wear them ‘just because’ – they don’t even run or go to the gym in them!

Posted by Joe Snuffy - 07/07/2011 10:33 PM

All it is , is another old fashioned soldier who’s made it to the rank of CSM or General(with all due respect), who can and WILL have the last word. I, personally, will still be purchasing a pair for my civilian lifestyle!

Posted by Capt Nik - 07/08/2011 02:13 AM

First off, freedom of choice walks right out the window when you sign that enlistment contract or commissioning certificate. Would like freedom of choice, freedom of speech? Feel free to join the civilian world.

Second, this article is a waste of time and almost misleading. It only applies to US Army soldiers in their Physical fitness uniform or while exercising as a unit. I can’t say exactly why this regulation is being implemented, but I would like to believe it is for standardization.

Thirdly, I am a member of the US military and own a pair of Five Fingers myself, they are extremely comfortable and I have noticed my feet are stronger since wearing them.

Lastly, The boots that our service members wear while in service or deployed are largely chosen by the individual. The boots that are issued to them may or may not have a Vibram sole. Some jobs may require a certain level of protection in the sole that would include something from that manufacturer, such as Sea Beas, Red Horse, or construction type jobs. Others might be required to have a protective toe. There is no requirement, however, for a specific brand of boot or sole.

Posted by Barefoot Coastie - 07/08/2011 08:10 AM

I concur with Capt Nik on this; while on duty service members are expected to follow the direction and orders of their superiors.

Certainly some flexibility has been given to service members concerning PT gear, but if the ARMY feels that barefoot shoes detract from a uniformed appearance and choose to ban them, than that is their prerogative.

Nobody is telling these service men & women than they can not purchase these shoes or use them while they are not on duty.

Why/how is this a problem?

Posted by Michael - 07/08/2011 11:24 AM

Funny, I would have thought it might be a tactical advantage to be able to pull a trigger with your toes.

Posted by SGT Fordo - 07/08/2011 11:57 AM

As a former paratrooper I can tell you that Capt Nik hit the nail on the head. For physical training while back in the states the military can and should dictate standards, including clothing/footwear. It’s called a uniform for a reason.

However, the individual fighting soldier has the freedom, as some are wont to call it, to choose his/her own footwear and, to a certain extent, undergarments. It makes sense. While “in the rear”, meaning not in a combat or near-combat environment, uniformity & standardization reinforce several characteristics which make a military force strong and cohesive. When the soldier gets into the combat environment, if Vibram-soled Five Fingers is the proper tool for the situation I’m betting no commanding officer is going to say a dang thing. Of course, that is, as long as they aren’t all neon-colored! Gotta get some Five-Fingers in digicam (Digital Camouflage)!

Posted by SSG Bell - 07/08/2011 02:38 PM

Well I want throw in my own idea for a ban in the Army since we are cherry picking in the military. It should be banned to be looking at a smart phone or text while walking. That looks more unprofessional and dangerous than a pair of Vibram Shoes.

Posted by Michael - 07/08/2011 02:57 PM

They banned them in uniform. You can use them if you’re in the ARMY, just on your own time.

Posted by DrJKH - 07/08/2011 03:54 PM

I’m a medical officer in the Army, and I’m still undecided about this kind of shoe, but I also know the military does hold some dumb positions, such as sit ups as a test of fitness, when they are one of the worst exercises you can do. The question I am wondering is: How is it that awareness of toes does not convey a professional military image? The Army wants to sustain an illusion that soldiers, unlike civilians, do not have toes?

Posted by Burke - 07/08/2011 07:51 PM

Hey the Army owns u, Good or bad they tell u what to do.

Posted by SFC Pissed Off - 07/09/2011 09:59 PM

In my time in the Army we ran PT in running shoes and trained and fought in boots. Never, in all my combat situations did I ever want to be in a pair of tennis/running shoes. For all you weaker youngsters looking for an easier softer way, “Get off my Planet”! The old men that fought the World War’s still call me a wimp by their standards and I know this generation with ergonomics and being PC couldn’t fight the wars or build the world the “old men and woman” did. My thanks to all combat veterans! I have nothing but respect for you all, but lets get serious about what we want to fight for. SUA SPONTE

Posted by The Angry Private - 07/10/2011 09:42 AM

If the Army wants to ban something, they should ban Nike boots.

Posted by William - 07/11/2011 08:58 PM

Everyone has been up in arms about this decision while ignoring the fact that when in formation you must wear the poorly designed and terribly inefficient “Improved Physical Fitness Uniform.” I’d be more than happy never wearing toe shoes in exchange for dumping the awful IPFU shirt for my Mountain Hardwear shirts. But I suck it up because it’s a uniform. It’s one of the things you have to live with.

Posted by Sarah - 07/13/2011 09:56 AM

I am upset I can’t run in my Vibrams, but I did just pick up a pair of New Balance Trail Running shoes that have a Vibram sole and weigh the same as my 5 Fingers. I’m almost glad I can’t wear them, I’m a little sick of the comments from the ignorant about 5 Fingers being girl shoes and any guy that wears them is “funny” Kinda makes sense as to why some General who probably sits in an office all day and gets to pass on a PT test would ban them…

Posted by Carl - 07/18/2011 02:04 PM

The ban will be a ban until someone lifts the ban. Just like everything in the Army. Policy one day—out the door the next.

Posted by Brandon H - 07/25/2011 09:09 AM

If they want to ban somthing or make us do somthing because of aperence make everyone where the ame looking boot and make everyone were the same runing shoe. This is fnnny that they army takes time to ban somthing so good for you.

Posted by Granger - 07/26/2011 07:14 PM

The Army has tons of things like this, they’re called “uniform violations”. It’s a stupid way of instilling discipline. Previously, we’ve had generals subject the entire Army to headgear that is terribly hot, doesn’t block the sun, and requires shaving just because he “wanted to make his mark” on the Army. It’s annoying but that’s just how the military works.

Posted by Roger - 07/29/2011 01:50 PM

I like to be barefoot as much as possible, but I still need to run in conventional shoes to accomodate the Army. My feet are confused…

Posted by Will - 09/30/2011 12:19 AM

Can anyone actually provide a copy of said memo banning them? I’ve yet to see anything official.

Posted by Allen Moore - 10/17/2011 10:02 AM

I think it is funny to read about things that really bother others. The following message is the official message that was published. Now with regard to all of these comments, well that’s just the way it is and if you didn’t join the military, I thank you. If you did join the military, it is an “All volunteer service” or organization you joined. You took an oath “To support and defend the orders of the President of the United States and of the Officers appointed over me.” You don;t have to like it, you just have to abide by it. Here’s the message published by the Army. If it really bothers you by not being able to wear these shoes during PT…GET OUT.

ALARACT 239/2011
DTG: R 231424Z JUN 11
UNCLASSIFIED//
THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT BY THE PENTAGON TELECOMMUNICATIONS CENTER ON BEHALF OF DA WASHINGTON DC//DAPE-HRI//
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR EXCEPTION TO POLICY TO PUBLISH ALARACT MODIFYING WEAR OF IMPROVED PHYSICAL FITNESS UNIFORM (IPFU)

1.THE PURPOSE OF THIS MESSAGE IS TO MODIFY THE EXISTING WEAR POLICY FOR THE (IPFU).
2.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.
3.HQDA POC FOR UNIFORM WEAR POLICY IS SGM JAMES A. MCGRUDER, JAMES.MCGRUDER@CONUS.ARMY.MIL , DSN 664-0620, (703) 604-0620.
4.EXPIRATION: THIS MESSAGE EXPIRES UPON NEXT PUBLICATION OF AR 670-1.
5.EXPIRATION DATE CANNOT BE DETERMINED.

Posted by Old Guy - 10/17/2011 10:06 AM

I think it is funny to read about things that really bother others. The following message is the official message that was published. Now with regard to all of these comments, well that’s just the way it is and if you didn’t join the military, I thank you. If you did join the military, it is an “All volunteer service” or organization you joined. You took an oath “To support and defend the orders of the President of the United States and of the Officers appointed over me.” You don;t have to like it, you just have to abide by it. Here’s the message published by the Army. If it really bothers you by not being able to wear these shoes during PT…GET OUT.

ALARACT 239/2011
DTG: R 231424Z JUN 11
UNCLASSIFIED//
THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT BY THE PENTAGON TELECOMMUNICATIONS CENTER ON BEHALF OF DA WASHINGTON DC//DAPE-HRI//
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR EXCEPTION TO POLICY TO PUBLISH ALARACT MODIFYING WEAR OF IMPROVED PHYSICAL FITNESS UNIFORM (IPFU)

1.THE PURPOSE OF THIS MESSAGE IS TO MODIFY THE EXISTING WEAR POLICY FOR THE (IPFU).
2.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.
3.HQDA POC FOR UNIFORM WEAR POLICY IS SGM JAMES A. MCGRUDER, JAMES.MCGRUDER@CONUS.ARMY.MIL , DSN 664-0620, (703) 604-0620.
4.EXPIRATION: THIS MESSAGE EXPIRES UPON NEXT PUBLICATION OF AR 670-1.
5.EXPIRATION DATE CANNOT BE DETERMINED.

Posted by one compartment air force - 05/13/2012 07:03 PM

It is a fad. An unprofessional looking fad. I hope the Air Force follows.

The ridiculous looking shoes are not banned for wear with civilian clothes. Troops can look as silly as they want to off duty.

The Army has made the right decision.

Posted by Ana - 08/02/2012 09:30 AM

what’s ridiculous is that the ARMY bothers to write a rule about how many toes are in a shoe’s compartment. that shows just how much work the officials have: NONE. Go home help the wife knit some sweaters and leave command positions to people with a real backbone.

Posted by Scrappy - 08/26/2013 11:47 AM

I guess that one way to eventually get past this ban would be to have everyone in formation wearing Five Fingers … then they would all at least be uniform. 8^) However, I understand this tongue-in-cheek solution would not nullify the ban since the memo clearly states that they believe these shoes, “DETRACT FROM A PROFESSIONAL MILITARY IMAGE”. Maybe if conculsive evidence can be generated to demonstrate the benefits of these shoes over their non-traditional appearance, then the Army brass might reconsider.

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