The Toes Knows

It's the Five Fingers of Dr. Vibram!

Well, tweak my tarsals! Festishes for aqua shoes and toe socks and anything Hang Ten can now be quenched in one fell toe jam.

If you know me, you probably know my feet. (And you know I am a shoe whore.) Well, these new double-take eliciting Five Fingers foot coverings make my calcaneus quake.

When it comes to newfangled footwear – unlike most things innovative – I am an early adopter. Plus, I am a dyke, and as such, am required by genetic predisposition to wear a lot of sportswear. (Except fleece.) So you know the minute I saw these prefabbed paws, I had to slap a pair on my dawgs and try them.

I love shoes. Even as a kid, I took to unearthing the obscure, wearing Earth Shoes, for example, waaaay before anyone in their right mind would or sticking with desert boots, despite the raging hegemony of the ubiquitously preppy Docksider. During late high school and college, I took a lot of guff donning wrestling boots and Chucks, which, ironically (and vindicationally), both became fashion staples for those same naysayers a year later.

Upon my move to Austin in the early-Nineties, I suffered similar grief for wearing – what were known to me at the time as – "Reef Walkers." "God, you are so Florida," my friends would poke, making fun of my wetsuit footwear. Back when they were first introduced, the shoes that have become to be known as "wet shoes" or "water socks" were fairly high-end novelties, available only at sportswear shops and specialty shoe stores.

When the same pals realized that these dorky looking reef walkers would solve so many problems encountered by tenderfoots in treacherous creek beds, they embraced the snug-fitting footies. I even recall seeing them marketed here in town later that year as "creek walkers."

And we all know what's happened to that phenom since: What shoe department, sporting goods mart, or drug store doesn't carry some form of aqua sock knock off come summer fun time?

These new fangled Five-Fingers are a phallanges fantasy, totally covering and protecting the tender tootsies while allowing the toes the freedom to grip and curl and stretch at their whim. They are perfect for tenderfoots like me, who love the sensation of barefoot, but need the structure and support of shoes to protect tender tissue.

The trick is in the molded bottom.

Leave it to the Italians. Truth be told, I had no idea that Vibram, the company responsible for bringing flexible rubber to the soles of so many, thereby revolutionizing the range of possible foot coverings, was from the land of my ancestors. And the same company is responsible for these new toe gloves.

Locally, you can find these fabulous Five Fingers at Whole Earth Provision Company. If you go to the North Lamar store ask for Rich and tell them Kate and her deliriously happy tootsies say hello.

I will warn you, however, be prepared for double takes and lots of commentary. The first day I wore my wacky Five Fingers, I noted a lot of stares and some interesting quips. Here is a sampling over a four-hour period:

"I love your shoes!! They are pretty ridiculous!" (Khatti at Austin Java)

"I don't know if I've seen the toe shoes before. Pretty amazing. How does that feel?" (James Renovitch, Chronicle compatriot)

On the phone talking to someone with a big break in the yogurt shop murders story saying things like "Justice will be done!" over and over, doubled over with her mouth open, pointing at the shoes. (Jordan Smith, crack Chronicle reporter)

In a high-pitched squeal, "Are they for rock climbing!?" (Anne Harris, Chronicle club listings gal)

"What is on your feet? You look like a platypus." (Poet and sometimes Chronicle contributor Abe Louise Young)

"It's fungus with straps! Makes you look like a high fashion burn victim." (The often obliviously – or perhaps completely deliberately – inappropriate Wayne Alan Brenner Chronicle Listings dude)

and my favorite:

"When did you become a ninja?" (The delightful Richard Whittaker, Chronicle reporter and mascot on loan from the UK)

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