Ann Arbor falls for Five Fingers
by Shelley Daily
From the November, 2010 issue
When Fourth Ave Birkenstock owners Paul and Claire Tinkerhess put Vibram Five Fingers shoes in their window last year, Paul recalls, they hoped the novel sports shoes with toe pockets that offer the look and feel of going barefoot would "stop traffic." But people didn't just look--they bought. "It's a phenomenon that's helped this mom-and-pop shop through hard times," Paul testifies. Over at Bivouac, shoe manager Bob Weber says they're selling between fifteen and fifty pairs a day--with some customers driving from Toledo and beyond.
After four decades of running in traditional running shoes, Weber himself switched to Five Fingers and says that "running like a caveman" (the shoes have virtually no cushioning) has made his feet stronger and encouraged him to run longer distances. In addition to "minimalist" runners who wear Five Fingers or sandals, Ann Arbor also is home to a growing "barefoot running" population--purists who literally go barefoot. Some buyers also wear the shoes for water sports, for rock climbing, or just to make a fashion statement. Ann Arbor is the "perfect venue" for the odd shoes, says Weber, because "people aren't afraid to try new things."
[Originally published in November, 2010.]