Are You a Gladiator or a Ninja?

In the Ludus of barefoot running two rivals emerge, the gladiator with his stylish sandals and the ninja with her sleek Vibram Five Fingers (or the host of similar shoes such as ZEM). Is one better than the other? Should they drench in the sands in blood to appease the Barefoot Running Gods?

A few weeks ago, I would have said that the Gladiator should fight the Ninja, outright. But blood seldom settles disputes well. So, I decided to take a less violent approach and considered the differences between Sandal Runners versus Five Finger Runners.

You’re a Gladiator Sandal Runner if you:

  • Like to tie your “shoes” differently every once in a while. Sandals allow for a host of different tying methods.
  • Like to have your feet in the open air. Much less fabric means better exposure to air.
  • Like or don’t mind people looking at you with confused or surprised expressions. There’s no doubt that running in sandals will draw a little attention to you.

You’re a Ninja Five Finger Runner if you:

  • Like to have a firm wrap and minor support around your foot as you run. Some people like the snug fit of Vibram Five fingers. One nice thing about the full foot wrap of Five Fingers is the way it prevents pebbles from getting wedged between the sole of your foot and the sole of the shoe.
  • Like to stomp over rough gravel, rocks, and other abrasive, hard objects with little fear of injury. The extra thick sole of Five Fingers allows for maximum protection when traveling over rough terrain.
  • Like to look more like a “regular” runner than a crazy barefoot runner. Vibrams look a bit more like traditional running shoes and tend to draw less attention than sandals.

When it comes down to it, it’s just a choice. Some people, like my lovely wife, are ninjas; others like her crazy husband are gladiators. It’s a matter of personal preference. Personally, I think sandals are much better than five fingers, but I already explained that in a video and in another post.

3 Ways Sandals Beat Vibrams

  1. Sandals let your feet breathe. Vibrams suffocate.

    Vibrams trap your foot inside fabric. Even though the fabric is lightweight and designed to let the air flow through it, it still overheats your foot and keeps moisture on it. Huaraches free your feet from the fabric prison, allowing them to breathe clean open air.

  2. Fewer blisters with Sandals

    Because Sandals have fewer points of contact with your skin, there is less potential for blisters. Vibrams fully encase your foot, the frequent contact with fabric and repetitive motion of running leads blisters all over your foot. I got one on the side of my foot, which got infected.

  3. Sandals cost less, can be repaired, and last longer

    Vibrams stink, they cannot be fixed if they rip. Sandals can be repaired easily. The materials also cost less and are much more earth friendly.

Barefoot Ted’s Luna’s Rule. I love them. The most comfortable “Shoe” I’ve ever worn. Make sure you get the “Leather Footbed”. You’ll be glad you did, less slippage, and very nice feel on your skin.

Invisible Shoes Seem pretty good too. I haven’t got a pair yet. But I did make my own sandals using similar materials and they worked great. These are much more cost effective alternative to Ted’s Sandals, which are pretty spendy.

Barefoot Running Tip:

Tie your sandals “Gladiator Style” or the “Traditional Tarahumara Way”. The slip on method of tying the sandals is great for walking around and short runs, but for running longer distances or for short sprints, it’s best to tie them up gladiator style. It makes a huge difference. The extra effort is worth it.