I stopped by my unit earlier in the week and one of the full-timers gave me this article from a recent Army Times. It seems enough people in the military are starting to use running shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers that I have so often raved about, that the military has decided it needs an ‘official position’ on the shoes. I suspect this is because traditionalists think they’re ‘weird’ and somehow ‘unmilitary’ (unlike those Nikes or Asics which ooze warrior spirit). Predictably, every service is coming up with its own rules:
Marine Corps leaders say no problem. Navy leaders say no way. Top Air Force leaders have cleared them for takeoff…
And embodying the contradictions that define the Army…
The sergeant major of the Army is thinking about training for his next marathon in them, but Army officials have banned them from the PT test…
Unit commanders have the authority to (dis)allow them in unit physical training but they can’t be used in the physical fitness test. Why?
…worries they might give some soldiers an unfair advantage.
C’mon guys. They aren’t ACME rocket shoes or have springs in them. Saying these things would give you an unfair advantage is just stupid. Since they’re designed to replicate barefoot running (and really all they do is provide a thin layer of rubber under your foot to protect it from abrasions and punctures) what the Army is really saying is that they want to maintain the disadvantage of making soldiers more susceptible to injury and poorer performance by requiring the use of traditional running shoes. I think this was the same dopey argument used in opposing the use of running shoes in the first place and defending the use of combat boots in physical fitness training. Hey, but don’t take my word for it:
Down at Kandahar, however, military doctors are encouraging their use and even prescribing them for recovering runners.
“VFFs are the best thing out there for rehabilitating lower extremity injuries,” says Navy doctor and physical therapist Lt. Cmdr. John Mahoney at Kandahar.
There are a couple of us at my unit that use these and we’ve accepted the scorn ‘traditionalists’ throw our way. One particularly sweet moment was when a few of us were leaving the base gym while some SF soldiers were there. One stopped me to talk about the Five Fingers and mentioned how much he loved them.
Whoa…two seconds later, guys who were suggesting that my shoes could guarantee me entry in the San Francisco Gay Pride parade were suddenly agreeing at how cool they were and how they needed to get a pair. In short, the same thing the commander above noticed:
“Once Navy SEALs start wearing them, everybody in Virginia Beach wants to wear them,” he says.
I get the fact that my rather scrawny physique doesn’t exactly exude credibility when it comes to physical fitness issues but give me some credit here.
Anyway, I haven’t run in traditional running shoes for well over a year now and was hoping to use my five fingers on my PT test next month. Well, nertz to that, I guess. That might make things a bit difficult since you do have to change the way you run when you switch back to running shoes. Oh well, at least I’ll have a built in excuse if my running time isn’t any good.