Due to my adherence to the paleolithic way of life (“caveman diet” + intermittent fasting + high intensity exercise), I inevitably discovered the minimalist footwear movement (see this post by Richard Nickoley). The concept is that wearing shoes can contribute to health problems for the following reasons. First, a tight toe box pinches our toes which leads to a narrow, crabbed shape to our feet. Second, by shielding our feet from the effects of stepping on sharp objects, we adopt an unnatural gait in which we strike the ground hard with our heels. This has the effect of transmitting the shock of impact up our legs to our spines. Minimalist footwear seeks to be a remedy to these problems while also protecting our feet from cuts and abrasions.
Vibrams 5 fingers played a significant role in the minimalist footwear movement. When I first read about them and saw photos, my immediate reaction is that they would cause irritation between the toes and that they were expensive. I tried a pair and indeed found them to be very uncomfortable. It has never made sense to me why they went with the toe glove concept instead of a mitten-like concept. Additionally, I thought that the excessive price was taking advantage of the unfortunate snobbish overtones of much of the so called paleo movement.
Thus I am happy to say that I have discovered a cheaper, more comfortable alternative: Surfwalker Pro by Speedo selling for $22. (Note that they can be purchased at amazon.com for $20) They have a thin, but tough sole that allows you to feel the ground, yet provides protection for your feet. They do a good job of simulating the feeling of walking barefoot.
The Surfwalker Pro is a fine alternative to more expensive minimalist footwear. $20 is not too much to see if minimalist footwear is right for you.