Minimal Toe Shoes Banned by Army


The Vibram FiveFingers KSO's in camo, now banned by the Army.

Minimal toe shoes, like Vibram FiveFingers, have caught on among running and fitness buffs, and trendsetters, over the last few years.

Advocates claim the shoes promote a more natural running form and foot strike, thereby reducing injuries and increasing performance, strength, and balance.

But if you're in the Army, forget 'em. Minimal toe shoes are now banned for official Army training, because they "detract from a professional military image."

States All Army Activities ("ALARACT") release 239/2011:

There are a variety of minimalist running shoes available for purchase and wear. Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes, detract from a professional military image and are prohibited for wear with the IPFU [Improved Physical Fitness Uniform] or when conducting physical training in military formation.

Critics on military and barefoot sites argue the Army is more concerned with image than with the fitness and performance of its military men and women, since the ban only addresses the shoes' style.

“An army that is more concerned with looks versus results IS a matter of national security,” wrote defense expert Thomas Ricks on Foreign Policy.

Some are quick to point to the photograph below (by Tech Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez) of a 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jumping off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over the Gulf of Mexico. The soldier is wearing Vibram FiveFingers shoes (click image for full size). 

Others agree with the ban and say the outcry is much ado about nothing since minimal shoe proponents can still use them off-duty during non-official training.

What do you think? Is the Army too concerned with looking goofy in these newfangled shoes? Or are they right to expect soldiers to adhere to a professional footwear code?

Share your thoughts below.

The full All Army Activities ("ALARACT") release:

ALARACT 239/2011

DTG: R 231424Z JUN 11

UNCLASSIFIED//

THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT BY THE PENTAGON TELECOMMUNICATIONS CENTER ON BEHALF OF DA WASHINGTON DC//DAPE-HRI//

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR EXCEPTION TO POLICY TO PUBLISH ALARACT MODIFYING WEAR OF IMPROVED PHYSICAL FITNESS UNIFORM (IPFU)THE PURPOSE OF THIS MESSAGE IS TO MODIFY THE EXISTING WEAR POLICY FOR THE (IPFU).

THERE ARE A VARIETY OF MINIMALIST RUNNING SHOES AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AND WEAR. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, ONLY THOSE SHOES THAT ACCOMMODATE ALL FIVE TOES IN ONE COMPARTMENT ARE AUTHORIZED FOR WEAR. THOSE SHOES THAT FEATURE FIVE SEPARATE, INDIVIDUAL COMPARTMENTS FOR THE TOES, DETRACT FROM A PROFESSIONAL MILITARY IMAGE AND ARE PROHIBITED FOR WEAR WITH THE IPFU OR WHEN CONDUCTING PHYSICAL TRAINING IN MILITARY FORMATION.

HQDA POC FOR UNIFORM WEAR POLICY IS SGM JAMES A. MCGRUDER, JAMES.MCGRUDER@CONUS.ARMY.MIL , DSN 664-0620, (703) 604-0620.

EXPIRATION: THIS MESSAGE EXPIRES UPON NEXT PUBLICATION OF AR 670-1.

EXPIRATION DATE CANNOT BE DETERMINED.

via "Army bans use of ‘toe shoes,’ citing image concerns" in Washington Post

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Comments

DrReaper
14 reviewer rep
318 forum posts
July 6, 2011 at 10:29 p.m. (EDT)

I am wearing my KSO Treks right now. I guess the military wants people to train in their field gear which makes sense because they will be going into the field wearing it.

I think my KSO's are quite ninja.

N2DaWild
122 reviewer rep
69 forum posts
July 6, 2011 at 11:08 p.m. (EDT)

I would have to make an educated guess and theorize that the Army is saying VFF's are not uniform, do not measure up to durability standards, and quite honestly look too weird for their own taste. 

Having been part of the organization way back when.........I have disagreed with some of their guidelines, but know that the Army maintains a universal approach for all of their members.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 6, 2011 at 11:22 p.m. (EDT)

I am leaning towards the protection aspect.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,061 forum posts
July 7, 2011 at 12:01 a.m. (EDT)

For what it's worth Myop. I've read the reviews here and on other sites. Found alot of great information on the subject of these shoes. N2dawild makes a great point about unversal approach of uniformity. @DrReaper The military doesn't allow the troops to Run in military boots when performing Pt. That ended in the eight's do to training accidents. They only do it occasionally with a full gear out..As for the miltary may feel these are just a "fad" and they will not truly help for mission accomplishment. Presently they are rewriteing the PT program and have changed Basic training. They are also changeing the Uniform itself from what they consider the gravel to a more Marine style multicam. It's already being implemented. Also lastly the paper pushers like SGM Mcgruder and some Generals have nothing better to do than write a new policy because they cannot relate to this generations soldier..The majority of the individuals who have violated AR 670-1 were Sergent majors and Above in my experiance.

 

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
588 reviewer rep
3,024 forum posts
July 7, 2011 at 7:07 a.m. (EDT)

Denis is right about not training in boots (and I edited the article slightly to clear up any confusion).

So, consider this, it appears that nearly any other running shoe is acceptable for official PT. It could even be a bright neon color or a lightweight/minimal running shoe. It's only toe shoes that are banned, and the release clearly says it's because of looks: they "detract from a professional military image."

Yet, there are many, in and out of the military, who strongly believe the shoes have helped increase their performance and efficiency and prevent or fix injuries. There are numerous anecdotes by individuals who claim the shoes helped them reduce running times, fix foot issues that required expensive (army-funded) inserts, and so on.

I think most of us would agree that no one shoe (running or hiking) will work for all people. So, should FiveFingers be one option of many?

Is looks alone a good enough reason to ban them? (and if so, should this address issues like color instead of toe style?)

Or is there a genuine performance concern? (are some soldiers, like some civilians, getting injured using toe shoes by doing too much too soon?)

Yes, I'm stirring the pot a little with these comments. I think it's an interesting story and am curious to hear what others think.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,061 forum posts
July 7, 2011 at 8:25 a.m. (EDT)

Alicia I think I lost my point I was trying to make LOL. Personally your not stirring the pot. What you have written and others on these types of shoe's is "True" they are a great TRainign aid..The actual problem stems from the individuals who write AR 670-1.They have been in the Army for on average 28 yrs or better..Their theory is if it aint broke dont fix it. I wasn't trying to Rip Drreaper. I have first hand knowledge in Tradoc command and basic training . My brother retired last year as a  Senior Drill Instructor at Ft Jackson. I will be as bold as to say the "clowns" who are at the Pentagon are truly as far away from the reality of what will work its not funny. When I mentioned they were the one's I found who violated AR 670-1. That came from the 1990's to 2000 when the uniform had buttons. You would find a senior NCO complain that a troops boots were not polished in the field or they had not shaven for a day. "YET" they were useing velcro to secure their pockets to their BDU uniforms. A violation at that time to AR 670-1. It also states you cant GIG meaning repremand anyone if your uniform is not squared away...i think the unconventional soldier IE Seals, Special forces, Delta, PJ or Combat Comptroller will be wearing these because their PT is done by team or by individual. They also percure gear based on needs. Menaing if the civilian market has it and it does the job. They use it. Conventional troops IE regular infantry and Support have a company formation for PT and do it as a whole unit. Unconventional don't.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 7, 2011 at 12:20 p.m. (EDT)

I am wondering if it has something to do with new recruits snagging a pair of these up prior to leaving to basic/ait and just jumping into PT with them w/o prior use(adjusting) with this type of footwear and the injuries that can happen from this which may be viewed as hindering the training.

I totally agree with denis but I also think there is a lil more to it.

When I was in basic(quite a few years back) the colors of your footwear for PT was not a concern. But the drill seargents had the call on whether or not what ya had was an acceptable atheletic(running) shoe and that was the deciding factor on whether or not you had to buy a new pair.

 

Callahan
245 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts
July 7, 2011 at 2:08 p.m. (EDT)

I think the minimal toe shoe would serve a purpose in particular situations though in general, not enough protection so get back to boots.

N2DaWild
122 reviewer rep
69 forum posts
July 7, 2011 at 9:02 p.m. (EDT)

I would imagine that the other services will follow suit fairly soon. All tend to be generally "uniform" in policy and/ or tradition. I did read where the Navy has already begun the move to ban the VFF's as the Army did. 

Uniformity for the masses is the way of thinking. Your Special Operations folks work in small units and operate separate from the traditional units, so they will continue training in whatever gear they need.........even VFF's.

apeman
0 reviewer rep
1,236 forum posts
July 8, 2011 at 2:46 a.m. (EDT)

I an very sad to see that, yet agian, the US  military is discriminating another minority.  People with minimal toes can serve this country just as well as any other minoritie.  The minimally toed people of Amercia shoud be outraged and I hope they stand up for,  and fight for their rights.  After all didn't someone famous once say "There are no minimly toed people in fox holes"

apeman
0 reviewer rep
1,236 forum posts
July 8, 2011 at 2:49 a.m. (EDT)

After further investigation it is understandable that the "minimally toed" peoples have become discriminated as a group. It appears there are two distinct factions of "minimally toed" peoples that are fighting to be in control of the leadership of the "minimally toed".  The first faction appears to be the faction of people that have much shorter toes then those of the rest of us in the general population more often than not call "those of the short toes" while the other faction of "minimally toed" people seem to come from a faction of people who are toe challanged, or those who have less toes than the general population.  The disagreements and infighting are ony causing a degradation  in and to,  the cohesiveness of the whole and,  threatens to cause the discrimination to go mostly unnoticed.  It is sad to see that two peoples of similar discrimination can't set aside there differencs and come together as a full force to fight this injustice.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
588 reviewer rep
3,024 forum posts
July 8, 2011 at 1:47 p.m. (EDT)

Here is Vibram USA's official statement on this policy:

For many years, Vibram has supported all branches of the military through our development of technical outsoles that help them perform in the field and in combat operations.

Vibram FiveFingers became popular with service members for their ability to aid natural movement, strengthen intrinsic muscles in the feet and lower legs, improve balance and agility, and increase efficiency during physical activity. 

Vibram respects the branches of the military in their decisions on acceptable uniform components. However, based on the above physical advantages that we believe the FiveFingers provide, we hope that they reconsider their decision for use during PT activities.

Vibram will continue to support our men and women in uniform through the development of innovative new products that keep them safer and healthier in the field.

No comment yet from the Army contacts.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 8, 2011 at 2:12 p.m. (EDT)

Alicia said:

Here is Vibram USA's official statement on this policy:

For many years, Vibram has supported all branches of the military through our development of technical outsoles that help them perform in the field and in combat operations.

Vibram FiveFingers became popular with service members for their ability to aid natural movement, strengthen intrinsic muscles in the feet and lower legs, improve balance and agility, and increase efficiency during physical activity. 

Vibram respects the branches of the military in their decisions on acceptable uniform components. However, based on the above physical advantages that we believe the FiveFingers provide, we hope that they reconsider their decision for use during PT activities.

Vibram will continue to support our men and women in uniform through the development of innovative new products that keep them safer and healthier in the field.

No comment yet from the Army contacts.

 Interesting. I would like to here the Army's take on this matter. Then again they probably won't address this with a verbal response.

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
July 8, 2011 at 10:20 p.m. (EDT)

I don't have much of an issue with the ban because the shoes do look goofy.  When you join the military you give up a certain amount of control over your life, you have to cut your hair to certain standards, males cannot wear earrings while on base and you can't wear certain types of clothing, etc.  This is no different than me telling somebody they can't wear a tee shirt that says "I'm Rick James, b*tch!" (If you are a Dave Chapelle fan you'll get that quote) while they are onboard my station.  Minimalist fans also have other choices with a regular toe box that they can use so it isn't that much of an inconvenience.

 

Plus, note that this ban is for PT and training, not for off duty running, working out or wear around the base.

jpanderson89
0 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
July 9, 2011 at 11:02 p.m. (EDT)

In this article, it is mentioned that some people do not approve of the ban because they saw a picture of a Special Forces soldier wearing them. They probably dont know much about SF, from what I have seen and know about them (which is limited), I do know they seem to wear what they want....

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 10, 2011 at 7:53 p.m. (EDT)

Wonder (?) is some company might come-out with  these, only resembling large reptilian feet ... replete with scales and faux talons.  

Something like the creature in the movie, "Predator".

That ought to strike fear in someone's heart.

_____________________________________________________

                                     ~r2~

N2DaWild
122 reviewer rep
69 forum posts
July 10, 2011 at 10:45 p.m. (EDT)

Special Forces.......now Special Operations as a "catch all" for inclusion of all military branched special forces personnel have always had latitude for most of their training, what they wear, and deviation from the military regulations (rules) that applies to military personnel.

Spec Ops won't have to follow the bans like the rest of the military (for now the Army). 

I figure that those elite will continue wearing the VFF's in training.

USARMY11B
0 reviewer rep
1 forum posts
July 23, 2011 at 6:34 a.m. (EDT)

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/vffmilitary/

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