These toe-shoes are gaining popularity among southern New Jersey runners, not ballerinas

This Great article was at pressofatlanticcity. By VINCENT JACKSON
It no longer comes as a surprise to Tonya DiNofrio that people look at her feet first when she runs in her neighborhood here.

DiNofrio wears Vibram FiveFingers barefoot sports shoes, which feature individual pockets for each toe. The shoes look like gardening gloves designed for the feet. The shoes are purported to make feet healthier by allowing them to move more freely and naturally, replicating the mechanics of running barefoot while still providing protection against sharp stones and other road hazards.

Barefoot running is gaining adherents in the running world. Some just like the feeling of doing their workout without sneakers while others swear the practice helps prevent common running-related injuries.

"For about a month or two, I ran completely barefoot," said DiNofrio, 40, who gave it a try last year after reading a book about barefoot running, "Born To Run" by Christopher McDougall.

At the time, DiNofrio, who teaches yoga, couldn't find Vibram footwear in a southern New Jersey store, so she went to the REI Marlton Store in Burlington County to buy a pair.

"It's amazing. My posture improved. My back pain, I had no pain running at all. I wouldn't have believed it had I not experienced it," DiNofrio said.

The shoes change a runner's posture, and DiNofrio warns first-time users will probably experience sore calves in the beginning.

"Because with most shoes, the heel is elevated, and with these, you're flat. Your calves work a lot more. It's really a big difference, but I'm a believer," she said.

DiNofrio said she has a narrow foot, but FiveFingers have velcro straps that allow the shoes to fit snugly.

"They definitely feel like a glove. If I wear them all day, I forget I'm even wearing shoes," said DiNofrio.

Runners should be careful when considering minimalist sports shoes, said Dr. Frederick G. Dalzell, medical director of The Joint Institute at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. A prospective buyer might want to wait and see these shoes tried out by others for a while.

They are not for everybody, Dalzell said. Many of the runners he sees in his office have malalignment of their feet and need appropriate running shoes.

Allen Shoes, in Northfield, is one local outlet that now carries FiveFingers and Merrell brand barefoot- or minimalist-style shoes. Merrell offers a wide toe box, but not individual toe pockets. FiveFingers range in price from $74.99 to $99.99. Merrell barefoot shoes cost between $99.99 and $109.99.

Liz Goldman, the store's co-owner, said she first saw the shoes online and in shoe stores in New York City and knew they were popular. Goldman received her FiveFingers shoes in March and advertises them on a sign that towers high above her store.

"They sold out of the box. They hit the ground running. We are doing phenomenally well with them (FiveFingers)," Goldman said.

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