Five finger fashion
VIBRAM Five Fingers, the weird looking barefoot running shoe pioneered by Hollywood starlets, is poised to become this year's most desirable fashion accessory.
It began as a 'back to nature' running craze.
Then Hollywood starlets started appearing with what looked like outsized rubbery gloves on their feet.
Now the "Five Fingers" shoe, with individual slots for each toe, is threatening to become the fashion phenomenon of the summer.
At the same time, it is dividing public opinion.
Wearers of the shoes – who include Danny Glover, the actor, and Kate Hudson and Scarlett Johansson, the actresses – claim they are stylish and good for posture.
Yet detractors call them "ugly" and claim wearers look like Bigfoot, or a gorilla in a suit.
Shops are selling hundreds of pairs a week of the shoes which retail for €170, and were first created by Italian company Vibram for "barefoot" athletes who want a natural style of running while protecting their feet on city streets.
Vibram Five Fingers, with thin rubber soles, come in a variety of styles including Classic, Speed and KomodoSport.
Among the first to promote them as fashion items – probably unintentionally – was the Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover. He was photographed wearing a pair when arrested at a US protest rally in 2010.
In January Shailene Woodley, 20, George Clooney's co-star in The Descendants, went to a Golden Globe awards after-party with the toes of her Five Fingers poking out from beneath her evening gown.
Matt Wallden, 37, the managing director of Primal Lifestyle, the UK distributor of Five Fingers, said that sales were expected to double this year to 40,000 pairs – from 20,000 in 2011, giving his company a £2 million turnover.
He said: "There is a Marmite effect – you either love them or hate them, and if a star loves them, they will wear them on the red carpet. It helps that they are really comfortable as well as quirky.
"And they are the antidote to stilettos. If you want to wear stilettos, these will help your feet survive."
Mr Wallden, a former osteopath who has also acted as a consultant to Chelsea Football Club, helping players recover from injury, added: "This is the future of footwear. It allows the foot to function the way nature intended, which is better than something that restricts movement and supports the foot too much."