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Army Says “No” to Five Fingers in Uniform

Late last month, the US Army officially banned the wearing of Vibram’s Five Fingers and other similar barefoot running brands that feature, “five separate, individual compartments for the toes,” as they, “detract from a professional military image.”

This edict was passed down from on high through an ALARACT (241/2011) message.

SUBJECT: MODIFYING WEAR OF IMPROVED PHYSICAL FITNESS UNIFORM (IPFU)

1. THE PURPOSE OF THIS MESSAGE IS TO MODIFY THE EXISTING WEAR POLICY FOR THE IPFU.

2. 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. THIS CHANGE WILL BE REFLECTED IN THE NEXT UPDATE OF AR 670-1.

For uniformed Five Fingers fans this must come as quite a blow. Fortunately, Vibram, makers of the famed Five Fingers foresaw issues with their unconventional footwear and developed specialized soles that mimic the benefits of their compartmented models. Currently, both New Balance and Merrell have released numerous barefoot running models. For instance, the Minimus from New Balance comes in a very Army-esque Black and Yellow. What’s more, they have a reflective logo. How could a 1SG say ‘No” to that?

In spite of the Army’s decision, you can still wear Five Fingers while training out of uniform. Additionally, you can always explore alternatives.

Finally, while I support the Army’s decision for the sake of uniformity, once again, it’s yet another case of the Army’s leadership ignoring their institutional process of change (the Army Uniform Board) and making unilateral decisions about the uniform. From a leadership standpoint, this just doesn’t cut it. You don’t put a process in place and then ignore it when the mood suits you. How can you discipline Soldiers for doing the same thing? The new CSA and SMA both need to both conduct an azimuth check and take a look at the message they send when they ignore the “rules.”

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12 Responses to “Army Says “No” to Five Fingers in Uniform”

  1. SteelMedic says:

    Great story.

  2. Rich says:

    Performing “activities” in fivefingers for some time, I one day had a vision of the future, and it was that message right there. So I trucked it down to the running store and picked up the NB Minimus and haven’t looked back. Honestly, I think they serve the purpose of minimalist fitness foot-protector even better than the fivefingers, especially if you ever run off the road.

    That being said…insert Jean Girard (from Talladega Nights) quote about the Army being like a frightened chipmunk and scared of everything new. Give me a break. This is why we are stuck in the 1980s with just about everything we use/wear. I understand that there are processes, but like the Administrator said, USE THEM, and not for the purpose of stalling and wasting tax-payers money. Just because you are a staffer somewhere doesn’t mean your job is less important than the SAW gunner in theater. Make some good, well-informed, timely decisions! Please?

  3. OCCD says:

    Go back to running in combat boots. Problem solved!

  4. F-Trooper05 says:

    The people who wear five finger shoes are hard core runners who are in great shape. I’d rather the Army look at whatever shoes the fat soldiers are wearing and ban those instead.

  5. Johnny Redrock says:

    You don’t like the Army policy???

    Selection – 12 times a year. And it won’t cost you a dime.

  6. FormerSFMedic says:

    Outstanding article, and a great point brought up. The Army leadership always talks about “leading by example”. The example that the CSA set was that you can make changes when you please as long as other soldiers asked for it or you just plain don’t like it. So soldiers go out and make a very small change to their PT uniform, and they get denied! Come on!

    I’m gonna break it down for ya. A large percentage of enlisted soldiers are now combat veterans after 10 years of warfare. Those soldiers have seen the true side of the Army. They have realized that the little things don’t matter as much anymore. What matters is that you are as effective as you can possibly be on the battlefield. They now want to become “tactical athletes”. That means state of the art shoes, kit, gear, weapons, accessories, TRAINING, and MINDSET……and whatever else will get them home after a deployment. Soldiers are done being absolute. They want to be the best and that means being modern. The Army wants no part of it though. They want tradition. They want uniformity. They want it their way, without a care for the soldiers well being. Commanders need to find a median with their soldiers. Everyone will be better for it.

  7. Kilroy says:

    Five fingers are awesome and helped me recover from knee surgery, they must be bad. BAN!!!

  8. Rich says:

    Discipline is huge. The most effective sports teams/military units/businesses/etc…are highly disciplined. BUT there is a line (as most of you know), albiet hard to find for some, between discipline and inanity. At times, the uniformed services dabble in the inanity, and this may be the case here.

    Who knows, maybe wearing fivefingers will cause me all sorts of health maladies in the future. Probably not. I think that we are talking about other things here, though, that need and have needed addressing. The Army is trying hard to change in some areas, and lots of folks are dedicated to bringing us where we need to be. But in my opinion, it’s way too slow.

  9. corsair says:

    Don’t forget, Saucony’s Hatori and Kinvara’s, http://www.saucony.com/store/SiteController/saucony/category?catId=cat10004

    Inov-8, http://www.inov-8.com/road/product-select.html

    and, the original, before Vibram: Vivobarefoot, http://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/

  10. straps says:

    Yet one more reason not to train in that doof’d PT uniform with the winter-weight short-sleeved t-shirt and the shorts that are impossible to get over your hips if you train extensively enough to actually achieve any muscular enhancement through your pelvic girdle.

    As was said above, some folks are supported by policy exceptions that provide latitude–even downrange–for fitness apparel. And they’re always hiring.

  11. Administrator says:

    These are the best comments ever! Thanks guys…

    I met one of the Five Fingers sales guys this week at GSS and there are some great new models coming this Fall. Even for the kids.

  12. […] the Army has banned the wear of athletic footwear that feature, “five separate, individual compartment… a lot of folks have been looking for alternatives. Even Vibram, makers of the Five Fingers brand, […]