No, you did not misread the headline. The Army has indeed banned those funky shoes with five individual slots for your toes.
Vibram, one of the leading makers of the trendy footware, claims that its FiveFingers shoe “allows our anatomy to work naturally and move more freely.” FiveFinger fanatics claim that the shoe strengthens muscles in the feet and lower legs and improves their range of motion, balance and agility.
But in the military, it seems to come down to image, not performance, reports the Washington Post.
“Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized to wear” because toe shoes “detract from a professional military image,” states the official Army notice.
As to be expected, toe-shoe backers have already launched a campaign against the ban, referring to a photograph of a 10th Special Forces Group soldier jumping off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, in five-toe shoes.
Some military observers are also concerned. “An army that is more concerned with looks versus results IS a matter of national security,” writes defense expert Thomas Ricks in Foreign Policy.
Here the full All Army Activities release:
DTG: R 231424Z JUN 11
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.