Situation Step Safety – Five Fingers and Crocs?

VFF crosswalk sign

Creative Commons License photo credit: billsoPHOTO  Question posted by User Keerasel:  I found this site because I need information ~ I’ve been teaching exercise classes for over 30 years; and step for the last 15.  A woman came to my class yesterday wearing the running “shoes” that look like gloves for your feet- each toe is separate. Additionally, she had three risers under the step (she was maybe 5’6″) and since I was unfamiliar with her skill level, I asked her to remove one set of risers, which she did. I’m very safety conscious, and continuously remind my participants to be sure to place their foot completely on the bench, and put their heels down (except during lunges and repeaters). This woman (I’ll call her ‘Jo’) was bouncing a lot, obviously trying to make up for the missing risers. At one point, she grabbed a pair of hand weights, and I had to ask her to put them back ~ using them on the step at the Y is not allowed during a regular step class.

My question ~ should I allow those shoes to be worn in class? (another participant told me she wore Crocs to a class, and the instructor didn’t say a word…. I wouldn’t have let her continue). She’s very fit, but I’m uncomfortable with the three risers at her height, and concerned that she’s going to hurt herself – I’m all too familiar with the cumulative damage that can happen over time. What options can I give her to make her workout challenging for her fitness level, without injuring herself?

Question posted by user keerasel – 2011/02/06 at 9:09 am


  1. Steve Barrett says

    3 risers! I’ll leave that one to Gin.

    Crocs in class, no way, my four year old had some and I stopped her wearing them because I could see she was starting to shuffle rather than walk properly.

    The 5 Finger shoes are a different story, I have had a pair for a year (I’m a bit of a sneaker collector so had to have some)

    When I first wore them they killed my feet but I followed the instructions to use them sparingly to start with and after a couple of weeks I felt that my arches had risen and that my feet were stronger I also noticed that a very old groin injury gave me less problems and has now gone away completely. I don’t run in them but do use them for gym based power and strength training including plyo work (bounding over hurdles etc) In the beginning I was very aware of the bare foot feeling they give you but now I don’t think about them and just feel that they let me get better power transfer from muscle to floor.

    In a step class I would be cool as long as the person had been wearing them for a couple of months, if they turn up wearing them all shiny and new the day they bought them they clearly haven’t read the instructions in the box so it would be a no.

    (In case you are wondering, no I don’t work for Five Fingers) Steve Barrett, Product developer, Teacher and Presenter from the UK

  2. says

    This is a multi-faceted question – I started to reply to all facets, but then decided to do a post instead. So here, I’ll just address the shoe question.

    I’m glad Steve chimed in here about Five Fingers because I have no personal experience with them. I understand the theory that if you remove the support, you can gradually strengthen the feet, so asking the participant if they were fully adapted to the shoes might be the place to start. Crocs, however, are a different story because they are not designed for athletic use and fit loose on the foot.

    I’ve had participants show up to take my class wearing Keen sandles and even Keds. I have more concern with Keds than Keens which have arch support and strap securely to the foot. In each case, you have to sum up what the level of confidence the participant has in their shoe selection.

    Keds usually says to me that someone is a brand new exerciser – in which case I would approach and speak directly to the new student and suggest investing in an appropriate shoe. If indeed you find that they are new, they should be warned of risk of injury wearing shoes without support combined with a new activity. IF your club has standards that require proper footwear be worn, then you should advise them of such and they should not be allowed to continue.

  3. says

    Barbara L on Gin’s FB post: “I had someone with those MBT shoes in a step class – told her she’s responsible if anything happens and that I think it’s absolutely dangerous. Same thing in aerobics.” That’s a good call. MBTs and Skechers Shape Ups are both designed for forward movement and provide no lateral stability.


Leave a Reply