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United States Navy Authorizes the Use of Minimalist Footwear, including Vibram Fivefingers, with PT Uniforms

Soldier Dog VibramsJust got an email from a reader (thanks Bill!) alerting me to the fact that the United States Navy just authorized the wearing of “minimalist” footwear with the Navy physical training uniform (photo of Vibram clad soldier via Rebecca Frankel at Foreign Policy). This is in contrast to the US Army, which recently banned the wearing of Vibram Fivefingers with the PT uniform.

Given the debate surrounding what constitutes minimalist footwear in the comments section of my previous post, here is the Navy definition:

“SHOES THAT ALLOW THE FOOT TO FUNCTION NATURALLY WITHOUT PROVIDING ADDITIONAL SUPPORT OR CUSHIONING. ANY SHOE THAT IS MARKETED AS MINIMALIST OR BAREFOOT-LIKE FOOTWEAR (CURRENT TYPES SUCH AS THE – VIBRAM FIVE FINGERS, NIKE FREE SHOES, VIVO BAREFOOT SHOES, INOV-8 SHOE, AND FEELMAX) ARE AUTHORIZED FOR WEAR WITH THE PTU.”

The full text of the Navy regulation is provided below, and can be found on-line here.

RMKS/1. THIS NAVADMIN AUTHORIZES THE WEARING OF MINIMALIST FOOTWEAR WITH THE NAVY PHYSICAL TRAINING UNIFORM (PTU) DURING COMMAND/UNIT DIRECTED PHYSICAL TRAINING (PT), INDIVIDUAL PT, AND ACTIVITIES TO INCLUDE THE SEMI-ANNUAL PHYSICAL READINESS TEST (PRT).

2. MINIMALIST FOOTWEAR IS DEFINED AS SHOES THAT ALLOW THE FOOT TO FUNCTION NATURALLY WITHOUT PROVIDING ADDITIONAL SUPPORT OR CUSHIONING. ANY SHOE THAT IS MARKETED AS MINIMALIST OR BAREFOOT-LIKE FOOTWEAR (CURRENT TYPES SUCH AS THE – VIBRAM FIVE FINGERS, NIKE FREE SHOES, VIVO BAREFOOT SHOES, INOV-8 SHOE, AND FEELMAX) ARE AUTHORIZED FOR WEAR WITH THE PTU.

3. FILE THIS NAVADMIN UNTIL CHANGES ARE INCORPORATED INTO THE QUARTERLY BUPERS DIRECTIVE CD-ROM CHANGE CONTAINING REF A. IN THE INTERIM, FOR MORE INFORMATION ON UNIFORMS AND UNIFORMS POLICY, VISIT THE NAVY UNIFORM MATTERS WEBSITE AT HTTP://WWW.PUBLIC.NAVY.MIL/BUPERS-NPC/SUPPORT/UNIFORMS/PAGES/DEFAULT2.ASPX.

4. POINTS OF CONTACT:
A. MR. ROBERT B. CARROLL, OPNAV N131U, VIA E-MAIL AT
ROBERT.B.CARROLL(AT)NAVY.MIL; CMDCM(SW/AW) MARTHA KASTLER VIA E-MAIL AT MARTHA.KASTLER(AT)NAVY.MIL; PSC(SW/AW) SHAWN LAFFERTY VIA E-MAIL AT SHAWN.LAFFERTY(AT)NAVY.MIL.

5. RELEASED BY VADM MARK FERGUSON, N1.//

BT
#1553
NNNN
UNCLASSIFIED//

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Marcus Forman says:

    This is also interesting given the cultural differences between the Army and Navy.  I honestly thought the Navy would be the first ones to ban them outright as opposed to my service, the Army.  It makes some sense though considering that the Navy does far less “formation” physical training (meaning all together as a group) than the Army does.  The Army, and to an even greater extent, the Marine Corps, has a love affair with uniformity and the art of “dress right dress”.

    I honestly believe, as I think you do Pete, that minimalism is not a panacea and can hurt a great deal if not done correctly.  As such, and because the Army forces us to run so much, Fivefingers might have done more harm than good in the long run.Also, thanks for the linkage!  Much appreciated.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Marcus,

      Yes, I totally agree. There is the potential for harm if the wrong approach is taken, but also the benefit of avoiding harm for those who find it difficult to run in other shoes.

      Pete

  2. Pete,
    Thanks for sharing.  The USAF allows minimalist shoes as long as color appropriate for the uniform.  We have been working for 4 years on getting a program through the channels to teach running form…the more important issue as you commenters allude to.
    Mark Cucuzzella, LtCol USAF

  3. The military member wearing Vibrams in the picture is jumping into the water, which I believe was the original purpose for the Five Finger shoes.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I believe the original purpose was standing on a boat, with grip so that you wouldn’t fall into the water.

  4. Now Navy doctors (BUMED) are claiming “… given the current evidence, Navy Medicine cannot recommend the use of minimalist footwear in command directed physical training activities.”

    link to navytimes.com

  5. Alex Beecher says:

    While I tend to think that any servicemember should be free to where Vibrams if they please, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of other options for those who find your average trainer unrunable. And, if there’s a decent amount of pavement pounding being done, I can see why something else might be a good idea.

  6. Jason Fitzgerald says:

    It’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out practically during training situations, i.e., balancing the need for protection in training vs. the benefits of minimalism. 

  7. Robert Osfield says:

    Never mind the shoes, what an AWESOME DOG!!! ;-)

  8. John Avelis says:

    Many commands had already authorized VFFs during PT. My wife’s ship issued an instruction a month or two ago. The PT uniform is the official yellow t-shirt and blue shorts (absurdly overpriced, naturally) worn during the physical fitness test, command PT and sometimes for other activities like a physically active outdoor community relations event. Example of the PT uniform: link to navy.mil… 

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