These hideous things are proving popular amongst barefoot running enthusiasts. The Vibran Five Fingers shoes have virtually no support, only having a tough, thin sole and individual pockets for each toe.

"They are so much fun to wear," says Kristen Campbell (pictured above), a 39-year-old distance runner who likes the idea of running 'barefoot'. "I feel the ground more ... They make for a more intimate running experience."

Christopher McDougall, who published "Born to Run", runs exclusively in Five Fingers and other low-support shoes. He said that reserach shows that "running shoes may be the most desructive force to ever hit the human foot." He claims that modern running shoes in fact, cause all those persistent running injuries. They're actually evil to runners' feet.

"The puzzling conclusion (of the evidence): the more cushioned the shoe, the less protection it provides," McDougall writes.

But, says former world-champion marathoner and physical therapist Mark Plaatjes, while running barefoot or with minimal-support shoes can strengthen foot muscles and even heal certain injuries, this new trend already has some painful results.

"I say this not as a retailer, but as a physical therapist: Shoes protect feet when you run on concrete, pavement and rocks," Plaatjes says. "If we ran marathons completely on grass, I'd say do it. If we had them on the beach or on soft dirt, I'd say absolutely do it. ... But the majority of people can't do this. So they're jumping in, but sooner or later they are coming to see me or a podiatrist or a doctor."

However, Benji Durden, a long-time Boulder runner, coach and former Olympic marathoner, says that some barefoot running has helped him recover from injuries. He found that training barefoot on grass helped with an Achilles tendon injury.

Nevertheless, the sales of Five Fingers has soared since McDougall's book hit stores, with 40 to 50 pairs of shoes being sold every week. Looks like the Five Fingers are becoming the new Crocs.

[via DailyCamera]