STORY, VIDEO, PHOTO: Funky and functional, the barefoot shoe

Reinventing the shoe, at least for boaters and watersports enthusiasts, has been the mission of a company better known for its durable soles, Vibram. The shoes have made their debut locally

Video

They're funky, even somewhat comical, but Fivefingers boating and watersport shoes that fit the feet like gloves are undeniably functional. They give the feeling of going barefoot, but offer traction and protection.

They're funky, even somewhat comical, but Fivefingers boating and watersport shoes that fit the feet like gloves are undeniably functional. They give the feeling of going barefoot, but offer traction and protection. Watch »

Kim Escarra, a Marco Island boating and fitness enthusiast, tries the Fivefingers on for size. She liked the feel and comfort of the 'barefoot' shoes.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff

Kim Escarra, a Marco Island boating and fitness enthusiast, tries the Fivefingers on for size. She liked the feel and comfort of the "barefoot" shoes.

It’s unlikely that Fivefingers footwear will ever pad down the Oscar red carpet — zany actor Jack Black excluded, of course — but they could still become extremely fashionable.

Especially among boaters and water sport enthusiasts, says Bill Oberdorster, Ships Store manager at Rose Marco River Marina.

The footwear, developed as a “barefoot alternative,” features a glove-like design that allows great freedom of movement, slip protection and also has health benefits, says Oberdorster.

Upon recently learning of the product — created by the Vibram sole company — Oberdorster was quick to order a selection to woo local boaters and visitors to the marina.

“I thought they’d be a good fit for the store,” he says with a hint of a chuckle.

A boater himself, Oberdorster vouches for the footwear.

“I’ve slipped on the bow of my boat many times,” he says. “And, sliding into a cleat isn’t the happiest thing.”

It might be fair to call them plug ugly, something Oberdorster doesn’t contest.

“Sure, they’re funny looking, but it was the same thing with Crocs,” he says. “They were a fad, and then everybody wanted them because they are so comfortable.”

The shoes, he says, come in different styles, including one that prevents sand from entering them.

They’re washable, and vary in price from about $70 to $80.

“That’s not cheap,” Oberdorster says, “but you’re paying for the research and technology.”

Marco Island boater and fitness enthusiast Kim Escarra sampled the shoes (see accompanying video) and came away impressed.

“They’re funky, but really comfortable,” she said.

She added that she may considering buying a pair.

Vibram company information highlights non-marking outsoles designed to follow the contours and flex points of the foot and toes with razor-siping for a sure grip on wet, slippery surfaces.

The inner footbed has an antimicrobial application that kills odor-causing microbes, the company says.

The 43-year-old marina, formerly the Marco River Marina, was about five years ago acquired by longtime Marco Island businessman Bill Rose.

Oberdorster has been with the store for the past 17 years, and says it has grown steadily during that time to its current size of 6,000 square feet.

It handles clothing as well as rentals, fuel and dockage.

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