There are a lot of different reasons why I think the U.S. Army might ban the wearing of shoes like Vibram Five Fingers by its soldiers. Despite my fondness for the goofy looking shoes, I will readily acknowledge that they have a few vulnerabilities compared to other types of conventional footwear.
For starters, the soles are obviously quite thin. Your risk of puncturing the sole all the way to the bottom of your foot via some type of sharp object on the ground is much higher than if you were wearing something with two inches of rubber on the bottom.
There also isn’t much to speak of in terms of upper protection for the foot. Many of the Vibram “Toe Shoes” provide nothing more than a thin mesh layer between the top of your foot and the outside world.
These would all be valid concerns to raise when passing judgement on the shoes and determining whether or not they are worthy as training footwear for the U.S. military. But that isn’t what caused the Army’s leadership to ban the shoes.
No, the real problem is that they just look goofy.
The army needs to look sharp, and uniform standards and dress codes are part of maintaining that image. I get it. But we’re talking about PT here, physical training. I don’t think it’s appropriate to determine what kind of training equipment soldiers can use based on what they look like. The primary factor should be efficacy and safety.
Save largely pointless posturing over uniform standards for the drill field and solemn occasions.
What really matters is the severity and prevalence of running related injuries in the army due to extreme workloads being performed in thickly padded and rigidly confining boots. Obviously, these boots are what soldiers will be deployed in, but it’s not particularly beneficial to get injured before the real show. This applies whether you are an athlete or a soldier.