Vibram Five Fingers Buying Guide
In this Vibram Five Fingers Buying Guide, you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions so it’s easier for you to buy your first pair. For our story about how we evaluated the vibrams and started recommending them, check out this Vibram Five Fingers Review.
Here’s a list of Vibram Five Fingers questions that we answer:
- What are Vibram Five Fingers?
- Where do I buy them?
- Which model should I buy?
- How does the sizing work?
- How do you put the them on?
- What does the packaging look like?
- How do I clean them?
- Why does BuiltLean recommend them?
What Are Vibram Five Fingers?
Vibram Five Fingers (pronounced Veebram), also called Vibrams, or VFF are minimally padded shoes that are meant to mimic the barefoot experience. Vibrams are a type of barefoot, or minimalist shoe, but nothing else on the market really comes close.
Where do I buy Vibram Five Fingers?
You have a few options:
- Local Authorized Retailer – This is probably your best bet so you can try them on and make sure you get the right fit. The downside is that your retailer may not have the model, size, and color you want, in which case once you find the right fit, you can order online, which are the next two options. Vibram Five Fingers Store Locator »
- Vibram Five Fingers Online – Once you know the size, model, and color you want, you can order from Vibram directly on their site. Vibram USA will accept returns purchased on their website within 90 days of the original date purchase, but returns must be in new/resellable condition.
- Online Authorized Retailers – If you are searching for a discount, you can check out sites like Amazon, which may have vibram five fingers for 25%+ off retail prices typically of older models, or models in colors that are not as popular. Be careful to only order from reputable retailers, because there are many fakes. Be aware of the return policy of the retailer.
Which Vibram Five Fingers model should I buy?
The major differences between each model of vibram five fingers are the (1) sturdiness and padding of the shoe and (2) whether or not it has laces. I generally recommend starting out with laces (referred to as “LS” models) because they accommodate the largest range of foot sizes and are very comfortable. A couple models are water proof, or designed for casual wear, but my guess is starting out you won’t be interested in these.
I have below my recommendations after trying on most of the models and speaking with Vibram reps:
#1 – Komodo LS
#2 – Bikila LS
#3 – SEEEYA
|Gym + Running||Running||Walking|
|I strongly recommend getting the Komodo LS as your first pair. It’s the most comfortable model of Vibrams I tried, but has sufficient padding which makes it the perfect all around shoe and a great starter shoe.||If you do a lot of running and intend to switch to vibrams, get the Bikila LS. This shoe has thicker and more sturdy padding on the sole, which allows for higher volume running on pavement. This shoe can still be used for all around use as well (gym etc.). Also consider the regular Bikila (with a strap instead of laces) if you are able to try it on at a local authorized retailer.||If you don’t want to start running around and going to the gym in vibrams yet, get the SEEYA for walking around the house/apartment. The SEEYA is the most minimalist vibram model and I bet you will be amazed with how natural these shoes feel. If you are a vibrams veteran, this shoe can be used for more intense activities.|
|5 colors are available||5 colors are available||2 colors are available|
|Buy Now||Buy Now|
How does the sizing work for Vibram Five Fingers?
Vibram five fingers have their own sizing system, which is consistent across men and women’s models. Your toes and heel should fit into each pocket comfortably and snuggly, with your longest toe grazing the end of the toe pocket. Be sure that your toes can extend fully. It’s ok if there is some space in the toe pockets for your smaller toes, that’s expected.
The only difference between male and female models is that male models are slightly wider and longer than the female models. If you have wide feet, or narrow feet, vibram five fingers should fit well.
Above is a link to a sizing calculator on their site. How it works is you measure the length of your foot from heel to your longest toe on your longest foot in inches. The calculator will calculate the correct size for you. Ideally, you can go to the store to see what size works best for you. For example, the site lists me as a 41 by my foot length, but I wear a size 42.
How do you put on Vibram Five Fingers?
One of the initial challenges to wearing vibrams is simply putting them on. The best way to put them on is to lead with your big toe and scrape it against the side that the toe is on. So if you are putting your left foot in, the bend your foot to the right so that your big toe and second toe are about half way in the pockets. Then start guiding the rest of your toes in the pockets. Don’t get discouraged, this process will get easier, especially if you have the Komodo LS. If you are still having trouble, here’s a video which goes into more detail.
What does the Vibram Five Fingers packaging look like?
The vibrams come in a small box with instructions on how to put them on, basic information about the shoe and its technology, along with padding that separate the shoes and keep the form of the shoe. Here are some photos I took:
How do I clean Vibram Five Fingers?
While vibrams are protected with an anti-microbial structure, bacteria and grime can still accumulate to cause a bad smell. In fact, the smell can get so bad that even people who love vibram five fingers will stop wearing them.
- Prevention – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say, which is why ideally your feet should be clean before you put on the shoes. Swiping the feet with pre-moistened ant-bacterial towlettes can do the trick, or using a spray like Peditech. While wearing Ininji socks (toe socks) can be a solution to preventing the bad smell, but the feel with the ground is not the same and I think it defeats the purpose.
- Cleaning – Vibrams are machine washable, just use gentle, warm water cycle with liquid or powdered detergent. Hang to air dry, do NOT put in the dryer. If you get a lot of mud and guck in them, or they start to stink, the best option is to soak them in a bucket with Penguin Sports Wash, scrub the footbed with a brush (an old tooth brush can work), and then put them in the laundry. The foodbed is where all the dead skin and bacteria accumulates, so ideally if the stink starts to get bad, then you should scrub with a brush. Finally, if you have a few pairs and rotate through them, the smell in any one pair will likely be minimized.
When & How Do I Start Wearing Vibrams Five Fingers?
On their website, Vibram has a solid Getting Started Guide. I recommend walking around in them for a few days, wearing them for a few gym workouts. If you are a runner, just use a slow progression to help your feet build up strength and follow this Barefoot Training Running Guide. It could realistically take you 2-3 months to properly strengthen your feet for a 10 mile run in vibram five fingers. Do not go for a 5 mile run on your first run because some people have reported literally breaking their feet.
If you have flat feet, high arches, etc., wearing vibram five fingers should be ok (excluding toe contractures and rotations), but it may be wise to check with your doctor and slowly try them out to be on the safe side.
Why does BuiltLean recommend Vibram Five Fingers?
In short, because our feet are designed to be free, not constricted in heavily padded shoes and sneakers.
For a more in depth review of how I went from hating to loving vibram five fingers and recommending them to all my friends, family, clients, and website visitors, check out my Vibram Five Fingers Review.
Below are the main pros and cons to consider before you purchase the product:
Vibram Five Fingers Pros
The following pros are taken from the Vibram Five Fingers website and I agree with 100%:
- Strengthens Muscles in the Feet and Lower Legs – Wearing Vibram FiveFingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.
- Improves Range of Motion in Ankles, Feet and Toes – No longer ‘cast’ in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.
- Stimulates Neural Function Important to Balance and Agility – When wearing Vibram FiveFingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility.
- Eliminate Heel Lift to Align the Spine and Improve Posture – By lowering the heel, your bodyweight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spinal alignment.
- Allow the Foot and Body to Move Naturally – Which just FEELS GOOD.
Vibram Five Fingers Cons
- Feet can sweat – this can becomes a little uncomfortable during the summer. You can always wear ininji socks if this become a real problem.
- Smell – this is a deal killer for even some ardent fans, but there are both prevention and cleaning remedies to limit smell from becoming a problem. Ininji socks can also be worn, but I don’t recommend it because it affects the barefoot feel of the shoe.
- Putting them on – For some, putting the vibram five fingers on properly can be a little annoying. Over time, likely within a couple weeks, it should become easier.
- Takes time getting used to them – Unfortunately, you shouldn’t slip them on and start running around. There is a breaking in process to strengthen your feet.
- Sore feet – It takes some time for your feet to strengthen. A long run can leave your feet feeling sore the rest of the day, and even the following 1-2 days.
Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT
Founder & CEO, BuiltLean