In the last few years, barefoot, or minimalist shoes have gained significant traction in the footwear market. A combination of compelling barefoot running research, a growing paleo movement, which embraces our ancestral lifestyle, and legions of passionate supporters has led to an explosion in popularity.
As I watched people jump on the bandwagon, I stayed on the sidelines.
Whenever I saw someone wearing the most popular of barefoot shoes – Vibram Five Fingers (pronounced Veebram) – I shook my head. Vibrams are those “toe shoes” that provide minimal padding so as to mimic the barefoot experience.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t even consider wearing vibram five fingers primarily because I thought they looked ugly. Chalk it up to vanity, or stubbornness, I wouldn’t even give the shoes a chance.
I hated, or better yet disliked vibram five fingers because they:
- looked ugly
- were completely different from traditional sneakers
- have very little padding
- could possibly cause injury
- have no sole so I lose an inch of height wearing them
- were not nearly as cool as my Nike Frees
How did I go from hating to loving vibram five fingers and even thinking they look cool? Why would I recommend them to all my friends/family/clients and you?
The following is a story about how I came to love vibram five fingers.
Vibram Five Fingers Review | Intrigue
“I ran the marathon in Vibram Five Fingers and had no soreness after the race,
and no soreness the next day”
I remembered speaking to Brian as he was training for the race and saying bluntly “It’s stupid to run a marathon on pavement in vibrams. Maybe grass, but payment, that’s crazy”. I felt a little awkward using the word “stupid”, but it just came out; possibly out of frustration, or maybe because I didn’t want Brian to hurt himself. The thing is Brian is not a stupid guy, he’s a really smart guy.
Brian never ran much more than 20 feet as a former college football linebacker, but after dropping 30lb and finding vibrams, he’s never looked back. He actually enjoys running and wears vibrams religiously. While I was still very skeptical of vibrams, Brian’s story left a very strong impression on me.
Right after I visited Brian, I headed down to the IDEA Health & Fitness Convention, which is a fitness conference with 6,000 fitness professionals held in San Diego, CA. At the conference, I noticed that most fitness professionals had minimalist shoes and of those a small chunk were wearing vibrams.
Interestingly, a disproportionately large percentage of fitness professionals who were in the best shape were wearing vibrams.
After a couple of presentations, I headed to the IDEA Expo, which was a massive space featuring every fitness product and method under the sun from Zumba to TRX. One of the first booths as you walk into the Expo was the Vibram booth, which featured a bunch of different vibram models. As I was looking around the booth, a vibram rep named PJ asked me if I needed any help.
I started rambling to PJ about my misgivings about the vibram five fingers and that that I’d been wearing Nike Frees for years. He smiled and said, “Why don’t you try on a pair?” He gave me the Komodo LS. I slipped them on and after just a few seconds of walking, I was simply amazed. I was in disbelief with how comfortable and natural they felt on my feet.
After telling PJ how impressed I was with the shoes, I ended up learning he was a Media Relations and Communications Associate. After I told PJ about BuiltLean, he offered to send me a few pairs to see what I thought.
Vibram Five Fingers Review | Evaluation
When I got back from the conference, my first workout was a leg workout in my Nike Frees. I started off with some forward and reverse lunges paired with stiff legged deadlifts. I noticed as I was doing the lunges, my feet were moving all over the place in my shoe. I felt out of balance. Ever since I tried on those vibrams, my Nike Frees felt clunky, like I was wearing moon shoes.
I got so annoyed I took my shoes off, and finished my leg workout in my socks. People in the gym were looking at me funny, but I literally was disgusted with how the large sole of the Nike Free (which is technically a minimalist shoe) affected my balance and coordination in a very negative way. I didn’t even realize it before.
The vibrams PJ sent me arrived within a few days after that leg workout. From the day I received the package of vibrams, I have not put on my Nike Frees, or any other traditional sneaker. I did try as a point of comparison the New Balance Minimus, which is a great minimalist shoe, but it’s nothing like vibrams.
In my first few days wearing vibrams, I walked around and did lifting workouts in the SEEYA, which is the most minimalist of Vibram models. After only the first day, I noticed that my outside toes were straining. In fact, the outside portion of my calves became sore from these little toes I’d apparently never used before in my life. Please Note: If you do try Vibrams, be sure to try them out very slowly as I did. Don’t go for a 5 mile run right away.
Within the first week, I went to my brother’s apartment a few blocks away from me in NYC to show him the vibram five fingers. He described them aptly as an “exoskeleton for the foot”; the padding is minimal, but still strong enough to allow for running on just about any type of terrain and in a way enhances the way the foot moves.
Within just a couple of weeks, I noticed when I looked down at my ankles that they were completely straight. I used to have over-pronated feet (See: 5 Most Common Posture Problems), which apparently just went away. As an aside, I asked a podiatrist I met recently about my over-pronation, but before I could tell him that my problem was solved by wearing vibrams, he quickly blurted out, “Why don’t you get orthodics?” Classic example of attempting to treat the symptom, not the cause!
After wearing the vibrams just about everywhere, the last step was to wear them running. I started out with some interval sprints on a treadmill. Just a few minutes into my sprint workout, I realized something bizarre; I usually do 10mph at 10 incline 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, but I was able to do the same workout with vibrams at 12mph. After reading research showing that barefoot runners have better running economy, I guess it’s not too surprising. A a couple weeks later after doing several shorter runs, I took the vibrams to central park for a leisurely 2 mile run on cement. Yes, my feet were sore after the run and even the next day because I progressed quickly, but nothing else was sore (ankle, knee, hips felt great). If you are an avid runner, keep in mind it can take 3-6 months to make the transition to Vibrams.
Since I had lower back surgery for a herniated disc in college, I honestly never thought I would enjoy running again. But since I’ve been wearing vibrams, I’ve experienced no wear and tear on any of my joints, other than sore feet and calves after long runs, which is just a matter of conditioning.
Vibram Five Fingers Review | Approval
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
Since wearing vibrams, I’m now convinced that not only is proper footwear when exercising is extremely important, but less is more. I’ve seen this not only from my own experience, but those of my clients as well.
In the last year alone, I’ve completed dozens of fitness assessments of people in all different age groups from mid 20’s wall street professionals to 70 year old grandfathers (and even grandmothers).
Every fitness assessment begins with a postural screen. I ask the client to take off his/her shoes, because a proper postural screen always starts from the ground up. Invariably, almost everyone has moderate to severe foot over-pronation and the toes are scrunched together. Even worse, foot strength along with ankle strength and flexibility is significantly lacking.
I also started to notice how awkward traditional sneakers looked when I was viewing my clients and other gym goers train. If I had my clients do a forward lunge for example, their feet, ankles, and knees would move uncomfortably out of balance. Instead of being stable, the feet were moving (while scrunched) around in their sneakers because the sneaker sole with its heavy padding was encouraging this movement.
As I mentioned in my article 7 Insights From The World’s Top Strength Coaches, the concept of functional anatomy and training continues to become more and more important to our BuiltLean exercise philosophy. Wearing vibrams is simply an extension of this philosophy. The foot should be strong, fit, and flexible like any other muscle in the body, as the body is one connected chain (aka the kinetic chain).
What makes vibrams special compared to traditional sneakers and also other minimalist shoes is that the toes are free to move naturally. They are not constricted. This is a big reason why they were named by Time Magazine as one of the best inventions of 2007. A combination of the toe pockets, exoskeleton design, and barefoot feel (not wearing socks makes a startling difference for how the shoes feel) is what makes this product revolutionary. And now I think they even look cool.
Our feet contain 52 bones, 66 joints, 40 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons, and ligaments, should they really be restricted in shoes all day long? I think not. My balance has improved dramatically, and I actually want to move around and enjoy exercise when I put them on. That alone is worth the $100-$110 price tag.
Is wearing vibram five fingers all roses? Nope. There are some cons which include (1) they can smell, (2) feet can get sweaty, (3) sometimes difficult to put on, (4) takes time to get used to them, and (5) sore feet, especially if you are a runner. While I address these cons in my Vibram Five Fingers Buying Guide, I think the pros far outweigh the cons.
I want to be free of injury, be strong, fit, and flexible with no muscle imbalances, or movement inefficiencies. My guess is you want the same. This is ultimately why I wear vibrams whenever I run or workout.
Should you try Vibrams? What Vibrams should you get? What size is right for you?
I created a buying guide to make buying your first pair a breeze. I also included a list of pros and cons as well:
Vibram Five Fingers Buying Guide »
Let me know what you think of this review and if you have any comments, or questions.
Since you’re not using them, can I have your Nike Frees? LOL
Yes, definitely you can! Hope all is well.
I’m 48, my toes like to smash together in regular shoes.I tried MR vibrams, I haven’t looked back, have three pair.I can’t wear anything else. Very happy.
That’s awesome, John! Thanks for sharing your experiences with Vibrams. They’re pretty fantastic shoes.
-Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor
Thanks for the thorough article! I was once completely against sneakers with toes; I thought they were a fad. But now, partially thanks to your article, I know there is reasoning (and science) behind the five fingers. What about using vibrams for sports other than running? Are they going to make a cleat or turf versions of their shoes, or does that negate their function? (Though I suppose it would probably take even longer to adapt to them enough to use them for sports.)
That’s a great question and one I had as well. I wouldn’t use them for basketball, or soccer because the outside shell is not very sturdy to prevent someone from stepping on your feet/toes and causing damage. The vibram rep told me “we’ll see” about vibram cleats, which would be awesome. Vibrams really shine with gym and cross training, but I hope one day they conquer sports footwear.
I’ve been playing touch football with a group of friends for the last couple of years in my Vibrams so this subject is near and dear to me. Here are a few quick thoughts:
– I have not rolled an ankle once since playing in my Five Fingers. I’m guessing this is partially because my feet are now stronger overall and also because there is no additional torque from a thick sole when the ankle starts to roll.
– The ground feel for sprinting and cutting is awesome!
– If you playing on grass, you want the Spyridons. They are the only Five Fingers with the traction to handle quickly changing direction on the field.
– Getting stepped on by someone wearing cleats sucks. A lot.
Overall, I plan on using mine for just about every sport going forward. Getting stepped on playing basketball or whatever sucks, but it’s still better than rolling your ankle and being out of commission for months. Hope that helps!
Great write up Marc! Love the DaVinci quote, so true!
Marc this is so helpful. I’ve been tempted ever since reading “Born to Run”, and this article might finally make me pull the trigger. Thank you for all this info. Ps – love the pic of Brian.
@Jane – I definitely think you should pull the trigger. Happy you like the article. Just remember it takes time to get used to them and run in them, especially over a couple of miles. Brian says he’s happy that he’s now famous 🙂 Good luck and let me know what you think when you try out the vibrams!
Nice ill buy it when im older
Great review of the Vibrams! I couldnt agree more that the type of shoe is crucial to lifting and running. I wore vibrams for a month or so before i noticed that they were messing up my toes. All of my toes are not the length that work with the five finger shoes. This prevents me, and others like me from wearing five finger shoes. I do wear minimalist shoes all the time, and love the new balance mt20s. As for lifting, like you said you did when you wore your nike frees, I go barefoot (in socks) on all leg days. I get some weird looks…but it really increases the effectiveness of a leg workout.
If you are lucky enough to have a foot and toe structure that vibrams fit, go for it! If not, other minimalist shoes should give the similar support IMO.
@Ken – Thanks for sharing, Ken. In the Vibram Five Fingers Buying Guide I created, I mentioned toe contractures and rotations as a reason why the vibrams may not work, but overall toe length is a very important consideration. I just did a Q&A with a podiatrist which I’ll be publishing in a few weeks and that’s exactly what she said. Thanks again for the comment, very helpful!
“I ran the marathon in Vibram Five Fingers and had no soreness after the race,
and no soreness the next day”
Yes the shoes make you invincible to injuries and soreness! From someone that has run 2000 miles in a variety of VFF’s. If your friend wasnt sore its because he is in much better shape or he didnt race very hard.
@Jeff – I agree, it is hard to believe, but that’s what Brian told me. As I said in the article, my feet/calves get sore running over a few miles with vibrams and it’s one of the downsides of getting them in the first place because it takes the feet a long time to strengthen.
I too sat on the side lines for the longest time but finally convinced myself this year. I pulled the trigger on Vibram FF’s during their labor day sale.
It was hard for me not to do “too much too soon” because they really felt empowering during my training. Just to make sure it wasn’t a placebo effect, I have heart rate data that shows the same trends on the same courses.
You mention not wearing socks. Have you tried the Injinji toe socks? I’ve had a pair of Vibram KSO’s for a couple of years and only recently bought a pair of toe socks. It’s a totally different experience. And might solve the sweaty feet problem since the socks are made of a performance material and will wick sweat away from the feet. The socks might also prevent blisters when wearing the Vibrams and before your feet develop calluses.
@Greg – I didn’t mention the ininji socks in this review, but I did in my Vibrams Five Fingers Buying Guide. I agree the socks can help with the sweating and smell, but my opinion is the feel isn’t quite the same. It’s like 50% as good. But if you do get callouses, your feet sweat, and the smell is an issue, the socks definitely make sense. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I’ve been thinking of trying these, but the price tag is a little scary as well as the no-socks policy, especially since I’ve suffered from athlete’s foot in the past! I do however own a pair of jika tabi shoes for my dance class (and wear tabi socks with them), though I’ve never tried running in them. Do you think jika tabi would give me a similar sort of experience to five-finger shoes or barefoot running?
@Ashley – yes, the price is a bit steep, but there are some deals on Amazon.com: Vibram Five Fingers for older models/colors etc, but you need to be really careful because there are a lot of fakes, even on Amazon. Ideally, you can buy from a retailer, the Vibram site, or a reputable seller on Amazon. As @Greg mentioned, you also can consider wearing Ininji socks with vibram five fingers if you have issues with athlete’s foot etc. I have never tried the jika tabi shoes so I don’t have an opinion on them unfortunately.
Any idea if Vibrams help with under-pronation? That seems to be my biggest problem – the outside of my sneakers get completely worn out, while the rest of the shoe looks slightly used – so I’m looking to try either orthotics or Vibrams.
@Lauren – I’m not sure because there are not any studies on it to my knowledge. Technically, you have what’s called ankle supination. Orthodics may be a possibility,so do check with your podiatrist, but I would consider at least walking around in a pair of vibrams like the SEEYAS and seeing how you feel. I’m going to a barefoot training course taught by a forward thinking podiatrist in a few weeks and I’ll let you know if I hear of anything else that may be useful for you.
Great article! I’ve been a vff convert for about a year now, i wear them for all of my training, especially for lifting and running. My calves still will get sore if i run over a few miles at a fast pace but its such a great experience and i don’t get the hip pain or it band soreness like i used to in regular shoes. My legs and feet are so much stronger and my balance is so much better now. I can’t even wear regular shoes anymore, its either my vff’s, Adidas adipures, or vivobarefoots
So all all of you guys only use vibrams for lifting/running not for everything like walking and just to wear for everyday things/ just to wear everyday too?
They are pretty fantastic for everyday use, too, but there are two main reasons I don’t wear them out and about:
1. People look at you weird, which is fine, but it gets old. Luckily, they’re becoming more common so this is getting to be less of an issue.
2. Like Marc said, they can get stinky. I’ve started adding a little color-safe bleach when I wash them and that seems to help, but they still smell a bit. I haven’t tried the Injini socks, but I’d imagine that would help a lot, too.
Thanks Nate seems like vibrams and the other shoes you use for football seem really awesome!
I love these shoes! I was skeptical thinking “just another fad” but I saw results instantly. I don’t like running in them any distance. I like them while weight training. I find that having my toes free to move on their own really helps the quality of my lifting. I find it easier to stay in proper position because I can feel the ground and make minor adjustments without even thinking.
@Glenn – Thanks for sharing. I agree with your stance about weight training. For some reason it seems like any conversation about Vibrams automatically turns into a barefoot running debate. I recommend Virbams 100% for gym training, but long distance running is a totally different ball game. I may need to make this clearer in my article, but for a runner, moving to vibrams is a big jump that takes 3-6 months.
Seb, i do wear them out and about and i wear them to work everyday, you do get a lot of questions about them from people on the street but its ok, i don’t usually mind talking about them.
Marc, as far as the smell goes, you can try cornstarch baby powder, i put some in and shake them around every day after work or a workout and it does wonders for keeping the smell down, t also keeps your feet from sweating nearly as much.
@mike – thanks for sharing, Mike. The vibram rep PJ mentioned Penguin Sports Wash with a brush every once in a while, but I’ll make note of the cornstarch baby powder.
I couldn’t agree more, I too was skeptical at first.
I recently finished the insanity workout and I wore my vibrams throughout the program.
Once I took to the road after that I was amazed at how kind they were to my left knee.
Not once did it swell as it normally would when running in my Brooks. In 2007 I tore my ACL/MCL but running for me now with Vibrams is once again exercise and not suffering.
My longest run yet on pavement is 13-miles, the distance I commute to work.
Every time I wear the Vibrams to run, it’s the next day that I’m most grateful.
Great Article, for once I beat you to the punch on something fitness related.
You got to get up pretty early to do that 🙂
Very cool, thanks for sharing Joel.
I got a pair of classics back in 2009 since my athlete friends were having debates and I was just plain curious to decide if this was a gimick. I didn’t have the patience to ease my feet into running in them. I tried a few short distances, but mainly used them at the gym and to just walk around. I had just started practicing Yoga and I had major problems separating my toes in class. Yogis are always talking about feet health and rotating your inner arches up. I would watch people spread their toes apart and mine would just stay clumped together. After using the vibrams, my yoga practice improved tremendously. I would wear them around the house to do chores so I didn’t have to deal with oodles of people asking me questions wherever I went. Sometimes I’d walk to work in them since- as ugly as they are…they actually look better than sneakers and a skirt commute.
The best thing that I found about vibrams was that they didn’t take up space and were super light weight. When I would workout after leaving the office, I already had a huge gym bag and often carried around spin shoes, so the idea of also carrying big sneakers was breaking my back.
@Liz – Thanks for sharing and hope all is well!
Thanks for the interesting report.
I recently broke a toe twice by jamming the bed leg
and it healed improperly – sort of retracted and curved instead of straight.
Do you think these could help? (The other option is surgery and pinning it straight.)
@J – I think in your case Vibrams would probably not be a good fit. Generally, toe contractures and structural issues with the foot may not work well with Vibrams. Be sure to check with your doctor/podiatrist.
Hey Marc. I have been following the site for quite some time now and I really love it. Felt like I had to throw in my 2 cents on this. I bought my Vibrams about 8 months ago and I do literally everything in them. Im not kidding when I say that. I am extremely active and do anything I can all day long. From playing drums to rock climbing to lifting weights and I do it all in Five Fingers. Anyone who is on the fence about them still should climb down onto the Vibram side and I guarantee they will not regret it.
@AJ – Thanks for commenting and joining the conversation. Your thoughts are much appreciated.
Another convert 😀 I *love* mine and have gotten 3 other people into them now ;b Be aware that they do not work for everyone. My mom could not get her foot into them due to a high arch. Some people have problems with toe length.
I have had mine almost a year now. I pronate and have a collapsing arch and wanted to try them to see if they would help strengthen my feet. I found a cheap pair on ebay and was hooked. When I visited my mom last year, she got me running (last time I ran was in 6th grade. Lets say that was a loooong time ago). I had no idea I could go as far and long as I did (I lift & do HITT training). All I brought with me was a pair of sandals, Virams and Earth Kalso shoes. I ditched the Kalso the 3rd time we went out (the negative heel was hard to run with), and tired the Vibrams. I (tentatively) went 4 miles with no problems! I think I was OK because I am usually barefoot. While I have run 6 miles on them, my feet still get super tired if I try walking around. Odd I know. I tried on a pair of regular running shoes my mom had a few weeks back (she was visiting), and they are so heavy! Good for building muscle I suppose ;b
Thanks for sharing, Kristin!
I often wear minimal padding. I go barefoot almost everywhere, except for work.
What’s the Science on that?
@Greg – Barefoot Research. Gong completely barefoot is definitely a great option, but not practical for most people.
Hi, posted yesterday and awaiting your reply. Thanks, Lauren
Hey Marc, super article as always. Mate, can I just say that in the last three weeks I’ve had two revelations that have hopefully improved my health for life. Having recently RE-joined the gym, I was looking for ways to change my regular habits and keep me there!
The first was finding one of your articles on ‘weights before cardio’ and consequently discovering your program. I’ve trialled some of your full body sessions, HIITs and nutritional changes in last fortnight and having now bought program, I’m ready to kick it off on Monday. Cannot tell you how excited I am about it and will post results on FB site.
Second was accidentally discovering some barefoot shoes (vivobarefoots) for some trail running and finding out benefits of barefoot running and proprioception. Currently changing my life-long running style to barefoot technique and rhythm and loving it. Apart from initial calf pain, it feels good. Where has this been all along, I’ve suffered from achilles tendonitis for years and this may be the answer. Thank you.
@gussi – Awesome, happy to hear that. Good luck with the program! If you have any questions as you complete it, just leave a comment on the blog, or facebook, or use our contact form and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
Great article Marc. I love your whole body perspective to fitness. Those that have odd feet or a lower budget might be interested in ZEMgear shoes. They can have a split toe design like a ninja shoe. The ground feel is top notch!
@jacob – thanks for sharing.
I have been wearing them for over a year and have 4 pairs now. VFF are definitely better without socks. The inside has an antimicrobial lining and the fabric inside kind of feels like ultrasuede so your feet can grip. So wearing socks which makes the shoe feel slippery defeats the purpose. Your feet slipping around in the shoe is what is causing the calluses. Read up on which style fits your activity and go to a store to try them on. The sizing may be different for different styles. It takes a while for them to start to stink you can throw them in the washing machine. Also use antiperspirant on the soles of your feet and between the toes. Prevents stink, sweat and blisters which are all caused by moisture.
Regarding supination where you wear out the outer edges of your sneakers soles first I have this problem. I’ve turned my ankles so many times over the years that my ankles always looked puffy because the tendons were loose and stretched out. After training for for the first several months my ankles were not so puffy anymore and I don’t remember turning my ankles in the last year even when I’m wearing regular sneakers on a casual basis. I wear them in the gym for lifting, balance exercises, plyometrics and muay Thai kick boxing. I have ran for about 20 minutes on pavement in them and they feel better than any sneaker I’ve ever run in. There was an article I read where they noticed the dramatic increase in plantar fascitis shin splints knee problems coincided with when sneakers started to get cushy soles. Those types of injuries from running were rare prior to that when running shoes were flats.
My friend has really high arches and narrow feet she was able to find a pair to fit. I talked her into wearing them since she is a runner and after two knee surgeries was told she should never run again by her dr. She wears them while commuting and in physical therapy for her ankle which was not healing after she had turned it a couple of months ago. She was very skeptical of them and found them for half off at REI one day and bought a pair. She loves them now.
Note if you’re used to thick soled shoes it’ll take a while to get use to even walking in them. I hated them initially because I could feel my heel slamming the floor whenever I took a step. It took about a month or two of wearing them 4x per week at the gym before my gait changed so that I walked more lightly and with less jarring impact. I even do box/ depth jumps in them. Theyre awesome for agility ladder work because you have such amazing feedback and control of your feet.
Yes I thought they were ugly too. I don’t care anymore because they keep me from injuries.
Oh I forgot to mention they should fit snug against your toes. There shouldnt be a half in inch in wiggle room like when you buy regular sneakers. That’s where trying different sizes in a store is crucial. I later found the same pair on a reputable sporting goods website for half off and free shipping! The sales are usually for unpopular colors. 🙂
@Karie – Thanks for sharing. That’s very helpful!
I had a quick question. Do you think that the vibram shoes offer more than the other minimalist shoes out there (eg minimus or merrill)? I know you touched upon it, but I want to wear these shoes for everyday wear and feel that the vibrams are too funky looking for casual wear.
Hey Paul, I think the barefoot feel of the vibram five fingers is really unmatched. It’s a combination of the exoskelotan design, which essentially is like just a shield for your foot, and the separate toe pockets. I own the New Balance Minimus sneakers and have put them on once since I’ve owned them. They are certainly not bad sneakers at all, and I think they are actually very good as an alternative to traditional sneakers, but the feel with the ground and how the foot moves is simply not in the same category as compared with the vibrams. I think the new balance minimus are a good transition from traditional sneakers to vibram five fingers, so you may consider getting a pair of both. In terms of casual wear, the minimus are definitely a good option, and I agree, the vibrams can be tough to stomach wearing with jeans.
Great review. I too converted over to the 5FF family after turning my nose up at them for quite a while. I’m not a runner but do a lot of cardio classes (a lot of Les Mills) and lifting at the gym, I also have permanent nerve damage in my feet (sports related and high heels related). I’ve actually had surgery to remove part of the nerves in both feet. I’d relinquished myself to just having to fight thru the pain while working out, I mean when you’re doing plyometrics the tears just mix with the sweat, right? But after learning that a couple of my body builder friends were part of the 5FF fam I decided to get over myself and give them a try…Seriously, I was and IDIOT. WHO CARES WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE??!!! I can jump! I can pound the stair mill! I can do an entire BodyCombat class without having to stop because my foot seized up. Seriously they’ve been amazeballs. I’ve been wearing them for almost 2 years now…I took a break from them for 2 months when my puppy decided he wanted a Vibram snack (bad dog!!) started using the Nike Free…I’m actually replacing my Vibrams tonight. Thank goodness!
I will say as someone who uses them for mainly indoor activities I prefer KSO style of sole (flat/hidden grippy things). I tried the Jaya style and more ridged styles and they hurt the bottoms of my feet, even gave me a blister on my big toe! I guess you have to find which style works for you. I am however having a difficult time finding anything other than the KSO or Flow with that style of bottom (oh and one that’s not an atrocious color). Really if there is anything I ding Vibram on its their color combos. Just give me a basic black or gray shoe, these things already draw attention, I don’t need seafoam green and pale pink on my workout shoes.
Question: While bargain hunting for my new pair I was disappointed to learn one of my area running stores is no longer carrying the Vibrams…the manager stated they’ve found something better and pointed me to the New Balance Minimus…however I’ve heard not such great reviews…anyone have insight?
@Tanya – thanks for sharing! Regarding your question, as I said in my comment to @Paul Kim, I think the fact that the toes are free to move and the design is like an exoskeleton for the foot makes the vibram five fingers different from the New Balance Minimus, and in my opinion superior in terms of barefoot feel. The NB Minimus are great, but for cross training and gym training, I think the vibrams are in their own category.
Thanks for the info Nate
Mike thanks for letting me know I was wouldn’t care what people think when they see you wearing these shoes I agree it doesn’t matter!
I’m a fan of rope jump. I’m worried by using this product may cause harm during the exersize. What you think about it?
@Khairul – I think when first using vibram five fingers it’s really important to take it slow. For example, just walking around in them for an hour can be plenty. The next day, walk around for a bit more. Then take them for a gym workout. Work on a little bit of foot flexibility. Within a couple weeks, I think you should be able to do some jump rope workouts with the vibrams, and then after a month, you should be able to do some more intense jump rope workouts. Keep in mind, again, it takes time to strengthen your feet, but my feeling as I described in this post is that they are much more natural than traditional sneakers and while it takes some time to get used to them, in the long run your body will be better off.
Started wearing Vibram KSO’s in late 2009 and loved them from the start. Took awhile but I got up to marathon distance and after 2 marathons in them without any problems, I ran another one in Sept and now I am feeling heel pain, like people describe Plantar Fasceitis (sp?). Came on 2 weeks after finishing. I stretch calves and ankles routinely and they are both very flexible, as are my feet, toes, etc. Most of the marathon was slightly downhill and I am wondering if my heel pain is caused by more heel striking than I normally do in the Vibrams and my heel is just bruised. Didn’t feel it during the marathon but it never occurred to me to monitor my foot plant, since after all this time, I naturally strike mid-foot. Any ideas?
As for cleaning….I soak them in a tray of 50-50 solution of water and apple cider vinegar for a couple of hours, rinse and hang to dry.
@Margie – I wish I could help more, but I would encourage you to search around for marathon training in Vibrams. I’ve never ran much more than 4-5 miles in them, and for me on cement that’s really tough. If you are not doing so right now, one this to consider is to do myofascial release on bottom of your feet using a golf ball. Check out this interview Barefoot Training Q&A With Dr. Emily Splichal, I think it’s good reading for someone in your situation. And thanks for the cleaning recommendation!
I have two pair and I absolutely love them! I tried running in them, but didn’t care for it, but after reading this article, maybe I’ll give it another try. I workout six days a week and my Vibrams are the only shoe I wear. My legs are incredibly strong! I even managed to convert my husband. He waffled and eventually broke down and bought a pair. They also make great conversation. Everywhere I go someone asks me about them. Best idea ever!
@Dana – thanks for sharing your thoughts! I would be careful running in them though, but I agree with you for gym workouts, they are AWESOME.
In one of the pictures above the person looks like their doing push-ups or maybe planks in the vibrams (only legs/feet shown). It looks like the person is wearing either socks or some sort of ankle supports –
Is this you? If so, are these just ankle/arch supports? I’m assuming these are meant to be work without socks (also assuming there aren’t any socks that would work with them anyway…?
Just looked on the 5F site & saw the Injini socks – answred my own question.
Margie, if you’re heel striking running downhill you may need to correct your form, if you’ve never heard of him check out “barefoot ken bob saxton” and his book, barefoot running step by step, he’s the guru of barefoot running technique and he may have some answers for you, i know his book helped me a lot when i was starting out.
Thanks for sharing, Mike.
I LOVE my vibrams, but they don’t always like me! Lately they’ve been killing my Achilles so I’ve been leaning towards the Merrell Pace Glove lately. With the Vibram sole, they’re like a Vibram 1 finger (wide toe box)
How much of the tuff terrain such as rocks can you feel on your feet?
Have a look at Vivo barefoot. Shoes for doing phys, and for the rest of life too. Lee Saxby is also excellent in describing how to transition to barefoot running. Barefoot 24/7, smart, casual and working out. It has restored me from significant knee pain.
I’ll definitely check out those shoes. Thanks for the recommendation! Glad to hear you’ve had such great experiences in transitioning to barefoot training! There are definitely a lot of benefits to it.
-Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor