Vibram FiveFingers – A Revolution in Footwear?

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Vibram FiveFingersWhether you like it or not, your foot is a thing of beauty. Consisting of 26 bones, 20 muscles, 33 joints and hundreds of tendons, ligaments and sensory receptors, it truly is anatomically brilliant.

Over the last few years, however, there has been a growing trend that has sparked great interest in how we fashion our feet. And the numbers are undoubtedly growing. What used to be rarely seen at the gym has now spilled out onto the streets and even workplaces.

I’m talking about the ultra-geeky, alien-inspired, individually-toed shoes you thought would never catch on.

They’re called the Vibram FiveFingers and they’re not going anywhere.

For those of you who have been living under a large rock for the past few years, let me give you a little update.

The Vibram FiveFingers first made their geeky appearance a few years ago after Industrial Designer Robert Fliri first proposed the idea to the company. These funky shoes are said to bring you closer to the environment because of their ‘barefoot’ nature. The shoe has five individual toe slots that allow your toes to gently separate. This results in increased stabilization and vastly improved balance due to the increased muscle stimulation to the feet, ankles, and lower legs.

Would you wear these?

Our body benefits from exercise, yet we rarely take our feet into consideration. No matter what type of activity we are doing, the body, in one way or another, relies on flexible and stable support from our feet and legs. Our feet need to be consistently stimulated for this to happen.

These multi-toe-shoes help your body engage from the ground up and, with an improved sense of control, you’ll be able to perform at a much higher level.

The claims are great, but what about the validity?

There is a lot of history here. There is also a vast amount of scientific research supporting the benefits of ditching our shoes.

Your feet are an evolved network of nerves, muscles and connective tissues that were designed to instantly (and accurately) react at the instant your foot strikes the ground in order to absorb the shock and minimize injury. However, millions of years of biomechanical evolution have been impacted by a simple, yet somewhat carelessly thought-out invention – the (running) shoe.

Way before the Nike swoosh, shoes have been an instrumental part of our lives. They have effectively taken us from point A to point B. They have kept our feet clean and scrape-free.

But don’t think they’ve done us much good.

The shoe and its excess padding take the foot out of its natural environment. It takes away its natural ability to sense what’s happening. This, ironically, causes more injuries than it prevents.

Further, as you may have experienced, running shoes encourage a very stiff heel-to-toe running stride that is unhealthy for your joints and connective tissues.

Take a look at your feet for a moment. Is it possible that they are better off without shoes?

There is a growing community of barefoot runners out there that believe so…and they might just be onto something.

I got this from www.vibramfivefingers.com - the official website of the Vibram FiveFingers

The human foot has relatively little padding on the heel area so this causes barefoot runners to tread more lightly. They land on the outer part of the midfoot, avoiding the dangerous heel-to-toe landing you get with shoes.

Research done by the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation found that running in shoes actually exerts more stress on the ankle, knee and hip than does running barefoot.

We evolved to run barefoot, and when we put shoes on, we’re taking away the function of the foot,” says Irene Davis, director of the University of Delaware Running Injury Clinic.

So where do the geeky-toed shoes fit into this picture?

I see them as the bridge because they fill a very obvious gap.

The Vibram FiveFingers are the transition phase from running or walking in shoes to doing just that, only barefoot.

But are they safe?

Well, that’s really the million dollar question. As ironic as it sounds, there is very little research done on the long-term effects of walking or running barefoot. That is why many podiatrists recommend you use caution before you make a complete switch to barefoot-ism.

And that is exactly where I think the Vibram’s fit in.

They give you the natural, minimalist barefoot feel (and benefits) while keeping your feet free of scrapes and bruises brought on by the rough surfaces we consistently encounter.

So is it really a surprise that these geeky-looking shoes are so quickly gaining in popularity? My guess is no.

And, to be quite honest, their look is kind of growing on me. I’m currently looking into getting a pair myself even though I’m 100% sure that my girlfriend will kill me once she finds out.

Do you own a pair of Vibram’s? Do you WANT to own a pair of Vibram’s? Whatever the case may be, share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below so we can all make an informational decision for the sake of our beautiful feet.

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Comments

  1. I’ll admit it – I want some.

    I have a few coworkers, fellow Cube Dwellers, who love them. I’ve taken the role of giving them as much flak as possible for wearing the “gorilla gloves”. I’d have to admit I’ve succumbed and joined them. Tough.

    We do a lot of hiking here in Colorado and the Vibrams would be perfect.

    • I think many have gone through the same process – from haters to advocates. We all made fun of them at some point but I have to say I respect those who had the balls to wear a pair when nobody knew or understood them.

      We have no hiking here but I wouldn’t mind hitting up the gym in them – we’ll see where they take me (pun intended :)).

  2. What timing!

    I just picked up my first pair of Vibrams earlier today and went for a 12-mile hike afterwards. (Not the greatest idea with a new pair of shoes, but it was a beautiful walk.)

    They were great for climbing a few rocks and crossing some streams in particular, as I was able to grip and get my toes in some handy crevices easier. I really liked the feeling of walking and feeling the ground a bit, rather than walking on soft, fluffy clouds, haha.

    Interestingly, my feet feel sore now like the rest of my body often does after a workout. Overall, I’m very happy after my first day!

    • Wow, Darrin that’s ballsy – I wouldn’t even do that in new shoes let alone a pair of Vibrams. Most people try to break their shoes in a bit before wearing them for an extended period :). But I guess that’s what makes these shoes different. Do they even have to be broken in?

      Please keep me updated on your experiences with the Vibrams. I’m curious to see what effect they have on your feet and your health. Thanks!

  3. Great article and review! I’ve had the Vibrams for a few months to a year now and I love them! I use to get shin splints all the time from running and sprinting. Switched over, haven’t had to deal with splints ever since!

    • Great to see that they’re working nicely for you Ahmed! Any drawbacks from wearing them? Would you choose them over regular shoes?

      • I think the only drawback is that it’s hard to control yourself when you start. The thing is, you’re foot/leg muscles aren’t as built up when you first wear them, so going 100 percent running sprints/hills/ect… isn’t a good idea. But once you build up enough muscle and stability,

        I’d choose them over regular shoes for everything except going out/casual wear. I still wear running Nikes for outside sprints, but otherwise it’s all vibrams.

        • Yea that’s kind of a given I guess – it definitely takes some time for your feet to adjust. You’ve been walking on cushions your whole life and all of a sudden you switch up to borderline barefoot-ism. It’s important to ease into them.

          You’re telling me you don’t wear them out to the club?? Just kidding ;)

  4. Srdjan,

    I’ve owned a pair of Vibrams for about 6 months now and I love them! I wear them almost everywhere (except for work). I wouldn’t recommend people jump straight into running long distances with them if they’ve never worn them before. They take some getting used to, but they are great. I bought into the idea because I’m all for anything Primal that’s designed to improve our overall health and wellness.

    Alykhan

    • Nice to see somebody has already been using them for some time. What was the hardest part about getting started with them? What was the biggest difference you felt when you switched over?

      • Srdjan,

        The hardest part was being patient and giving them time. At first, you might rather continue wearing sneakers or sandals because the Vibrams feel weird… not uncomfortable, just different. Now, after wearing them for a while, I actually prefer them to both.

        A big difference I’ve noticed is less ankle pain when I play soccer. I’m not sure if it’s a direct result of wearing the Vibrams, but I have a feeling it is because I haven’t really changed anything else.

        Alykhan

        • I’m glad you mentioned that because strengthening of the ankles is one of the big reasons I want to give the Vibrams a try. I play a lot of basketball and need a new way of strengthening the connective tissues that support my ankles.

          I can see them taking some time to get used to for sure. Thanks for your input man!

  5. I run a lot and see guys with these on all the time, the look quite novel.
    I always like to use what really works … next time the olympics are on count how many walkers, runners, sprinters are using them …so far I’ve counted none that I have seen but that could change especially if sponsors become involved.
    So I put them down good for social run.
    Raymond

    • Ray, that’s a good idea – definitely a nice way to see how seriously Vibram FiveFingers are being taken. It might be a while though until they make an appearance at the Olympics…who knows right? Only time will tell.

  6. I love my Vibrams, I have them since 1 year, I get them as birthday gift and felt in love with them immediately. It was strange only first 5 minutes and then I felt them very natural and I can walk with them, and jump and usually I use them in my workout. I love that they can be fully washed and so easy to maintain clean.

  7. The only beef I have at all with Vibrams is that I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing them out, unless I was on a jog or doing some circuit training outside. They’re not exactly the most fashionable shoes that have ever been created. Still, I’ve been itching to give them a try for many months now.

    Just out of curiosity, do you know any places where they can be bought at a discounted price?

    • Jeremy, they definitely are NOT the most fashionable shoes ever created and that’s probably why there’s been so much talk about them. I’ve been itching to give them a try too but would probably start off only wearing them inside the house haha.

      I’ve been looking for discounted prices myself but haven’t had much success yet. I’m going to keep looking and let you know if I find anything.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. i was actually one of those skeptics who would always remain pessimist of these surreal footwear but one day i decided to have a go at it and guess what i started loving it,,, it was strange but it was very comfortable wearing them,,,

    • Hey Eric thanks for the comment! You know what, sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone and try things that we would typically never consider. I think a lot of people just can’t look past the style of the shoe and thus they can’t see the incredible benefits they are missing out on.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying your pair. How long have you had them?

  9. At some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll have to give these a try. For now, I still just can’t get around the potential injury risk of running on pavement with very little padding. If most of my running was done on grass or dirt, then I’d probably be more likely to give them a shot. I’ll be interested to see how the long term research on barefoot running as well as almost barefoot running develops.

    • I definitely wouldn’t recommend running on pavement with these, especially in the beginning. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend running in them at all until your feet get accustomed to simply walking in them. It takes time for your feet to adjust and for your connective tissues to strengthen before your feet can begin to endure the strain of running.

  10. I still haven’t made the plunge yet. I have a few students that will not stop taking about how great they are. I think barefoot training is great and definately incorporate it into my weight training routine, but have been cautious about trying it when running.

    I think that wearing running shoes has contributed to injuries and that footwear in general alters our postural allignment and decreases our proprioception, and weakens the stabalizing muscles of our precious feet!
    I wrote a bit about that here Why you should try barefoot training .

    Love the comments! Great insight

    Cheers,
    Jordan

    • Great stuff, Jordan! Maybe your students will be convincing enough for you to take that plunge. You definitely need to be cautious when you’re first starting out. Your feet need time to adapt – you definitely don’t want to go running in them the first day you get them!

      It’s interesting to see how these shoes have taken over since you wrote that article over half a year ago. Who knows – maybe by next year we’ll all be wearing them!

  11. I definitely want some, but yeah they probably have to be reserved strictly for working out or you might look a little weird!

    I think what Darren said about working the muscles of your feet sounds great. I’m pretty flat footed, so maybe I’ll develop some arches.

    Michael

    • I don’t think you’ll develop arches with them, but your feet will become stronger and will learn how to adapt to the environment. I’m flat footed as well so I’m curious to see what kind of effect it will have on my feet since I have insoles in most of my shoes.

      It seems like more and more people don’t mind looking a little bit weird ;)

  12. Hey,

    I am seeing more and more of these around!

    Really tempted to get some actually, might have to try em out.

    Sam

  13. Pozdrav, Srdjane.

    Just wanted to say that these are great. I have had them for awhile now. I don’t wear them that often and it took me some time to actually get used to walking in them, let alone run in them, but they are definitely something that will change your life.

    • Zdravo Brankice,

      I’m looking forward to getting started in them. I’ve heard it takes time to get accustomed to them but that kind of makes sense. It’s crazy how they’re blowing up right now – I see them everywhere!

      P.S. Svida mi se vas blog. Odakle ste vi?

  14. Warning: your feet might blister after running in them for the first time :) But it is worth it :)

    Iz Beograda (doduse rodjena u Bosni), a preselila se u USA pre par meseci. Molim bez persiranja, nisam ja uopste toliko matora :)

  15. I had a pair of these because I love the idea of barefoot running but I was not happy with the fit and the wear. Mine wore out fast, way too fast for the money.

    The toes were too tight for me. There needs to be more sizing options.

    I wear the NB minimus and like these much more.

  16. They lasted about 8 – 12 weeks. The soles started to wear out the first run I went on. They do sell a pair with a thicker sole for running, but they were a tighter fit so I didn’t get those. I have a high arch so the open foot was a better fit.

    I ordered them from the Vibram website.

    • Wow they wore out really fast. I was searching through the different versions they have and I’m leaning towards the Vibram Flow. I have a very flat foot so I’m curious to see how they will fit me. I wish I could try them on before I bought them.

      • They did wear out fast. Not sure if it was the wide foot that did it, but still not happy. I have seen others where the glue has let go. Think I will stick with the NB for a while.

        Many stores carry the 5 fingers so I am sure you can find a place to try them on. I see that you went to to University of Waterloo (had thought about it myself at one time, wanted to be an architect) so I am going to say that you live in Canada, so I am sure you can find plenty of stores that carry them. I would have to say that Toronto without a doubt will have a place to try them on.

  17. I don’t live in the area so it is hard to say, but do you have a MEC or other outdoor store. I am sure they will have them.

    Take a look at the NB too. They are a better shoe. I use mine to workout in, do everything but Olympic lifts in them. Not something I recommend for the 5 finger.

  18. Jim Drake says:

    I wonder if “pool shoes” (cf. http://bit.ly/MDunHv) might be a low cost way to try out the concept. In season they can be had very cheaply at the discount stores.

    • Hey Jim. I actually own a pair of “pool shoes” and a pair of Vibrams and I must say they’re not very similar. The fact that the Vibrams isolate each toe really makes all the difference. It’s an amazing feeling!

  19. Hey Srdjan, so i noticed in your new videos – you’re wearing these!

    How do you find them, which model did u go for and are they wearing out fast?

    I’m getting used to the look of them, and am thinking about getting some – would you recommend them?

    • Hey Paul, I would definitely recommend them. I got them as a gift actually (the Komodo Sport) and I can safely say it’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I actually LOVE the look.

      It takes a bit of time to get used to them, but once you do you won’t want to go back. I wear them as often as I can. They really help promote foot activity as they engage small muscles in your feet that are typically dormant with shoes. It also helps re-align your biomechanics. You truly feel like you’re barefoot all the time.

      Let me know if you decide to get them!

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