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alternatives to Vibrams?

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  • alternatives to Vibrams?

    After reading so much about Vibrams I had to give them a try, so I found a local outfitter that carries them and went in today to try some on. Well, they just do not fit my toes at all. My big toe and second toe are stuffed all the way into the end almost straining the toe sleeves (or whatever they're called), while the 3 little straggler toes on the end are swimming in far-too-large toe sleeves. My pinky toe is so dinky it kept slipping out of its sleeve entirely.

    I'd really like to enjoy the barefooting experience but I don't want to actually be barefoot! Any good alternatives to the Vibrams?

  • #2

    Yes, there are alternatives you might consider.

    Basically, you want to look for something that:

    * has no heel (not even a low one)

    * has no "toespring"

    * has been made on a last without inflare

    * has no concavity under the ball of the foot

    * has a flexible sole

    * does not weigh too much

    * is wide enough across the toes

    * has a thin enough sole for you to feel the ground

    * has no "arch support"

    It's explained here, if you want the details:

    That's actually quite a tall order. Most shoes fail on most of those criteria. The average footwear on offer is as bad as the average diet.

    You could try Terra Plana Vivo shoes - those have some toespring, but otherwise fulfill just about all the criteria:

    Traditional moccasins were ideal. But many modern shoes selling as "moccasins" are nothing like a moccasin. Some moccasin firms are good, though - here's one:

    Otherwise, something from the Finnish maker Feelmax might suit.

    For children, there's a South African firm called Froggies that do very minimalist heel-less flexible shoes and have approval from several podiatry bodies. They export to several countries. Or Soft Star Shoes (linked above) also do kids' shoes.

    You might also look at some ballet, dance, or Tai Chi shoes.


    • #3

      The back part of my foot hurts when I wear the Vibrams - the part above the heel. I felt good wearing them the first couple of times but today I had to remove them and wore flip-flops instead. There's no gap between the skin and the shoe, so no chafing either. Any idea why that could happen.


      • #4


        Is it your achilles?

        This can be painful when first starting to wear Vibrams due to the stretching of the achilles tendon through its natural range of motion.

        Most commercial shoes inhibit this motion, so people become hyper-aware when switching to Vibrams.


        An inexpensive "close" substitute are Chuck Taylors. Note, I said close. Not perfect, but cheap. If money is not an issue, then Vivo's are going to be your best bet IMHO


        • #5

          Yes Clint, it's the achilles. It's the point where the flap - the tiny part at the back that extends above the shoe line - meets the skin.


          • #6

            Thanks for the indepth post Mick!

            Clint, I actually have a pair of Chuck Taylors but haven't worn them in ages. How familiar are you (or you Mick!) with the Vivo Barefoot shoes? They look the nicest of all the links I looked at, but I can't tell how rugged they are. I wanted the Vibrams for hiking, do you know if the Vivos would be up to that?


            • #7

              My only experience with Vivos are through second-hand accounts

              Those few people, also, only got them for a barefoot alternative for work in an office job. So I have absolutely ZERO info for you and their ruggedness for hiking. Sorry.


              • #8

                Maba, it took about a week for the back of my heel to "break in" my sprints. Unless it also hurts when you just walk normally, I think it's probably just a sking-toughening issue. My classics are a bit different at the back there, I haven't broken those ones in yet. Keep wearing them some every day, and you'll probably be okay after a week or so.

                You are what you eat,
                and what you eat eats too - Michael Pollan


                • #9


                  I wanted the Vibrams for hiking, do you know if the Vivos would be up to that?</blockquote>

                  I&#39;ve had a couple of pairs, and I would, and do, use them for that. However, the pair I&#39;ve got are canvas, which wouldn&#39;t be ideal in very wet conditions. (But maybe the leather ones would be fine.)

                  They are tough, although light. The sole is only 3mm thick but it&#39;s made from a material that contains kevlar. I&#39;ve used my current pair almost daily for weeks on all sorts of surfaces, and there&#39;s virtually no wear to be seen. The stitching seems stout, too.

                  So maybe not in the damp - and they&#39;d be too cold in the snow, of course. Otherwise, OK, I think.

                  I think habit, and perhaps a lot of marketing, has convinced people that they need very heavy shoes for hiking. I don&#39;t believe so. Lewis and Clark covered vast distances wearing moccasins. (To be fair, they did have to pull thorns out of their feet on occasion!) Australian Aborigines went "walkabout" with nothing on theirs.

                  The high sides on conventional walking boots don&#39;t allow the movement the ankle needs and undermine its strength, which can lead to twisted ankles - the reverse of what&#39;s intended.

                  Also the lack of flexibility in the sole is a big problem:


                  One irritation with the Vivos is that they come up small. I&#39;ve got UK size 10 feet (44 in international), but I need to buy size 11 (45 in international) Vivos. Everyone, including the staff in two stores that sell them has told me the same: buy one size larger than normal.

                  You might also want to take a look at Feelmax shoes. I understand that letting the wet in was a problem for those, but their latest model - the Niessa - is made from a waterproof fabric:



                  • #10

                    Barefoot Ted has reviews and links to different "barefoot" shoes



                    • #11

                      Has anybody tried running in Converse shoes? My PT reccomended them to me, but I thought that the sole was too sturdy to be qualified as "barefoot running"...

                      The Vibrams were incredibly weird to wear. But if they were half their original price, I would probably have to buy them.

                      I thought that the next best thing to Vibrams would be running in several layers of socks. As long as I wore enough heavy pairs, usually three, and only ran about 1/4 mile, it was alright. Much more fun running without shoes! Especially with the ipod going, oh man, it was a party haha!

                      On a mission to help others master movement, build unbreakable strength, & eat MORE food (can't beat that.) Weekly fitness, health & nutrition articles at


                      • #12

                        I just got my Vibram Fivefingers today, but I&#39;ve been wearing Vivo Barefoot for about a month and my Achilles have *finally* just started to get less sore. Walking in barefoot-simulating shoes definitely works foot muscles that aren&#39;t necessarily used to being worked.


                        • #13

                          As far as alternatives to Vibram Fivefingers go, I like my Vivo Barefoot shoes a lot, but I got the Dharma style and wouldn&#39;t wear them for anything too active. They are really just casual wear. I don&#39;t think I&#39;d want to sprint in them.

                          I haven&#39;t tried Nike Free, but that may be an alternative that&#39;s at least better than most athletic shoes.


                          • #14

                            I wore my Vibrams today to go walking with my walking group and I could barely walk for 100 yards. My feet were killing me, the back of the shoes were pressing against my achilles tendon and I had to give up on the walk. It&#39;s funny because I wore them yesterday and walked for a hour and it was fine, there was some pressure at the back but it wasn&#39;t painful. Anyone know why this happens?


                            • #15