Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
19 May

Dear Mark: Are My Vibram FiveFingers Dangerous?

Vibram FivefingersToday, I’m answering one hot-topic question for this week’s Dear Mark. It concerns an issue that’s inspired several dozen emails from readers: the Vibram FiveFingers lawsuit and settlement. If you want to skip ahead to the take home point, it’s that I’m not getting rid of my Vibram FiveFingers anytime soon. Heck, I’m wearing a pair as I type this. I may even be typing with my FiveFinger-clad toes. (It could happen…) If you want my more extensive take on it, read on.

Mark,

I would love to hear your comments on the FiveFingers lawsuit. I suspect many of your readers and listeners would be interested too. Possible blog post or podcast topic?

It seems to me that the “science” used to drive the lawsuit was a bit questionable. Is this real, or just a shakedown for money?

George

Sorry, George. Reading the Deadspin link makes it pretty clear. Any benefits you thought you had experienced since donning the FiveFingers are just that: a thought, a flight of fancy conjured up from your brain in an attempt to justify the hundreds of dollars spent on a faulty product. Your knee does hurt. That’s not your shoelace you keep stepping on. It’s your Achilles tendon dangling uselessly like a five year-old rubber band.

In fact, I’d wager that this Vibram lawsuit will whisk away the veil of collective placebo currently conning millions of Vibram-wearing readers across the globe. The knee pain that’s actually always been simmering beneath your consciousness held at bay by delusion will pick back up any minute now. Your false foot musculature will begin atrophying presently. The sheer raw joy of feeling the cracks and stones and leaves of grass beneath your minimally-clad feet will turn to ash and blunt numbness. They were all a dream. You were tricked and bamboozled. Thanks for playing. The honeymoon is over. The bone marrow edema is coming. Fluid pools accumulate and drown you. Time to die.

Jokes aside, what’s this Vibram lawsuit saying, anyway?

Ignore the astute thinkers in comment sections. Vibram isn’t being sued for making shoes that hurt your feet. Vibram is being sued for making unsupported claims that using FiveFingers could reduce foot injuries and improve the strength of foot musculature. That’s it. Nothing else.

To win the case (or get the company to settle), the plaintiff doesn’t even have to prove that these claims are false and that the opposite is true (the shoes cause damage). They just have to prove that the claims are not supported by the available evidence. And for the most part, that’s true. They aren’t.

Anecdotes on message boards (however true) aren’t admissible in court. Appeals to the evolution of human biomechanics (however valid) will fall on deaf ears. Clinical research is required to prove a benefit, and what little research exists is ambivalent, showing mixed results.

This isn’t a conviction of minimalist footwear, as I’ve mentioned previously. Clinical trials on minimalist running are notoriously difficult to do properly. The transition period from regular shoes to minimalist shoes alone requires far more than the dozen or so weeks most studies lend it. This makes the few trials we have to go on fatally flawed, but not useless. They show what not to do. They suggest that the importance of the transition should not be understated or taken lightly.

It may seem like a “no true Scotsman” defense. But it’s true. Running in minimalist shoes takes a lot of preparation, training, and skill – especially if you’ve worn Nike-branded casts on your feet for years – and I don’t think the studies we’ve seen up until now demonstrate sufficient preparation. It’s like when you broke your arm as a kid and sat in a cast for ten weeks. Remember when they finally took it off with that weirdly discriminating saw blade and your arm smelled funny and looked really small and skinny? Remember how you tried to sign your name in class and it felt like you had to learn how to write all over again? Remember how useless Han Solo was when Leia snuck into Jabba’s palace to dissolve the carbonite he’d been stuck inside for months?

That’s what trying to use your feet after a lifetime of keeping them encased in leather and raised rubber is like. You have to learn all over again. Your feet are to shoes as Han Solo is to carbonite.

And “experienced” runners – often the subjects of these minimalist running studies – switching over have it even harder, believe it or not. They’ve been running one way in one type of shoe for many hundreds of miles. Their feet have molded themselves to run in the shoes. Their unused muscles have atrophied. Their neuromuscular circuitry is wired for protective shoes. You can’t undo that in a few weeks. You can’t just switch over and continue to log the same amount of miles. Heck, you may not even be able to log a fifth of the miles you were doing. You probably shouldn’t do anything but walk to start.

“Land on the balls of your feet,” they say. Just take off your shoes and let instinct take over. A forefoot landing is important, but it’s not everything. It’s not enough. A lot of beginning minimalist runners misinterpret the “forefoot landing” advice. You’ll see them around town, bouncing up and down on their toes, prancing along. This is very wrong. It’s not enough to merely land on the midfoot/forefoot. You have to gliiiide. Your head should remain fairly stable with minimal vertical movement.

Which tissues are most impacted by bouncing up and down on your toes? Your calves and feet. Look, try it. Take your shoes off and bounce in place from left foot to right. Get some air. Land on your toes. Do it for a minute. How do you feel? It’s no wonder that foot and calf issues are probably the most common injuries in new Vibram users.

So I’m not surprised that Vibram wearers showed increased levels of bone marrow edema, a marker of inflammation and harbinger of fracture, in the recent study (PDF) that often accompanied the lawsuit reports.

Reports of the study make it sound like the authors set out to reveal the danger posed by VFFs. Reports make it sound like they were successful in this non-existent quest. Really, study authors were just exploring the phenomenon of new minimalist runners hurting themselves during the transition. They conclude not that “runners interested in transitioning to minimalist running shoes should stick to their old shoes” but that “runners interested in transitioning to minimalist running shoes… should transition very slowly and gradually in order to avoid potential stress injury in the foot.” 

I totally agree with them. Don’t you?

Running for extended periods of time at a fast pace is inherently dangerous. I’m sorry. It is. It can make you incredibly fit and fast, but running as a voluntary, daily, constant behavior is problematic. I’ve always said that traditional shoes mask the damage running does to our bodies. Going barefoot or minimalist reveals it. VFFs reveal your weaknesses, your technique deficiencies. They make you realize how dangerous running can be if you do it wrong.

That they lay bare the ramifications of chronic cardio is one of the main benefits (although some may not see it that way) of minimalist/barefoot shoes. They enhance the feedback we get from the environment. If we’re hurting ourselves, we feel it. If we’re placing too much stress on on our feet, calves, or Achilles tendons, we know it.

Running incorrectly in minimalist shoes is harder on your body than running incorrectly in padded shoes. Heel striking in minimalist shoes is harder on your body than heel striking in padded shoes. There’s far less room for error. That’s why they’re such powerful tools, but it’s also why short-term studies in longterm running shoe-wearers show mixed results.

Whenever I write about barefooting or minimalist footwear, I end up repeating myself. But the same criticisms keep appearing in the media, and I always get emails about them from worried readers, so I’m going to keep at it:

  • Your transition into minimalist footwear should take longer than you think. The group of experienced runners in the study took ten weeks to do it, slowly adding in mileage in the Vibrams a mile at a time the first two weeks, then as much as they felt comfortable running, and a bunch of them developed evidence of early bone damage. Ten weeks wasn’t enough.
  • Don’t run the first week. Not even a little bit. You’re not ready. Even if you feel ready, you’re probably not. Bones and connective tissue take a lot longer to adapt to stress than muscles. The runners in the study felt fine running and it turns out they weren’t.
  • Running shouldn’t be jarring or bouncy. Glide forward, don’t bob up and down. Don’t run for distance until you grasp this.
  • Consider just being barefoot or minimalist. Walk, hike, squat, jump, climb, play, stand. You don’t have to run to get the benefits.
  • Be smart about it. If you get weird pain, stop doing it. If you feel a funny twinge in your Achille’s tendon, stop. If your calves are killing you from finally doing something with them, maybe just walk the next couple days until the DOMS subsides.

Yeah, you may have read similar stuff from me before, but that person who just stumbled on this page searching for “Vibram lawsuit” probably hasn’t. And he or she may actually try those weird looking shoes the right way, with due diligence, rather than blunder into a foot injury from overzealousness or listen to the naysayers and avoid a way of locomotion that can potentially revitalize their body.

Thanks for reading, all. Take care.

You CAN Lose Weight and Get Healthy. Find Out How>>

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Perhaps those without brains should not apply? (or in this case purchase)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on May 19th, 2014
  2. As a distance runner I did experience the negative effects of minimal and barefoot running and wound up with nasty tendonitis that took months to go away. If there is any point to REALLY emphasize it’s that the transition will take MUCH LONGER THAN YOU THINK.

    I thought that after 2 months of both barefoot and vibram running I was feeling good and was in “the clear”. But I wasn’t. It took one bad 12 mile run where my form fell apart to begin a long battle with posterior tibial tendonitis. I was stubborn about mileage and maintaining my new barefoot running style, and I made the injury much worse. Now recovered, I realize that my love for running comes first before anything else and I now am back to very clunky, supportive shoes and feeling great.

    They were not for me, but I don’t fault barefoot running or vibrams. I just choose to run more than my feet and tendons can stand to run without extra, artificial support. And for now I’m fine with that.

    Michele wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • In the summer of 2012, having been living barefoot for a solid two years, I started doing hour+ runs several times a week. I had done cross-country running in high school, and was quite confident. After a couple weeks of this, I developed top-of-the-foot discomfort towards the end of a run. I should have immediately started walking, but did not. Because pride. One or two miles later I arrived home (still running) with pain that would return whenever I ran for months afterward.

      If something, anything, feels wrong in your feet or legs during a run, STOP RUNNING and either walk or fix it, depending. You will be able to resume running much sooner by walking it off than by stubbornly injuring out. This holds regardless of your experience and conditioning.

      For the record, I intend to be a barefooter (skin to the ground, by choice, when reasonable) for the rest of my life.

      Bill C wrote on May 20th, 2014
    • I agree that the important take home is LONGER THAN YOU THINK. No matter what. I don’t even run. Ever. All I do is gentle hiking (but a good amount of it). I thought it would be no problem to switch over, because all I do is walk. Not so. A few weeks in and I hurt my Achilles. It lasted for months, mostly exacerbated by this happening right before winter and having to traipse through 2ft of snow in big boots for four months. Now that it’s over, I’m back to minimalist shoes for hiking and my Vibrams JUST for sidewalk walking and errands. I’ll get there eventually, but I’m now totally prepared for it to take a year or two.

      Natalie wrote on May 24th, 2014
  3. I’m so over the government “protecting” us from good things!

    NOLA Paleo (new orleans) wrote on May 19th, 2014
  4. Yes, any health benefits from wearing FiveFingers are purely imaginary. In my imagination, my feet feel more relaxed when wearing FiveFingers. My posture feels better, although I’m not sure why. My knees feel better because I take shorter strides, which even spills over to when I wear ‘regular’ shoes (which now feel like strapping boards onto my feet). I feel more secure when walking on uneven surfaces because I can feel the ground, instead of waiting for my foot/ankle to twist when the ground is uneven and I’m wearing boards.

    Ralph

    Ralph wrote on May 19th, 2014
  5. “This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story” – Lionel Hutz

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 19th, 2014
  6. This all fits my experience. I have been wearing fairly minimal Converse tennies as my main shoe for years. I always go barefoot around the house, or wear flat slippers in the winter, but my feet are still messed up after so many decades of wearing “sensible” shoes. I’ve been wearing Softstars for about six months. I don’t run but if I did, I don’t think I would wear minimalist shoes yet. I may never undo the damage of a lifetime of wearing little coffins on my feet. (I’m 71.)

    Harry Mossman wrote on May 19th, 2014
  7. For the novice (i.e. Me)an excellent set of points Mark- you present the benefits of Vibrams, but also emphasise the need to make the transition from “casts” with due care. Thanks.

    Aussie wrote on May 19th, 2014
  8. I love my vibs, I hike for hours in them in very varied terrain (in BC) and have never had a problem…I didn’t even ‘transition’ to wearing them as recommended. I know I move differently when wearing them, lighter in foot for sure. They just *feel* so good to wear.
    While the jury is not ‘still out’ when it comes to the recent law suit. The pros and cons for using minimalist shoes are certainly still up for debate. Personally, I will be ‘transitioning’ to minimalist shoes for all my footwear needs. For those who are interested, check out the articles at the BJSM:
    http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/6/425.abstract?sid=e3706f7c-55e7-410e-8d56-d745cfceff91
    http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/5/349.abstract?sid=e3706f7c-55e7-410e-8d56-d745cfceff91
    and the fact you move differently and with reduced joint loading is the likely reason for this conclusion:
    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773595
    At the end of the day to have the choice is great and I choose minimalist shoes!

    Duncan wrote on May 19th, 2014
  9. So let’s get this straight…VFF’s are bad for us and lost a lawsuit…but

    In yesterday’s Link Love it showed the California Nutritionists and Dietetics Society being catered by McDonalds, with one of the photos showing their food and the captions saying Joy, Quality, Premium and Fresh. Why the hell is McDonalds getting away with this murder without a lawsuit? Quality, Fresh, Premium my *(&(^^&.

    Nocona wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • Deeper pockets.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 19th, 2014
      • Bon, I was being rhetorical.

        Nocona wrote on May 19th, 2014
        • Do you even know what rhetorical means?

          Ham-Bone wrote on May 19th, 2014
        • Uh, yes. The last line is a rhetorical question: A question to which no answer is expected.
          So maybe I wasn’t being exactly rhetorical, but the last question surely was.

          Nocona wrote on May 19th, 2014
  10. While I love Vibrams and the concept behind minimalist shoes, I can admit that switching to them for running did a lot of damage to my achilles tendon; so much damage, in fact, that it took me nine months to be able to run again.

    I had started off slowly, as suggested, but in a matter of two months I could barely walk any more.

    I will not be joining this lawsuit, nor do I support it. I knew the risks, did the research, and still pressed forward.

    I have recently purchased Nike’s new Flyknit running shoes (also minimalist), but honestly I’ve been too concerned about taking them out over my Brooks.

    Kirk Hunter wrote on May 19th, 2014
  11. for those who want to run barefoot style, check out the video on this website – some of the running drills are excellent to promote change of style and therefore minimise risk of injury (I have no affiliation to this site).
    http://naturalrunningcenter.com/

    Duncan wrote on May 19th, 2014
  12. Just a request for comment on my thoughts on the settlement. Should those primal / paleo types who bought Vibrams and liked think about getting a portion of the settlement? Vibram is paying out a fixed amount, and any unclaimed amount will go to the American Heart Association. Would it be better to take the money and use it to buy another pair, than to let the money go to a group with a fundamentally flawed agenda?

    Doing Better wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • My husband and I had discussed this very thing. I have 4 pairs I rotate between and would use the money to buy another pair. I can add to the anecdote for VFF being beneficial for the first time I can remember my littlest toes are actually moving when I try and spread my toes apart.

      Stephanie G wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • I am leaning towards doing this. I have 2 pairs and I love them (just completed a half-marathon in them!). I am going to apply for the refund and then buy another pair! Maybe it’s wrong, but I’m going to do it anyways!

      Heather wrote on May 19th, 2014
      • LOL!

        I thought about it, but I just couldn’t be part of the settlement – stupid morals!

        But for you, I say Just Do It! Besides, you’ll probably be supporting VFF, and taking away money from people who say, “Eat whole grains, put coffins on your feet, and do LOTS of cardio!”

        Tom wrote on May 20th, 2014
    • Haha I love this idea and find it so ironic. We should make a tumblr about the vibrams we bought with the settlement

      Abby wrote on May 20th, 2014
  13. I wish I could wear Vibrams. But my arches are too high and my toenails are too long. I can’t find the will to file them down, they’re like talons. Also my feet are wide… eh, whatever. I think I’ll just keep going barefoot around the house and wear my New Balance the rest of the time.

    Wildrose wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • On the off-chance you aren’t being facetious, have you considered investing in a pair of toenail clippers?

      Shary wrote on May 19th, 2014
      • The toenail clippers I’ve tried couldn’t handle my big toes at all. I use heavy duty scissors. It wouldn’t help with the arch problem anyway.

        Wildrose wrote on May 19th, 2014
        • I too have very high arches but still love my VFF. I wear them for walking my dog.

          Debbie wrote on May 19th, 2014
        • And I thought I had some gnarly toes . . . . .

          Duncan wrote on May 20th, 2014
    • Try ZEMgear. I have a pair of Five Fingers I use for the gym but I like ZEMgears for running because they protect my toes from being snagged by a root when I trail run. They have round toe and my fav, ninja toe, so they’re a bit more forgiving when it comes to toe length and nails. I have no arch so I’m not sure about that part.

      ZenNinja wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • I have very small, very wide feet so I was very disappointed when I found that I couldn’t wear Vibrams. I did, however, buy some Nike Frees, which I love. I’m not a runner but these are the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever worn.

      Trish wrote on May 20th, 2014
  14. I don’t personally own a pair of vff but do have a pair of merrell barefoot with vibram soles and love them. Use them for walking and sprinting . If I did own a pair of vff I would claim the refund and the put it towards buying another pair to show support for the shoes and company.

    Mike wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • I have a pair of these too. Great for just walking around, and they keep my feet cool. I’ve had to adjust the way I walk, but it seems like it’s better for my joints and my sense of balance.

      Mantonat wrote on May 22nd, 2014
  15. I wear inov8 evoskins for all my training. And that’s only because the gym won’t let anyone go barefoot. For outside training on grass or sand however, it’s barefoot all the way.

    Gary wrote on May 19th, 2014
  16. Come to think of it, McDonald’s did lose a hot coffee lawsuit. Turns out, hot coffee can burn you. Running in minimalist footwear can injure you.

    If you aren’t careful.

    It takes a long time to transition to minimalist footwear when you have been running in traditional high-heeled jogging shoes your entire life. Mark has always
    been out in the forefront of advising and cautioning everyone in how to make the
    transition. Still I managed to strain a calf muscle doing hill sprints as I was making the transition in VFFs.

    While I love the minimalism and appreciate what it did for lessening the impact of ground strikes as I changed my stride, I never really enjoyed the toe-hugging feeling of VFFs. I eventually transitioned to other minimalist footwear.

    But I suppose this will open up the floodgates for lawsuits against all the big cereal companies for all the supposed health benefits provided by whole wheat and other healthy grains. Well, at least in another fifty years or so.

    Mark Hinnawi wrote on May 19th, 2014
  17. Of course I wasn’t planning on asking for a portion of the settlement. I love all three of my VFFs and my huaraches (Invisible Shoes, now called Xero I believe). BUT, I will be making a claim because I don’t want the unclaimed money going to the AHA. I would rather send it directly to Mark in exchange for Primal Flora.

    Ham-Bone wrote on May 19th, 2014
  18. I can speak first-hand for the need for extreme caution in transitioning to minimalist shoes or barefoot running. I do think minimal/barefoot is great for a lot of people, but I strained my Achilles tendon trying to run in VFFs 4 years ago. I was attempting 1/4 mi at an easy pace every other day in the VFFs, there were no warning signs, and I didn’t even feel any pain until 12 hrs later. I have good months and bad months since then, but I have never been able to re-build any appreciable mileage, and it will likely never fully heal. Consider 6-12 _months_ of just walking barefoot or in zero-drop shoes before even running one step in minimal shoes.

    The Pooch wrote on May 19th, 2014
  19. Thanks for weighing in on this, Mark. I consider myself a barefooter who happens to wear shoes. Barefoot >> homemade sandals > VFFs > Chuck Taylors > hiking boots >> everything else.

    For the last week or so, every time I’m in the gym, someone comes up to me: “Hey, did you hear you can get your money back?” I haven’t been able to stop myself from launching into my diatribe, which covers many of the points you just did, albeit in a less readable, less level-headed manner, with more spittle.

    I worked at a fancy shoe store back in the mid 00’s, and I saw first-hand the effects of a lifetime of wearing ‘the cruel shoes’. Bunions you could pound nails with, crooked toes you could open beer bottles with, feet that had been smooshed into coffins for so many decades, the toes piled up on top of each other, like crabs trying to escape a barrel. For some old ladies, it was impossible for them to walk without something binding their feet together. They couldn’t even TRY ON the birkenstock sandals their podiatrist recommended without severe pain.

    I’m doing it again. Sorry. Rant over. I think that experience was what started it for me. Now, I’m shin-splint free, my arches are way stronger, and my calves look awesome. No thanks to shoes, f@#k you very much.

    Erok wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • This is hilarious (as well as spot-on). Thank you for laugh. I have been rehabbing my bare feet for under a year, so far mostly by walking around barefoot and gripping everything inc the floor. Feels so good and my calves always look buff.

      Sarah wrote on May 20th, 2014
  20. I have 5 pairs of these and wear them every day pretty much: walking, working around the house/garage/yardwork, hiking, walking the dog, even bicycling. My feet and legs ARE stronger, my joints DO hurt less, and after a couple years of wearing them, I COULD run in them if I ran. But I don’t, other than sprinting around chasing my son or dog.

    So since any leftover money will be going to the AHA, who STILL advocate for the hi-grain SAD, I’m going to take as much settlement money as I can get get and then buy some more Vibrams. Talk about making unfounded claims unsupported by evidence, sheesh!!!

    I think it’d be good to give the money back to Vibram, and keep it out of the hands of the traditional “nutrition” advisors who are largely responsible for our current obesity/diabetes/disease epidemic. Plus I’ll get another pair of my favorite shoes out of the deal! No-brainer!!

    Josh wrote on May 19th, 2014
  21. +1 for the Star Wars reference

    Mike wrote on May 19th, 2014
  22. I have a hard time understanding how Vibrams qualify as “minimalist” shoes — there’s an awful lot of synthetic material between your toes, a perfect environment for bacteria and fungus. They remind me of those dreadfully uncomfortable toe-socks that were all the rage in the 70s. I think I wore mine twice and threw them out.

    SumoFit wrote on May 19th, 2014
  23. So after all this brouhaha, do you think the price has come down a bit? Maybe now’s exactly the time to buy some!

    Warren Buffet always says “buy when there’s blood in the streets.” It didn’t work so well for real estate…

    Wenchypoo wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • Baron Rothchild actually made that quote, but it rings true in most cases. When looking at an expensive item, the best thing to happen is a bad (faulty) report on it’s performance or use. Saves you money and weeds out competitors in the market place.

      stefanie wrote on May 19th, 2014
      • So much for me reading the financial news…good thing I quit that and have taken up reading health news instead.

        Wenchypoo wrote on May 20th, 2014
  24. I’ve had a pair since I think 2009 (the VFF Classic), and I love them. I think the thing I like about them the most, though, is that they help counteract the way toes get squashed in normal shoes. Most of my shoes are minimalist (no heel, flexible, thin sole, and wide toe box), but to some degree most of them compress the space between my toes. VFF, on the other hand, encourage (and, in the beginning, gently stretch) the spaces between your toes. I feel like I grab more of the earth. Haha.

    I will say that I wish they still made the Classic model. The other ones seem like a nightmare to put on. Any tips for when I finally buy a new pair?

    Liddlem wrote on May 19th, 2014
  25. I never did fall for Five Fingers fad.

    Joe Bob wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • Hmmm. After about a million years of going barefoot or wearing minimilist protective covering, I think human footwear in the last couple centuries is the real fad.

      Nocona wrote on May 19th, 2014
      • Native-made moccasins and Tarahumara-style huaraches are REAL minimalist footwear.

        SumoFit wrote on May 19th, 2014
        • Heck yeah! I own a few pairs of Tarahumara style huaraches. They are Luna Sandals. The company is based out of Seattle, WA. Check them out!

          This past Saturday 5/17, I ran the “Born to Run” Ultra Marathons in Los Olivos, CA. Luis Escobar, the photographer of the book’s title, is the race director. An epic trail 50k in my huaraches.

          Bryan wrote on May 19th, 2014
  26. I just purchased my first pair of Vibrams about a month ago and love them. I’ve always been the person who prefers to go barefoot, so I haven’t felt much of a transition. However, I have been making sure to take it slow.

    I wasn’t going to participate in the settlement and take the money; however, I love the idea of taking the money and giving it right back to them by buying another pair. I’d far rather do that than give it to the heart association!

    By the way, did anyone else see the Huffington Post news clip about this? When Marc passes the story to Sabrina, he mentions that she has seven pairs of them. When she takes over, she plays dumb and judgmental. Gah, newscasters drive me nuts.

    Giddy Iguana wrote on May 19th, 2014
  27. I believe barefoot is preferable to shoe-clad. But, so much of our environment is hard-surfaced and flat. In a perfect world of rolling grassy hills or a pristine beach, barefoot walking or running is a wonderful natural thing to do and your legs and feet will be being used as they were meant to. But in our hard flat world I think we might need some kind of cushion to prevent the shin splints and a litany of other runner/walker complaints. Way back in high school, when I ran Cross Country, my favorite shoes had just a thin layer of rubber between me and the trail. I especially liked them when we actually ran off road. Hiking trails, logging roads, anything unpaved was great. I felt like I had more “grip” with my foot. But more often than not the races and much of our training was on streets or sidewalks. I ended up enduring shin splints for much of the running seasons. I guess the answer might be to find clean natural areas and run barefoot when you can, and when you find only hard surfaces beneath you, be kind to yourself and use some form of cushioning.

    Rita wrote on May 19th, 2014
  28. I wish I could wear them. Bought a pair years ago but my toes (not toenails, ew, cut them) are too long so I had to return them. This lawsuit is ridiculous. Take the money ans buy motor, that’s a great idea!

    Ginger wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • You should look into Vivos. They have the barefoot sole with a roomy toe box. I wear mine to work and I love them. Merrell also makes a pace glove with a vibram sole–I had mine for 4 years and just recently lost (aka. left) them while camping. I’m probably going to buy another pair of the same ones!

      Stacie wrote on May 19th, 2014
  29. I love the idea behind minimalist footwear. If my work allowed I would wear such shoes. That’s what stops me from purchasing them in the first place.

    At home I love to be barefoot. I go out in the yard and play with the kids in my bare feet.

    I like your cast analogy. Well put.

    C L Deards wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • Try the primal professionals. I’m saving up to buy a pair. Nice minimalist shoe with very professional looking design.

      Jack wrote on May 21st, 2014
  30. I personally think people should have sued long before now over those Vibram multicolored eyesores. I mean, have you looked at the darn things while wearing them? Have you seen what your feet and you look like with those on in the mirror before heading out the door? The mere sight of someone out in public with those on can cause irreparable eye damage or, at the very least, severe migraines.

    Now, where do I collect my $$$$?

    Mary wrote on May 19th, 2014
  31. Thanks for this post and all the reminders about transitioning slowly. I was pretty frustrated at the handful of friends who posted about the lawsuit on my facebook page or sent me a text about it. (What is it with the “see, it’s a scam!” mentality of some people??) Anyway, I’m sharing this right back at them.

    I moved to a barefoot shoe last summer by ordering a pair of Vivos that I could wear at work. I took walks on my lunch break and got used to the different feel, and really worked on NOT heal striking when walking, which feels really weird at first. Now it’s completely natural.

    I didn’t start running in barefoot shoes for probably 3 months after that, but had a pair of Nikes that were sort of minimalist that I ran in while changing my running form to land mid-sole. Knee pain vanished when running, and I found a new source of power in my ankles and calves that I never had before. I actually enjoy running now! I wear a barefoot style shoe 90% of the time now, and even play volleyball in them.

    The big take away? Take. It. Slow.

    Stacie wrote on May 19th, 2014
  32. I have been wearing five finger shoes for three years now. I don’t use them for running, but wear them for my everyday shoes. I have reduced knee and back pain since starting to wear them. If you think about it we were not made to have elevated heals under our feet. Making us change our posture to compensate putting pressure on our knees and back. When I bought my first pair the salesman told me that if I was going to run in them that I needed to take my time getting used to them, run short distances on soft surfaces and build up to longer distances and harder surfaces.

    Love them

    Louis wrote on May 19th, 2014
  33. I never really liked the way VFFs felt when I wore them, but I do have a pair I keep for emergency shoes to wear to the gym. Otherwise I really prefer my Feelmax. I wish Feelmax hadn’t vanished, they had the perfect shoe. Well except that they are so thin my feet burn walking on hot sidewalks.

    Diane wrote on May 19th, 2014
  34. I did a few sprints in my KSOs the first time I wore them. Nothing major as I had never sprinted before. There were twinges. And calf pain galore. I couldn’t go more than 100m. Lordy!! After that I stuck to walking. You know what. I love walking like a kid (playing) in them. Skipping, walking on anything that presents itself – gutter edges, park benches, tree branches/fallen logs, cracks in the pavement etc.
    now I can sprint in mine just fine.
    I currently have a foot injury from a non related incident. My vibrams are the ONLY shoes that cause my foot to not hurt.
    I’m keeping mine. But start slow.

    Jane wrote on May 19th, 2014
  35. I tried vff, but my little toe is practically vestigial, and kept getting numb and cold – too much separation from it’s buddies. Maybe it would have eventually come around, but it worried me so I switched to vivos. LOVED them, but I stand on concrete all day – no minimal footwear is going to work for this situation. I still wear my vivos or low profile sandals everywhere else but work, but have had to compromise with a pair of nanos in the gym (I own a CrossFit box – oh, the horror, I know. I promise we are not evil and stupid). I find the nanos give my toes the room they want, and give my ankles and knees the cushion they need on the hard surface all day.

    Katie wrote on May 19th, 2014
  36. I just walk in mine. My sister, on the other hand, is a long distance runner of long standing. These shoes did not work for her, probably for the reasons you mention.

    The main drawback I’ve encountered is that it’s possible to get really bad poison ivy in them: you accidentally crush the leaves under your feet without knowing it, the juice seeps in, it gets on your skin, and…Sometimes you don’t know it’s there for a day or two and the exposure continues for a few days. Very bad. I am careful now not to step on poison ivy.

    If it happens I just wash the shoes in hot water and it goes away.

    shannon wrote on May 19th, 2014
  37. I’m not a huge fan of VFF themselves, but have been in minimalist footwear for nearly a decade. The transition to proper running, and eventually minimalist footwear, is one that I think is beneficial to all runners. And yes, the adaptation takes a lot longer than most are willing to give it. Sad that many think they can just throw on VFF or other zero-drops and all their problems will go away. Marketing at its worst… there’s work involved. Well-written, Mark.

    Kurt wrote on May 19th, 2014
  38. I am not a runner. I loathe running. But I walk in my vibrams every day and they are sooooo comfortable. That’s all I need and I’m well happy!!

    Shannon wrote on May 19th, 2014
  39. I don’t remember actually going through a transition at all when I got mine. Running with shoes used to result in real trouble going down stairs for a day or so after going for a run due to the knee pain. I have had none of this with the VFFs and I commonly run the half marathon loop near home.
    But then I rarely wear shoes unless I have to (at work) and grew up running barefoot on grassy surfaces. The only reason I don’t still run entirely barefoot is that concrete and bitumen act somewhat like sandpaper on the soles of your feet and I have in the past worn right through the skin.

    On the other hand, my wife – a keen runner – ended up with a stress fracture in her foot after trying them. She has always run with shoes and didn’t take enough time to transition; especially since I had no trouble.
    Unfortunately she can’t run at all now since the cartilage in her knees has gone out.

    Peter wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • Fortunately for your wife, since shoes are some of the earliest (non-stone) human artifacts we find it’s reasonable to expect she’ll be able to obtain shoes for the rest of her (hopefully long) life.

      Rick wrote on May 19th, 2014
  40. Every time I read this posts about how terrible going barefoot is for you I always feel inclined to remind people that if they have been wearing modern, supportive shoes since birth…of course your feet are weak. All of the tendons and muscles in your feet that you should have bee developing all of your life have been under used and now must be trained. It is much like the atrophy caused when you have you leg in a cast. By stuffing your feet into inflexible shows your whole life you have caused major atrophy to them. You wouldn’t expect to take your leg out of a cast and be out running sprints the next day. As with taking your feet our of the splints you have had them in for so long. Start by walking…it will take time. I grew up barefoot and I have never had any trouble with my feet, hips, back or another part of my body as a result of running, sprinting, walking all day in minimalist shoes. On the contrary I once had a running store do that whole gait analysis thing and convince me to by more supportive shoes. I started running in them and after a few runs I ended up with major sciatic pain. Tossed those puppies and when back to running on my toes with flats.

    I hiked half dome in minimalist shoes and when I do it again I am going up the cables barefoot. I regret not doing that the first time. 11 hours of hiking and not one sore anything.

    Laura wrote on May 19th, 2014
    • Myself and my siblings didn’t wear shoes most of the time for the entire summer as we grew up. Even when school was in session in spring and early fall, the shoes would come off as soon as we got home. We ran around everywhere, climbed trees, rode bikes and ran across gravel (you had to work up to that). I think that’s one of the reasons I have no problems with my feet today. I can’t wait to get back to barefoot when the weather gets warm enough. It’s been years.

      Mom used to intone “People who wear shoes do not get hurt feet.” whenever we came to her bleeding from one thing or another. Oh the irony!

      lsh wrote on May 19th, 2014

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