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

Vibram FiveFingers

If you are a regular reader of Mark’s Daily Apple you are probably well aware of those funny looking Vibram FiveFingers by now. They’ve been mentioned in our barefoot running post, featured in a Top 10 Ultimate Fitness Gadgets post and showcased in Mark’s sprinting video. What can we say? We’re huge fans! The only thing FiveFingers hasn’t got is its own post. It is high time this performance footwear we love oh so much got the attention it well deserves, so here goes nothing.

How can these foot protecting oddities be described? I suppose if Toe Socks met Combat Boots, fell in love and had a shoe baby you would have Vibram FiveFingers.


Or maybe if Bunny Slippers wooed Climbing Shoes with her undying charm, and also somehow managed to birth unconventional hybrid foot-protection offspring you would end up with Vibram FiveFingers.


Flip flops and waters sock?

Ballet slippers and cross trainers?

You get the picture. They are the best of both worlds. They provide the physiological benefits of going barefoot with the advantage of having some level of armor against the elements. You don’t have to worry about stubbing your toe, or cutting your feet on glass or other sharp objects you are bound to come across in your travels. And you also don’t have to fret over the damage years of sneaker wearing would invariably do to your feet.

They take some getting use to, and Vibram warns you as much. Most people’s feet have been wrapped in leather, supported by padding, constrained by laces, and pampered since the day they were born. Since when was the double-stitched, steel-toed, double-buckled, laser, orthotic boot a prerequisite to human locomotion? (I just threw in the laser for fun. Though, if you know of a shoe with lasers please comment below. I am very interested.) Not long it turns out. Our feet developed without all this stuff, and they are better off without all this stuff save for minimal and basic defense.

You are bound to get some looks and see some heads turn if you walk around town in these. This probably isn’t of much interest to all of our trend-setting and trailblazing Mark’s Daily Apple readers. Besides, I am sure they are looks of envy rather than utter confusion or concern anyway.

Seriously, though. FiveFingers are light and malleable, yet durable. It’s as if Dr. Scholl went crazy and let his foot gels creep up around the heel and toes like a mutant foot-protecting demon. That’s it. FiveFingers are like a mutant demon that protects your feet. Yet also like your grandma, soft and protective.

Sorry. Back to serious. It should be clear at this point that Vibram FiveFingers are multifaceted, and a perfect gadget to help live the Primal lifestyle. If there is any criticism I can offer it is that they are a bit difficult to get the right size via post. They are adjustable and Vibram does offer pretty detailed guidelines on picking the right size, but best case scenario would entail you trying them on in-shop before purchasing. Also, if you have webbed feet these aren’t for you.

Do you have FiveFingers? How do you like ‘em? Hit us up with a comment!

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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. Danika,
    This may sound like a funny question, and maybe it is, but how long are your tonails? Do they extend past the end of your big toes? This may cause a jamming of the nail back into the toe.

    paul wrote on August 31st, 2009
  2. I’m going to buy a pair for every day walking, gym training, and sprinting. I’m not sure whether I should get the Sprint or KSO variety. Can anyone please advise?

    kirill wrote on September 11th, 2009
  3. I’ve had the FLOW model for about 10 months now. For those having trouble, you really just need time to get used to them. It’s a big change for your feet. At first my toes hurt, everything was sore. Now they are so comfortable and natural I can do anything in them. I wear them with and without the Injinji socks depending on temperature.
    For men, don’t be afraid to try the women’s models if you are having difficulty getting the right size. They have some in-between lengths that may fit better.

    Tom wrote on September 12th, 2009
  4. Paul,
    nope, not that long. I did a little trimming to them once I got the vibrams, but I can only go so far, you know, haha. They are getting a little better so far. I think it just takes some stretching out and being active in them. The more I run in them, the easier they become to wear.

    Danika wrote on September 12th, 2009
  5. Hi guys,

    Does any one know a website that delivers Five Fingers to New Zealand?

    Cheers.

    Kirill wrote on November 7th, 2009
    • Try http://www.fivefingers.co.nz

      Just got a pair of FLOWS. Awesome. Only niggle to date is joint pain in my little toe as it gets used to be straightened out rather than wedged in & twisted. I think the FLOWS are probably best suited to the NZ climate if you want a year round VFF without owning multiple pairs.

      Jamie wrote on January 27th, 2010
      • Awesome! Finally coming to NZ!!!

        kirill wrote on January 28th, 2010
  6. I’ve got webbed feet and i was so desperate for a pair of FiveFingers but obviously i couldn’t wear them :-( I then went on a mission to find something the webbed toes could fit into but still give me the same benefits of going barefoot. I found Feelmax! And have never looked back! I’d deffo recommend anyone to try these out as an alternative to FiveFingers!

    rebecca wrote on December 10th, 2009
  7. I purchased my Vibram KSO’s just a few weeks ago. The first time I ran in them I really felt it in the calves but the following time my calves did not hurt near as much and I pushed it on my time as well. I look forward to wearing them more and running further distances. For around the house and working out, they are great as well.

    Jeff P wrote on December 15th, 2009
  8. Very interested in these “shoes” and plan to get a pair this week. Still debating between flows and kso’s. Then I saw the picture of the high tops at the top of the article. What model are those!?! Those really look awesome for eatly season kayaking as well as all-around winter-wear. It looks like those would be much better suited to winter runs in several inches of snow. Are those available anywhere?

    skunkape wrote on December 26th, 2009
  9. I’ve been wearing my KSOs since late summer but in all honesty, it’s just gotten too damn cold here in New England! Does anyone have any experience with the KSO Treks? Are they even available yet? With or without Injinjis? Snow?

    Happy primal new year!

    elbohead wrote on December 30th, 2009
  10. I have had a pair of the classics since last summer. Mostly wore them for water sports activities, but recently planned to start wearing them at the gym for cardio (treadmill and elliptical) sessions over the winter. The first time I wore them at the gym (national chain), one of the staff came over and said they were not allowed – something to do with a safety issue, if weights or were dropped on your foot or something. As if a normal running shoe would protect your feet from a dumbbell impact…

    Sachem wrote on January 19th, 2010
  11. I own the sprints and the flows – and REALLY wish they made the kso treks for women!
    I’ve worn the sprints around NYC and for crossfit – BIG fan! I’ve gotten them wet several times.
    I’ve worn the flows around in cold weather (though 20F with severe windchill is not recommended – I’ve done it, and my ankles were cold!), and I used them for the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge.. I had to go up a size for these, and even so, it’s harder to get my feet in and feel comfortable.

    I did try on both the classic and KSO, and found my high arches to be a problem… with the classic, my arches were above the top of the shoe, and with the KSO, it was really hard to get the shoe on without my calf cramping up.

    My friend has the treks and loves them – she (large feet = mens size) wears them everywhere in NYC during winter, but has yet to get them wet.

    I totally didn’t ease into them like the manufacturer suggests (I spend a lot of time barefoot – dancing, around the home, etc., walked on gravel and rough pavement barefoot as a kid – even walked around the Stanford campus barefoot for a day as a teenager), but I had no problems other than feeling the muscles work after a LOOONG (longer than intended) day in them.

    Judy wrote on January 24th, 2010
  12. Absolutely love my Vibram Sprint. I wear a 43 and after a week of wearing them, it felt like a second skin.
    Never had a better shoe for trail running and climbing. Make sure to keep your toenails short to prevent soreness. I would highly recommend them.

    Jason wrote on February 8th, 2010
  13. Just got a pair of these funny shoes… im not sure if they fit right. How tight are they supposed to be? I wore the shoe thingys around the house for about 3hrs and when i took them off i had the markings of the elastic on the tops of my feet. Is that too tight??

    Thanks

    raygazzman wrote on March 10th, 2010
  14. Howdy! I’ve got a pair of the sprints and have been wearing them on and off, building up to trail running. They’re pretty comfortable, but walking around town I’ve noticed that on my left foot, the joint of the middle toe that attaches to the ball of my foot is getting quite sore. Not sure what to do about this. My left foot is also a tad bigger than my right, and all of the toes on my left foot feel just a smidge cramped in vibrams, but don’t appear to be forced into a non-natural position.

    Has anybody else experienced that same type of pain in the ball of their foot/metatarsal joint?

    Julie wrote on March 18th, 2010
    • Hi,

      I just bought a pair of sprints, and I have the same soreness on my right foot, at the metatarsal/2nd toe joint. Has yours improved at all?

      Aylin wrote on July 7th, 2010
  15. I’ve had a pair of Classics for about a month and love mine. I workout in them, wear them around the house, and even out and about. If I need to wear “shoes” I put on my Chucks. But that usually only happens about once a month.

    I’d like to get a few more pairs. I want to try the KSOs or sprints I think.

    How often do you all wash yours? Mine get kind of smelly after about 2 or 3 days.

    Russ Hutto wrote on April 16th, 2010
  16. I have a pair of KSOs. Love them. Will probably get a pair of flows for colder weather though.

    And I always wear mine with toe socks, so much less smelliness.

    Pliauga wrote on April 17th, 2010
  17. I have a pair of Kso’s I’ve had them for about 3 months now. I run about 3 -4 times a week in them took me a while to get up to 4+ miles without my calves wanting to die. You can wear them if you have a morton’s toe (your second toe is longer than your big toe) they do stretch a bit in the toes.

    My friend has a webbed toe and he owns a par, he just cut out part of the toe and restitched them. I thought they looked hideous before but with his webbed toe he just looks hysterical.

    Adam Gainer wrote on May 10th, 2010
  18. I love getting close to nature, but not too close. Toe shoes are great, but Gistwear has one with a zipper; keeps the dirt of my feet. All the benefits without the drawbacks! It’s not Fivefingers though but I love my Gists.

    Tara wrote on May 11th, 2010
  19. Great minds must think alike.

    I started using Vibrams a few months before I even knew about MDA or the Primal Blueprint.

    I wear them everywhere, and, yes, people look at you.
    But they also ask you about them.

    Charles wrote on May 11th, 2010
  20. Actually, I have a 2-3 syndactyly (second toe webbed to the third). Any relief?

    freddy wrote on May 17th, 2010
  21. OK, will check out FeelMax.

    freddy wrote on May 17th, 2010
  22. My Favorite Five-Fingers moment to date:

    Walking into a local coffee shop in my Five-Fingers as a mother and her son (about 4 yrs old) were walking out. The boy notices my shoes and says quite loudly: “Mom, that lady has FUNNY shoes!” The poor mother (who had not seen my shoes) was obviously MORTIFIED and hustled her child off before I could laugh and clarify – it’s ok, they are funny shoes! :)

    Needless to say, I wear my five-fingers all over the place and love them.

    Laura wrote on May 25th, 2010
  23. My second and third toes are webbed on both feet. I got a pair of Fivefinger Sprints, and I just took a scissor to the cloth in between the corresponding “toes” on the shoes. It worked great and I wear them now everyday. This is especially fortunate, as I live in China and, while Fivefingers are available here, Feelmaxs seem not to be.

    Nico wrote on June 15th, 2010
  24. I’ve had the KSOs for about 2, maybe 3 months now. I’m having trouble getting my form down.

    I’ve had a problem with blisters on my big toes and on the balls of my big toes. I got iniji socks which helped a bit, and after consciously experimenting with different running forms, I can run 7 miles without blisters. But afterward, they still feel more tender than I’d like as I want to match the mileage I get in normal running shoes.

    I’ve also noticed pain in my left little toe, like maybe I’m impacting too hard on it.

    Lastly, and this may be what contributes to blistering, but I have a VERY hard time running downhill. In normal shoes downhill is liberating, easy. While high-impact, I can ride my momentum. In Vibrams I feel like I’m constantly breaking. I have to run slower because I can’t absorb the impact, and my toes start rubbing much more.

    Any advice? I’ve looked online for proper forefoot form, but I really need details. Should my feet be pointed out? straight? In? Should I be leaning forward like I’ve heard? Do I land on the balls of my outer toes and sort of roll in? Can too severe of a roll be the cause of my problems?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
    Jeff

    Jeff wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • Jeff,

      Maybe you need to slow down your progression with VFFs. First, it sounds like you’re not so confident about your ability to control your run downhill. Why are you breaking?

      How about gently running down a soft, grassy downhill, incrementally increasing the distance as well as the grade?

      There is a gentleman in the UK who runs pilatesrunning.org that has instructional videos on how to run better barefoot and in VFF. I cannot find the link to his videos done with a journalist … maybe you’ll have more luck in your Google search.

      Cheryl wrote on June 27th, 2010
  25. I use the KSO’s and they are friggin’ awesome. I train MMA and the calf workout I get just from running during the first few weeks was more intense than even doing calf raises and lunges.

    Definitely a worthwhile investment.

    Romeo wrote on June 27th, 2010
  26. I just got some KSO’s. I ordered them directly online from Vibram’s web site. I’m not really sure if they are too tight or not yet, I think they’ll be okay. I don’t like how short the strap is though, it isn’t long enough and leaves a lot of exposed scratchy velcro. I think I should have gotten the basic ones, but I was worried about running. Vibram’s site sucks for contacting them, as they have a 160 character limit on messages!

    On another note… Running seems intuitive. However, how do you train your body how to WALK in them? I feel SO weird just trying to walk, that I almost want to just run everywhere instead.

    Wish I Were Riding wrote on June 30th, 2010
    • Hopefully you had the right website! There ARE fake websites for vibrams that are very convincing, but the shoes they sell are lower quality and don’t fit right and can rip or tear easily, or even hurt the wearer! Go to birthdayshoes.com for a list of counterfeit sites and real ones too! I believe the real Vibram site has a map at the beginning that you have to click on your country, if the home page of the site isn’t that one, then it’s a fake.. Just go to rockcreek.com and compare your websites photos to theirs.. Assuming they didn’t copy and last the real thing onto their site, thats one way to spot fakes. Not saying yours are or anything, but it’s certainly possible.. They almost got me! Rule of thumb, I they’re cheaper than the usual 100 bucks, (with exception of occasional online sales), then they’re fake!

      Matt wrote on June 13th, 2011
  27. Wish I Were Riding,
    It does feel strange trying to walk in them at first. If you are accustomed to the heal strike then this will make for an uncomfortable jarring pattern. Try shortening your stride and allowing the foot to gently land more all at once.

    Focus on relaxing the foot and not pulling the toes up so hard before planting the foot.

    Walking barefoot or in fivefingers also lets one quickly discern whether or not one has adequate movement in the pelvis/hips/back.

    Explore slight movement of the pelvis side to side. This takes much of the impact out of the spine. If this is difficult, you may want to look at ways of opening up your abductors.

    Next explore a gentle rocking front to back movement of the pelvis. As a leg swings forward a balanced pelvis will exhibit a gentle lengthening down the lumbars, then as the leg goes back, an arching of the lumbars occurs.

    Finally play with counter rotations of legs and arms. If all of this is a little challenging to comprehend, you may want to contact a local Rolfer or Structural Integrator. They can help you with this.

    Paul wrote on June 30th, 2010
  28. The Vibram size measurer indicated I needed a size 39. When that size became available, I tried it on but both little toes felt very scrunched. I purchased a size 40 Classic but now when I walk on forest trails up and down hills, my left little toe hurts horribly. I am so disappointed because I have so many foot problems and really wanted these to work.

    jalgal66 wrote on July 19th, 2010
    • Get them snug… They will stretch… That’s my experience anyway. Started with a treksport 41, cuz they felt better than a 40… Now I wear them less than my others, cuz they stretched and the heel has a sort of folded in spot.. I now buy size 40 since I know how they fit… :)

      Matt wrote on June 13th, 2011
  29. Both REIs in my area are chronically out of these (they claim they sell out in 1 hour when they get a shipment), so I stood on their officially Vibram Fivefinger foot-shaped size-measurer and it told me I was a 42/43. I went ahead and order the 43 and when it arrived several weeks later it was comically small. I could barely get it on, and when I did, my feet were bunched and my toes were curled up. It was like trying on a little kid’s shoe for laughs. So I sent them back and ordered 45s. I just got these and I’m worried that they’re too small too. They seem just about long enough, but they are VERY snug in the toes. I wore them around the house for about 15 minutes and then took them off and my toes were beet red.

    I’m afraid if I go up another size they’ll be took loose in the heel. How much will the toes stretch out?

    Eli wrote on July 22nd, 2010
  30. I would absolutely go for a bigger size if they are hurting your toes. I had the same problem when I got mine and just thought they needed to stretch out a bit, which they did, but never quite enough. I eventually ended up having to stop wearing them because they were giving me pretty bad blisters after about 3 miles when I ran because of being too tight. I plan on getting a new, bigger pair at the end of the summer though

    Danika wrote on July 23rd, 2010
  31. I’m pretty sure Nike makes these “natural” fitting shoes now.. I forget what they’re called tho. My buddy bought a pair though and he said he loved them.

    Bill wrote on July 25th, 2010
  32. I just got my fivefingers in the mail (of course our REIs didn’t have them in stock) and was able to run 3 miles with some speed work, no problem. I was already landing on my midfoot — the Vibram shoes forced me to shorten and increase my strides per minute. The Nike Free might also be OK, but I tried the Terra Plana shoes when I was in London and it was extremely difficult to find the right size and they were very expensive. I would stick with the fivefingers.

    Terri wrote on August 4th, 2010
  33. i ordered a pair of the sprint’s, and can’t seem to get them on! my toes seems to be too stubby and curved under. any suggestions?
    susan

    susan wrote on August 8th, 2010
  34. Susan,
    I had difficulties at first too. You may want to try this approach:
    Start with getting the toes in first.Don’t pull the heel on until all the toes are in each pocket. I start with the big toe getting it in line, and only partially inserted, then the next, all the way down to the pinky toe. Once all toes are lined up, I spread the toes and pull the the mesh (just above the toes) back towards the heel. Then I grasp the bottom of the toes and pull gently back. Finally I put the heel on. The better one is at spreading their toes, the easier this becomes.Good luck!

    Paul wrote on August 9th, 2010
    • thanks paul, i will try your suggestions. my left foot seems to be easier than the right for some reason!

      susan wrote on August 10th, 2010
  35. Are these shoes good for high arches? because I am a cross country runner in high school so if someone could answer my question through my email I would appreciate it.
    a7twin@yahoo.com

    Alonso wrote on August 19th, 2010
  36. a7twin,
    Going to the official website may get you more information about appropriate wear for runners with high arches. One of the chief concerns for high arches is that there may be a shortness and rigidity to the feet (plantar fascia) that does not allow for a natural springiness in the feet/arches. If this is the case, it may create certain challenges. You will want to look into making sure the feet and calves (the calves create much of the integrity of the feet) become more supple and very gradually work your way into wearing five fingers. I have a fairly neutral gait with medium supple arches and after my first run in 5 fingers (only 15 minutes long at a moderate pace) my calves were sore for two days.

    Paul wrote on August 21st, 2010

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