Vibram Five Fingers

22 Nov

Fancy a pair of Vibram Fivefingers?

Fancy a whopping 5% off?

Get an amazing 5% discount as a reader of the Crossfit London UK site.

Simply visit, and and use this discount code crossfit5f


Fivefingers footwear for functional feet


When a new (or some may say very old) concept comes along, it is often met with scepticism and resistance. The barefoot revolution, however, would seem to be an exception to the rule.

Training barefoot has been advocated by many of the leading thinkers in the strength and conditioning industry (Chek 2001, Yessis 1999, McGill 2002), in the running industry (McDougall 2009) and in the rehabilitation sector (Liebenson 2007, Beach 2008, Oschman 2008, Chek 2001, Janda 2007, 1999, Wallden 2008). Nevertheless, there may be those who still maintain an air of concern – after all, we’ve been conditioned to believe that running on hard surfaces requires a cushioned sole; and that an arch needs support under it or it will collapse.

Yet any barefoot runner or gait lab assistant will be able to tell you something very different about the cushioning; just as an architect will be able to tell you something very different about the arch support.

For many years it has been well known that running barefoot is more efficient than running in a pair of running shoes or ‘shod’ (Warburton 1999). More recently, running in a minimalist shoe known as Fivefingers has been identified, similarly, as better than running shod (Squadrone & Gallozzi 2009). However, something intriguing happened in that research study.

To this point, it has always been assumed that the decreased efficiency of walking or running shod (versus barefoot) is down the added weight of a shoe at the end of a very long and swinging lever; the leg. Yet, in the study comparing Fivefingers footwear with barefoot and with running shoes, it was predictably the running shoes that were least efficient (higher oxygen consumption), the barefoot that was second and wearing Fivefingers was, confusingly, the most efficient (Squadrone & Gallozzi 2009).

Why this result came about needs further investigation; perhaps it was to do with the increased grip the Fivefingers offered over barefoot. Certainly it would seem the weight (a modest 6 ounces per shoe) didn’t affect efficiency detrimentally. But why is barefoot, and now Fivefingers, more efficient than shod running (Squadrone & Gallozzi 2009)?

The answer is probably complex, however, there are several clues the biomechanics offer us.

First, going barefoot or barefoot equivalent, results in an increased angle at the ankle joint (ie more plantar flexion) during running, which results in more of forefoot/midfoot strike.

Runners in shoes typically heel strike.

The former is associated with lower joint torques and greater leg stiffness (DeWit et al 2000) a factor which means less energy from the ground reaction force is lost and hence can be utilised in forward propulsion.

Additionally, the ability to use the toes through their full range of motion (allowing at least 65 degrees of extension) means that the windlass mechanism is a means by which energy is stored and then released by the plantar fascia and can be actively engaged, something that running shoes may inhibit.

For more information on Vibram Fivefingers, please go to


Beach P (2008) Contractile fields: a new model of human movement. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies. 2002 12:80 Chek P (2001) Scientific Core Conditioning. 2 day seminar. Maidenhead, UK.

DeWit B, Clercg D, Aerts P. (2000) Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running. J Biomech 2000 Mar;33(3):269-78

Janda V (2007) Sensory Motor Stimulation, in Liebenson: Rehabilitation of the Spine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins pp513:530 Liebenson, C (2007) Rehabilitation of the Spine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins McDougall C (2009) Born to run. Profile books pp168-183

McGill S (2002) Low back disorders. Human Kinetics. Oschman J (2008) Charge transfer in the living matrix. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 13 215-228

Squadrone R, Gallozzi C. (2009) Biomechanical and physiological comparison of barefoot and two shod conditions in experienced barefoot runners. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2009 Mar;49(1):6-13

Wallden M (2008) Rehabilitation and movement re-education, in Chaitow: Naturopathic Physical Medicine.

Elsevier. Warburton M. (2001) Barefoot running. Sportscience 5(3), , 2001 Yessis M (2000). Explosive running. Illinois, USA. Contemporary Books

9 thoughts on “Vibram Five Fingers

  1. I used to be barefoot all the time, before I moved to London about 5 years ago.
    I was definitely in better shape for it and suffered no running injuries such as shin splints and lumber pain, such as I had when previously running in trainers.

    Sadly, barefoot around London just isn’t a viable option (not unless I’m out looking for a few potentially fatal diseases to call my own) so I’m definitely going to look into a pair of fivefingers.

    Good post!


  2. Got ’em! Found a pair of Sprints to fit me and I’m hooked.

    Tried them out over the last 3 sessions and they really do help my stability and control (used to do all my weights barefoot, back in the day).

    Helen did point out that when she wants to go barefoot in the gym, she simply removes her shoes and socks (something to consider if you’re about to shell out the best part of a ton in order to “almost” enjoy a privilege afforded to all at birth) but I used to run barefoot a lot before moving to London and the Vibrams get me close enough to reap the benefits, even on the glass strewn, vomit splattered streets of inner London.

    In conclusion, I am a big fan (probably of the ceiling variety) and would definitely recommend people to give these a try.

  3. Hi,

    I’m looking to but a pair of five fingers while i am in London. Sadly, I’m running out of time here and will probablt have to purchase them on the net. I am a size 8 all of the time. So, I was wondering if they are a small fit? Do I need to upsize/downsize?
    Anybody got any suggestions?

    1. Hi Gerard – there’s no easy answer to this. Typically VFFs tend to be sized smaller than your regular shoe size e.g. your 8 would be a 7 in VFFs. However the fit changes depending on the model chosen e.g. classics are smaller than KSOs

      Your best bet is to look up a local supplier in London and try a few pairs on.

  4. They’re definitely shoes you’ll need to try on before you buy, the sizing is very different from normal shoes, and different models also size differently.

  5. Please post a list of shops in Central London where a selection of Vibrams FiveFingers can be found. Thank you!


  6. Hi Steven
    We are lucky enough to have a showroom in North London that we open to our customers at their convenience.
    If any of your clients or barefoot enthusiasts are looking to try Vibrams before they buy why not direct them our way!
    We have some great new styles coming in March 2011 that have been adapted for Crossfit.
    What do you think?

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