Vibram Five Fingers: The almost barefoot truth

25 Jul

The fact that I have for some time worn Vibram Five Fingers occasionally, and that I’m one of the few genuine barefoot runners in London means, apparently, that I ought to have  a “position” on Vibrams.

For what they are worth, here are my personal Vibrams views.

They are not universally cool (yet) and as Graham discovered it’s quite possible to parade up and down in front of your girlfriend and be greeted by the words “gawd, I can taste sick in my mouth.”

There is a little way to go before be-gloved toes gain public acceptance.

Apparantly, according to Ken, if the police pull you over while driving and notice you are wearing them, they’ll caution you. I’ll have to check this. But I’ve trained with Ken for a while and I’m sure he would not lie to me about something so trivial. So don’t wear them to drive. My most recent pair of  Vibrams still have a cycle incident tear in them’  from when I caught my foot between the pavement edge and the pedal. Steven managed to break three toes while doing a gymnastic-ey bar thing while wearing them: so we should caution against driving, cycling and gymnastic-ey things while wearing them.

But we can , of’course, recommend them for going barefoot.

Urm, no not really.

Most people heel strike, with their foot out in front of them. Sure barefoot and Vibrams quickly stop you doing that, but most people convert to a ball of the foot “in front of you” strike that will screw your calf muscles very quickly. So I have to recommend that you learn a natural way of running be it POSE or Crossfit Endurance first (actually a plug opportunity: I’m qualified in both of those things) before you start running in Vibrams.

If you fancy strollling about in them as an alternative to flip flops,  oh why not. You can get in on all that “back to nature” stuff… you will feel the Chi flowing

They are easy to clean (bung them in the washing machine) which is just as well, as they quickly stink (it’s that rubber sweat combo).

It’s a pain getting the right size. Vibrams are mainly an internet phenominan so you need to know your own shoe size, and check up with the supplying company what their return  terms are. I own two pairs of Vibrams. Both are too small. Couldn’t  be bothered to return them (What? Repack them, queue  up in the post office, wait  in for couriers….but some people love this sort of thing).

There is much sizing advise around that includes one size less then your “normal” shoe size,  foot diagrams  and charts…do a mix and guess.

If you intend to lift in them, you had better have excellent ankle flexibility.

The biggest draw back is this: unless they fit perfectly, the chances are they will tug on your big toe. Not too awful you may say. But, if you go to our adult gymnastic classes (gosh, another plug) Amelia will,  if she see you struggling with an arabesque, tell you to lift your big toe up. This makes you supinate, which means, among other stuff, you get more stability. The problem is that most natural running styles rely on you harvesting  ground reaction forces (among other stuff). If your feet are forced to supinate because your big toe is being pulled in/up,  the opportunity to get ground reaction is very diminished. This is a bad thing.

So are they the best thing since sliced bread, No. Will you probably buy a pair? Probably yes, especially as prices are coming down, and alternatives are appearing.

3 thoughts on “Vibram Five Fingers: The almost barefoot truth

  1. For the record I actually broke my toes in a Vibram/knees-to-elbows related accident. As my legs swung down (from a albeit too low bar) the rubber ends of the Vibrams caught on the flooring curling my toes over. This would have been ok had I not decided to let go of the bar at the same time. This resulted in my full weight landing on my now curled over toes. It certainly smarted, somewhat.

  2. I run barefoot or in Vibram KSOs using the Chi Running technique. I actually transitioned from shod running in the Chi Running form, ran a half marathon, and then figured it was time to ditch the shoes. The Chi Running form really helps to prevent a foot in front of the hips strike, even while barefooting. Check out my blog at for my experiences.

  3. Yep I concur even when a perfect fit is aquired (runners need do them in victoria) I still get some magnificent blisters when sprinting they don’t handle sharp stones in the lakes very well either! I have reverted back to my skinny sole 70s retro trainers for running now! On a positive note I have had numerous people tell me how cool they are and asking me where I got them from!

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