I recently bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. I just couldn’t help it. After reading books like Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, I was pretty intrigued with the idea of allowing the foot to flex to better absorb shock. And I’ve been interested in barefoot technology ever since I picked up my first pair of Nike Frees years ago. I don’t have running injuries, as McDougall did (his plantar fascitis disappeared completely when he started running in FiveFingers). In fact, I’m not even a runner. But who wouldn’t want to buy a shoe that would encourage toe wiggling (great stress relief) or that you can wear toe socks with? Anyway, I promised to report back, so here we go.
Sizing: You can’t really just buy a pair of these shoes based on your normal shoe size. The Vibram website has their own sizing procedure which involves measuring the heal to the toe. I tried this and ordered a pair online and it was a size too big, as you really want these shoes to fit like a glove without extra toe space like you’d want in most sneakers. Others have reported getting a size too small based on the ruler sizing method. So I’d really recommend going to a store for sizing, or to check out the return policy closely. (And since there are fake FiveFinger knock-offs, make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller if you do buy online).
Getting Them On: I have to admit this is easier said than done. First you have to press your toe against the toe pad at the very end of the shoe, and once the toes are in you can put in the heal (and then tighten the shoe if necessary). Although my left shoe slides on fairly easily, the right one will take a few minutes. Apparently the shape of my ring toe and pinky toe are too curved, or something. Anyway, it’s not really a problem unless I am running late or in a hurry, but can be a bit annoying. I’m hoping it’ll become easier over time, but we’ll see.
Comfort: This is where Vibrams really shine. They are SO comfortable. You can definitely feel bumps and textures in the ground more than you would in other footwear selection, but never in a way that is painful. To be fair, I alternate my FiveFingers with sandals and walking barefoot around the house, and so I haven’t had any negative repercussions I’ve heard about from people who switched from shoes with padded heals to FiveFingers overnight (and wore them all day long) so of course, your mileage my vary.
Style: Looking cool isn’t really my area of expertise, but I always thought the shoes looked kind of neat. I also don’t really mind standing out a bit (and since I’ve found myself living in a small, close-minded town, it’s pretty much inevitable.) Having said that, the black definitely blend better than the lavender I’d originally wanted to purchase, which was a bit too conspicuous–even for me.
Uses: I’ve used the Classics in the gym (where I mostly just throw heavy weights around) and on hikes, and they’ve worked well. There’s a big complicated list on the VFF site of which exercises are recommended for which shoes. This is probably more important if you’re interested in, say, distance running.
Cost: I spent I think $75 on my shoes, not including shipping and handling. Not too shabby.
There you have it! If you’ve got any questions, or anything to share about your own pair, leave ’em in the comments.