There are a lot of shoes in the world, and Vibrams are some of the strangest. As a result, you may be wondering what it’s like to wear them. This Vibram FiveFingers Review goes into detail of my own experience discovering and wearing this funny line of footwear.
Strange Shoe Sightings
The first time I saw Vibram FiveFingers shoes I scrunched up my face and thought “EW what is that lady wearing?!” An athletic woman in yoga pants and a windbreaker walked past me with bright green “shoes” that looked like rubberized toe socks. Did aliens land in her closet and force her to start wearing their weird footwear?
“Who would pay for those?!” I laughed to myself as I watched her walk away. A few weeks went by and I completely forgot about that strange encounter…
Struggling In The Mud
Then one Saturday about a month ago, I found myself on a super muddy, and extremely slippery hiking trail in the mountains. I was about 1/3 of the way up and my legs felt like a quivering pair of giant jiggly jello molds. Man was I struggling to grip the trail with my cross trainers, which normally worked great on hikes.
There I was crawling along the path like a turtle so I wouldn’t slip, when 2 couples suddenly blew past me. What the? How were they able to speed past me? Was I really that out of shape, or did they just have no fear of slipping and falling on their butts, or worse on their face?!
Alien Shoe Invasion
As they flew past me, I happened to glance at their feet and noticed 1 guy was hiking completely bare foot (really?!) and the other 3 people were wearing those funny looking alien shoes! Maybe these folks were on to something. Hmm, could those rubbery barefoot-like shoes be the perfect solution to the lack of trail grip I was struggling with? I was suddenly intrigued by this odd looking footwear, which I’d been mocking just a few weeks prior, and decided to go to my local sports shop the next day to check them out for myself.
When I arrived the next day, I was blown away the store had an entire wall of those shoes, which I then discovered are made by Vibram and are called FiveFingers (I guess TenToes would have been too boring a name, lol).
The Right Way To Put On Vibram FiveFingers Shoes
Anyway, I got my feet measured (they don’t use standard US sizes) and a few pairs to try on. Man you should have seen my face squish up as I struggled to put the first pair on! Haha, I felt like I had 10 toes on each foot as I tried to push and pull my toes to line up with the pockets. Clearly I was doing it wrong.
I quickly learned the key is to put your heel in last. Start out with the front half of your foot in the shoe, then slowly wiggle your toes forward to where the toe pockets start. Line up your toes in the opening of each pocket and then slowly slide your foot forward. Finish by pulling up the heel of the shoe and securing the strap on top (if there is one). Phew – SO much easier!
Relief & Excitement
When you finally get both of your feet fully strapped into a pair of FiveFingers for the first time, you’ll feel like shouting “Horray!” It kinda reminds me of trying to open a tricky bag of chips. You feel like a total idiot struggling to open the bag until you finally find the one magic spot and YES! voila the bag is open. When all 10 toes make it into all 10 pockets it’s easy to find yourself letting out a big “aaah” as a smile spreads across your face.
After I got my Vibram’s on, they felt a little bit strange in the toes at first, but after I took a quick lap around the store, I was surprised at how good they felt! All of my toes felt active and energized like I had an extra spring in my step. I decided to buy the TrekSport style because I liked the pad on the achilles, the coverage on the metatarsals, and the rugged sole that can hold up on trails. Cost before tax = $99 (not bad!)
Hiking Rocks In FiveFingers!
I wore them hiking for the first time several weeks ago and now I absolutely LOVE them! Ok, yes I still think they look like funny alien shoes and it’s a little embarrassing wearing them on the street because mine are bright pink (my husband’s idea for me to get the loudest ones, lol), but they’re so worth all the quizzical looks and questions from strangers because of how they feel and have strengthened my feet.
Hiking is one of my favorite things to do outdoors because I love being immersed in nature. The great thing about hiking in FiveFingers is the connection you feel with the Earth. You can feel the ground right beneath your feet and it’s so much easier to grip the trails having full mobility in each of your toes. It feels just as good as walking barefoot without the risk of getting cuts and scrapes. Running in FiveFingers feels good too and the shoes really help you push off from the balls of your feet instead of your heels.
It’s All In The Balls
Yes it sounds weird at first to run on the balls of your feet, but WOW what a difference it makes! I was taught to walk/run “heel toe, heel toe,” always putting my weight in my heels when they strike the ground. It’s painful to walk and run that way for more than a few minutes (especially barefoot) and I’m so glad Vibram’s are strengthening all the muscles in my feet and helping me to walk more midfoot and run on the forefoot.
Now don’t just take my word for it – even if you’re not interested in buying the shoes you gotta try this out. Take 1 minute to stand up right now, take your shoes off, and run across the room and back. Did you notice where your weight went? On the balls of your feet! It’s natural and so much better for our bodies to move this way. Heavy heel striking hurts and tires you out much faster.
Other Reasons Why Vibrams FiveFingers Rock
+ No need for socks, but you can wear toe socks if you want
+ Entirely machine washable
+ Your lower legs & feet will get stronger
+ Increased range of motion
+ Less risk of injury
+ Balance and agility will improve
+ Posture will improve
+ You’ll feel stronger in just a few weeks
+ People will check you out, from toe to head 🙂
+ Many Vibram styles are vegan
If you do go out and buy a pair, just be careful not to overdo it right away. It takes time for your body and muscles to adjust to this natural method of movement, especially runners, so start slow and build up to your normal mileage gradually.
Where To Buy Vibram FiveFingers
Many sports stores that carry hiking shoes will carry Vibrams. It helps to be able to try on different styles and sizes while you’re there. But if you can’t find a sporting goods shop in your area that carries them, there are tons for sale on Amazon in all sorts of styles like the below:
I am a huge fan of Vibrams. I like to wear mine with toe socks when I go hiking, especially since a lot of the trails where I live can be a bit chilly when it’s foggy outside. Vibrams are so easy to take on trips. As a result, I used them on a month long trip backpacking across Asia – it was awesome!
Untemplaters, have you seen people wearing FiveFingers before? Do you already own a pair? Are you a heavy heel striker?
Vibrams FiveFingers Review
Vibrams FiveFingers footwear is some of the strangest looking around. Appearance aside, these shoes are excellent for hiking trails and travel.
Great article Sydney! My recommendation for all of you potential FiveFingers hikers – do it! I’ve been hiking with my KSO Treks in very rugged British Columbia – actually did a 22k hike up Alouette Mountain in Golden Ears Provincial Park – the last 3k of which was in 4ft of hard packed SNOW (yes..in July). It was a little cold, but had no problems with slipping, etc. And you are so right – they make great conversation starters!
Overall, the benefits in stability and agility due to the strengthening of support muscles that have been underused due to being cradled in a shoe/boot that artificially provided this support are just too many to overlook. Yes, they take getting used to – but in the long run – are so good for lower leg/ankle strength and stability.
22k WOW!! Way to go Jeff!! That sounds like one amazing experience.
My ankles have gotten stronger too as has my balance. I can actually do the tree pose in yoga now, whereas before I started wearing my VFFs, I would fall out of position instantly.
I actually also saw a guy wearing FiveFingers on TV yesterday in the American Ninja Warrior finals. (I feel so embarrassed saying I watched that show, haha. I was just flipping channels I swear!) 🙂 Anyway, it goes to show that Vibrams are great for serious athletes as well as for casual users like me.
Invest It Wisely says
Barefoot? That’s hilarious… but yeah, I’ve started reading of the benefits of going barefoot, or almost barefoot, and after all we did evolve in an environment without shoes.
The more I wear them the less I like regular shoes! Although I haven’t worn my Vibrams for more than a couple hours at a time so I’m not sure what they would feel like if I wore them for 8 hours in a row. I’ve noticed a lot of other shoe companies copying the Vibram designs now. I saw several pairs at an Adidas store last week that look very similar to VFF. That means demand is growing!
If you wear them the whole day, you basically forget that they are there, as simple as that. I am preparing to do the Camino de Santiago (a pilgrimage here in Spain) next week, and I will do the 10 day walk entirely in my KSOs. The different weekend trips I did during the past weeks to test it out were great. I suppose the hard thing will be to transition back to “client-facing” shoes when I am back to civilization.
Wow that’s incredible Valentina. How exciting! It sure would be nice if one day VFFs are considered as appropriate client shoes. 😉
Best of luck on your pilgrimage!! Take lots of pics!
Car Negotiation Coach says
Sydney, I’ve been eyeing up these shoes for a year or two after reading about them on Tim Ferris’s site. I think I may pull the trigger before my next vacation that has some hiking elements to it. My only concern is they look like you could easily jam a toe into the ground (I broke my toe twice this way playing basketball in running shoes….huge mistake not wearing basketball shoes). But maybe I’m way off and that shouldn’t be a concern. I guess I’ll find out!
If you decide to get a pair make sure to get used to wearing them several weeks before your trip so you won’t be sore on vacation! I haven’t jammed a toe in mine yet but I have been stepped on accidentally and it hurt! The toes have rubber tips so I’m sure it’s possible to jam a toe into a rock or something but I think that’s a lot less likely than a basketball injury. Sometimes I get leaves stuck between the toes and i can’t help but laugh. 🙂
Everyday Tips says
I saw these on the internet about 6 months ago and found them intriguing. I love being barefoot and spend most of the summer without shoes or socks at home. The thought of putting these little toe apparati (is that a word? apparently not because it is underlined in red, oh well.) and running on a trail sounds wonderful.
Do you feel painful rocks and such? How much buffer does it provide vs. hiking barefoot?
Great article. I am definitely intrigued. I don’t really have anywhere to hike unfortunately…
I hike on all types of trails many of which have rocks of varying sizes. I wouldn’t want to hike totally barefoot because of that and the fact that there are often “surprises” from dogs and horses that have passed through. I haven’t said ouch yet walking over sharp rocks although I do feel them through the soles. I definitely feel safe wearing them over all sorts of terrain that I wouldn’t be comfortable hiking over with completely bare feet. Even if you don’t go hiking much they feel great walking around on the street. And they sell lots of different styles some with thicker soles than others. It really helps to try several pairs on in the store so you can see which style is the most comfortable.
Ryan Knapp says
You mention above about walking heel-toe. That is how we are supposed to walk. When you run, that is a different story. Vibrams force you to land on your forefoot when you run because your body will naturally do that. If you run on a treadmill in sneakers and then run barefoot, you’ll naturally land on your forefoot sans shoes.
Good rules of thumb:
When you walk: heel-toe
When you run (normal pace) forefoot
When you sprint: toes
Good tips Ryan! I’m trying to walk more mid strike now when I’m barefoot b/c my heels get too sore when I walk heel toe because I still have a tendency to heavy heel strike.
I’ve had my pair for a couple of months now (in hunter orange!) and love them! I’m not a runner, but they work wonderfully for hiking, canoeing and generally being out and about.
My only complaint is that mine tend to smell rather quickly. I’m going to pick up some toe socks and see if that helps. My expectation is that it will, because I generally have trouble going sockless.
Hunter orange – sweet! As for the smell, try getting some Efferdent (those fizzy denture tablets). Plop some tablets into a bucket or in the sink and let your VFFs soak for 15 minutes or so. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet myself but I’ve heard it really helps remove the smell!
Being really into minimal shoes, would love to try a pair. But I’ve got a pair of webbed toes on one foot, and I’m not willing to do something like modify the shoes – or myself – for a funky pair of shoes… 🙂
That said, I found a way to get my feet closer to the ground with Merrell’s Barefoot shoes, which use a Vibram sole without, well, the toes. My feet took a little pounding the first few days, but once I learned how to walk without all that damn padding, I’m loving ’em! 😉
I tried Merrell’s barefoot shoes at the store too and they are a great alternative to VFFs. I’m glad they’re working well for you!
I’ve been thinking about getting a pair of these for awhile. I know some other bloggers who love them. They use them for running. I might have to find a store here and go try on a pair.
They definitely are worth checking out especially if you like to run and exercise outdoors. When I was in the store looking for mine a couple wandered by and told me how much FiveFingers have changed their feet for the better and improved their running. Everyone I’ve met who’s tried them loves them so far. The runners especially strongly advise to swith slowly. One guy got a knot so bad in his calf he had to go to a massage therapist to get he knot out because he went for a huge run the day he bought them. I started out wearing mine at home for a few hours before venturing outside for the first time. They have lots of different styles and colors to choose from now which is cool too. Let me know what you think if you get a pair. 🙂
Financial Samurai says
One of the best things about the shoes is how EASY they are are to pack vs. the hiking boot clunkers!
Also, when I sprain my ankles, it’s because my foot is flat and lifted by a platform. With the VFFs, my foot contours and I never sprain my ankles. That in it of itself is so worth it to me!
To spread my toes out is such a wonderful feeling. Hooray!
Yes so true about them being easy to pack and they are so light weight! That’s awesome you aren’t spraining your ankles anymore! I’ve rolled mine a few times in my cross trainers and it’s the worst feeling. Being lower to the ground and being able to hug the road/trails feels so good.
I don’t own a pair, but whomever I’ve met, swears by it! I might try it while hiking. Thanks for the objective review!
They really are great for hiking and help keep your feet cool too because of the mesh material and no real need to wear socks. I was going to buy a pair of Merrell hiking shoes before I saw so many hikers wearing the Vibram’s and I’m glad I went with the FiveFingers. I don’t worry if they get muddy or not too because it’s easy to wash them. They say you can put them in the washing machine but I like to scrub mine in the kitchen sink and then let them air dry in the dish washer racks.
I have the green ones and I love them. It is true that people start looking at you more closely, so it is a good training to become indifferent to curious looks… or start conversations with random strangers, because you have something to talk about. I use them for my morning run at the beach and I find that they have improved a lot my back problems. They kind of counter balance the heels I wear to work. I also use them in winter at home, when it is too cold to walk around only on socks. Very recomendable!
They really are a fun conversation starter. I got hit on by a guy at a street fair recently when I was out wearing mine and also struck up several conversations with other FiveFinger wearers and curious bystanders. I’ve learned to enjoy watching people’s expressions when I walk by with them on. It’s quite funny to see their faces. 🙂
That’s awesome you’ve seen an improvement in your back problems!
READ the book “Born To Run”. One of the best books I ever read…and really looks into the vibram/barefoot benefits and studies a tribe cut off from civilization that contains the best runners in the world, but who never get foot problems and can run on rocky terrain. Just look it up on Amazon…
Cool, two strong recommendations for the book – I will definitely check it out! I watched some videos of people running with and without running shoes in slow motion and it’s amazing how different the strides look! I don’t hink I’ll ever buy a pair of “normal” running shoes again.
I bought my Five Fingers about a year ago after hearing Christopher MacDougall talking about them. He wrote the book Born To Run (a must read) , and was giving a talk at our local community college. I liked them so much that I bought my wife a pair a few days later. She loves being barefoot but living in the city discourages such behavior due to trash, glass, nails, etc. We love the comfort and the feeling of sensing exactly what is happening under our feet. Haven’t gone back to our old running shoes yet. Make sure you take it easy as you break your feet and legs into the new shock absorption and running style. I went a bit crazy the first three days and my feet killed me for two weeks. Enjoy!
That’s so neat you got to hear Christopher MacDougall speak! Feeling the ground through FiveFingers is amazing. They’ve also made me a better hiker because I’m more careful to avoid stepping on sharp rocks because those don’t feel so good through the soles. Glad to hear you and your wife are VFF fans and that your feet are fully adjusted now. Thanks for the book recommendation!