Barefoot running update plus Vibram Five Fingers

posted by Russ, December 5 in outside with tags , ,


For maybe 4 or 5 months now I’ve been experimenting with barefoot running. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t bore you with any old details. However, I am happy to report that after nursing my calf injury back to health, I’ve been able to get out and run 4-5 days a week now, mostly on rocky trails in the canyons near my house. I’ve not been going totally barefoot, but instead until last week have been going with just a pair of Speedo water socks. They provide adequate protection from the ground (from both the rocks in the trails and from the debris on the roads) and also are minimal enough that I’ve been able to adapt my running style and moderately strengthen my feet, ankles, and calves.

Because I’m still fairly new to “barefooting”, I haven’t been going more than 3 miles at a time, but the runs are feeling good, and for the first time in basically my whole life, I am able to enjoy running and am also able to do it pain free. I used to have all sorts of issues, tight calves, shin splints, muscle cramps, and the only way I was able to put any miles on was by stetching like crazy and slowly working at it.

So now come the Vibram Five Fingers. Initially I wasn’t going to buy them because I just didn’t want to spend the money, and figured the water socks were a good cheap alternative. But now after finally breaking down and buying the Vibram KSOs, I know this is not really the case. Let me tell you, the difference between Five Fingers and water socks is definitely noticeable, as was the difference between running shoes and the water socks.

The reason that I finally caved and bought them is because of my upcoming trip to Thailand. I really only want to bring one pair of shoes, and had read the the Five Fingers make great travelling shoes because they are so minimal. Addionally they are easy to pack and can withstand city walking, light trekking, beaches, and water. So rather than buy shoes for travel, I opted for the Vibrams and now can use them for running too. It took me a while to make my decision, but I finally decided on the KSOs (Keep Stuff Out) in the grey color.

Before purchasing, I dutifully followed the sizing directions on the Vibram site, which tell you to measure your foot, and go by that rather than a standard shoe size. After finding my size, I saw that Vibram was out of the grey color I wanted, but I was able to find them at Summit Hut. The price was perfect, and even free shipping!

So here is my review thus far:

First of all, don’t assume your size. As noted, use their chart. My feet measured at just over 11″, so I bought the size 44 which are for foot size 11 1/4″. I first put them on and thought “Oh no”, they seemed way too snug, and I was tempted to send them back for a bigger size. But I did some googling and found that a snug fit is standard, and actually what you want. Several people noted that the ones that felt too snug at first soon adapted and perfectly. So far I am finding the same. So rule #1 is follow the chart and wear them around the house for a few days before you give up and return them for a different size. Barring any strange circumstances, their chart will likely be more accurate than your judgement.

Having first worn them around the house a few times to get used to them, I’ve now also worn them out for one long walk with the dogs and two runs. They held up great and the snug feeling has gone away and I forget I have them on. My only problem so far (besides foot fatigue) is that I have a big dog that likes to be so close to my side that she steps on my feet, and obviously, the Vibrams provide no protection against that. I can’t fault the Vibrams for this issue though, because their goal is to be minimal. But this does lead to some concern about the durability of the tops of the KSOs. Will roughness and scratching from the top cause the material to rip or tear? Also, I have already stubbed my toes twice, once when my dog got too close, and once on something random. I guess you take for granted how much shoes (or water socks for that matter) actually protect your feet. But with these two exceptions, I am overwhelmingly impressed with these Five Finger shoes so far.

After two runs in them, I have to say, “Wow!” I thought the water socks were minimal and let me “feel” the ground, but these Vibrams simulate barefoot so much better. (In fairness, water/aqua socks are cheap and closer to barefoot than sneakers, but it does not simulate barefoot like the Vibrams). The trail has never felt so rocky, and I had to be careful not to step on big stones since it actually was hurting the bottoms of me feet, something that I only rarely experienced with the water socks. But in time I think this will be fine as my feet toughen up. And as others have noted, it is certainly amazing that I was able to feet sand and grass between my “toes”, and even the mud squish under my feet!

All in all, my “barefooting” is going well, but after my conversion from the water socks to the Vibrams, I realized that I still have a ways to go to stengthen my feet. My leg muscles feel fine, but I am noticing significant fatigue in my feet and arches, something I briefly noticed when I switched from sneakers to the water socks as well. I guess this is phase 2, one step closer to real barefooting!

Originally posted on Saturday, December 5th, 2009 at 8:36 AM .

5 Responses to “Barefoot running update plus Vibram Five Fingers”

  1. pretty cool shoe, i agree with your statement sizing, its tough, there's some good info on how to size and where to buy here:


  2. […] time I posted about it, I was just switching to my Vibram Five Finger shoes. The transition set me back, and for a while I […]

  3. Antonia Ihle says:

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  4. Thanks for another informative website. Where else may just I am getting that type of information written in such a perfect approach? I’ve a project that I am simply now running on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such information.

  5. […] was a long journey to get there, but in the end was a great success. I first wrote about my barefoot quest a couple years ago after reading the book Born to Run, and posted a few updates along the […]

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