These funky toed shoes have probably gathered more finger-pointing and rubbernecking than some of the coolest fashion sneakers over the past decade. However, impressing bypassers is not the primary purpose of these bad boys. Coming under the FiveFingers minimalist shoe line, these trainers are meant to provide you with an ultimate sensation of barefoot walking and training.
The Vibram FiveFingers line was launched in 2005 by an industrial designer from Italy named Robert Fliri. He was inspired by the idea of making people more aware of their feet as well as of the way they are designed to move by nature. With an intricate intertwinement of joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, our feet are initially crafted for an enormous variety of movements. Not to mention up to 200,000 of underfoot receptors which receive feedback from the surface and help in making tiny foot adjustments, choosing the most efficient and safest way to move.
Unfortunately, this innate ability is gradually getting lost in the maelstrom of the contemporary lifestyle which often involves wearing tight and narrow dress shoes, pointy high heels, overly cushioned sneakers, etc. Most people can’t even remember the last time they enjoyed strolling, running, or jumping around barefoot outside of their home. This kind of shoe dependency considerably weakens our feet, resulting in soreness, pain, and even injuries. That’s why increasing the time of shoe-free periods is crucial for restoring and maintaining the health of our feet.
What makes Vibram FiveFingers stand out from the crowd
- Natural movement. It’s enough to just look at the construction of these trainers to understand that they are all about essentiality. The glove-like upper with five separate pockets allows the toes to splay and flex both upwards and downwards. The absence of a midsole and a very thin platform provide a lightweight and pliable underfoot protection. Such design significantly increases proprioception which, in turn, brings better balance, stability, and dexterity for the foot. Overall, the nature of Vibram FiveFingers shoes helps them in contouring to the shape of a human foot and allows the wearer to go barefoot in a protected way.
- Reliable sole. Rubber outsoles from Vibram are renowned for their long-lasting characteristics. The brand boasts of well-established partnerships with many other sports companies including New Balance, Under Armour, Lowa, Merrell, etc. The shoes under this collaboration feature grippy and durable rubber outsoles with a recognizable “Vibram” logo on them.
Types of training shoes from Vibram FiveFingers
Training & Fitness
Use: cross-training, gym workouts, weightlifting, cardio, fitness, yoga, Pilates, Barre, walking, water sports, parkour, etc.
- The bottom of these shoes is lined with a durable rubber that features grippy lugs for traction. Such outsole technologies as the XS Trek and the Megagrip eliminate the chance of slipping, even on wet surfaces.
- As minimalist shoes, they employ thin soles of about 5 - 6 mm with a zero heel-to-toe drop. This design keeps the foot flat and low to the ground to promote surface awareness and sensitive ground feel.
- An anti-microbial footbed minimizes the discomfort caused by sweat and prevents unpleasant odor from building up inside the footwear.
- Five separate toe pockets help in keeping the toes actively engaged throughout the training session. Their ability to spread and flex in both directions delivers a sure-footed stance as well as unhindered movement for all types of training.
- The fit of the shoe is secured on top of the instep with the help of a traditional lace-up closure or a closed-loop bungee system. Some models also feature a hook-and-loop Velcro strap for a better foothold.
- Depending on the model, a shoe can weigh from 85 to 200 grams.
The Furoshiki line
Use: everyday use, casual wear, walking
- The footwear sports an unconventional wrap-around design with a Velcro mechanism to provide a fast and easy-on fit. The tightness can be adjusted to accommodate various foot widths and volumes. A combination of elastane and nylon renders a snug yet stretchy foothold.
- The platform is made of a durable yet lightweight rubber. It is a thin and flexible compound that protects the foot without compromising the barefoot experience.
Examples: Vibram Furoshiki
Getting used to Vibram FiveFingers
While walking and training barefoot bring lots of advantages, your feet need time and preparation before they can benefit from them. Jumping out of your cushioned sneakers right into minimalist shoes can result in not only discomfort but also in a serious injury. To prevent such undesirable outcomes, the brand tries to guide its customers on the transitioning process.
Firstly, Vibram advises carefully studying your bare feet. Awareness of their shape and characteristics is the first step towards getting in touch with your feet. Then, a series of simple massaging techniques are recommended, including:
- running your fingers through the toes while pushing them back and forth;
- rubbing the base of your foot with an elbow;
- gently stretching the toes forward and back with your hand;
- using your thumbs to apply gentle pressure on the foot.
After such self-massage, pay attention to the sensations in your feet. Start walking around your house floors and other safe and controlled surfaces to re-familiarize yourself with your feet again.
There is no universal rule for how long the transition period is going to take. A lot depends on the health condition of your feet as well as the type of shoes that you wear most frequently. However, it is critical that you take your time and simply walk in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers training shoes first. Then, you can slowly start performing light workouts. At this point, it is advisable to always carry a backup pair of training shoes in case your feet begin to hurt. Vibram strongly emphasizes that you MUST stop and let your feet rest and heal in case you experience pain. In addition, here are a few things you should avoid doing as you are shifting:
- Overstriding: try not to put your foot too far forward from the hips as it increases the impact on the foot;
- Pounding: hard landing on a hard surface adds up to the shock;
- Heel-striking: if you are planning to run in your FiveFingers shoes, aim to land on your midfoot, not the heel;
Frequently asked questions
How to put on a pair of Vibram FiveFingers training shoes?
- Firstly, loosen up the lace-up closure and the strap, if they are present. Start by inserting your toes into the respective pockets beginning with the big toe. Keep inching and wiggling your toes until they find the right place.
- Then, pull up the shoe’s heel cup and place your rearfoot inside of it. Make sure that it rests firmly but doesn’t cut into your ankle.
- Finally, adjust the laces and the strap to secure the fit on the midfoot.
How should they fit?
Given that these shoes are intended to give the wearer a barefoot-like experience, they should be barely noticeable when you put them on, just like a glove or a second skin. It means that there is no extra space which causes your foot to move around inside the shoe, creating hot spots and blisters. On the other hand, there should be sufficient room for each of your toes to extend fully as well as no excessive tension across the midfoot or rubbing in the heel.
Can I use these shoes for running outdoors?
If you are accustomed to barefoot running, then you can definitely use Vibram FiveFingers trainers for jogging and sprinting. However, you should keep in mind that this category of training shoes has a thinner platform than the brand’s models designed specifically for running, both on roads and trails.
Сan I use training shoes from Vibram FiveFingers if I have foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, hammertoe, bunion, flat feet, etc.?
Using minimalist footwear requires a cautious, gradual, and mindful approach. It can take some time and practice even for people with healthy feet. The best advice here is, of course, to consult your doctor first.
Can I wear Vibram FiveFingers without socks?
Yes. But keep in mind that unpleasant odor may develop faster which will, in turn, require more frequent washing of the footwear. Alternatively, you can opt for a pair of special toed socks that are offered by Vibram. They are not only meant to absorb sweat but also add warmth and reduce any potential friction.
Can I use an orthotic insert with Vibram FiveFingers?
No. Because these shoes are created to mimic a barefoot experience, their design does not accommodate any orthotic devices.
How much do Vibram FiveFingers training shoes cost?
This type of training footwear carries a price that’s a bit higher than the industry’s average. You should expect a price tag of $110 - 160 for a new pair. The good news is that during sales you can get FiveFingers for as low as $60. Here at RunRepeat, we strive to keep you on top of the best deals available across more than 200 retailers. Check out the product page of any shoe you’re interested in to see if you can get it for a discounted price.
How to take care of Vibram FiveFingers?
The easiest way to clean and freshen up these trainers is to throw them into a washing machine. Make sure you brush or wash away any excess dirt beforehand to prevent the machine from getting damaged. You may also want to presoak the footwear in a mixture of warm water and a little detergent. The brand warns against using regimes hotter than 30 degrees Celsius / 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Regular laundry detergent can be used for washing. Once it’s done, let the shoes drip-dry naturally in a warm and aerated environment.
Did you know…
...that Vibram offers a trial period for its FiveFingers models due to their unconventional construction? Customers can purchase a pair and give it a go for 6 weeks. In case they are not satisfied, the product can be returned for a full refund. This option is only available if you buy from a participating US retailer, so, do double check whether the shop offers this service before purchasing.
...that the Vibram FiveFingers trainers were initially designed for yacht racers? They were meant to deliver reliable traction on wet decks while maintaining the barefoot experience. It was Ted McDonald, a runner known as “Barefoot Ted,” who first suggested using FiveFingers as minimalist shoes for running. The use of this footwear later expanded into yoga, fitness, trekking, cross-training, and many other sports.
...that a class-action lawsuit was filed against Vibram FiveFingers in 2014? The brand was condemned of deluding its customers with false claims that their footwear strengthens foot muscles and decreases injuries. The company settled the lawsuit by setting aside $3.75 million in order to refund up to $94 for every pair of FiveFingers bought since March 21st, 2009.
…that the Vibram brand was born in 1937 and has been around for more than 80 years? It was started by Vitale Bramani, a man who dedicated his effort to create the first ever outsole with grippy rubber lugs. The design was called “Carrarmato” (“tank tread”) and is now used by a great number of brands worldwide. The idea for it was born out of Vitale’s personal tragedy — he had lost six of his friends due to inadequate footwear while mountaineering in the Italian Alps.
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