Verdict from 14 experts and 100+ user reviews

9 reasons to buy

  • A large number of runners concluded that this is the closest thing they have to barefoot running without literally going barefoot.
  • The lightweight and flexible nature of this shoe were received well by fans.
  • It shines in the gym or indoor workouts, according to a significant number of users.
  • The shoe dries quickly, based on the comments of several reviewers.
  • Several consumers appreciated the breathable upper unit.
  • Many runners consider the price as affordable and worthy of the Vibram EL-X’s quality.
  • Traction is fairly good, as reported by a moderate number of runners.
  • A handful of runners who have had knee or shin issues were able to run without any pain in the FiveFingers EL-X.
  • The ground feedback provided by this product was greatly welcomed by those who appreciated barefoot running.

4 reasons not to buy

  • For a consumer, this running shoe had a tendency to stink, even after he has washed it.
  • The tightness and snugness of the fit, which is needed to keep the shoe in place, often restrict movements, according to a handful of runners.
  • Several runners felt that the uniqueness of this shoe’s façade didn’t appeal positively to the people around them.
  • Putting on the shoe was a challenge for some testers.

Bottom line

The Vibram FiveFingers EL-X is an Entry Level Crosstrainer which has the lightest and the thinnest sole in Vibram’s line-up of “toe shoes.” The shoe takes a little getting used to because it is designed for barefoot runners. However, reviews show that once the right fit and familiarity are met, the shoe is easily one of the most comfortable and versatile on the market. Runners who can get past the weird style should have a truly barefoot running experience with just enough protection on paved roads in this shoe.

Tip: see the best running shoes.

Good to know

  • Unlike some of the shoes in Vibram’s arsenal, the FiveFingers El-X does not use laces or a Velcro strap to keep the foot down. Hence, the upper is made of polyester stretch mesh to accommodate the foot with the help of very thin TPU overlays. The upper design offers a snug fit that is truly like a second skin.
  • The grip, a little cushioning, and a bit of protection is made possible by the 3mm outsole. It resembles the serrated pattern of a blade for traction and is non-marking, which makes it excellent for indoor or gym workouts.
  • Vibram uses a Dri-Lex nylon linings inside the shoe to wick moisture away. The EVA insole also uses the same Dri-Lex technology for more of the same moisture-wicking capacity.
  • A unique feature in Vibram are the 5 individual toe slots. It brings natural running form and freedom of movement to a different level with this kind of design. Vibram claims that it also helps with stability and control when working out or when running.

As made obvious by the reviewers, the EL-X has a rather tight fit as it is needed to keep hold of the foot since it does not rely on traditional laces or straps for security. Vibram has its own sizing and it should be very helpful if runners are familiar with this. Otherwise, being able to try the shoe on should be the best possible way in getting the right fit. Once the right fit is found, the shoe has adequate heel and midfoot hold that runners should not slip out of the shoe. The toe slots allow the toes to comfortably splay. It runs fairly true to size.

Vibram uses its brand-exclusive TC-1 rubber in the outsole of the FiveFingers EL-X for a combination of traction and a little underfoot protection. It is only 3mm so there should be optimal ground feedback. This outsole material is also used in the Vibram Bikila and other Vibram FiveFingers running shoes.

The serrated design of the outsole gives it quite a good grip on multiple surfaces. It is also non-marking for those who would use the shoe for cross training in the gym.

There is technically no midsole in the Vibram EL-X. A 2mm EVA insole with Dri-Lex antimicrobial properties act as the nominal midsole for a little cushioning and underfoot protection.

The upper is an innovative combination of stretch polyester mesh, TPU overlays, and Coconut Active Carbon Fabric that snugly holds the foot when running or working out. It is a super minimalist upper that is also breathable. There are no laces or strap to secure the fit so the upper relies on optimal fit to keep the shoe from slipping.


How Vibram FiveFingers EL-X ranks compared to all other shoes
Top 23% road running shoes
All road running shoes
Top 19% Vibram FiveFingers running shoes
All Vibram FiveFingers running shoes
Top 29% zero drop running shoes
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The current trend of Vibram FiveFingers EL-X.
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Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.