Vibram Five Fingers

Pros:                                                                               Cons:

Very light                                                                      Lack of availability

durable                                                                          Cheap colorful tread in some models

Machine Washable



Simply put, if you don’t like being barefoot, then you probably should not get these shoes. After all, that is their entire purpose and basis of design. As most of us have been wearing conventional shoes for the majority of our lives, it can take a transition phase before being able to wear them comfortably all the time, on any surface, and for any sport. However, if you take the time and avoid taking them right into your normal exercise schedule you will avoid injury while building up to prevent future injuries at the same time. Conventional shoes have helped people develop soft feet, a lax bone structure, and weak ankles. With the exception of martial artists, ballet dancers, and gymnasts most people’s feet will be relatively weak and susceptible to sharp objects on the ground, and prone to injury.

To start out I am going to quote the five things that the vibram site says 5Fs will help develop, and I mostly agree.

  1. Strengthens feet and legs
  2. Improves mobility of lower limbs
  3. Develops Balance and Agility
  4. Increases perception of the body
  5. Favors the functional posture of the vertebral column.

Of these five things it is the last one that people almost always notice first after wearing 5Fs for a short time. The main thing that I was excited about however, was not related to these advantages at all, but simply the fact that you can throw them in with your load of laundry and they dry quickly. I have some pretty strong foot odor, so yes this is a concern. You know those odor fighting shoes? Yeah, they didn’t do anything. Although you can throw just about any shoes in the wash, if you are anything like me, you need your shoes most of the time, like as soon as they come out of the wash. Which is no problem because putting on wet 5Fs doesn’t really make a difference because they will dry quickly on your feet.

I started out with a pair of Five Finger KSO’s, which at the time, was only one of three choices that vibram made. The first thing I thought was, “These are so expensive for not a lot of shoe.” I took a second though and realized that my last pair of running shoes where about $45 more and weren’t used for anything but running. As a high end athlete I tend to go through a pair of running shoes in about 300 miles which is maybe two months. By that time they are garbage with no sole, no structure, and often unrecognizable from their original form.

My first pair of 5Fs were the KSO’s and lasted me about 700 miles through some pretty rough back country excursions, trail running, swimming, hiking, climbing, and the everyday casual wear I started them out with. Then I was able to retire them to my work shoes in the bakeries that I worked at. The KSO’s are a great all around shoe. They are thin and light without a tread which allows you to feel the ground a lot better for things like climbing, crossing rivers, and slacklining. They also allow your feet to breathe in the summer and with a pair of socks, adequately warm during exercise in the winter.

The tread on the 5Fs is well suited for their many purposes, and often do better than many of their conventional counterparts largely due to the fact that you can wrap your toes around things or dig them into soft dirt and snow.

However, there were some short falls, many that have been improved in later versions. The first thing, is that while the make decent water shoes, like most water shoes, they do lose a tremendous amount of there traction on wet surfaces. Although it might sound weird, I find I am able to feel how slippery the surface is before I put my full weight down with 5Fs. Also dealing with the tread is that the color caps on some of the newer models wear off easily making them virtually useless for traction and leave the shoe uneven on the bottom.

A bit problem with the early models is that toenails have a tendency to poke through the soft upper and side mesh surrounding the toes. It took a little bit of stitching work to solve this problem. Most new versions have a tougher material on the top, but still nothing on the sides. Depending on where you buy your shoes, many authorized sellers will repair them free charge.

Another problem I have run into, is that while the flexibility of most of the shoes sole is rather good, it lacks in one key area. The toes. When trying to bend your toes down, it tends to press most of the bottom of the shoe away from your foot as well. It bends find when there is something under the ball of your feet or under your toes so it isn’t that much of a problem most of the time on land, but in the water, it can create a large pocket of water to be carried along when you are swimming. Occasionally it can cause the shoe to bunch up funny while running if you bend your feet a little to much to hope over something or lengthen your stride to avoid something. I haven’t seen this problem solved yet except in the super light indoor 5Fs.

An issue that appears is 5Fs that I have not had, but have tried on, is that 5Fs without a top, such as the classics, do not stay with the foot well. Which I feel kind of defeats the purpose and makes it difficult to do very much sport activity with. These are often only suggested for casual wear though, and are severely limited.

The last thing that I hope will change soon, which goes for most all models, is availability. Many times there is a back order of up to six months. This is obviously not a shoe problem, but still makes it difficult for people to get the specific model that they want.

If you visit the website, you will also notice rather quickly that there is a big counterfeiting problem. If you buy anything that is extremely discounted at 30% or more online from a site other than Vibram, it is most likely a counterfeit. Of course this is bad for the company, but if you aren’t quite sure that you are going to like these shoes, it might be a good purchase just to test them out.

Apart from having the straps on the wrong way some times, the poor stitching jobs, cheap mesh, and no customer service they differ in a few important ways from the real 5Fs. First off, the hardly have any traction. The rubber that they use for the counterfeits should not be used for any sort of sporting. They do the job of protecting your feet from the ground and are good for casual wear ONLY. The other big difference is that they are nearly twice as heavy as the real 5Fs. Obviously this isn’t all that much weight since 5Fs are pretty light, but they definitely have a very different feel.

This is my general review of 5Fs. If you want a more detailed review of specific models there are some in the drop down menu for the KSO, Flow, and Trek Sport.

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