Review: Vibram shoes

Vibram shoes have a polarising effect… Going upon recent evidence, around two thirds of you will have looked at this photo and thought anything from “WTF!” through “those are fucking hideous” to “they look like the feet of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. The other third is likely jealous, although it’s possible I am overstating the percentages a tad ;)
Long-time blog readers will know that I’m a big fan of weird split-toe shoes, owning three pairs of Nike Rift (I still have this pair, currently on the floor beside me) and two pairs of Japanese tabi boots, my favourite of which are these badass silver and gold ones. It was only inevitable I should get a pair of Vibrams – they fit the bill of being both sporty and strange right down to a T. 
They happened to have some on display in Lillywhites in my size… I tried them on and holy shit did they feel good! As a martial artist I’m used to being in bare feet and now find it much more comfortable – I can feel what I’m doing, balance properly and just feel connected with the ground. And the rubber sole was so sticky I felt like I could run up the walls like a lizard :)
A few days later, after some intensive Googling, a pair arrived on my desk. One of the various benefits of being half-Dutch is that I am excellent at getting bargains (it’s true what they say!), and as a result only paid £42 for these. I had forgotten that I also had a £12 gift card left in my account too, so only ended up paying £28. Massive, massive result! They are normally around £100, but have a look around and you should be able to get them a lot cheaper.
Anyhow, I’ve had them about three weeks now and have been using them for all my day-to-day walking, mostly to and from the office and to the gym/park/shops. Nothing heavy. They were quite tight at first, especially around my big toes (fat), but have now perfectly formed to my feet. They don’t move at all, and the strap at the top (which comes across the achilles) keeps them comfortably snug.
The first few weeks (and to some degree now) I was very conscious about heel-striking, since I had come straight from trainers designed for over-pronators (Asics 2160’s, IIRC) which are very padded and also have quite a lift between toe and heel. Also I could feel my feet, and especially my calves, having to work harder, I assume as a result of the greater flexation of the forefoot.
Yesterday I went for my first run in them (only on the treadmill) – 1km @ 10.5km/h then 200m of walking for three rounds. I didn’t want to hit 3km in one go so thought it best to break it up. The run felt great – feet were ok (went for a slow pace so they weren’t getting pounded) and calves didn’t cramp up. I put the Vibrams on to go out in today, but my feet felt slightly stiff so went with some other shoes instead. I plan to work up to doing longer runs on the common outside by the end of the summer, so I’m really happy with this first step.

As well as comfort, balance and “earth-connection”, the other great thing about these shoes is seeing peoples reactions. Kids love them – apart from riding my bike with no hands, it is the only thing I can do which stops them in their tracks and makes their little mouths hang open :) The reactions from adults vary, but mostly involve either double-takes, staring, or both. I did walk past a guy who also had some on, and we grinned at each other, safe in the knowledge of our superior footwear ;)

Further reading:

– Vibram FiveFingers website
– Very in-depth article in NY Mag about why shoes are bad for you
Complete nonsense in the Telegraph about them being a fashion trend (fashionable?! Ha!)

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Brian Enigma says:

    When I first got shoes with vibram soles (no fancy toes, though), it took several weeks of wearing them daily for my calves and thighs to get use to them. I do also have a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. They’re running style with laces and a mesh top. I don’t wear them daily, just specific walks to yoga or to the nearby volcano, mainly because my feet tend to sweat a lot in them, despite them being fairly open.

    I hope you like yours. It sounds like you scored a great deal!

  2. Fi says:

    Oh I’d forgotten you had some – think you did a post about them too, didn’t you? I’m definitely still getting used to them, and actually I’m not sure I’ve stopped heel-striking hard enough to run in them full-time. I guess that will probably take a year or so. They must feel great for yoga. I might email Vibram and see if the uppers would stand up to kicking things – they’d be great marketing to martial artists too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *