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What’s up with those shoes? The Vibram 5 Finger Shoes

Maybe you’ve seen 
them – shoes with individual toe slots,
 looking to all the world like the 
toe-socks so popular in the 1970s. Didn’t Pippy Long Stocking wear a multicolored pair?

Whether you like the look or not, you’ve
 probably asked yourself “what’s up with that?” We as coaches did for sure at first.

 Vibram Five Fingers, or VFF, has grown
 in enormous popularity over the last 
year thanks to fans in both the Fitness and the Minimalist Running

Supporters claim that VFF shoes not only make their
 feet stronger and healthier, but have 
corrected knee, hip, and back problems 
caused by feet being held in
 overly-cushioned and restrictive
 footwear. Many boot campers and small group clients have been wearing them for over 4 months and we love them!

Minimalist Ultra-marathoner 
“Barefoot” Ted McDonald, featured in 
Chris McDougall’s recent book Born to
Run (check this book out by the way, it is super), is one of Vibram shoes most vocal
 adherents, and places them prominently 
in his website and his coaching.

“It is
 not about beating oneself up or enduring 
more pain…Rather, it is about learning 
to run gently and thoughtfully through a 
rugged environment. Learning how to feel 
the trail and respond to it. It is about 
subtle balance that the toes need to be
 part of” says Barefoot Ted on his site. These are also great indoor shoes too.


The VFF is available in several styles of 
uppers and/or straps depending on how 
much protection the Vibram wearer needs from 
the elements.

The base shoe, however, is 
the same for each: a strong but flexible 
Vibram sole with separate toe “pockets,” molded to fit the curvature of the foot
 without supporting it. “No stone mason 
worth his trowel would ever stick a 
support under an arch,” says
McDougall in his book, “push up from
 underneath and you weaken the whole

On this principle are the
 Vibram shoes designed. So how do the VFFs work 
in practice?

Tony Distasi, manager at 
The Pedestrian Shops on the Pearl St.
 Mall in Boulder is a Vibram wearer, and
 uses them for many of his outdoor
 activities, but notes the shoes may not
 be love-at-first-fitting.

“They fit
 differently than other shoes, and take
 some getting used to. The best bet is to
 wear them around the house for an hour 
or two at a time to let your feet 

The primary criticisms from Vibram
 wearers stems from the shoes’ precise 

Heel chafing and incorrect fit in 
the “pinkie” toe are the most commonly 
cited issues. Strength coach Mark
 Rippetoe  is concerned that the
 VFF is inappropriate for the “stomp”
involved in the Olympic lifts  which are 
integral to some higher intensity types of training.

It is interesting 
to note that, while concerns over 
plantar fasciitis (a painful condition
 of the sole of the foot) have been
 heard, reports of it happening are 

What even the
 proponents of these shoes agree on is
 that you can’t just throw them on and 
go. Building strength in your feet is 
like building any other muscle group.

Plan on taking anywhere from a few days to several weeks to develop the strength
 to wear these as all-day footwear,
 depending on what you’ve been wearing in 
the past.

Vibram has launched this 
product with an eye toward very organic
 growth, and is carefully controlling the
 distribution. And as to how they look? 
Some people love the Vibram design, others hate 
it. The one thing that’s certain is that 
with the distinctive shape and the wide
 range of colors, few people can ignore
 Vibram 5-Finger Shoes! And remember, our preferred vendor, Performance Running in Brookfield, gives us a super discount on shoes and apparel, including the Vibrams! Go try on a pair and see what you think.

Adapted from http://hubpages.com/hub/Vibram-5-Fingers-Shoes-with-Toes

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