Last Fall, I wrote about my experience running a 5k race in my pair of Vibram KSO FiveFingers. I really enjoy the massage-like feel of the separate toe pockets, and without socks, so I didn’t wear them much over the winter. As we begin to receive several models at the store, I look forward to seeing the response to customers trying a pair on for the first time. Some aspects of the shoe I appreciate are the feel of the toe pockets, the arch-hugging contour of the KSO model with its strap fit system, the grip of the razor-siped rubber outsole, and the whole concept of strengthening the foot, having increased sensory perception and greater flexibility. It makes the shoe really fun to wear for most any casual active pursuits, or if one is a true ‘barefoot’ athlete, even for the most vigorous activity.
The Vibram FiveFingers come with instructions for getting them on your feet, which involves tucking one’s toes deliberately into the pockets. It doesn’t take very long to get used to it but is more involved than slipping on ‘normal’ shoes. Some may not enjoy that toe separation, but I found it to give me a sense of greater flexibility and a massage-like feeling.
The combination of the contoured sole and snug upper makes for an arch-hugging fit that actually feels more effective than a running shoe that just has the foot resting on top of a shaped platform for arch support. Impressive.
The KSO model which I have has a smooth outsole, with cuts similar to deck shoes for traction on smooth surfaces, something that is noticeable doing an activity such as TRX Pilates. It would perform well on rock also, but other models have patterns for dirt, road-running and more thickness for all around protection.
Vibram shoes can be a great tool for gaining strength, flexibility, and foot health. The runner’s gait will most likely need to become such that the foot strikes more centered underneath the body, a departure from the reaching out and landing with the heel at an angle out in front. A difference from most running shoes, which have thick mid-soles with an 8 to 15 percent drop heel to forefoot, the FiveFingers have no drop, with only a few millimeters insole/outsole for natural barefoot feel, but protection from skin abrasion or injury.
Seasoned barefoot runners will use these shoes in all seasons and weather, for all kinds of mileage. But for most people, they should be used only in increments starting at about 10% of the time running or working out, maybe one short workout a week at first. I have enjoyed wearing them for casual use, and look forward to lots of low impact use such as light hiking and trail play. There are limitless activity applications, some friction rock climbing would be interesting. Vibram FiveFingers are machine washable, air dry. A welcomed feature for a shoe that is worn mostly without socks.
Warmer weather is here, time for me to get some more mileage in these alternative, fun, foot-glove type shoes.