Vibram FiveFinger Review

June 7, 2008

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but I wanted to put a few miles in the Vibram FiveFingers over a period of time and give myself a chance to get used to them before giving them a full review. I’ve also neglected my blog the past month because I’ve been busy with work and had been out of town a couple weekends (congratulations to a certain doctor on her graduation and new apartment!). But alas, here we go:

Well, they won\'t win a beauty contest

I felt the biggest difference the first few times I ran in the Vibram FiveFingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out). It was quite a stimulating experience. I felt the ground better then I thought I would (not quite the same as being barefoot, but much closer then I expected). I was naturally inclined to run on the balls of my feet, rather than the heel strike I’ve come accustomed to in my running shoes. This was a great sensation. I felt like I was running on a couple of springs, rather then in shoes. My feet muscles, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles worked together to act as this spring. Of course, the days after my initial runs left these groups sore, like they got a good work out. It also left them stimulated, like I’d learn a new way of doing something.

These initial runs were short, slow, and run on a grassy, mildly hilly course. Typically just 1 mile was enough early on for my feet & calves to feel like they got a good workout. I also didn’t want to chance a foot injury from trying to do too much too soon. I noticed a big difference on hills – powering up them on the balls of my feet is good running form, and something that I’ve worked on, so it came very natural to me. Going downhill felt unnatural. I was more tempted to use my heel here, not necessarily to initially land on them, but to land on the ball of the foot, then slide down onto the heel.

After a couple of weeks on the grassy course, I decided I’d try a mile in them on the W & OD (paved) bike trail. I definitely felt the pavement more, which is one of the advantages of the FiveFingers – you’re more capable of sensing what punishment you’re submitting your feet & legs to. And punishment indeed it was. I wanted to try running more quickly in them, and I couldn’t avoid the temptation of the speed that naturally came with the springiness, so I went at a quick, but not all-out pace and in my offseason form, ran a 6:57. The speed and the hard surface combined to be a much greater shock to my lower legs then any of the runs before, and left my calves & Achilles sore for about a week. That’s a lesson about adjusting to these – start slow, short, and soft, then gradually proceed to longer, faster runs on harder surfaces.

A lot of the sensation and the benefits that come from the FiveFingers could be achieved by running barefoot. You’d get better feedback from your feet, but the trade off is you’d have to develop tougher skin. In the FiveFingers, you don’t need to do this because they act as a tough layer for your feet. Not only do you adapt faster, but you don’t have to worry about the risk of puncturing the skin of your feet with anything sharp.

Vibram FiveFingers Soles

So that was about the FiveFinger experience, but as for the “shoes” themselves, they’re of an intentionally simple, minimalist design. A thin rubber layer sole joins the cloth layer that goes over your feet with the stitching and adhesive found in most conventional shoes. The opening in the cloth to stick your feet in is elastic, ensuring a tight fit there to “Keep Stuff Out”. This is a good feature for trail runners hoping to keep debris out of their shoes (in other words don’t buy the “Sprint” model if you want to run on gravel). The shoe stays on the foot via a single velcro strap. The rubber sole is grooved, to allow for greater traction – a good feature for trail running, or some of the other intended uses of the shoe, such as water sports or rock climbing. Last but not least, I’m sure you’re aware of the most prominent feature – the individual compartments for each toe.

Vibram Five Fingers Top ViewThe minimalist design does warrant some durability concerns. I can’t see the velcro strap maintaining it’s stickiness after miles of mud, dirt, grime, grass, etc. I could also see the cloth loosing it’s binding to the rubber after contending with sharp objects on the trail. Nothing has happened to suggest that either really would happen, just some concerns. FiveFingers are a pretty recent innovation, so there is kind of a risk involved in using a pair long-term.

In conclusion, I’d recommend these shoes to anyone trying to improve their running form, particularly those learning pose running or Chi Running, which both teach forms that emphasize a barefoot-like stride and landing on the balls of the feet. They’re also a good way to transition from shod running to barefoot running. I think it’s also good for runners needing excellent proprioception, like in trail running, where you need to know where your feet are landing before making the next step, or parqour where learning a soft landing is invaluable. If you have any foot injuries, FiveFingers could help or hurt. Take it really slowly, and see if the development of your feet muscles helps your injury.


26 Responses to “Vibram FiveFinger Review”

  1. […] 8, 2008 · Filed Under Shoes & Gear  · Pic from runningsoules · Excellent review of the Vibram Fivefingers, tested on trails and on pavement, with lessons […]

    • Jmec70 Says:

      I just ran in these for the first time today. I ran nine miles on pavement. Like you have have experienced pain in the balls of my feet and calves,more on my left. I am really pleased with the shoe. I also got a blister on the ball of left foot. My biggest concern is how long they will last. I do a lot of long distance running. I go anywhere from 8 to 20 miles on a run. I run about 70 miles a week. A normal pair of shoes lasts me about 4 months. I hope that I can at least get that out of these.

  2. Funkster Says:

    I was looking for inspiration for some clubwear designs and I came across a Parkour video on YouTube…

    I really couldn’t believe my eyes at some of the things you can get up to!

    This puts a new meaning on protective clothing!

    Anyway, I’ll try and get some t-shirts suitable for the free movement that determines the grace and power of Parkour.

    I’ve put up a blog about it too – I was that impressed!

    Maybe I can get some constructive comments back?
    Party on!

  3. Craig Says:

    I’ve got a pair of the original fivefingers and would love to get some KSOs. They look great.

    I’m using mine as travel/hiking shoes rather than running, but I think the extra coverage might help out.

    Do you find they get hot?

  4. runningsoules Says:

    Craig, If you liked the originals, you should like the KSO’s for hiking. The key difference is you’ll catch less debris in them.

    As for heat, I haven’t tried them for a duration longer then thirty minutes, so I can’t really say. One of the times I ran it was pretty hot, and the FiveFingers weren’t a problem. The top layer is thin and ventilates well, so I wouldn’t imagine it being a problem. Would be good to test on a black track on a hot summer day. You may feel the heat on the track more.

  5. Michelle Says:

    I absolutely love the look of the Vibram Five Finger and all the positive impacts it can have on your body.

    What I don’t like is I can’t find any in the UK to actually test them out!!

  6. […] a runner and I love the FiveFingers. I’ve got a review of them here if you’re curious: Vibram FiveFinger Review RunningSoules I haven’t tried them in the weight room yet. Think they could help with plyometrics exercises or […]

  7. […] some careful online research (like here, here, and here) and being persuaded by my co-worker Stephane, I finally mozied on down to get myself a […]

  8. Ryan S Says:


    I love the KSOs. I am an avid trail runner and use them daily in the mountainous desert in AZ. As for heat – if it is above 90 degrees I start to feel it from the hot ground below. But in regular temps, I find these gems breathable and light.

    Happy trail running!

  9. Ryan S Says:

    Let me add one more thing – the heat on hot summer days coming in from the ground is wonderful – feels good to be connected to the Earth when doing such a naturally human thing like running. Ok, at 110 in PHX, not so great – too hot, but any other time of the year it is great. Also, foot heat from running – not so bad. These puppies are light and vented.

  10. Tom Says:

    Just wanted to add my 2 cents. I ordered the “classics” a few months ago and loved them so much I ordered a pair of “KSO’s” last week. These shoes absolutely rock my world. They are super comfy, functional, and fashionable. Everywhere I go people ask me about my fivefingers. I highly recommend them to ANYONE AND EVERYONE.

  11. Kevin Says:

    I just recently purchased a pair of the KSOs, and I use them both for running and weight training at the gym ( I get some of the strangest looks, but most people are impressed and quite curious). It is truely funny how much of a difference in stride you have to make in order to not slap your feet on the treadmill and sound like a 400 lb sumo wrestler running a 6 minute mile. My calves burn after a 2 mile run but my joints are very appreciative. I can definitely feel a huge difference in efficiency in my stride versus regular running shoes, I feel I can run longer and faster while maintaining a smoother cadence. I have nothing bad to say about these shoes. I give em a 10 out of 10, I love em.

  12. Murray Kowalczyk Says:

    I bought the Sprint, but realized after running with them for awhile that they were not meant for my foot. My lateral maleolus sticks out more than most people, and so the tightening strap (the hole that it passes through) kept rubbing against the bone – which did not feel good. Everything else about the shoe is amazing.

    I’m going to go test out the classic, to avoid that strap.

  13. Chase Says:

    Hey, my lifting coach directed my attention towards these shoes a little while ago and I’m quite interested in getting a pair. However, I’m not sure if I should get the KSOs or the sprints and I wanted to ask your opinion (or anyone’s) on the matter. I’m leaning towards the sprints but I wouldn’t want to purchase them and find thereafter that I’m always getting debris in my shoes. I also like the KSOs but I would think that they would be too “constricting” and hot. And what about when it gets colder outside? I can’t afford to buy two pairs so I want to make sure that I purchase the right pair the first time. Thanks for your time!

    • runningsoules Says:

      Chase – I find that the KSOs are not constricting, that the mesh upper really allows for breatheability. As for the winter, I tried them on a cold, snowy day, and they did not fare well. I certainly would recommend them for spring/summer/fall, but for the winter, you may want to consider the “flow” model. I know Hudson Trail Outfitters is now carrying the FiveFingers, so you may want to check them out there, if there’s one nearby.

  14. Jackie Says:


    So I recently have been introduced to the vibram shoes and was contemplating buying the classic. I am not a runner, but I walk a lot.
    Do you think I should just stick with regular shoes or get the vibrams even though I am not a runner?

  15. […] don’t just take my word for it.  Everyone who tried these shoes loves them.  They were even featured on NPR last year.  Treat your feet to a pair of Five Fingers.  […]

  16. I’ve got a couple pair of the same model you have pictured.

    I don’t just wear them for running, but everywhere, and I’m quite happy with them. They are so fun to wear that you really do risk injury in the first few days. It took me about a week to get all the foot muscles and such to be able to run on asphalt for any distance. I’ve got my full Fivefingers review here.

  17. craig F Says:

    Classic are awesome, comfortable and get quite a laugh when at the waterpark, but they don’t FLOAT! I lost one last week in a Lake in Georgia when it came off and sunk! Never to be found. Very expensive loss!

  18. Chris Says:

    Hope you’re still enjoying the FiveFingers. I certainly have. Unfortunately they seemed to have a defect though and have started to fall apart! I wrote a review to explain here:

  19. now that is an awesome Idea. This is look cool. I will say this my another leg or leg cover rather than footwear

  20. justin Says:

    So I’ve embarked on a mission to alert bloggers to efforts by *someone* to plaster links to barefootrunningshoes dot org over any post about Five Fingers — and looks like you got hit twice by “heather.” Other pen names used by this person are “heathjones,” “electro,” “jason heathrow,” “heesinjones,” and they almost always include a link to the comparison to Nike Frees though they can link to other stuff (like the “parkour” video which is really just an embedded youtube video from a few years ago that Vibram published).

    It’s hard to see the patterns unless you run a search query and then suddenly all these comments seem very strange:;_ylt=A0geu8Hd9yBLK.sAehZXNyoA?p=linkdomain:

    Anyway, thought you might want to know you’ve been tagged.

    Keep enjoying your VFFs!

  21. Justin B Says:

    I was wanting to buy the KSO’s but i’m unsure because i am flat footed. Do yall think i should give them a try?

    • runningsoules Says:

      I’d say give ’em a try. Barefoot/minimalist running may help to correct flat footed-ness by forcing the arch to develop. According to Chris McDougal, Alan Webb, an elite American miler who broke Jim Ryun’s High School mile record, used to have rather flat feet, and a foot size of 12. When he started running barefoot, his arches developed and his foot size went down to 9. Of course, be very careful when starting out. Seriously, I’m talking about starting at 5 mins/run.

  22. eric doucet Says:

    Ive had issue with 4 pairs 1 pair bikila 3 days toes unglued. 2nd pair bikila same thing sole separate right off. for my 3rd pair i exchange for kso instead no toe separation but pull tab came stitching came apart after 2h . 4th pair kso mailed to me same size but material is so tight i manege to get foot in i can only where for 5 min and my foot goes lil numb am tired dealing with the company not sure i will buy another pair seems a lot factory defects and inconsistency i am pissed off at them and i want my money back
    such peace of garbage and no i am not a spammer or getting paid for this i am a pissed off consumer and will wright this where ever i can find a revue don’t buy this crap

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