Two Weeks With the Vibram FiveFingers

For the last couple of weeks, I've been sporting a pair of Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport. I tend to get mid-foot and rear-foot pain (my plantar and my heal) once tennis season starts, and since I started standing much of my day and working out four or more times a week, it's been getting worse.

A couple of trainers and a massage therapist recommended them to me, so I thought I'd try them out. I went over to Fleet Feet (which I can't recommend enough, by the way, in terms of professional knowledge and personal attention) and gave them a try.

They take some time to put on the first time (I also tried the Bikila, which have a harder top, making them even more difficult to put on), and they feel odd, since our toes don't tend to spend much time spread out.

The point of the shoes is to make your body operate essentially like you're barefoot. There's no ankle support nor arch support, and depending on the model, there is varying amount of tread (the TrekSport has a really good tread on it, and I'm not worried about slipping on anything). They're machine washable (but not machine dry-able, since rubber melts), which is pretty awesome, too. I've noticed a bunch of things.

Standing posture. I'm standing more on the ball of my feet, like I do when I'm barefoot at home. Doing that eliminates a lot of slouching, since that would throw me off balance. It means I'm standing up straighter.

Walking. I don't love walking in them, but I don't mind. I tend to be a careless, wandering walker, and with these shoes, I need to be a little more careful about what I'm stepping on and how I'm landing. Which is probably a good thing, just it's a lifestyle change – a pretty big one, it turns out.

Running. They change my whole running style, which for me was the primary thing I was seeking. The sports I play (tennis, racquetball, softball) require short, quick bursts from a standstill, along with changing direction. I'm running more front-foot and mid-foot now instead of rear-foot, which means that the optimal starting posture is something of a squat. And if you're standing up and figuring out what I'm talking about, you're recognizing that the start comes from your glutes (your butt), rather than from your quads and knees, which is where the initial push comes from if you're starting on your heal. Strictly speaking, I'm a little faster, my foot's in less pain, and I'm working on building up my glutes, because, to be crass about it, my ass cheeks were sore for the first three or four days.

Machines. I don't mind these on the stationary bike, but I don't like them on treadmills (even walking) or other elliptical-style machines. I feel like I want more ankle support. I tend to prefer the bike and running on the track anyway.

Reaction. Some people hate these things. Mostly they're people who understand, from an athletic perspective, why one would wear them, but who have an aesthetic dislike for them. Fair enough. Then there are the people who have actually stopped me in stores to ask about what's on my feet. This is cool, as long as you're not in a hurry.

Recommendation

If you're thinking about getting a pair (or 2 or 3 – they have a bunch of models with varying purposes), first decide what they would do for you, then consult people who understand those things. Go to a local shop and try them out. In Syracuse, Fleet Feet even has a treadmill they'll let you hop on (in fact, if you've never been before, or haven't been in a while, they'll put you on the treadmill to see how you run).

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6 Comments

  1. I keep hearing a TON about these and their benefits. It’s definitely something that I am going to have to try in the future. Are they something that you think you are going to stick with or do you feel that you will get tired of them?

  2. Keith,

    I definitely plan to stick with them — after a couple of hours on the tennis court in the evening, I typically have to stretch five minutes in the morning before I could make it downstairs, not at all with these things. I’m actually considering getting another pair — they have ones that are apparently a little warmer than these (which offer pretty much no weather protection).

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  4. Hi,

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and had a quick question. I wanted to buy fivefingers for playing racquetball. I can not find many reviews for them pertaining to racquetball use. Did they hold up well in the game? I fear that since the grips are strong on these shoes, the seams may give out after a few times playing? Also, which model would be the best for racquetball?

    Thanks,
    DB

  5. DB,

    I’m still (16 months later) playing racquetball in my TrekSports. It might depend on how you move and what kind of game you play.

    I play about twice a week, mainly doubles and with guys who hit the ball very low and very hard, which means I’m rarely taking more than a few steps at a time (if I have to take four or five steps, typically I’ve lost the point by then).

    I might consider trying my Sprints (a little more upper foot movement), but I’m a little worried about there not being treads, especially as the floor gets slick from sweaty people diving.

  6. I’ve been carrying nothing but Vibram Five Finger shoes for about five years now (when you consider that back while human beings requested me if I turned into carrying a few kind of bizarre water shoes), and feature had sooner or later or another the general public of the entire guys’s line. That being said, these are in all likelihood my new preferred. For me, the most essential factor is being as minimal as possible with out going entirely barefoot and having to fear approximately scraping up my feet on glass, sharp rocks, and many others.

    Thanks for your post.
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