You may have seen them around, maybe you haven’t. They kind of look like gorilla feet or monkey shoes. I am talking about the latest basic minimal footwear, Vibram Five Finger shoes. I have been wearing Vibrams for the past 3 years now and I absolutely love them. I started with my first pair of the black KSO’s and it kind of escalated from there. I really like these shoes because I feel a closer connection to the ground, they help strengthen my feet, toes and ankles and it brings us back to the way we are suppose to be: barefoot.
Before you make the jump to these crazy barefoot shoes, I would highly suggest you transition with all of the options of minimal footwear first. The Nike Free’s are a great place to start. They have a highly flexible sole and 3 to 5 degree drop from the heel to the toe. Next in line would be the New Balance Minimus. The minimus is a great shoe with a lesser degree in heel drop and they also offer a wider range of options. They make a cross training shoe, a trail running shoe, a walking shoe and a running shoe. I only have the trail running shoe and the walking shoe and I absolutely love them when I am not wearing my vibrams. The only thing holding me back from having the whole collection is the money issue. I do not have any experience with the Merrells or the Vivobarefoot shoes but have read great reviews on them.
After wearing any of the above shoes for a couple of months, you should feel your feet and ankles getting stronger and should be more comfortable with not having such a great big sole to stand on. The next step would be to try on some Vibrams. My suggestion would be go to a store where they actually sell them like: REI, Sports Chalet, or Roadrunner and have your foot measured. The size of your vibrams is done by placing your foot against a wall, putting a ruler under your foot and measuring your longest toe. Make sure you measure both feet and go with the longest measurement of the two. Now that you have your measurement, use the size conversion chart to get your vibram European size. Depending on what model you choose, your size will vary. My foot is 10 1/4 inches which puts me at a size 40 for most but a 41 in the Classic’s and Sprint’s. Note however, if you have what is called a Morton’s Toe, meaning your second toe is longer than your big toe, than unfortunately Vibrams will not work for you.
Here is my collection of vibrams and I will discuss each one starting with the top left. My newest pair is the Vibram Speeds. I have only had these for about 2 weeks now and I am starting to really like them. I love the fact they are my first lace up pair and I can control the tightness with the laces. The speeds are made of a mesh like material and because of this they are taking a little longer than usual to break in. I love the style and color of them, great for running and I would even wear them with pants. The next pair is the green and black Vibram Komodosport LS. Love them!! These are my first pair with the running treaded sole and they are fantastic. They have jumped to my most favorite pair. Extremely comfortable and very stylish. The speed lacing system is quick and really easy but I do not use it much. Next in line are the green and grey and all black Vibram KSO’s. These are a great shoe, very versatile and are the most popular model. KSO stands for “keep stuff out” and they hold true to that for I have worn the black pair on several outdoor hiking adventures and have even competed in the Spartan 5K obstacle course race with them. The black KSO’s pictured are my very first pair I purchased 3 years ago and are still going strong. I have had to sew up a couple of holes in them over the years but they have not failed me yet. I plan on using them in my next race in January, the Super Spartan.
The next two pairs are the orange and grey and all black Classic’s. These are a great slip on shoe that give you the barefoot feel you want with very little fuss. Great for everyday walks and general lounging around use. I do workout in mine but I do not recommend doing any hardcore running or hiking in them. These are great to slip on with a pair of jeans and are another one of my favorites. The last pair you see are the blue and grey Vibram Sprints. I know, I know, they look just like the classic’s and this is because I have altered them. I did not care for the straps they came with, I thought they were pointless so I took them off. Be very cautious when doing so because you may puncture some holes in them that you can not sew back together.
My suggestion would be to go out, try some on and see what works for you. It all depends on what activities you want to do with them. A very good start would be the KSO’s. A warning to all you runners out there: Break them in slowly!! If you are use to running 5-10 miles in an outing, you probably want to only run a mile or two for the first couple of weeks. Using vibram’s to run makes you run more mid foot strike instead of your heel and because of this you end of using more of your calf and achilles. Most are not use to running this way and ended up becoming extremely sore. Be careful.
One thing I would highly recommend would be to invest in some injinji toesocks. I have not had any experience with them until I bought my last pair and they work fabulously. They have independent toes and are great for keeping your feet warm and your vibram’s from smelling too bad.
Go out and enjoy the new feel of the world with your new minimal footwear. You may be pleasantly surprised.