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Vibram Five Fingers Classic Review
The Vibram Five Fingers Classic are the next best thing to going barefoot. The "shoe" has individual toe slots to allow your foot control and stability that only comes from being barefoot. The upper is made of an elastic fabric that stretches and wraps around your foot. The soles of course are Vibram and are made with a nonmarking rubber. The shoes also have slits in the bottom of the soles to increase traction. Vibram states that the shoes help promote proper balance and expanded range of motion that will help strengthen your feet.
Vibram makes the Five Fingers in three different styles, the KSO Model (Keep Stuff Out), Sprint Model, used for running and that have an elastic strap over the top of the foot and finally the Classic Model. Even though I bought the Vibrams for running, I went with the Classic Model as I had heard that the strap on the Sprint Model can be a bit uncomfortable and so far I can't say that I have had an issue with the shoe slipping
The Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) have a thin rubber sole but no cushioning, thus when you go for a run in the VFF it will feel similar to running barefoot, however you will have thin sole that will protect your foot from glass and small rocks. I would recommend that you start off slowly in the VFF and stay on grass, increasing your mileage gradually.
The VFF also have a plastic draw string on the back of the shoe to tighten the shoe. The first few times I ran in the VFF I used the string to tighten the shoe, but eventually I realized that I had no need to tighten the shoe, in fact tightening the shoe only made it more uncomfortable.
I am a neutral runner and land on my mid-foot, thus running in the Vibrams was not a significant change for me. What I do notice is my form changes slightly, I straighten up and get up on my toes. The first week with the VFF, I did a two mile run; another two mile run and a four mile run with no problems. However, I ran entirely on the grass on the outside edge of a park. I have read stories of people experiencing some calf pain the first few times running in the VFF, but my guess is those are runners who were landing on their heel before and now having to land on their mid foot were in for a big surprise.
The following week, I ran another four miler and did a seven miler two days after the four miler with relative ease. At the end of the seven mile run, my feet were a tad sore but I had no discomfort the next day. Running on concrete and asphalt is still too difficult for me, but I imagine if you did it enough your feet and legs would gain the necessary strength.
My assumption is if you are a runner that lands on your heels that the VFF will take some getting used to and will probably be uncomfortable at first, as your form will totally change as you will not land on your heel when running barefoot or with the VFF, instead you will land on your mid foot, on the fat/plush part of your foot. However, people who do land on their heel probably have the most to benefit from wearing the VFF.
A few years ago, I had plantar fasciitis at a time when I was running only 10-15 miles per week and doing zero racing. I remember thinking at the time how odd it was that I got a running related injury at a point in my life when I was running the least amount of mileage that I had in the last ten years. I visited a Podiatrist and of course he recommended orthotics. I picked up a pair for my work shoes and my running shoes. I also bought a pair of night splints, did all of the exercises and wore shoes at all times and avoided sandals per my Doctors advice.
My plantar fasciitis eventually went away but after I gave up on all the advice and products that my Podiatrist at given me. But, it got me to thinking, I remember my Doctor telling me to avoid going barefoot in the house to alleviate the plantar fasciitis, thinking about it now, it just doesn't make sense? If my feet hurt after going barefoot for five minutes in the house, now I think logically that my feet had to have been weak. Most likely due to the shoes I wore all the time, thus my foot was getting cast and the muscles were atrophying.
Eventually I came across an article a year from an Orthopedic Surgeon stating that most foot problems were caused by the shoes themselves and how indigenous tribes that are barefoot never have feet problem such as plantar fasciitis.
I then met Chris McDougal and read his book "Born to Run" and for me it was preaching to the choir, I was the choir. Over the past year I have moved from regular cushioned shoes to using performance trainers exclusively. My plan now is to move to even lighter and lower profile shoes over the next year, essentially heavier weight racing flats in the eight ounce range. However, when I heard about the VFF I was intrigued and finally paid the $75 to own a pair. So far, I think the "shoes" are fantastic and I really enjoy running in them and plan on getting about 15%-20% of my weekly mileage in the VFF. In addition, I am going barefoot all the time in the house in hopes of strengthening my feet.
The first few runs in the VFF were on a rainy night, it was pure bliss running through the wet grass, it reminded me of all the reasons that I loved to run. I've also been using the VFF to do yard work and for walks around the neighborhood, but highly doubt that I will wear them in public. I already get idiosyncratic looks when I'm out running in them, but if attention seeking appeals to you, you will definitely get it and the questions that follow by slipping on a pair of VFF.
The VFF are a bit laborious to get on your feet, instead of the normal five seconds to put on a pair of shoes it probably takes me about thirty seconds to put each VFF on my foot. The big toe and the two toes next to it go in rather easily, but I have to manually adjust my foot to get my pinkie toe in. I have had some mild rubbing on my big toe, just a slight irritation but that may just take some getting used to.
In conclusion, the VFF are one of the best running products that I have bought in my lifetime. Pick up a pair, strengthen your feet and remember what it's like to run "naturally" without a big bulky shoe.