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Five semi-judgmental but personally valid reasons to avoid Vibram Fivefingers.


So I’ve been talking a little bit about my recent dabbling with minimalism – how my barefoot miles on the track infield cause my hamstring pain to evaporate and how I’d consequently like to incorporate more mileage with less shoe.

Along these lines, several different people have suggested I invest in Vibram Fivefingers.

My first encounter with a VFF proponent was at my gym back in Atlanta, where a guy told me that he had recently changed his religious views on Facebook to Vibram Fivefingers because he loved them that much. I’d normally take this opportunity to poke a bit of fun at him for that, but I think my religious views section currently says something equally asinine like “hill repeats.”

Wait, let me check.


Moving on.

I’ve listened and nodded along to the gushing reviews of the close-to-barefoot experience that VFFs allegedly facilitate (and have noticed that most VFF proponents seem to be either strength-training gym types or lower mileage runners who claim that my non-dainty rhinoceros-like frame would be A-OK churning out my customary 50-60ish MPW in Vibrams), but my gut response flies directly in the face of the “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” adage:

For activities other than running? Sure, I can definitely see that. But for actual long-distance running?

Heck to the no!

I have a few reasons I’ll be staying far away from Vibram Fivefingers for running, and some of them may be more valid/less vapid than others:

1.  I do not want to look like I just crawled out of a swamp on the outskirts of a Woodstock revival festival while I am running. This footwear simply does not appeal to my vain side. I see the occasional Vibram Fivefingers wearer slapping down the street and I gasp at the biological anomaly presented, which appears to be the half-baked nautical spawn of a SCUBA diver and a commune-raised hippie. Not that I have anything against SCUBA divers or hippies. It’s just that I’m 23, too worried about what others think, and too concerned about the genuine likelihood of alarming nearby small children to be caught running down the road in Vibram Fivefingers under circumstances that don’t involve being dressed up as Swamp Thing on October 31st.  

Let's be honest: yoga and Fivefingers are probably perfectly reasonable things that I resent without any good justification.

 2. Toe separation makes me queasy. There was a period back in middle school where toe socks randomly became all the rage. I received a few pairs for my birthday or Christmas gifts or something. I desperately wanted to wear and enjoy my toe socks like my friends did, but I secretly hated them. Today, I do not secretly hate toe socks. I openly hate toe socks! My toes don’t want to be in separate rooms. They like to hang out with one another, shoot the breeze, and make bets on who will be next to lose a toenail (…the second toe always wins).

 Which is another mystifying feature of the Vibram Fivefingers: If VFFs are so much closer to earth and in tune with the body and “natural!,” then why do they insist on jailing all ten of my toes in smothered isolation units? They obviously aren’t separated when I’m barefoot…  


3.  Speaking of toes, what do you do in the winter? I’m trying to imagine a situation where even the most hardcore VFF running devotee would actually opt for his Vibrams when the temperature is 13 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s snow slicking the trails. The aforementioned isolated toes would freeze to death within a few kilometers. Apparently VFFs are only for climates where thick woolen socks are never necessary in order to enjoy the outdoors for more than 10 minutes at a time. Lame.


4. Speaking of toes (again), Vibram Fivefingers might not… work… with mine. Because I have Morton’s toes. Yes, those weird, spindly long second toes. Control your gag reflex, because Wikipedia says that the Statue of Liberty has them too, and that back in the day they were associated with royalty. I’ve always hoped I was secretly a princess.

See? Long second toes can be normal.

(Source) (Source)

Do you have Morton’s toes? Or the more common second-toe-is-shorter-than-the-big-toe situation?

The point is, VFFs do not appear to accommodate for my goofy Morton’s toes. And come on, kids, my second toenails are already perpetually black or falling off. I don’t need a toe-separating shoe that makes my long second toes feel even more self-conscious about themselves next to their cutesy normal-length peers.


5.  $100.00 to run semi-barefoot. While wearing the minimalist running brethren of equally controversial Crocs and Uggs. With my toes separated. And freezing. And, in the case of the Morton’s toe, locked into too small of a space. Unless someone wants to give me a complimentary pair of VFFs to test out, sticker shock alone means I’ll settle for laps around a grassy field to get my true barefoot fix. If I become overwhelmed by a desire to run in something originally created to be a deck shoe, I’ll check out the water slippers at Wal-mart.


Anyway, I ended up getting Nike Frees with a less drastic heel-toe drop and more flexibility than my standard Air Pegasus, but still enough padding and protection that I know I’ve got a shoe on and don’t have to worry too much about my royally delicate high arches getting pummeled by rocks and roots, as I would if I were actually barefoot.

Say what you will about the controversial Nike Frees (‘cause lord knows I spent this whole post hatin’ on Vibram Fivefingers and I’ve never even given them a chance), but I’ve been enjoying alternating them in for some of my mileage so far. The hamstring pain dissolves with them (while the muscular nagging returns when I re-don my Pegasus), so the Frees are giving me what I wanted. The challenge now will be to resist the temptation to run too much in them too soon.

Vibram Fivefingers: what’s your take? Legitimate minimalist running footwear, or weird fad with little long-term value for the medium-to-high-mileage runner? As with anything worth debating, I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/18/2010 10:43

    i’m kind of against the five fingers too. i’m not going to knock those who love them (and i have some friends who do!) butttt i like my wicked cute sneaks! i think that they might have benefits for runners in terms of being minimal but again, i like my sneaks 🙂

    • 08/18/2010 13:59

      Yeah, I’m sure they have benefits and don’t want this to come off as knocking people who love them. I just can’t. get. over. the toe separation thing. Give me regular sneaks any day if it means my toes get to feel free.

  2. 08/18/2010 12:05

    I have a pair of Vibrams, but I haven’t run in them yet. They are great for working out or just walking around though.

    • 08/18/2010 13:56

      Yeah, that’s a situation I’d imagine they’d be useful in. I do a lot of my circuits at home barefoot for balance purposes, but actually going barefoot is not gonna fly in a gym, so for people working on balance/proprioception, there must be a definite benefit in that context.

  3. 08/18/2010 20:43

    i have vff’s, but haven’t quite gotten into running in them/wearing them regularly. i do feel goofy when i wear them though.

    i never liked toe socks either! they were always so uncomfortable. for some reason i don’t have that issue with the vff’s, so far anyway, all 4 times i’ve worn them. my 2nd toes are longer too… so it really seems like i did waste the $100 haha. why couldn’t you advise me of this sooner gah!

    • 08/20/2010 13:04

      Actually I might have to retract that preemptive grievance… I read somewhere that the CEO or something of Vibram has morton’s toes too, and has no problem with wearing the vffs. I guess you can just buy a size up to accomodate the toe. Shoot, all my haterade reasons are going out the window.

      • Chris permalink
        06/07/2012 20:26

        my VFF’s are a size too big, but it seems ok, although sometimes it is annoying because the heel cup is too big. however, the strap on the shoes are very adjustable

  4. 08/19/2010 09:00

    Ewww I had no idea the vFF’s separated your toes! Ohh that would drive me insane! I have been thinking the idea of having these would be awesome; but haven’t seriously looked into buying them yet. I too enjoy running barefoot (beach running) the pic of the guy doing yoga completely turns me off to these being running shoes..they look like dance shoes! I’m still open to “testing” these out, as long as my toes aren’t super separated! 🙂
    I had no idea you were a rower! (Intense!)a lot of my friends rowed in college, going to regatta’s was just as fun as going to football games!
    I hope your having a great week!

    • 08/20/2010 13:08

      Hmm.. maybe the “Evo” model by Vivo Barefoot would be better for the toe-separation wary? That’s another one I’ve been simultaneously intrigued by/suspicious of…

      • Chris permalink
        06/07/2012 20:22

        in a study in 1905, scientists found people who ran barefoot and never wore shoes had naturally separated toes, just like people who wear VFFs. they found toes sort of “mold” to your shoe over time, and that having naturally separated toes improved balance. VFF’s don’t separate your toes that much, it doesn’t hurt or anything, just to the point where you can grip better

  5. Murdoch permalink
    08/19/2010 09:31

    Barefoot running is certainly beneficial in small doses. Ive experimented with barefoot since probably 2003 on and off and feel that my feet are certainly stronger for it. Ive never done a complete run barefoot either though. Usually it would just be the last mile of a 8 miler or something on the inside of a track.

    I think the big misconception is that people either want all or nothing out of their shoes. They either want Air Max 360’s, or they want to be minimalist worshippers. The answer for just about everyone probably lies in some combination of that.

    • 08/20/2010 13:11

      Per usual, you nailed it. Though I bet the moment that the world famous running company you work for comes out with their own version of a water-slipper-meant-to-be-barefoot-running-shoe, you’ll be hawking it shamelessly. Hee hee! 🙂

      • Chris permalink
        06/07/2012 20:24

        yes, murdoch, i agree that VFFs can be used as trainers, if thats what you’re saying. even the Vibram website says so. however, some people find that running full time in minimalist shoes is the best option, and it seems to work very well for them.

  6. 08/19/2010 15:02

    I’m afraid of them because they’re different. I usually assume that trying new things in running will injure me, haha.

    • 08/20/2010 13:13

      But hey, you’re probably onto something there… in a, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sort of way.

      • Chris permalink
        06/07/2012 20:17

        i agree… sort of
        its like getting a vaccination, it prevents a bad thing, VFFs do strengthen your feet (I have a pair)
        but i agree if you have correct form and don’t run heel-toe, you probably won’t have foot problems, but i would recommend going barefoot at least some

  7. 08/20/2010 08:24

    I had this friend in college who never wore shoes (or showered, for that matter.) The bottoms of his feet were like gorilla pads. First time I saw the VFF, I thought of him.

    Anyhoo, I’m in marketing, so I tend to think everything is BS. Perception is reality. You tell someone these shoes make you faster, they just might run faster. You tell someone toe separation is the comfort revolution, I’ll be damned if they don’t feel more comfortable. But, I know you also can’t lie to feet so there must be something behind them for everyone to be drooling all over them. I haven’t tried the shoes either so I can’t talk. But at least I can walk down the street and not look like Bigfoot.

    Religious views? Mine says “Schadenfreude.”

    • 08/20/2010 13:23

      I never thought of marketing as inducing placebo effects, but now that you mention it, that makes total sense. Also, lolzz at your religious view.

  8. dubay319 permalink
    09/07/2010 13:31

    HAHAHAHA CAT would not agree with you

  9. toes separation is natural to man permalink
    03/10/2011 13:40

    your number one reason for not liking vibrams is they dont look cool? get a life dude.
    toes are meant to be separated. good luck with your smashed together toes when you get old with back/foot/bunion problems and youre wondering why youre in bad shape when you used to be so healthy.

    • 03/10/2011 15:19

      Thanks for your insight. What about people born with webbed feet?!!! 😉

      • Chris permalink
        06/07/2012 20:14

        isn’t that a mutation? i don’t thing webbed feet are a good thing

  10. Chris permalink
    06/07/2012 20:13

    I own a pair of VFFs and my only concern is that they get sort of sweaty and it annoys me. The toe seperation isn’t bad, but your feet won’t be able to fit in them because of your condition. You should try Luna running sandles, i’ve heard good things about them. They’re a lot cheaper and have no toe seperation. I also suggest you read “born to run” by chris mcdoudal, a non-fiction bestseller about minimal running. It’s a great book.

    • 06/08/2012 03:06

      Ah, yes. The book that prompted 8 million hobbyjoggers to go out and buy VFFs, wear them twice, and then throw them into the back of their closet.

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