What are Vibram Five Fingers?
When a piece of footwear occupies the top spot in Google’s web search trends, it may be time to pay attention.
I’ve been hearing about Five Fingers shoes for about a week now. First, a friend of mine (who does a lot of cross training) shows up for a short run wearing what look like river shoes. Before I have a chance to ask him what the heck he’s wearing on his feet he offers up an explanation — “They’re Vibram Five Fingers”. He extended his foot and wiggled his toe. The strangest shoes I’ve ever seen.
Vibram Five Fingers are shoes — you might be tempted to call them slippers, or socks with a rubber sole. They approximate the feeling of being barefoot while protecting and cushioning your foot. The flexible Vibram rubber sole on the bottom and the way the upper fabric wraps around each of your toes — that’s the gimmick here. The shoes have five toe cutouts and absolutely no “arch support” or any kind of foam padding you’d expect in the soles.
Vibram Five Fingers come in multiple varieties, but are all variations on a similar theme — some pair provide a little more foot coverage, there is one pair meant for use in the water, and the “classic” Vibram Five Fingers shoe that uses a system similar to pack webbing that you see hikers use. This bungee cord like “webbing” prevents the shoe from falling off when you use it in a more robust activity.
My friend who cross trains went on and on about his Five Fingers. He rattled off a list of activities he’d done in his new Vibrams — everything from free weight lifting, riding a sail boat, walks and jogs, frisbee games, and rowing to grocery shopping and just lounging around his house.
It is easy to see the instant appeal of Five Fingers shoes — I hate wearing shoes and have always preferred to go barefoot. Think back to your childhood — didn’t you always want to run around without shoes? Five Fingers are a great option for those of us that are active but just can’t find a comfortable shoe. Barfoot’s tough — you don’t want to risk walking around on glass or other sharp things.
Vibram Five Fingers minimize contact between the ‘shoe’ and the ground by design. This shoe has very little to get hung up on the ground surface. Runners and joggers often talk about “interference” of their shoe. The Five Fingers have a practically insignificant rubber sole that makes very little interference.
According to reviews on the net, and the glowingly positive review of my workout buddy, the Five FIngers shoe allows for a kind of “foot feel” that no other shoe can offer. When you wear Five Fingers outside, you feel the temperature of the ground, the curve of a hill, the crunch of grass under your feet. You get a real sense of the textures of the ground and feel hardly removed from the Earth at all.
So what’s the real appeal of walking around barefoot? Too many of us have been wearing large, restrictive, and just plain “clunky” shoes and sneakers during workouts or everyday life. It is a unique feeling to slide on a pair of Five Fingers and walk about, it is like a new freedom for your feet.
Another bonus to the Five Fingers is that your walk or run will work out different muscles in your feet, ankles, and legs. You can actually increase your agility by working out muscles that are normally kept mute by athletic shoes.
The truth is, if you are an active person who enjos going barefoot but wants a little more protection, you’re going to love Vibram Five Fingers.
These shoes are amazingly light. They are also very compact and ideal for travel. If you run cross country or encounter anything wet during your workout (or if you’re into water sports) these shoes are perfect for you. Regular sneakers will get soaking wet and could end up smelling of mold or weighing you down. If your Five Fingers get wet, there’s no problem at all. They dry ridiculously fast. Last but not least, these shoes are completely machine washable. Just toss them in the washing machine, then hang them out to dry like an old sweat shirt.
Now that you’re interested, you gotta go to some specific places to pick up your own pair of Five Fingers. You should look at the specific styles available at the official Five Fingers website, look around, determine what style is right for you. The “classics” I’ve just ordered set me back just $68. All of the varieties of Vibram Five Fingers can be picked up (free shipping!) at kayakshed.com.
One warning — there is a style of Five Fingers called “sprint” style. They include a strap that runs over the top of your foot, and the rumor on the web is that this strap causes some pretty serious chafing. My hiking buddy sprints in his “classic” Five Fingers and has never had a problem with them coming off. You probably won’t need the strap for sprinting.
Sizing is also different from traditional shoes. Again, check out the website (kayakshed.com) for information on how to order your size.
Sure, people are going to look at your weird new shoes and ask all sorts of questions. If they’re anything like me, they’ll be put off at first, but be quick to rush online and order their own pair. If you’re looking for a unique piece of footwear, Vibram Five Fingers has a pair of shoes for you.