First Thoughts on FiveFingers

Vibram FiveFingers Review

[vibram fivefingers photo]I’ve had my Vibram FiveFingers for a few weeks now. A lot of you had asked me to let to you know how I like them, but I really won’t be able to do that until I’ve built up enough mileage in them to go for longer runs.  At this point I’m only wearing my VFF’s for 3.5 miles at a time, once or twice per week, for fear that any more will put me at risk for injury since the smaller muscles in my feet and legs have not had time to develop.  (When I write “VFF,” I can’t not think “BFF.”  What is wrong with me?)

So even though I can’t give a full, fair review yet, I can tell you how it’s going so far.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Running is much more fun when you can feel the texture of the surface you’re running on, the way you’re meant to.  It’s just one more sensation to connect you with the earth and your surroundings.
  • Running is much less fun when you step on an isolated rock about the size of a marble without much cushioning.  It hurts.
  • The fear of stepping on something causes you to run more cautiously, with smaller, lighter steps.  And that might be the point.
  • My calves and shins were extremely sore after my first three-mile run in the VFF’s.  The same way they are if I start lifting weights after a long layoff.
  • There is a protruding seam on the instep of VFF KSO’s (the model I have) that caused painful, tiny blisters on both feet the first few times I wore them.  Justin from Birthday Shoes told me that this is common and gave me some suggestions.  You can buy socks with five toes, but I’m hoping to avoid that.  I’ve started to develop callouses there and didn’t have a problem last run.
  • The soles have a lot of traction on wet surfaces.  I’d love to wear them on a real trail run, especially since there are no socks to get soaked when I have to run through streams.  But because of the aforementioned pain from stepping on rocks, this is probably a long way off.
  • People look at you funny when you wear VFF’s to the grocery store.

VFF’s, by the way, owe a lot of their recent popularity to the book Born to Run.  If you read it, you might also be interested in my attempts to make pinole and chia fresca, to get me some of that Tarahumara superhuman endurance!

Channeling my inner Doc Brown

My running life has been unrecognizable since I qualified for Boston over three weeks ago.  It’s as if my obsessive focus on that goal prevented me from trying new things, which is sensible.  When you want something badly, you work hard at it, at the expense of other things.  But now that it’s done, it’s like there’s this alternate running universe of things far more interesting than regular road running, like trail running and the almost-barefoot running.  I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so excited about running as I am now.

[doc brown]In what can only be described as excessive zeal after my very first trail run, I signed up for a 50K (31 mile) trail race near where I live, in March.  It’s put on by some of the guys in the group I’ve been running with, and when they told me that spots were filling up, I decided to just do it.  Sure I could wait, build up mileage on trails and make sure this is for me — but as Doc Brown so famously says in Back to the Future, “I figured, what the hell?”

Doc Brown’s “what the hell” saved his life.  Mine will not do that.  But if there’s a running analog to wearing a bulletproof vest to save you from Libyans shooting you because they’re pissed that you stole their plutonium, then I fully expect it to happen.

Indeed, what the hell.



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  1. I’d definitley say you’ve made the right decision starting off slowly with the VFF’s. If barefooting isn’t something you’ve done before the best thing to do is to build up the amount of time you spend wearing them when you feel you can! ike you i developed blisters at first but that soon went! I wear them with Injinji toe socks now that the weather is getting cooler and they could be the perfect option for you to protect your blisters 🙂
    .-= rebecca´s last blog ..Toning Shoes: Lose Weight As You Walk! =-.

  2. With your new running style, it might have been more appropriate to use Doc’s quote “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”

  3. I bet people look at your funny when you wear the VFF in the food store 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying the experience (minus the blister issue) so far! Congrats on the race sign up. I’m thinking about doing a half in December…its no 50…but it’d be my first bigger race!
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Twice Cooked Acorn Squash =-.

  4. Great initial review – I’m glad you’re settling into the VFFs well! A friend of mine has them and he LOVES them so I have high hopes for you. Think you’ll wear them for the 50k??
    .-= katherine´s last blog ..Pre-Race Prep and S’mores – Race Recap Part 1 =-.

    • Katherine, I’d love to wear the VFFs in the 50K. But I really don’t even know if it’s feasible to wear them on the real trails without many months of toughening up my feet. I’ll try on a shorter run soon to get a better idea. Also, I do wonder if it’s better to wear regular shoes during races. I can definitely see why training long-term in VFFs might reduce injury risk because it’s more natural and forces you to take smaller strides. But perhaps you can go a little faster when you wear regular shoes, since you don’t have to be so careful. So the short answer is I have a lot to experiment with before I decide that!

  5. Those look like they’d be fun to try. I’ve been seeing a number of different styles of VFFs on blogs lately, so their popularity must be growing.
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Natural Home Remedies For Colds and Flu =-.

  6. 31 miles . . .




    ps – you should make a vlog next time you go to the grocery store in them!

  7. I’ll admit, the first time I saw someone wearing VFFs in public I couldn’t stop staring.

    Doc’s words are words to live by. I can’t wait to hear more about your trail running adventures!
    .-= Daria @ Daria Can Cook´s last blog ..When the Trent is away… =-.

  8. VFF’s aside….I love the reference to Doc fact, all of life’s little oddities can be somehow addressed in Back to the Future, I am convinced! So, what the hell?! Enjoy yourself!

  9. BTTF reference ftw. 🙂
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Air, Muse and good bread! =-.

  10. cool! i wanna try them out!

  11. geh. i can’t imagine running 31 miles. i walked it – once – in Rome, and it just about killed me.
    .-= Laura M…ski´s last blog ..Blogging malaise? =-.

  12. I LOOOOVE my fivefingers.
    and have been a (semiembarrassed) owner since waaay before I was a (semiawkward) runner.
    .-= Miz´s last blog ..HALLOWEEN (subtitle: Miz hearts the candy corn edition). =-.

  13. Great, honest review. Love the movie reference 🙂
    .-= Whitney @ Lettuce Love´s last blog ..Gratitude Dinner =-.

  14. Looks like a fun race – if I register for it and go on the waiting list, any chance you can talk your trail running buddies into “moving me up” in line…? Heheh.

    I haven’t done a marathon or ultra in Maryland yet.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Private 1 on 1 Coaching » Coming Soon! =-.

  15. I’ve been wearing my VFFs for about 3 months now. I started very slowly (w/ .5 mi., then up by .5 mi. each successive run). I walked in them for a week even before running. Perhaps that fended off the blisters. Now I find it hard to wear regular shoes. Now I am up to 8.5 mi. and I’ll never look for another running shoe. Never having been able to run due to injury, etc…, its the first time ever that I’ve been able to run pain free for more than 3o min. Its been sheer joy. Stick with it. You won’t be disappointed.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..What gets me motivated… =-.

  16. We’ve been carrying the Five Fingers at my job for a while now and our customers love them, though they don’t work for everyone because some of us (like me) have short stubby toes that can’t fill out the toe pockets. : (

    Before it got all cold and wintery a bunch of the sales staff had even started wearing them to work which provoked some fun responses from customers. With frost on the ground I’m not seeing them as much now but expect they’ll pick up again in the spring.

  17. I LOVE the funny looks. Kids especially get a kick out of them. 🙂 In Colorado they’re pretty common though! I’ve been in mine for a year now and love them.

  18. I just realized you wrote this post LAST year…haha

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