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Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 7/12/09

And another week of Vibram fivefingers reviews:

  • Vibram FiveFingers KSO and Classic Running Shoes at Wired.com:

    Running in FiveFingers is much like running barefoot, except without the mincing "Ow-ow-ow!" moments as you hit a patch of gravel or sun-baked asphalt. You have to use the same stride (and the same, probably atrophied, calf and arch muscles) as you do when running with naked feet. The end result is good: By forcing me into a more efficient stride, the VFFs helped subtract nearly a minute from my admittedly slow per-mile pace.

  • Vibram Five-Fingers Shoes and “Barefoot” Running at Rambling outside the Box:

    If you’re going to be a “barefoot runner,” you are naturally tempted to forego socks altogether with your Five-Fingers. I’ve now experimented quite a bit with and without socks. My current preference is to use socks only for hotter temperatures and runs of more than an hour or so. I don’t bother with socks for runs of an hour or less. The primary issue is that I start to develop hot spots after my feet start to sweat significantly. Socks help reduce the chafing and wick away the sweat. I don’t seem to need very much sock; I use very thin Injinji “liner” socks made from bamboo fiber, and I’ve had good luck up to the maximum run of about 12–13 miles I’ve tried so far. I

  • Vibram Five Fingers Shoes at Finding stuff to do in Nebraska:

    I did, however, find that running in the grass, or on uneven terrain is much more fun in these shoes. Running on pavement is almost boring when you have all that extra dexterity and balance in your shoe! I also plan on wearing these for our weekly Ultimate Frisbee session on Monday, as my current shoes tend to roll sideways when I try and change direction too fast.

  • Taking the plunge with Vibram Five Fingers by Drew Price: This is sort of a review in the making, with some updates on VFF experiences. It also gives mention to other barefooting alternatives.
  • Going “Barefoot” In Vibram Five Fingers at SmarterFitter:

    They’re very comfortable to walk in, but my feet became tired over the course of the walk. This morning, the outside of my left foot feels tired, like I’ve been using weird muscles. Calves were also differently tired. But otherwise they felt good, and there was no chaffing or rubbing between my toes. I like that they’re very light. I like them.

It's fun to see Wired.com talk about VFFs (They also have an article on running barefoot or with VFFs that accompanied their review). As always, let me know if I missed any!

Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers

Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers
Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers
Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers

Above are photos of Tim Kelley taken as he was finishing the Dextrose ITU Triathlon in Washington D.C.

Tim wrote in about his positive experiences with Vibram five fingers, going from knee injuries to pain free running, ultimately completing triathlons in his VFFs! Here's what Tim had to say:

I picked up triathlon about a year ago after getting a bike to commute to work. I could never really get into a good weekly running rhythm because I would always have problems with my IT band around my knees. Expensive running shoes and orthotics seemed to help a little but things would flare back up even after extensive periods of rest and stretching.

To combat this, I got a foam roller, which felt good (I used it so much that I ended up “breaking” it—the middle is all crushed and out of shape) and I even went to a sports therapist who specialized in Active Release Therapy which is awesome, and really works--but I ended up with pretty nasty bruises from it. All these things were treating the symptoms and pain, but not treating the cause and my knees would start hurting again after a few more days.

I ended up picking up a pair of red Sprints, and once my calves and achilles got over the initial adjustment period, I could run pain free. I would heel strike in my running shoes, whereas the Vibrams cause me to land on the balls of my feet, quicken my cadence, and keep me from pounding the pavement with so much pressure. Now my knees never hurt and I can finally get in the long training runs that I need to.

In the last triathlon I did, the Dextrose ITU World Championship series in Washington DC, as part of the amateur age group sprint-distance, I got tons of looks from spectators, “Mommy, look at that man’s shoes!” and other races were asking me how I liked them, mid-race! Another benefit is that it saves a few seconds in the bike to run transition because I don’t have to put socks on. I’ve convinced two friends to get pairs and am slowing convincing the greater Washington DC area of how great they are!

Some great information from Tim. Tim also told me that he picked up a second pair VFFs for casual wear &mdash black KSOs. Unfortunately, Tim realized he was missing his right KSO after a trip to the beach! Of course, this is a time when being able to buy individual left and right fivefingers would be a huge help.

If any of you happen to have an extra, size 43 black KSO VFF or would like to try two different sizes for right and left feet (whereby you wouldn't need your right VFF), please let me know.

Maybe we can help Tim out!

Could VFFs (or barefooting!) ever go mainstream?

It's a question we've kicked around on the forums: could Vibram fivefingers, specifically, or barefooting, generally, catch on and "go mainstream?"

No one can really say. However, the predominant initial reaction by fashionistas and style-punditry to "shoes that look like feet" could be summed up as ranging from "Those things are hideous" to "Those things are hysterical and I would never wear them ever."

Just over the past couple of weeks, a few mainstream fashion and entertainment websites illustrated the above reactions flawlessly.

Dlisted.com ran the blog post And I thought CROCS Were Evil ... and had this to say:

These are called Vibram Five Fingers and they just may be the official footwear of HELL. They are like CROCS-made condoms for your feet. ...

I'd rather slip and crack my ass bone on a hard rock (sounds sexay) than wear those rubber lizard socks! You know UGGS is going to make a winter version of these things ...

Ouch! Of course, Vibram may have already beaten UGGs to the punch with the upcoming release of the Cortina.

Elsewhere, starpulse.com echoed dlisted's thoughts regarding Crocs plus the additional jab, "80 bucks for a shoe that looks like a foot."

Perhaps the most polite reaction emerged from I'm Not Obsessed dot com, "I'm not a surfer... but I can honestly say with conviction that even if I was I wouldn't wear this shoe. But that's just me!"

Some of the comments and reactions on the above sites are particularly humorous if you're looking to kill some time (or don't mind dumbbing yourself down reading them). Actually, a few commentators expressed they might still grab a pair despite their "fugliness." I can only assume that it's a positive thing when fashion followers throw aesthetics aside in favor of the merit behind being effectively barefoot.

Perhaps there's even reason to be optimistic — maybe VFFs could overcome the widespread anti-barefoot/VFFs-are-ugly bias. There are various examples of the minimalist footwear/barefooting/fivefingers—dare I say—movement gaining ground. You've got barefoot running gaining traction, becoming more popular via the efforts of various barefoot blogs, and barefoot running forums. You've also got community websites dedicated to barefooting as well as minimalist footwear discussion groups. Plus, fivefingers do have their own fan site!

Out in "meatspace," Chris McDougall's Born to Run is a mainstream assault on the running shoe industry while simultaneously giving serious consideration to barefoot or VFF-clad running (Notably BtR has spent over 50 days in Amazon's top 100 sellers, presently standing at No. 65).

A few Google search trends also seem to indicate a rise in interest for five fingers (See here, here, and here for a few examples).

It's all somewhat inconclusive. Then again, it's reasonable to assume that barefooting was "in style" for a few hundred thousand years. Could shoes be the fad? Hmm ...

Who knows? Maybe one day we'll be standing in line at the grocery store, and see a Paparazzi photo of "Brangelina" sporting matching fivefingers in public.

I'm not sure if I'd cringe or clap. Maybe both.

New Model Update on the Five Fingers Performa

A comment by Bryan over in Culver City indicated he had seen the elusive Vibram Five Fingers "Performa." Bryan said:

I was at sporteve here in Culver City to pick up my KSOs. They had a performa on the display rack. It resembled suede, but more like thin leather.

On further discussion with Bryan, I asked if the model he had seen looked like the Glove, and he confirmed that it did not:

No, not like [the fivefingers Glove] at all. It had the sole like a KSO, but the top was of the thin leather-like material.

This sounds like confirmation of one my suspicions — that the Performa has full-coverage over the top of the foot similar to the KSO while using the same kangaroo-leather of the Glove (which may be another name for the Moc).

Other posts regarding new Vibram FiveFingers models:

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Review)

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Review)

I challenge anyone to read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen and not be inspired—to run, to be healthy, to be, well just, better.

Born to Run is about McDougall's investigative adventure into the world of running, ultramarathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara Indians, a seclusive group of "superathletes" known for their running endurance and speed. The tale begins with a question, "How come my foot hurts?" and ends with a race between a few elite ultrarunners and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. In between are a number of answers, questions, and challenges.

It was difficult to put Born to Run down. The book is simultaneously thrilling and informative. It not only recaptures the excitement of past distance running races (like the 1995 Leadville 100), but it also tells the backstories of BtR's protagonists — Ann Trason, Ken Chlouber, Caballo Blanco (or "Micah True"), "Barefoot Ted" McDonald, Scott Jurek, Jenn "Mookie" Shelton and Billy "Bonehead" Barnett. Even still, the book serves as an indictment of the running shoe industry, specifically Nike, while also laying out a compelling case that human beings evolved to be runners—chasing prey down, out-enduring them via the persistence hunt. At under 300 pages Born to Run, like the runners and races it describes, covers a lot of ground quickly.

Perhaps one of the most inspirational paragraphs from Born to Run contains the book's title:

Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our "passions" and "desires"—it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We're all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.

Born to Run is one of those rare books that captures within its pages an authentic human experience and conveys that experience directly to the reader. It's a book in which you are awed by superhuman athletes while still seeing their core humanity. And therein is one of McDougall's primary takeaways: every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA.

Since this book review is for the Vibram fivefingers fan community, I'd be remiss not to note that BtR gives a hearty mention regarding VFFs, specifically via Barefoot Ted, who apparently inspired Vibram USA's CEO, Tony Post, to go for a run in his fivefingers. I'm guessing this was back in early 2006. "El Mono" (Barefoot Ted) also made use of his fivefingers at various times during his trek to race with the Tarahumara. And as previously noted on this site, Christopher McDougall seems to enjoy his fivefingers for running these days, too.

Conclusion: BtR is a fantastic read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. More than anything, I expect this book to spawn the next generation of runners, and I'm optimistic that it will take barefooting (or pseudo-barefooting/minimalist footwear) mainstream. Born to Run is yet another step in a more general movement towards acquiring a higher understanding of what it means and requires to be human.

Thank you to Christopher McDougall for telling this tale: it needed to be told!

If you'd like to snag Born to Run, just click this link to pick it up from Amazon.com.

Be sure and check out my interview with Christopher McDougall!

In it, Chris talks about denying your nature, the sports shoe industry, getting to barefoot, cross-pollinating ideas, and more!

Additional reading:

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 7/05/09

Attention! If you haven't sent in your "Free Feet for the Fourth Photos" yet, please do so (email them to pics at birthdayshoes dot com)! I'm going to keep accepting them throughout today with a full blog post on Monday!

And this week's latest reviews of Vibram Five Fingers:

  • Vibram Five Fingers Sprint Review at Nic Myers:

    I have flat feet and I’ve been known to drag my feet and wear out the back of my shoes. I also have problems with my posture and my back being sore. While they are not a miracle fix for the issues, since I have been wearing the shoes my posture and back have noticeably improved. I also don’t have the problem of dragging my feet anymore. The fact that your feet are getting stronger while wearing them is a huge perk for me. I’ve never felt like my feet have been in better condition.

  • Vibram Five Fingers shoes at falaris.com:

    I cannot recommend VFFs highly enough. They are a little more expensive than normal shoes, or sometimes right on par with shoes, depending on what brands you buy ... And the fact that it took the pain in my ankle away and helped my back pain is priceless. These shoes are one of the best investments I’ve made in my life.

  • Gear Review: Vibram’s FiveFingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out) at SouthernHiker.com:

    In the first three weeks of having these shoes, they have been worn in the snow of Yellowstone, the desert in Arches, in the swimming pool in Georgia, during a soccer game I was playing/coaching in, at the grocery store, the beach in Florida, and along creek beds in the Georgia Mountains. With the exception of the grocery store and in the snow, these shoes have not only been comfortable, they have been exceptionally functional in all of those situations.

  • Vibram Five Fingers – Barefoot at junglegirl:

    And when you just can’t go barefoot, try these shoes: Vibram’s Five Fingers. They do not assist grounding but they will re-align your posture and correct the alignment of your toes in the same way walking barefoot all day will. ( See the many YouTube videos and Google for blog posts that explain further the many benefits and body mechanics of wearing Five Fingers.)

  • Reebok Taikan IB vs Vibram Five Fingers at Clinton Lake Ultra:

    These are perfect companions for POSE or ChiRunning. I encourage you to try these shoes. Why not give your toes some freedom on this Independence Day? Remember the sizing is a bit odd...I wear a size 13 shoe and ended up with size 46 in the Vibrams. They have a chart on their web site to guide you through the sizing process. I give this shoe a 5-star rating!

  • Natural Walking and a Vibram Five Fingers Experiment at Hozaku — showing that VFFs aren't for everyone:

    I got the Five Fingers out of the trunk to give it another go. This time I gave it a full three weeks. I started out at a mile and experienced the same hot-spot and blister problem as before. I gritted my teeth. If they worked for Tim they'd work for me. Three days a week, slowly tying to extend back up to my normal 2 miles. The result?

    I'm back in my wrestling shoes.

    My feet did get tougher, but despite thick ridges of callous building up in the areas indicated on the image above, the Five Fingers were just too uncomfortable. A few times I found myself far enough out and, not wanting to endure the Five Fingers any more, pulling them off and finishing my run barefoot.

Remember, if I missed any, be sure to let me know so I can add them to the list!