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How thin is the Vibram Five Fingers material? [FAQ]

By pinching the fabric of the KSO Vibram Five Fingers, I can demonstrate just how thin it is.
By pinching the fabric of the KSO Vibram Five Fingers, I can demonstrate just how thin it is.

A common question I've received is: how thin is the material on your Vibram Five Fingers? Or do your Vibram Five Fingers make your feet hot?

The material is very thin. Per the FAQ on Vibram FiveFingers dot com:

The upper is made with a thin, abrasion-resistant stretch polyamide fabric.

But since "thin" is a pretty vague term and photos of VFFs are never in cross-section, it's difficult, if not impossible, to get an appreciation for the thin-ness of the "polyamide fabric" (just a synthetic fabric). However, above is a photo of my KSOs where I'm pinching the two types of material. If you can mentally divide that width in half, you'll get a decent appreciation for how thin the fabric is and as you can tell, it's pretty thin!

One note, the fabric beneath the velcro strap at the top is much thicker, which is great b/c it provides cushioning and protection against the tightened strap.

If you're still uncertain about the fabric thin-ness, I've got one more way to explain it. Last night, I was hanging out with Nathan on his porch. I was wearing my KSOs. At some point, I was bitten not once, but twice on my left foot by a mosquito! I couldn't believe it at first because I had the KSOs on, but sure enough, when I took them off, I had a mosquito bite on my little toe and another on my mid, upper-foot where the meshed fabric of the KSOs is!

Thus, put simply, the fabric on Vibram FiveFingers is so thin that a mosquito can still suck your blood through it. In short, even though the fabric is good at keeping stuff out and good for keeping your feet cool and protected, it's not so good at stopping mosquitoes.

Go figure. It's a trade off.

Note: This response applies to Classics, Sprints, and KSOs, but not Flows, which use neoprene fabric.

Heel-striking in Shoes. A side-by-side video comparison of how you run shoeless and shod.

A follow-up from The Painful Truth about Sneakers comes a video that demonstrate the difference in running techniques naturally employed by someone who either is running barefoot or running with shoes on. Check it out:


Anyone who has run in their birthday shoes will tell you that heel-striking is not an option when you don't have the plush padding that modern sneakers provide — it's just too jarring and painful. Rather, you seek the ground out with the front part of your foot. From a biomechanical standpoint, this makes an immense amount of sense as every joint from your toes to you pelvis represents a means of compression and shock absorption. Examining the joints in your foot, you've got three per toe, which connect via your arched, shock absorbing foot to one big joint at the ankle. If you heel-strike, which is what happens naturally when you wear tennis shoes, you effectively cut out all of these mechanical shock absorbers.

Obviously, one huge benefit of wearing Vibram FiveFingers over your traditional footwear is that running in your birthday shoes forces you to land on your midfoot and employ all of the shock absorbers that your foot was built to use.

Two more videos on this topic can be found at YouTube here and here (Only watch the first four minutes of this one as it becomes an advertisement after that). And for all you runners, be sure to check out Chris Barbers' new blog, SeriousRunning.com!

(H/T MarksDailyApple for the first vid!)


Vibram Five Fingers KSO Photos (and comments) from reader Chris

Chris is up a tree in his green/gray KSO Vibram Five Fingers shoes at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Chris is up a tree in his green/gray KSO Vibram Five Fingers shoes at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Reader Chris sent in photos snapped from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In them, Chris is sporting grey/green VFF KSOs.

In his email, Chris noted:

Hey cool! a whole site dedicated to my favorite footwear!

Here are some pics of me in the Outer Banks of NC shortly after getting my KSO's.

I love them! Tactile sensations and awareness are great, foot and ankle's are much strengthened. I had them recommended to me by a posture correction specialist. Also you leave really cool footprints.

After much resistance my wife now has a pair of sprints and she loves them. I have a pair of Sprints as well, mostly to wear around the house. I will get some of the Flows this fall.

Every time I wear them out I get lots of questions ... sometimes I feel like a spokesman for VFF.

I'm starting to feel like a Vibram spokesman, too!

I was curious as to how Chris persuaded his wife to pick up a pair, and here is what he said:

The tactics I used to convince my wife were

-it's like being bare foot without dirty feet
-it will help with your ankle pain from heels
-just get some to wear around the yard, I think this was the best one

I might have to try these strategies out on my wife — though I'm sure if she finally does acquiesce it will be because I buy her a pair!

Here's one more shot of Chris:

Chris in his green/gray KSO birthday shoes at the Outer Banks of NC

If you have photos of you in your birthday shoes, please send them in!

Have photos of you and your shoes? Got news? Help us.

...BirthdayShoes was built by people like you! You can help us make this site better.

Do you have Vibram FiveFingers, New Balance Minimus, huaraches like Xero Shoes or Luna Sandals? Nowadays, there are is a slew of "barefoot shoes" and folks are doing just about everything in them.

The growth in the minimalist shoe world is a great thing as people begin to reclaim their health through their feet, but it also makes it pretty hard to figure out which shoes are best for you. Well, swapping reviews, news, and stories is one of the things that this site is all about and if you're up for sharing, you can help.

1. Submit a photo story/mini-review.

Do you have a great photo of you in your "birthday shoes?" Willing to share what you've been doing in them with the readers here at BirthdayShoes? If you do and you're willing to have your photo and story published on birthdayshoes.com, fire an email to [email protected] with the photos attached and ...

Along with your photos, please include in the email where the picture was taken, a few sentences about what you've been doing in your shoes, and any other information you're willing to share. Write a little "mini-review" so that others (often people who know nothing about "free feet") can benefit from you sharing your experience. Got multiple pairs? What's your favorite and why? Had issues? Tell us about them — others can benefit from the knowledge.

Here's an example of what a good photo might look like (note it includes all of the person and not just the feet. Feet shots are neat but feet without the rest of the person tell an incomplete story!

Managing a creek bed on a hike in the Smokey Mountains in the KSO Trek FiveFingers.
Managing a creek bed on a hike in the Smokey Mountains in the KSO Trek FiveFingers.

Small print: This site is about birthday shoes (it's a pun for bare feet), not your birthday suit! The difference is important! I do not want to see you in your birthday suit! Photos submitted may be altered by birthdayshoes.com to make them suitable for the site. Submission of photos to justin at birthdayshoes dot com constitutes both an acknowledgement that you possess the full rights of submitted photos as well as a general release of all rights to the pictures to birthday shoes dot com. Basically, submission means you own the photos and are giving them to birthday shoes dot com to publish. Your email address will not be published!

2. Send us news, scuttlebutt, or rumors!

Who doesn't love to hear the latest news in barefoot? We try to cover breaking stories, new product releases, leaked upcoming shoes, huge promotions and big sales, and more. If you've heard something that you think would be interesting to others on the blog, contact us!

3. Get even more involved. Help us keep the lights on!

BirthdayShoes is a side-project. It's no one's full time job and is currently being kept up in the spare hours of folks who are busy with work, school, families, or whatever. That said, the site has had over three million unique visitors since it began in Spring 2009 and these days, it takes a lot of work just to keep things moving — to say nothing of keeping up with all the reviews, news, and other stuff we like to share.

If you'd like to get really involved and have some basic knowledge about HTML, an eagerness to do some blogging, can take a good photo, and want to look behind the curtain, well, we could use your help. While generally we've got a number of reviewers of shoes already (though we could use more female reviewers!), we could use help to edit user story submissions, write original news, and more. While we can't promise fame and fortune, you'll get some great experience seeing what it takes to run a successful blog on the internet. If that sounds interesting, drop an email about who you are, what you're all about, and how you think you could contribute to justinowings at birthdayshoes dot com!

Interview with Free the Animal's Richard Nikoley on his Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers Classics fan Richard Nikoley shows off his black VFFs.  Richard is a health enthusiast and blogger over at his excellent site, FreeTheAnimal.com
Vibram Five Fingers Classics fan Richard Nikoley shows off his black VFFs. Richard is a health enthusiast and blogger over at his excellent site, FreeTheAnimal.com
Name:Richard Nikoley
Regular shoe size:Approx. 9
VFF shoe size:40
Feet are:cool

What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?

I came upon a blog post at Modern Forager*, now LifeSpotLight, and it was one of those times where I realized I was already an authority and didn't even know it.

So I blogged about it in a post I called: Learning to Walk. In that post, I recounted my 6 1/2 year story of walking a lot every day, how I developed foot problems, and how I finally re-taught myself to walk correctly (in spite of the shoes).

I saw the Vibrams as something I could just naturally step into, and that turned out to be the case.

What type and color Five Fingers do you have and how long have you had them?

Well, that's a funny one, because I was late to the party, and all the colors I preferred were out of stock for my size. I ended up with the classics in all black, and the KSO (I prefer to call them "Keep Sh*t Out") in brown. Boring, but same performance. :)

What do you do most while wearing your Five Fingers?

Walking the dogs, mostly at night in the classics. For my long morning walk, I still often wear my light running shoes. But, this goes back to the beginning. I have already retrained my muscles over years to walk correctly and I have never since had foot pain. I also like to do my workouts in the classics. For the occasional weekend trail hikes, I use the KSOs. I do it mostly for the looks from other hikers along the trail. Priceless.

I've also been known to hit the local pub in the classics. Easy way to get a conversation going.

Any unusual experiences while wearing them?

Only at first. I called it "data overload." The feet, I'm told, have more nerve endings than human genitalia, which is saying something! What's very interesting is that you learn to deal with the data over time and are no longer obsessed with where you're stepping. It's almost like developing a sixth sense.

How do Five Fingers fit in with who you are as a person?

Perfectly. They are many things, implicitly. I think my favorite is simply that they are unconventional and far from what the crowd is doing, so they're profoundly distinctive in a way that's hard to criticize. And, I think the criticism I've heard would more properly be classified as envy. While I'm not a rebel for the pure sake of being a rebel, I eschew doing what everyone else does simply because everyone else is doing it -- or even worse: over fear of unpopular attention.

Anything else you'd like to share about your FiveFingers?

Yes. As great as they are, we must remember that they are still a compromise. As such, I also regularly walk barefoot. I think that should still be the ideal, and I doubt a great company like Vibram would dispute that.

Here's another. My wife has always made fun of them (she calls them my "feet;" as in, "do you want me to toss down your feet?"). Well, last week we were on vacation and went into a sports outfitter shop. They had a full stock and now she has a pair, at my expense, which was the only way she was going to have them.

To her complete surprise, she loves them. The first night, before even testing them out, she watched a movie in them.

Thank you, Richard!

Richard shows off his brown KSOs, black Classics, and his wife's blue sprints!
Additional pictures of Richard's birthday shoes sporting his brown KSOs and black classics can be found here.

Richard Nikoley blogs at Free the Animal dot com, where he is leading the charge for "World Paleo Domination" (An overview). I'm proud to say that I've been following Richard's blogging since as far back as early 2006, back when his blog was called Uncommon Sense. Indeed, Free the Animal is all about applying uncommon sense to your life via the lens of evolutionary biology. And if that last sentence makes no sense to you, I'd encourage you to spend some time at Richard's site. It could radically improve your life (And the lives of those you care about).

* The post Richard refers to at Modern Forager / Life Spotlight by Scott Kustes can be found here: You Walk Wrong And Your Shoes Are To Blame. I hope to get Scott to complete my interview at a future date!