User Stories

Handstands in Toe Shoes Around the World

Hey Justin,
My name’s Ben, I just wanted to write in and share some experiences and pictures with you and your readers.
I work for Barefoot Inc; the New Zealand supplier of Vibram FiveFingers and in March took five weeks away visiting friends and fami…

Below is a note I received in the mailbag from a New Zealander named Ben who recently took a whirlwind worldwide tour for five weeks in March. What more, his shoes of choice were Vibram FiveFingers Speeds, and perhaps the coolest aspect of his trip was how he opted to have snapshots of himself doing handstands taken at some of the sights along his way ‐ donning his fived toed retro sneakers (the Speeds), of course! Here’s Ben:

Hey Justin,

My name’s Ben, I just wanted to write in and share some experiences and pictures with you and your readers.

I work for Barefoot Inc., the New Zealand supplier of Vibram FiveFingers, and in March took five weeks away visiting friends and family and seeing the world a little. I took with me a pair of Speeds as they’re my day to day shoe. The twist is, I’m not very photogenic and I’m not a fan of posing for pictures with, “touristy thing A” in the background. But I am a student of the local circus school, so I did handstands instead.

I present to you my 2012 handstand tour of the world.

Hong Kong

First off was a weekend in Hong Kong where I caught up with an old climbing friend of mine, who promptly took us climbing on Beacon Hill. I found rock scrambling in the speeds far more comfortable and stable than a more traditional shoe. I also found a stunning view of Hong Kong from a cliff edge just down from the climbing area.

The United Kingdom

Next up was visiting family in the UK and unfortunately, it was a bit cold and to be wearing the speeds all the time, hence only one picture from England. Having said that, the view of the West Pier at Brighton beach as the sun sets is one of my favourite pics of the whole tour.


After seeing all the family I could fit into two weeks, it was off to Spain to see my adventuresome cousins who live in a small town on the East coast. We did as much sight seeing and exploring as we could and thus got some great shots. The big challenge I put to the Speeds was climbing Mt Montgo; the general recommendation is to climb it in sturdy hiking boots as the entire “path” is loose or uneven rock as you can see in the background of the first shot. The Speeds held up admirably though and after four or so hours of going up and down the steep side of the mountain I was slightly foot sore from sharp rocks, but that was it. Would have loved to test some Spyridons, but, alas, they’ve only just arrived in New Zealand. Mt Montgo was also the receiver of the obligatory “look at my shoes with a drop in front of me” shot.


As my plan was to head to Switzerland before flying to Korea on my may back to New Zealand, I had to get my way north through France and decided to stop in Barcelona on the way past. Visiting the Christopher Columbus Monument there takes the cake for the scariest place I did a handstand as the lion statue involved didn’t really offer any comfortable escape route if anything went wrong. I scared a few tourists and myself a little, but I like the shot. Castell de Montjuic gives a nice look out over Barcelona.


Catching a train North from Barcelona took me into France where I stopped in Lyon and checked out the sites. I also half fell in a river (that’s a story for another time) doing handstands, so had to wear something else for the time I was there while I had them dry (in just an afternoon which was nice and quick) tied to my bag.


Switzerland was mostly ski / snow oriented, so the Speeds didn’t see too much light there, but I did get a nice shot of Lake Zurich to add to my collection.

South Korea

I rounded off my journey with a few nights in Seoul as you can see. The Gyeongbok Palace is seriously large and fun to pose with; my only qualm was not finding something to handstand on top of, which is my usual preference.

I found that despite sometimes walking all day, I was never really foot sore or tired from it, despite not usually doing any kind of running or hiking at home, parkour is the closest I come to running and I do that infrequently. It would appear that walking around in Fives is definitely the way to go!



Couldn’t agree more, Ben! Awesome photos — thanks for sharing your trip with us!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

11 replies on “Handstands in Toe Shoes Around the World”

Wow. That was interesting and you got some great shots. Cool idea doing a handstand in front of everything. My brother used to do handstands and then walk around like that. I could never do it. Thanks for sharing indeed.

Took the wife and kids to Disney World for a week and wore my Bikila LSs the entire time. Even pushing the stroller around the entire time and a kid on my back my feet felt fine. Love my Fives.

The one picture in the UK is reminds me of the Ninjas warrior warped wall as well as Tough Mudder’s “Everest”.

Nice photos and trip! I just got back from Seoul, South Korea (was on the show “Starking” where I juggled on the show and juggled a triathlon for the show afterwards in my KSO’s).

I admire the handstands. I used to practice them, but didn’t follow through with it, but I will someday soon. I appreciate the circus arts as a juggler, so I try to learn whatever I can to add to my skillset.

I’m jealous! I want to visit those places AND learn how to do a handstand now. I guess I’ll add those to my list, just underneath collecting as many VFF’s as possible 🙂 Great photos, it looks like you had a blast.

Hey everyone, I had a great time, constantly thinking, “Could I handstand on that? Would it look awesome?” added a whole new slant to traveling! The best of album is 82 pictures all up…

To those who want to get their handstand on, just start standing on your hands! Walls are your friends can build confidence and strength.

Joe, I saw your post on here a little while back: nice work! I juggle clubs a little and I still can’t even begin to understand the effort involved.

Thanks, Ben. Very cool that you do clubs… I am actually getting back into working on getting 5 club juggling down. I can juggle 5 in every “prop” category besides clubs, so it’s a goal of mine to follow through learning five.

Keep up the handstands. I always admire acrobatics, handstands, and gymnastics. It’s always good to add it to a juggling routine too.

Wow! Ben, your handstands surely beats the planking. Those are really cool specially when you do it around the world. Where is your next destination.

Man Joe, 5 clubs is hardcore. I’m helping set up a flying trapeze tomorrow night for the coming term of classes at the local circus trust, should be awesome times.

@ Shyra, someone suggested that I go to the south pole and do a handstand, thus holding up the world. No plans for any further travel thus far though. 🙂

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