User Stories

Running a 255km Jungle Marathon in Spyridon FiveFingers

I have just completed the 2012 Jungle marathon in Brazil, and in doing have become the first person ever to take part in and finish this grueling event wearing a pair of Vibram Fivefingers. With the help of a pair of Spyridons I even managed to finish t…

I short while ago I got a pretty incredible user story from Stuart, who recently completed a multi-day “Jungle marathon,” which is more of an ultramarathon spread across a few days where you haul all your gear with you for the trip.

He completed it in Spyridon FiveFingers — much to the surprise of the race director and others who warned against doing just that.

I’ll stop there and just encourage you to read on!

I have just completed the 2012 Jungle marathon in Brazil, and in doing have become the first person ever to take part in and finish this grueling event wearing a pair of Vibram Fivefingers. With the help of a pair of Spyridons I even managed to finish the world’s toughest endurance race (as listed by CNN) in 5th place overall. I did not wear toe socks at any time either during the race.

The race is a 6 stage, 7 day self supported foot race. Runners have to carry all of their food, clothing, hammock, sleeping bag/liner, medical kit and other mandatory kit, as well as 2.5 litres of water at every checkpoint. My rucksack at the start of day one weighed about 12.5kg. The longest stage on day 5, is a non stop 108.5 km ultramarathon. The total distance covered was over 255km across swamps, dense jungle, mangroves , sandy beach, creeks, rivers and dirt roads (Full details at

Before flying out to take part, I wrote to the race director who advised me not to wear Vibram Fivefingers (VFF) , suggesting they might not offer enough support for such a long distance race. I also emailed a previous competitor, who is also a physiotherapist for her advice on wearing VFF. Her response was ‘ …Fivefingers will be a disaster….they will not offer your feet the support they need……they are not designed for such long distance running…..and they won’t have enough grip to help you stay upright on the seriously wet and muddy terrain, particularly on the severe ascents and descents’.

Despite this advice I opted to go with my Spyridons. Thanks to the clever cocoon lining in the sole I had every confidence they would give my feet enough support to avoid injury to the sole of my foot whilst running through the dense jungle, where the floor was covered in sharp spiky objects as well as spiky stinging insects like scorpions. I felt no impact at all underfoot and the Spyridons’ grip was more than adequate to cope with the muddy terrain. A week before going to Brazil for the race I wore my Spyridons to hike up Snowdon, the United Kingdom’s third highest mountain. They were great for that too, although whilst walking across large, wet slightly tilted rocks/boulders I could feel my feet slip slightly, but I think that may have happened in walking boots also. The hike up to the summit left me in no doubt that my Spyridons were the right choice for the jungle marathon.

The tough material used for the upper is still in exactly the same condition it was before the 255km race. There are no tears or cuts at all to the upper of both shoes, and the soles too are also damage free. The only minor sign of wear and tear is a very small section of the material on the outside of one of the big toe pockets, where it has very slightly come away from the sole. But in order to see it you have to look closely , and after such a long way in some seriously aggressive and tough terrain, including deep bogs and swamps I think that is extremely impressive and shows how robust the Spyridons are.

I did have a concern about using the Velcro strap version as I wondered how it would hold up in the swamps and bogs. Some of the bogs were up to 1km long and over knee deep with mud. My concern was whether the strap would stay secure and tight when pulling my leg up out of the mud as I did not fancy losing a shoe. However, the Fivefingers are designed to fit snugly to the foot so although on a couple of occasions the strap came undone the shoe remained firmly in place on my feet. But this did not happen during every swamp or bog , and there were many.

Every single day of the race I had several other competitors asking me about my choice of footwear, often questioning whether I would be able to finish the race. My reply was the same every day, that they were extremely comfortable and I felt no pain or any objects under foot at all. They looked amazed but also looked very impressed. Many of them said they were going to try using Fivefingers after the event.

Perhaps even more impressive than the toughness of the shoe, is the comfortableness of the Spyridons for running and hiking. After running 255km I did not have a single blister on either of my feet, and that is despite starting and finishing every day with wet soggy feet. The only sores I had on my feet were between a couple of my toes caused by sand getting between them during the 108.5km long stage. I had already run several miles on sand during the previous four stages without any problems with the sand at all. During the long stage I think it only happened due to having had wet feet since 4.30am at the very start of the stage when we started with a river crossing, and by the time I ran on sand I had been running with wet feet in 35 degree heat in almost 100% humidity for over 12 hours. Perhaps if I had put on a pair of toe socks I may have been able to prevent the sores at all but as they were only minor I opted to just carry on to the finish.

The race director, who advised against wearing VFF, saw me on day four at the first checkpoint and said she couldn’t believe I was still wearing them and going so well. She said every day she expected me to pull out with trashed feet and after the race told me how seriously impressed she was with me for finishing in 5th place and wearing Fivefingers for the entire race.

This was taken after I flopped having just crossed the finish line of the 108.5km ultramarathon long stage on day 5. I had already covered 123km in the previous 4 days and having started at 4.30am I finally finished the stage at 1am, managing 4th place. I think it’s fair to say I was pretty exhausted… But the fivefingers did a great job of getting me through.

I had reservations myself about wearing Fivefingers, and I don’t think my Bikilas, KSO’s or Classics would have been up to the task. But thanks to the Spyridons trail running qualities I was able to wear them.

In my opinion the Spyridons are the most comfortable running shoe I have ever worn. I have run over 20 marathons on both road and off road, and several ultramarathons including multi-day events in the Sahara, Atacama, Himalayas and Scottish highlands, as well as 100km and 100 mile non stop races. I have worn several different brands of running shoes, some of which have left me with horrendous blisters. Some have been okay when it comes to blisters, but even if I have finished blister free I have always felt ‘hot spots’ which is the start of a blister. I have never worn a running shoe that has left me with zero blisters and zero hotspots.

I would have no hesitation at all in recommending Vibram Fivefingers to other runners, and for trail/off road running at the moment in my mind there is no better option than the Spyridons.


Incredible accomplishment, Stuart!

It’s great to hear a pair of Spyridons were up for this serious beatdown.

Anyone else itching to do a jungle marathon now?

Thanks for sharing, Stuart!

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.

10 replies on “Running a 255km Jungle Marathon in Spyridon FiveFingers”

Congratulations! What an awesome event. I’ve a friend that did that race years ago. Sounds brutal; just the kind of stuff I like to do! I’m sort of surprised that the RD and other folks were so gloom and doom over your choice of footwear. They probably figured that the Spyridon was just like every other VFF out there. Really though as long as you got a decent amount of traction and some sort of rock plate I can’t see how the Spyridon is much different than most of the more minimal trail shoes out there (i.e. racing flats) other than being a very snug (sock-like) fit and individual toe pockets. Anyhow, way to get it done.

That is amazing! What an accomplishment! You have some guts for sure Stuart. People are always ready to assume the Vff’s won’t hold up, but if you are trained properly in them, I have learned they can handle ANYTHING.
Go Vff’s!!

i’m sure the vff TREK SPORTs could
have also make it through the jungle.
thanks for sharing!
wish i could have some
adventures in the jungle but the

Congratulations! I’ve been saving money for Spyridon since my Trek Sports is about to fall apart. I used Trek Sports for two hours hiking today thru mud, soft soil and hard ground. I love it but I really want to try Spyridon for outdoor activities. Your article motivates me to buy them on black friday sale on November 21st which is tomorrow.

Amazing story Stuart. This just reinforced my decision to buy a pair of Spyridons for my obstacle races next year! Thanks and congratulations on this amazing accomplishment!

This documentation of the ability of the Spyridon to not get sucked off while going through deep mug is extremely valuable. I’ve been researching doing a mountain hike in Uganda that starts with a couple of days slogging through mud and ends slogging through snow, and I was looking for exactly this kind of information.

There are now a couple of VFF with ankle cuffs that were not available at the time of the jungle marathon: the Lontra and the Maiori. I’m wondering how either of these would fare, as their cuffs should keep mud and most water out of the shoe.

Has anyone tried either of these in environments where they are getting submerged, either in mud or snow?

Hi Stuart

I’m running the 2014 event and I currently run in Vff bikilas. I wasn’t planning on running in vff’s until I read this and now I’m seriously considering in switching to the spyridons and running in them.

If possible it would be great to chat to you a bit more about the event in general, as well as the choice of shoes. If you would be willing to share some more advice and insights please let me know.

Thanks very much and congratulations on your great finish.


Congrats on the amazing achievement! I was actually looking for trail running tips and came across this. I am going to be doing a 50K trail run in February. I currently run exclusively in my VFF Seeya’s, but I was going to buy the Spyridon model (same colors as yours). I am glad to hear that they held up.

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