Barefoot Shoes General

The Classic, Everyday Greatness of Classic Fivefingers

Why Classic Vibram Five Fingers barefoot shoes are the most comfortable toe shoes produced. Explanation of their benefits as compared to other Vibram Five Fingers, and discussion of the Classic as the flip flops of the Vibram line-up.

Why am I posting on the greatness of Classic fivefingers?

Because they are the unsung star of the Vibram FiveFingers line-up— under appreciated and frequently overlooked.

Not today.

I’ve been operating now for almost six months. In that time, I’ve seen a ton of VFF photos, heard a lot of stories, and enjoyed interacting with many a fivefingers fan both through email, on the forums, and through twitter. One of the things I’ve learned from these interactions is that the majority of VFFers choose to go VFF KSO (and Black, “Ninja” KSO Five Fingers, at that). In fact, roughly half of respondents to the sizing and fit questionnaire I ran own KSOs. I even considered my KSOs my favorite for awhile.

Indeed, selecting KSOs over Classics as your only pair of fivefingers makes a lot of sense. First off, most people initially see their fivefingers as footwear for use in a specific sort of activity. Throw in a bit of overall “foot glove skepticism,” the pricepoint of buying a pair of Vibrams, and wanting to be able to do the most number of things possible in whatever model you select, and you get people generally opting for the slightly more expensive, but also more universally functional KSOs.

It’s reasonable to go KSO — no argument. However, today I’d like to point out what makes the Classics so very classic, and in my opinion, the all-around must-have fivefingers model, one you’ll wear more than any other, the last model I’d give up over all the others, and the perfect compliment to your KSOs (“Standard issue” or KSO Treks), Flows, or Sprints.

A brief digression—my Classics progression

I first reveiwed Classic FiveFingers in mid-2008. At the time, I was using them predominantly for CrossFit, kettlebell exercises, hill sprints, and bodyweight exercises. Put differently, I mostly wore my Classic fivefingers for a particular sort of activity, usually revolving around some sort of exercise.

Over a year later with the option to wear any FiveFingers model except the Flows (One day I’ll get a pair!), I find myself continuously returning to the Classics. I spend more time in my two pairs of Classic VFFs than in any other style of fivefingers. I sport my Classics to do all of the little things of life like heading to the grocery store, going for a walk, taking out the trash, grilling out on the deck or heading out to a restuarant—you get the idea. And I still opt for my Classics as my de facto choice for weight-training or bodyweight exercises. I frequently even wear them in the house — usually because I just forget to take them off.

For me, my Classic fivefingers have just about replaced my Birkenstock sandals and even my trusty flip-flops — they’ve become my go-to everyday shoes.

Okay so you obviously like Classic VFFs. Why?

There are a few reasons. For all the KSO or Sprint owners out there who don’t have Classics, consider these points. And for all other Classic lovers, please chime in with anything I’m missing.

First, I’d like to argue in favor of the Classics aesthetic.

I think there is a hang-up on Classic fivefingers due to their unique look: they lack a real cousin in the traditional world of footwear. Perhaps the nearest counterpart to the Classic VFF design is women’s “flats,” a perfectly acceptable comparison for female VFFers but sometimes a dealbreaker for men; indeed, Vibram’s new Moc fivefingers has a higher vamp to help make the open-topped fivefingerse style more masculine.

To me, this problem is overblown. It’s important to keep in mind that FiveFingers are a whole new breed of footwear. They look weird to the uninducted no matter which style you’re wearing. It’s for this reason that for all VFF models, you have to crank up the confidence and “own” the look, a subject worthy of an entirely separate blog post.

Even still, the question remains: do Classics looking feminine? Eh, I don’t think so. Looked down on from above (like so), Classics can look the strangest and, well, ugliest. Yet this is not how most others view Classics-clad feet. From a third-party observer, they just look like rubber-toed feet—different.

FiveFinger Classics look stylish with shorts!

Having completed a few months of “style and error,” I’d argue that Classic VFFs look best with shorts (For example*, see Tripp, Shawn, and Jason) — I always opt for Classics over KSOs when I wear shorts. This is both because Classics are uncovered on top and thereby cooler (A precursor to wearing shorts in the first place) and also because I think Classics are easier to understand by non-VFFers as footwear.

Comparatively, KSOs worn with shorts come off more like socks. I can only speak from my own experience, but the few times I’ve happened on someone wearing KSOs with shorts, my instant reaction was “This guy is wearing nothing but ankle socks—oh wait those are VFFs!” Even more telling, many VFFers have passed through TSA security without taking off their KSOs; few have accomplished the same feat in Classics**.

As for wearing Classics with pants, it can be done. I think they look best with bootcut jeans or cargo pants, particularly if the hem of your pants can cover the exposed part of your foot (Sometimes this requires cutting your jeans, if you’re into that look!).

Still not convinced? Okay. Let me point out that Classics are the most minimal Vibram Five Fingers that can still function in outdoor use.

We could debate the merits of fivefingers for hours—why not just be barefoot? Why not just wear shoes? Where do VFFs fit into the overall footwear spectrum? And perhaps the greatest question, is there a balance to be struck between being barefoot and being shod?

Without going into the nuances of these questions, I’ll just say it: I think Classic fivefingers are the closest thing (yet) to striking a balance between the joys and freedom of barefootedness and the protection of footwear. And this is largely due to Classics being little more than a sole with a smidgeon of fabric upper.

It’s the thin Vibram sole that provides some protection and the bit of nylon upper that keeps the foot glued to the VFF. The combination is an exercise in design constraints amounting to something wholly different in the world of footwear, neither really a shoe nor a sock.

If you go for less than the Classic, you gain flexibility but sacrifice durability (See the Moc and Performa). If you go for more, you lose flexibility but gain coverage and protection (See the KSO and KSO Trek). The Classic, more than any other fivefingers model, represents a solid balance between being barefoot and being shod.

And if you’re still not convinced why Classic fivefingers are fantastic, I’ve got two last reasons for you.

Classics are convenient to wear, which is the number one criteria for any “default footwear.” The open-topped design of the Classics makes them the easiest to put on of all fivefingers models. For seasoned toe-slot finding Vibram Five Fingers fans, Classics can be put on without hands (like slip-on sandals or loafers), making them the automatic choice for an impromptu need for footwear in a hurry—like when you’ve got your hands full of keys, trash, food, or baby. Even if you’re not as adept at pulling off the no-hands Classics feat, Classics are still super easy to put on as compared with either Sprints or any of the closed-top varietals of fivefingers.

Ryan relaxes in his favorite VFFs, the always comfortable Classics!

Lastly, due largely to their convenient open-topped design, Classics are the most comfortable VFFs. I know, I know, you immediately object, “What about that elastic band digging into the top of your foot?” And I say, what about it? If the elastic band bothers you, you can either eliminate it entirely or just wear it at it’s most loosest. A few have objected to the heel tab on the Classics, but generally, for non-active, everyday wear, the heel-tab is pretty innocuous, and even that can be modded away. Any seasoned Classics wearer will tell you that once you’ve broken in your Classics, these two objections disappear, leaving you often completely forgetting that you’re even wearing “shoes.”

So where does that leave us?

Given that most of our time is spent doing mundane, everyday things, the kinds of things that don’t require a velcro strap, given that we are creatures of convenience and comfort, and finally that we desire the freedom of being barefoot but also need to find balance in a world with cultural norms (and broken glass), Classic fivefingers are must-have VFF model for any fan of this funky footwear. I know wouldn’t give up my Classics for anything (and I want more).

If you don’t yet have a pair, you don’t know what you’re missing, and if you’re looking to pick up a pair of Classic FiveFingers, start your search for a reputable online retailer via the Birthday Shoes virtual Vibram Five Fingers storefront!

* I cite all male examples as there’s generally no debate about their aesthetic on womens’ feet — even though Classics look virtually the same across the sexes (some color combinations excepted).
** To my knowledge, no one has tried putting an actual pair of socks on over their VFFs and then trying to pass through TSA security! Any takers? (H/T to Ryon Day for the idea)

See our post on “Barefoot Running Shoes” to see where Classics fall on our Barefoot Running Shoes Continuum.

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.

32 replies on “The Classic, Everyday Greatness of Classic Fivefingers”

Well said. The only other ones I have are Sprints, but I tend to go for the Classics for most things. Especially just wearing around town and around the house.

The first VFF’s I ever saw were the classics and I instantly loved them. But when I went buying my own I chose the Sprints instead.

I always thought the only difference between Sprints and Classics was the velcro strap over the leg and behind the heel. Is there anything else that’s different?

I have actually had the opposite experience at airport screening with Classics.

The screening agents seem to think my black KSO’s are closer to shoes than my black Classics. In fairness i have never had to take either pair off and neither have beeped, but there is definitely more discussion about the shoelyness of KSO’s. Something to do with the velcro strap i think.

The Classics are my favourites of the original 4 styles too. I actually wore through the soles of my first pair and need to get around to buying another pair.

For me the Classics are the ultimate travel shoes: No constrictions on blood flow while flying, like you get with straps. Easy to slip on and off. Comfortable walking around airports and city streets. Easy to wash in a hotel bathroom sink.

I assume the KSOs simply fit a much wider range of feet a lot better. I wear my KSOs everywhere, sprints in the gym. I pull on my classics only when it’s too cold to go barefoot round the house. The heel is simply too wide for any active use.

Also, constrictions on blood flow while flying are a good thing. I wear flows when flying and they stop swollen feet while being much more comfortable that sitting in shoes for hours.


I’d say the difference between Classics and Sprints as far as fit and feel is pretty large. The Sprints’ rear heel comes in a lot more than the Classics. That in combination with the on-skin strap make the Sprint fit very snugly and “locked on” to the foot (more attached than the KSO in my experience).


Seems every airport security checkpoint is different, and I probably should add that I usually am wearing pants and not shorts with the KSOs in the airport, which probably helps cover up their most obvious shoe-like quality — the strap (as you noted).


I’m not sure that’s the case that the KSO fits a wider range of feet better. There are a lot of cases where people with high arches and high insteps find the KSOs to fit very snugly on the top of the foot. These same individuals would obviously fit better without a covered top/more adjustable top (as with Sprint or Classic).

I wonder if your Classics are a size too big — despite the “bulbous” heel of the Classics, I’m still able to run/climb/play/do most things in them (though I still prefer KSO for planned active use).


True about the compression to prevent DVT, but aren’t Flows a little hot for air travel?

I find the toes too short on the KSO and even though my Classics are a size too big, because i can grip with my toes, they feel very secure.


Yeh security screening is very inconsistent, though fingers crossed, not about my VFF’s yet.

Well said. I own every style minus the old water style than comes up mid calf. I love my flows in the winter, KSOs with pants and running. My sprints were my first pair but I think they are the least comfy of all the styles- I still run in them on occasion though. However I LOVE the classics- I have 2 pairs and wear one of which pretty much daily. I have wore holes in the bottom of my first pair in the year and a half I have had them. I do have one question though- has anyone else noticed that the material is different in the older styles of classics from the newer ones. I think the newer classic upper is a bit thicker and more sturdy.
Oo and I recently got the performa’s and I am crazy about them. I am afraid to wear them too much though. Howerver they seem to be holding up quite nicely.

I love my classics, I think they go well with anything. I do prefer to run/workout with my Sprints. But I like wearing my classics all the time. Only problem, I live in MN and well it’s getting colder.

Definitely love Classics over KSO! Don’t even own any KSOs since for me, those look way uglier than Classic and Sprint. I do wear the Sprint more often than Classic, just because I like my Sprint color better:P But that is just because I’m a girl and things go better with pink than with black;))

And if asked my womans opinion: I think my boyfriends Sprint look way better on him than the KSOs:)

I have the Classics but can’t stand it anymore. The back heel rubber tab scuffs my archilles tendon when doing casual strolls. I’ve tried tricks to have it not hurt me but it’s no use.

Would like to try the Sprints when I get a chance to get to the states. I’ll stay with the KSO for now.

That is weird that the heel tab (not the elastic cord right?) is causing such abrasion on your tendon — I could understand maybe if you were running in them but casual wear this shouldn’t happen. Could you possibly be wearing a size too small?

For what it’s worth, I’d go KSO next before Sprint — Sprints are hard to nail the comfort down on due to the complex strapping mechanism.

Apart from running and athletes… I am searching for comments/recommendations on pro cons for those with diabetes. Also, what about the sedentary person starting out with exercise such as walking and an elliptical? What about socks? Cold weather in Wisconsin…..

nice article justin! i’m one of a few users of VFF here in the Philippines.. been using kso for a while usually for urban trekking.. i did break in my pair in singapore on an 8-hour death march circling around the city. i’m happy about the kso but somehow i’m longing for classic for easy wear and an acceptable look on my profession. i’m a dentist by day and photographer by night. i, somehow barefooted when waiting for patients arrive my clinic so usually i’m in a hurry wearing the kso (socks and shoes sometimes) when patients arrive which can be annoying and time consuming, hence my lust over classics. sad to say.. stocks of classics (or even other VFF) dwindled, so i’m stuck with the black-black classics (i prefer khaki-black or the grey-orange-black).. but oh well.. maybe i’ll buy 2nd pair of classics when stocks are replenished. more power to you and our VFF’s!

I totally agree. I love my classics the best. I have a question though. I have only owned my classics for about 5 months and wear them all the time (literally). I am wondering how often others wear their classics and how long they last?

I ask this because this morning i just noticed that a seam at my big toe has torn open. I am kinda pissed only because I love these shoes. I also want to get a new pair of classics. I try to argue with myself that this little tear is nothing…and it isn’t (1/4″ in length). But still. Just wondering about use life.

That is a bummer! I’m glad you posted here b/c I had seen your tweet about this, but hadn’t had a chance to respond.

I think your best bet is to try your hand at sewing it back up. I’ve actually never had a seam tear in any pair I own (even my oldest Classics which are almost two years old). Granted, I have so many VFFs that I get to spread out the wear, but my old Classics definitely have seen a ton of use.

Short answer: wear varies. My brother-in-law actually poked a hole into his Sprints on day one of wearing them (he dragged his toe and it ripped the fabric). Still sucks though.

I originally got the sprints in summer 08 because i wanted the ones i could do the most in, and i had read reviews how the classics werent the best for particular physical activities. my sister got the classics a year later and said the elastic band hurts her foot.

i’d like to own one of each pair! personally, i just liked how the sprints looked better, but i definitely still want to try the classics. my sprints have worn through in multiple places and i’ll be getting some brown treks soon. but yes, definitely going to have a pair of each eventually 🙂

thank you for this article, it’s further encouraged me

I’ve always been the queen of barefoot…so when I saw these at my local shoe store, it was love at first sight. I opted for the classics because I have a really high instep, which is preventative to most straps, and five fingers were no exception. I have to say though that the ability to just slip these little guys on gives me the complete satisfaction of being a real live hobbit…with purple feet! I walk my Old English sheepies in them, I hike in them, I use my computer treadmill desk with them….they are really awesome, and just for the record…I’ll never again wear anything else unless I HAVE to! (which I won’t!)

After repeatedly getting blisters on my achilles from the tab that sticks up at the back of the “classics,” I’ve given up on the classics. I do love my KSO Treks however; even wear them to my white collar job. Get lots of “looks” — but oh well!

I just got mine in the mail from the Vibram web site. Wore them for about 5 hours on the job (I’m a nurse so I walk a lot) Thur. night and must say I like them a lot. I did start to get a bit of a rub on my left achilles and a twinge on both little toes but nothing big. I am sure this will lessen as I “break them in”. I was going back and forth between the classics and the kso’s but with much research including you blog, I did go with the classics. I really like the minimal look. I don’t like straps on shoes and rarely use them even on my Teva’s. Thanks for putting the word out about VFF’s!

I have been barefoot running at the gym for a few months now, and I finally decided to buy a pair of Vibrams so I could run safely in the parks of NYC in this nice weather. I ran one mile in the Classics and while my feet and calves were completely unscathed, my Achilles tendons got major blisters. I tried to wear them again for just casual use, but they reopened the scab on my blisters so I gave up on them. I measured my feet to make sure the size was right and it seems to be accurate. Any advice for how I can use the Classics again? Should I shelf them or just keep trying?

My wife just got a pair of sprints. She wore them just around her work today to get a feel for them and they rubbed blisters on her achilles. Is there a way around this? Can you cut the tab off or is it there for support?

@Nick, I had that problem for a while. Just adjust all the straps. Make the strap on the back as loose as possible.

I bought a pair of Classics not quite seven months back and I’ve absolutely loved them. I wear them in day to day use, which basically involves going to classes four days of the week, maybe a trip to the grocery store, not much more than that. The average day puts less than a mile, probably even less than half a mile, on them and I came to see today that the sole has worn away from the inside, right pinkie toe (looks like it never extended far enough in judging by the ‘untouched’ part, and the sole is gone or nearly gone on the right big toe. The rest of everything is fabulous. I’ve never busted a seam or had any tears or holes. It’s mainly just that big toe. I’m going to contact Vibram, but even so, is there any way or knowledge about repairing a relatively small area of the sole on these things?

Even if they do replace them, I’m dreading going without them for any length of time. I despise shoes and I’ve come to rely on these babies for my foot-sanity.

I have classics and at first I thought I needed a strap to keep them on when I ran but this turned out not to be the case. The first month of running in them I had bruises on the back of my heel and blisters everywhere else, but this went away and now I am a tried-and-true barefoot runner

About the elastic band, i have been wearing my Classics for almost 5 years now. I nearly quit them early on because they just started to hurt after a couple hours, not because of my foot but because of that elastic band, one day i met a man who was like..while just cut it out.

i did. i have never love a foot covering so much! Classics are the best. Feet down, cut your elastic band and fly over heavenly clouds of vibram souls.

im planning to get another pair of VFF in addition to my KSO, but im struggling between Sprints and Classic. I understand the convenience of the Classic – sliding them on and most minimalistic of them all. but what about the Sprints? with just an additional strap over it, how “inconvenient” can it get?

and im honestly worried that the heel tab will cause painful blisters (i plan to run in them up to 4miles).

any advice?

I just purchased my first pair of VFF’s about a week ago. I opted for the Sprints because I will mainly be using them for regular daily errands, walking and such. No real extreme exercising and or sports. Plus I liked the look of them. I’ve always been a barefoot girl so these are my dream shoes! I have however had a bit of an issue with the heal tab rubbing painfully on my achilles tendon. I must say it has gotten much better with wear even in one week. Also washing them and wearing them until they dry helps to break them in. The other thing I noticed completely by accident is that tightening the heel straps helps to keep the back of the shoe up and in place so the tab doesn’t slide down and put pressure lower on my heel. I was wearing them as loose as possible thinking that would help but for me the opposite was true. My next pair was going to be Bikilas because of the padding at the heel but after reading the comments here I think I may try a pair of Classics. Thanks for all of the insight.

i tried the classics on and they seem to slip off real easy…is that meant to be the case as i am worried that they might come off while i walk.


They’re probably too big (you need to size down) if they’re slipping off that easily. Classics sizing is a bit tricky but it should be snug at the ends.


OK, I tried a bit of walking in a pair of classics and they didn’t come off while walking which is what i was hoping for and so that sealed it enough to get a pair.

Is anyone else annoyed that they are discontinuing this line? I am a 42 Men and I can’t seem to find a legit version of them anywhere — whether at a store or online. Any suggestions?

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