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Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers

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

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!

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.

7 replies on “Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers”

Good to see these get some use in a triathlon!

I feel your pain on trying to sell/buy used KSO’s- I bought a pair that was a size too big then promptly left the USA for a few months, so I couldn’t exchange for another size easily. I doubt i’ll be able to sell them on craigslist, so if you have any ideas on selling a pair of black KSO’s (M44).. i’m all ears.

Oh, gosh… this is really good to know.

I’ve been training in my Vibrams for my first sprint triathlon coming up this weekend and this evening I started getting pre-run “cold feet,” so to speak.

But a quick web search found your post, which has renewed my confidence that I’m not completely insane to want to go shoeless. Thanks much!

I’ve been doing all my training in my KSO’s or barfeoot. I did a triathlon on Sunday and tried to use my racing shoes because the VFF’s take too long to put on and every second counts! My shins were burning after a few meters and I had to run at 4min/km instead of 3:30’s. Now I need something similar to what I train in for racing that won’t cost me precious time in transition or out on the road. Any suggestions?

Thanks for this posting! I’m doing my first triathlon (sprint) this august, and have been seriously planning to do it in VFF. Its great to hear that someone has done it, and has been successful!

That is great feedback. I too have had chronic knee pain and although I am studying Dr. Romanoff’s POSE method of running (very barefoot friendly) shoes have gotten in the way. I purchased some vibrams’ several weeks ago and have logged about 60 miles with ZERO knee pain. I am really considering running in them for an upcoming 1/2 marathon and considering using them in my Tris. I am just not good at getting them on yet. I have found that taking something really skinny (like the tail end of tweasers) and running them between the “fingers” in the five fingers really seat them between the toes. I am also using glide and that seems to help.

We’ll see how it goes but so far sooo good.


Tim. I live running in my KSO’s as well. As you, I do age group sprint and Olympic distance tris. How do you get into your fives fast enough at T2? Honestly, it takes me forever to get my toes in right and as a result, I haven’t tried racing in them. Instead I got a pair of New Balance Minimus. Has a vibram sole and a standard toe box for easy entry. Saves me a ton of time and I have the same pain free running.

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