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Five tips for breaking in your FiveFinger shoes
August 12th, 2011
03:13 PM ET

Five tips for breaking in your FiveFinger shoes

My calves hurt. Every time I take a step the left one, which I’ve nicknamed “whiny,” begs for me to stop. And there’s a constant throbbing coming from the muscles in the arches of my feet. I didn’t even know my arches had muscles.

I owe this painful discovery to my new FiveFinger shoes. Remember toe socks? They’re like those, except designed to be used outdoors.

The salesperson at the REI store where I purchased my shoes issued a warning: Make sure to break them in slowly. A similar one is posted on the Vibram website - run no more than 10% of your typical distance for the first two to three weeks; never run two days in a row in the first month; stretch before and after each run, focusing on your calves and feet.

See where this is going?

I ignored the warnings. Mostly, I thought to myself, because if I  ran only 10% of my norm I would be running a total of … 0.3 miles. So I jumped on the treadmill and ran away, loving the feel of barefoot freedom and the slight improvement I could already sense in my posture.

Proponents say barefoot-style running creates a more natural stride – with a ball-to-heel forefront strike that builds strength in your feet and lower leg muscles, ultimately resulting in fewer injuries. It also improves balance, agility and range of motion.

Tell that to my co-workers, who are tired of hearing me say “ow” every time I stand up.

If when I go back to the gym in my FiveFinger shoes, I will remember that salesperson’s good advice. So future barefoot enthusiasts, take heed. Here are five tips for breaking in your FiveFingers properly:

1. Go to a store.

Even if you can find them cheaper online, drive to the nearest retailer first. FiveFinger shoes come in European sizes and fit differently (obviously)  from other shoes so you won’t know the right size unless you try them on. Don’t be afraid to try on men’s shoes if you’re a woman, and vice versa as there’s little difference.

Make sure to pick the right pair based on the shoe’s tread – there are different grips for different activities like water sports, yoga or running.

There are also copycat, “counterfeit” shoes out there so make sure you’re buying from an authorized dealer. Without the right support, fakes could end up hurting more than helping.

Find a store here

2. Walk before you run.

Wear them around the house, to the grocery store or to work. Take some time to feel how your posture changes and to decide whether there is any cramping or rubbing on your toes (which could signal a wrong size).

3. Buy some foot powder.

Or toe socks. Either will make it easier to put your shoes on and will prevent blisters from the combination of sweat and fabric rubbing against your bare skin. Powder will also keep your shoes smelling fresh – although if they get too stinky FiveFingers are easy to wash with soap and water.

4. Follow the guidelines.

You can adjust the length and time of your workout as you feel comfortable but don’t assume you’re special. You may have spent a lot of time running around barefoot as a child but that doesn’t mean your muscles are up to snuff. Take it slow and do only portions of your workout with the FiveFingers at first. If you’re not willing to take a break, bring along your regular sneakers during the transition.

5. Schedule yourself a bit more time at the gym.

First, because trying to get your toes into the right pockets is more difficult than it looks. Second, because you’ll spend most of the workout answering questions about your shoes. I haven’t gotten so many comments on my footwear since I wore red cowboy boots to a swim meet.

Most importantly, remember that FiveFingers are not right for everyone. For people with really flat fleet – officially called over-pronators – barefoot activities may put too much stress on muscles.


soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Vicente

    Another caution: Morton's Toe!

    I have Morton's Toe, meaning I have a long second toe. This is a fairly common variation about 10% of the population.

    I did not realize what a problem this is until I tried these Vibrams. The weaker 2nd toe ends up striking first and doing most of the work, and it's just not up to that job! After much pain I had to give up and go back to regular running shoes.

    August 12, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PandoraDoggl

      It is possible, if not a pain, to modify FiveFingers for wear with Morton's toe. It involves melting and stretching, so find an online tutorial if you want to try it. I'm sure Google can direct you in the proper direction.

      August 12, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Thanks for posting that about Morton's Toe! I'm one of the 10% and was wondering how these are with that condition. My second toenail used to turn black and fall off (nice visual!) when I ran long distance years ago. Guess I'll stick to the bike.

      August 12, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Hey Vincente, you are landing wrong! You should land mid- or flat foot, so your second toe will land at the same time as the others. I have Morton's as well. Been running barefoot for 3.5 years. Only wear the VFF on the treadmill or sidewalk. No problems. VFFs are okay in a pinch, but barefoot is definitely the way to go.

      FWIW, I'm 54, 6'2" and weigh 210lbs. Had my left knee scoped twice and tons of other injuries. Ran with orthotics for 20+ years. Everything cleared up onceI ditched the shoes. Shoes are the problem, not the solution. Ever notice there are no scientific studies proving shoes reduce injuries? Who said we need motion control? Man has been walking & running barefoot for hundreds of thousands of years. I think we're adapted to it by now.

      Shoes are the enemy.

      August 12, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
    • oto

      @Joe....man also didn't brush their teeth with fluoride for hundred of thousands of years, doesn't mean we're not better off with it....

      August 12, 2011 at 23:34 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Hey Oto: man did not eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream, smoke crack, drink Scotch or eat pork rinds for hundreds of thousands of years either. Not every change is an improvement. You are correct, dentistry is a modern miracle. So are antibiotics. Sitting in a chair staring at a glowing screen all day & night is not. You can go back and forth on this one. There's a good reason some people call shoes "coffins for the feet."

      August 13, 2011 at 00:37 | Report abuse |
    • Jade

      I have Morton's toe as well. A rather extreme example of it going by what my podiatrist has said. I have had no trouble at all with my VFFs. The key was simply sizing based on measuring my foot from my heel to my longest toe as recommended on the website's sizing guide. I have done nothing exceptional to my VFFs, and I do have one of the lighter versions that have adapted to my foot. I doubt it would be as simple with a pair of VFF Treks as opposed to the Classics. As with all things, your mileage may vary, but I adore my VFFs and wear them easily 60-70% of the time when I'm not actually just barefoot.

      August 13, 2011 at 03:50 | Report abuse |
    • Random

      I have this issue as well. The solution was to slowly build up the toes resilience by working on low weight squats and working on my basic Kata.
      It took mort that 3 weeks, but by agility and speed have increased significantly from going through the effort.

      August 13, 2011 at 04:47 | Report abuse |
    • Random

      The statue of liberty has Morton’s Toe. We should start calling it Liberty toe!

      August 13, 2011 at 04:51 | Report abuse |
    • Ippus

      There is an alternative to VFFs if your Morton's toe interferes and you still want to run minimalist without going completely bare. Try huaraches. They're basically running sandals. They give you some of the same minimalist benefits as VFFs, but without individually clothing each toe. They're also a bit lighter. There are a few sites where you can get kits or buy them custom. Barefoot Ted makes a version called Luna (lunasandals.com). I built mine from a kit I got for $25 or so at invisibleshoe.com (still uses a Vibram sole).
      I still wear the first pair of VFF KSOs I got two seasons ago (I don't have Morton's toe), especially on race day, but I've started wearing huaraches on long runs. You have to adjust the lacing a bit, but once you get the fit right, they're even freer than VFFs.

      ANYTHING is better than modern running shoes.

      August 13, 2011 at 08:28 | Report abuse |
    • ARMYofONE

      We like to make fun of those men who wear these shoes in the gym. These shoes and male sandals lol.

      August 13, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
    • Spengler

      Both Morton's toe and Webbed Toes are problems that can be worked around modifying easily the Fivefingers. Both tutorials are found in other sites.

      August 16, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Nono

      @ Armyofone- I know plenty of BJJ Blackbelts that wear those so you might want to watch who you poke fun of 😉

      August 16, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • bunchofnoise

      I have a severe case of Morton's Toe, and have no problem whatsoever with them-I just got them to fit the second toe and I am careful about how I land. Been wearing them everyday (minus wash days) for about 4 months now and I'm never going back.

      August 16, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Chad

    I just bought my second pair of FiveFingers. The first pair lasted almost a year and 2000 miles. Running is very different in these as compared to traditional athletic shoes. Your calves will be in knots the day after your first few runs so be aware. I mostly wear my now when running but go barefoot or in flip flops the rest of the time.

    August 12, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. John Gannon

    The premise of this article is totally backwards.

    The shoes never need to be 'broken in'. The human, who has suffered poor shoe design since their very first ones (probably bronzed and stored somewhere), needs the retraining on how to use all their ligaments, joints, bones, and muscles.

    I've worn NOTHING BUT Vibram's Five Fingers shoes since May of 2009 when I bought my first two pair. I jogged the Grandma's Marathon within a month, and while I finished at the end of the pack...it wasn't because of the shoes. I was under-trained...or as I say, under-brained.

    Even after a year of wearing nothing BUT these fabulous shoes...I will still occasionally get some soreness, you have to watch where you step...as IF you are barefoot.

    I used to have great dialogue with a person in their customer service department who mysteriously vanished...but remain a solid fan of their products. I have six pair now, and will most certainly add more as income provides.

    And yes, the Injinji toe-socks are a necessity...and when the shoes start to smell a bit, you simply toss them into the washer with your next load and let them air-dry.

    These are brilliant products, and MOST people have no difficulty at all with them, after they finally get the right fit. I've been responsible for turning more people onto them than I care to remember...and every one of them thanks me whenever we cross paths.

    Please, be responsible with your journalism. This article was reckless at the very least...with the intro and conclusion...although I fully agree with the numbered steps.

    Cheers,
    John J. Gannon
    Detroit

    August 12, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • XFitPete

      I agree with most of what you said except the socks. I prefer none because its just adding another layer even if it is a thin one. Maybe when winter comes though...

      August 12, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I agree with Pete: no socks. You do have to wash your VFF.

      I run barefoot most of the time and use my VFF mostly for weight lifting & on the treadmill or sidewalk when necessary. Joe, you are correct about "breaking in your feet." I'd been running barefoot for 2+ years before I got the VFF, so I had zero problem adjusting.

      August 12, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse |
  4. John Gannon

    Sorry, that is May 2010, not 2009.

    Cheers

    August 12, 2011 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. John Gannon

    Sorry, one more thing.

    After TWO WEEKS with the Five Fingers shoes...a back pain which has plagued me for over twelve years simply WENT AWAY. Gone. Fini. Never to return.

    Five Fingers Shoes rule...and I'm in NO WAY financially attached to the company or influenced by anything other than my personal experience with them, along with the feedback I get from everyone else...including, finally, my partner.

    She held off for over a year, because she didn't want us appearing to be a copycat couple...LOL!

    She regrets the delay...

    Cheers!

    August 12, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Martina

    I'll be the last person on the planet to buy these shoes! In fact, only if they stop making normal shoes will I do so.

    August 12, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • So what

      Geeze – we're all simply crestfallen.

      August 14, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse |
    • Arta Xerces

      I agree. These shoes are a marketing joke and anyone buying them is fooling themselves that somehow these shoe are better for hiking and walking then a full shoe. These shoes offer no support-hence sore feet.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
    • jules

      Fantastic, Martina. Thanks for your pointless input.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      Don't comment without knowledge. I personally know that these shoes are better for me than regular running shoes.

      August 14, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Muscles that are "supported" atrophy, and cause the feet to weaken. Shoes like these allow your feet to strengthen and react to the ground as our feet were meant to do.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
  7. XFitPete

    I love my Vibrams. However, I will state that they should not hurt at all, even in the beginning. You pointed out going slow, and that is the key right there. If you are interested in Vibrams and have been wearing shoes 24/7 except to sleep, be very wary of jumping in anywhere near what you think you can do. The best thing you can do is where them around the house (especially if you are too afraid to where them in public or your wife is too afraid to be seen with you). Another great alternative, and maybe even a better one, is to actually go barefoot. You'd be surprised what you can walk on after a few weeks of walking around and how much better it feels People have looked at me like I'm mad after I walked around on gravel barefoot.

    One very LARGE caveat that the author should have driven home even more: you NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU RUN if you plan on wearing these shoes or barefooting. If you land on your heels or overpronate, you will pretty much fall over in pain. There is hope though. I was a 200 lb, heal striking, over pronating, flat footed runner before I started and just about everything has changed. I’m even growing an arch in my foot (I used to think being foot footed was normal).

    Oh, and P.S You will hate wearing regular shoes once you are done… much to my wife’s chagrin lol

    August 12, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • doughnuts

      Sometimes flat-footed IS normal.
      Been arch-less my whole life.

      August 12, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      Yes – the article did miss that BIG point. You must run on the ball of the foot and flat, not heel first.

      August 14, 2011 at 22:01 | Report abuse |
    • heal

      who runs heels first??? you don't need these shoes to fix that problem. if you're heels are striking first you're taking too big a stride. problem solved.

      August 16, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    I am in the Military and and I do a lot of running, i used to have knee problems and shin splints until i tried these shoes, you have to take it slow at first but now all my pain has went away, these are all i ware even when going out in town, they are the best shoes i have ever owned.

    I am just glad i am in the Navy and not the Army, the Army banned them and the Navy just authorized them (thank god!) I feel bad for the Army guys who are going to get hurt with "normal" shoes.

    August 12, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sublime

      I was an Army cat, and these aren't banned from PT with the exception of the APFT. Under most commands, you can run with them to your heart's content, you just can't take an APFT in them (unfortunate, bit if you're a runner, an APFT isn't a big deal anyway).

      August 12, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
    • army brat

      i feel bad for the navy guy who spells wear, ware.

      August 16, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Jarhead

      Heck, even us Marines know how to spell.

      August 16, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse |
  9. Stacey

    I run barefoot on my treadmill and outdoors about half of the time I run. I have had plantar fasciitis since I was a teenager; and the only time I have relief is when I am barefoot. My back and knees ache when I wear shoes, too. I can't wait to get my toes in a pair of V5's. Now if they only made them for those of us who work in hospitals and are on our feet 12 hrs/day.

    August 12, 2011 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      Hey Stacey, why can't you wear VFF at work? Is there a rule against them?

      I run barefoot as well. I use the VFF on the treadmill when I have to run there, because the belt gets very hot & the gym police won't let you run barefoot.

      But when it comes to running, barefoot beats everything.

      August 12, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
  10. sheila vayle

    Sounds like a painful, moronic gimic to me.

    August 12, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stefanie

      Do some more research then, and maybe even try a pair on. They are amazing.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      Only because you are judging them with no knowledge. Why make snap judgements?

      August 14, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse |
  11. moribundman

    I want mittens for my feet! Give me MITTENS!

    August 12, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • moribundman

      It's a solution in search of a problem.

      August 12, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse |
    • Mittens

      Merrill makes a pair that are "mittens" instead of "gloves" for your feet. I own 2 pairs and wear them all the time even to work.

      The New Balance website indicates they are coming out with a pair, but I haven't seen any yet.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      New Balance Minimus IS out. I have a pair which I'll wear this winter, with socks. They have a wider toe box than the Merrells, for those with wide feet. The Merrells are nice, too, but like any shoe, they don't fit everyone.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
  12. moribundman

    I was replying to sheila vayle, not to myself. That's messed up.

    August 12, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Lisa

    I'm a flat-footed, overpronater with chronic plantar fasciitis and a heel spur. Every step I took was excruciatingly painful. Six months ago I bought the V5 KSOs. It took me 3.5 weeks for my feet to be strong enough to wear them all day. I teach PE and love running around, jumping and being active with my students. I haven't been able to do that in over a year AND NOW I CAN. I just bought my second pair, the TrekSports and I am more in love with them than I was the KSOs. They have changed my life.

    August 12, 2011 at 22:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Evan

    sheila vayle sounds like a painful, moronic gimic to me. It is funny to see someone completely believe what the article was saying regardless of the many posts of how these have helped people out. Have you tried a pair? If

    August 13, 2011 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Random

      That’s because modern education teaches that students should believe what the teacher says, not what they have personally experienced.

      August 13, 2011 at 05:16 | Report abuse |
  15. Jose

    Already on my 2nd pair. Bought Brown Leather ones and fell in love with them. A month later I bought the Grey with the laces, which I like the way they look much better. Only problem is that they stink up rather quickly. Never had a problem with the brown ones smelling. I am hooked and will continue wearing for life. Hope they come out with more leather ones and in different colors. I never get tired of raving about them when people ask...

    August 13, 2011 at 04:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nsea599

      Jose, I think your 'brown leather' shoes might not actually be real Vibram FiveFingers as to the best of my knowledge they do not make leather shoes; you may have purchased knock-offs.

      August 13, 2011 at 23:43 | Report abuse |
    • chirmer

      @nsea599: There are official leather Vibrams: the KSO Trek, the Trek LS and now the Bormio.

      August 14, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
  16. Kit

    My problem with these is that they are SO ugly. I mean, they're obviously not shoes, so why do they try to look like shoes? They'd be better off establishing their own unique look instead of trying to look like a mutilated running shoe.

    August 13, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chirmer

      "Shoe: a covering for the foot, typically made of leather, with a sturdy sole and not reaching above the ankle." Taken from a dictionary.

      They're obviously a shoe, and one designed for your feet, not your eyes. Sounds like a smart decision to me.

      August 14, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
  17. Nan

    I have yet to get a pair, but I've planned for it carefully. I've been on a medical leave for over a year now due to a knee injury (and complications from that injury) that I have no doubt was brought on by wearing standard shoes for 8 hours standing (and the slip-proof covers that we were required to wear at work, which actually pinched the shoes painfully). I have been going barefoot at home for at least 9 months, and only wear shoes when I have to leave the house for errands. I remove them as soon as I return home, but the damage is usually done. I end up with painful cramps in my feet and calves every time I have to wear regular shoes now. I can't wait to get the VFFs when I finally have the money for them, so I can walk outside pain-free!

    August 13, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Eric

    Here's another piece of advice –

    DO NOT WEAR THESE AS NORMAL SHOES. THEY (AND YOU) LOOK IDIOTIC.

    But if you want to wear them to run in, do yoga, or workout, then I will allow it.

    August 13, 2011 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • guest

      Eric, here's a piece of advice: people arent thinking about your opinion on what they wear every day, don't assume youre so important.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • jopsjennings

      Sorry guest, you are wrong. Eric is extremely important and we really should make every effort to observe any rules he might decide to provide for us.

      August 14, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse |
  19. cs

    Why bother with these shoes(or whatever they are)? I've been looking at them all summer and just cannot find a reason to buy them. I'm sure I just found a reason not to buy them.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chirmer

      Don't look at them, then. They're not about looks, they're about your feet. Put a pair on and walk around. You'll see why people buy them.

      August 14, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
  20. Stefanuie

    I disagree about wearing these shoes as 'normal' shoes. The only time I am NOT in my fingers is at work because they are not permitted- and even then I am in a barefoot alternative shoe (non-toe). I LOVE the look and feel (obviously, they are the most comfortable shoes EVER). For some great advice and loads of information check out birthdayshoes(dot)com!

    August 13, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kevin

    I'm sure five toes are fine, but the real trick to running more naturally is to get shoes with very low heels and little padding. Lots of companies are making minimalist shoes now. You can get the benefit of barefoot running without looking so different.

    I've found that the best way to learn the barefoot stride is to run barefoot FAST. For me that meant alternating running and walking. Once you get a sense for the feeling of fore-foot striking (you'll feel that running joy you had as a kid again), you'll have a hard time going back to high-heeled, padded running shoes. Most st of them hold your feet so immobile that they might as well be casts.

    I wear NB 101s. The new Merrell glove shoes look like an excellent alternative, too.

    Go have some fun. Run barefoot fast.

    The only time my feet hurt anymore is when I'm in structured shoes with high arches.

    August 13, 2011 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. donrijo

    This is nuts. The problem with shoes is the same as with other products. Some idiot decides some feature is prettier than what is normal and other idiots decide they like the look, there is no consideration given to function. Pretty soon all you can get from manufactureinf is the idiots desires. this got us 4" high heels and pointy toe shoes and an awful lot of other rediculus products...

    August 13, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nickfr21

      I'll agree that most products are consumer driven and that can lead to some horrible shoes/products, but there is something to this. It allows a more natural foot movement which is the way we were designed to move. If you don't like the five fingers thing then check out other minimalist shoes. There are plenty.

      August 14, 2011 at 21:54 | Report abuse |
  23. Wise man say

    Your feet will most likely tighten up. A simple fix is to roll the affected area with a tennis/lax ball to loosen up your muscles. Stretch your calves AFTER your run and you should be good to go.

    August 13, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jen

    Surprised no one has mentioned the alternatives to VFFs that still use the Vibram sole. I recently got the Merrell Pace Gloves and LOVE them! They are as light and flexible as the VFFs but don't have the "weird" toe thing that I just can't get past (I can't even wear toe socks). I used the Nike Frees to ease into more barefoot running – sort of a cross between a regular running shoe and a barefoot one, and haven't had any calf pain since switching to the Pace Gloves.

    August 13, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Sandra

    With how many times I have broken toes on my feet (a few of them more than once) there is no way I would wear these contraptions. To me, this is a fad. Should should not cause pain, calluses, or discomfort. My grandfather taught me that, and to this day, I adhere to it.

    August 13, 2011 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • loopycanadian

      VFF's don;t "cause" pain at all. I own 3 pair, and have worn nearly nothing but my VFF's for the past 2 years. The only time people mention pain associated with VFF's, its almost always a case of someone who has been suckered into thinking they need, and spending hundreds of dollars, on rediculous orthodics or similar insoles.
      VFF's work wonders because they cause you to use the muscles in your feet, like we are designed to do. conventional footwear holds your toes together, immobilizing them. We were never meant to walk with our toes immobilized, otherwise, we would have lost them long ago.
      Those of you that choose to rely on the terrible reporting this article displays, I feel sorry for your ignorance. VFF's are an amazing product, and definately worth, at the very least, a try.

      August 14, 2011 at 02:48 | Report abuse |
  26. madcaplaugh

    I hate running. Wore these and discovered the joys of running. I got over confident and wore the shoes in an Alberta winter. I tore the arch in my left foot. It felt like a semi frozen 10 oz steak being torn apart. That was 18 months ago and I still feel daily pain. I have yet to resume a running regime.

    Just so you know.

    August 13, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Not sure what that has to do with the VFF's as much as a stupid decision on your part.

      August 14, 2011 at 00:14 | Report abuse |
    • huh

      @mike
      Not sure what your statement has to do with this article. Get up on the wrong side of the bed?

      August 14, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse |
    • chirmer

      Ok, thanks for warning us about your dumb decision. It betters our lives considerably!

      August 14, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
  27. Molly

    Why would you wear these to the gym anyway? What's the point? The fun of VFF is wearing them outside! I love wearing them running on the trails by my house, squishing through the mud. I've found they are excellent hiking shoes and great water shoes too. I suppose if you HAVE too you could run on a treadmill with them, but where's the fun in that?

    August 14, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      Molly, I wear my VFF in the gym to lift weights because they won't let you work out barefoot. Ditto for running on the treadmill: barefoot is not allowed.

      August 14, 2011 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
  28. Charles

    Anyone notice how no one that is actually a FAST runner wears these? Even the Kenyans (who supposedly run barefoot all the time as kids) wear real RUNNING shoes! If your shoes are causing pain while running, you are simply wearing the wrong brand or type. Go to a real running store with knowledgeable employees instead of the big box sports/ shoe stores. You might see these on the shelves, but you will never be pushed to purchase them.

    We may have evolved barefoot, but we did not evolve barefoot on concrete and asphalt. Don't kid yourselves into thinking running in fivefingers on these surfaces is a good idea.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chirmer

      You are so wrong on so many levels... gah!

      1) Patrick Sweeney, a nationally known marathon runner, runs in these, when he's not running barefoot or in his huaraches. There are many others as well.

      2) Most running shoes with workers who know what they're talking about WILL recommend these to you. There's NO reason not to, unless you're a moron... then they're saving you some pain. You have to pay attention while wearing these, just like if you were going to run barefoot.

      3) Please, don't say stuff when you've never tried it. Only the people who have never run on asphalt or concrete barefoot say it's bad for you. Those of us who do it regularly, or heck, have even just TRIED it, will tell you the opposite. It's MUCH easier and more comfortable than running on uneven, unpredictable grass or dirt.

      And it's not just about speed. Humans weren't built to be successful sprinters. We're endurance runners. Check out marathoners and ultra marathoners. You'll see a lot of people wearing these or alternative minimalist shoes, and more every year. People are figuring it out. They're worth trying.

      August 14, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
    • Heretical

      Before opening your mouth to display your ignorance try looking up Abebe Bikila in the 1960 Summer Olympics marathon. He won the race barefoot, which is also how he trained. "After the race, when Bikila was asked why he had run barefoot, he replied, 'I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.' "

      August 14, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Humans evolved running on all sorts of surface – hard packed dirt, grass, stone, you name it. All we did was invent SMOOTH surfaces, not hard ones. There have also been studies done that show the softer the surface, the HARDER we land – gymnasts who land on hard surfaces stick their landing softly, and ones who land on mats land with considerably MORE impact force, and this is done totally unconsciously. Ditto for hard vs. soft shoes. Our feet search for STABILITY – which is easier to do gently on hard surfaces.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • hmm

      many others? name them please.

      August 16, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
  29. Tom

    If these shoes are so great, why are the top athletes not wearing them? World records have continually improved over the years along with running shoe technology and improved training methods. Elite athletes have always been at the forefront of improvements in running shoe technology with the exception, it seems, of these shoes. Anything that would allow an athlete to train to more, harder or faster leads to improvements in performance. Just sayin'.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nickfr21

      There is a difference in running fast and running healthy. These shoes make your feet stronger and make you realize it when you are pounding your feet into the ground instead of wearing cushy running shoes and immobize your feet. The rate of injury has actually increased since the advent of running shoes. Its actually been proven that runners land harder and there is more impact in the leg when you wear regular running shoes. Just google it. Plenty of reading material. http://ww w.scienceofrunning.com/2010/01/why-running-shoes-do-not-work-looking.html Quick link if you are google challenged.

      August 14, 2011 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Hey Tom, top athletes wear shoes that are nothing more than soles with laces. No support, no cushioning, no motion control. Sprinters wear spikes for traction, nothing else. The sole is stiff to transfer energy efficiently. Distance runners want light, light shoes. Taking 42,000 steps in a marathons is much less work in 4 oz shoes than in 8 oz shoes. Finally, champion distance runners usually have a body weight about twice their height in inches, so a 5'6" man will weigh 130 lbs or less and be under 35 years in age. How many of use fit those criteria?

      August 14, 2011 at 23:57 | Report abuse |
  30. Andrea M

    Buy soft ballet slippers, they accomplish the exact same thing for less. Just a simple covering to protect your toes with no padding, so you will land on the ball of your foot anyway. Bonus is they don't stink! As long as you're sticking to treadmill or a sidewalk not littered with broken bottles and hypodermic needles, they work perfectly.

    August 14, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • loopycanadian

      Incorrect. One of the main features of VFF's is their ability for your toes to move, causing the muscle to build, while improving balance among other things. Ballet slippers, or toe covers are not at all the same. The whole problem with conventional shoes is the restriction they place on the feet and toes, causing the muscle to weaken to the point where most people get suckered in to buying orthodics or other expensive insoles. Educate yourself people!

      August 15, 2011 at 02:18 | Report abuse |
  31. SheilaKA

    I am glad to have seen this article. I saw a pair of these a few months ago and thought they looked comfortable...but I didn't know what they were called! Now I at least know WHAT I want to try on!

    August 14, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. jb

    I have to say I think the whole "five fingers" thing is stupid.

    There is no point to having separate toes, because Westerner don't use their toes separately when they walk or run. An Amazonian Indian who had gone barefoot all his life might use his big toe independently, and "grip the ground" when he walks. But he isn't going to be buying the shoes. (And even HE doesn't use all four little toes independently!) Plus, some people (like me) have hard to fit feet even when buying regular shoes - adding toe booties makes it just that much more difficult to get a fit. Finally, they look stupid. I'm talking jeans halfway down your butt stupid! Great if you are trying to get people to look at you, but not so great for the rest of us.

    August 14, 2011 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nickfr21

      I like it. Its supposed to be like a glove for your foot. Instead of mittens, you're using foot gloves. If you wore mittens your whole life I guess gloves would look and sound stupid too.

      August 14, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      JB, you sound like the perfect candidate for barefoot running. Your feet are already attached to your legs so you don't have to buy anything. They never wear out either! Just need to go slowly and allow your body to adjust. All those years in "foot coffins" have contorted your feet. They will need time to unwind and spread out. Start by going barefoot around the house, then walk outside for 5 minutes, then build up from there. You'll like it.

      August 14, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
  33. Mark Cucuzzella MD

    Great comments on this topic. We have an entire site devoted to healthier running and less footwear.
    http://naturalrunningcenter.com/
    For a video on the art of barefoot style running view here
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpnhKcvbsMM&w=640&h=360]
    Here's to healthier running in less shoe.
    Mark Cucuzzella MD

    August 14, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Runner

    Noticed that the author put on VFF and jumped on a treadmill...the treadmill is gonna mess up your stride and running form just as much as the wrong kind of shoes. If you want to change your posture get off the treadmill

    I know it is technical but if you are gonna write this article...be prepared for it. The best way to break in VFF is to take it slow and on grass or sand. Don't be afraid to walk and stretch the heck out of your calves post workout.

    August 14, 2011 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. HiroProtagonist

    I mail-ordered VFF while deployed–ordered the wrong sizes twice, despite following their rules for measuring my feet. So, yes, buy them where you can try them on first. I'm 47, 6'3", 270 (most of the extra weight gained in the last 5 years after injuries cut short a lifetime of distance running). My lower back and knee pain went away within, literally, minutes as I started running in these (correctly sized) shoes 8 months ago. Downsides: 1. Yes, your calves will fall off if you don't build up mileage very slowly, ideally with bicycle or other cross-training to develop your calves. 2. If the VFF are just too weird for you, or too hard to put on, you might try the New Balance Minimus, which looks like a "real" shoe but is essentially a VFF sole with just enough uppers to hold it to your feet. It's given me all the benefits of my old VFF, and I highly recommend them–especially to Army folks whose commands might ban or limit their wearing the VFF "gorilla shoes."

    August 15, 2011 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy W

      In addition to good taste in shoes, you've got good taste in reading material. Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors.

      August 15, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse |
  36. WWRRD

    I was beginning to think CNN became a running site. I think the jury is still out on these things. I've been tempted to try them but haven't yet made the switch. I do have a pair of minimalist regular shoes and have not had any foot related problems. I pretty much only wear them for short (less than 10K) races.

    From the comments made, it sounds like you don't have to break in the shoes. You need to break in your feet.

    August 15, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. TRAIL RUNNER

    I wore five fingers to trail run for several months. I loved running in them but the all over body pain I experienced for days after forced me to return to my inov8s' and salomons. I tried to be more aware of my form but something I was doing was hell on my joints.

    August 15, 2011 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Martin

    Another footwear fad. I'm old enough to remember "Earth Shoes". They had a reverse incline, front down to back instead of back (heel) down to front. They went the way of most of the fashion of the 1970's, falling squarely into the category "What Were We Thinking?". And they were ugly. These new "Five Fingers" just look dumb.

    August 15, 2011 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bigfoot

      Actually, Earth Shoes are alive and well... expensive, but still very much around. And for what it's worth, they stand behind their 'science' of their shoes' benefits as well.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
  39. Gary

    Can anyone tell me if these shoes are OK to run in- if you have plantar fasciitis in both feet? I'm in the Navy, and they just approved to use these things on official PT tests, but I'm concerned since my plantar fascii always hurt at the end of the day. Thanks.

    August 15, 2011 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Horse Rider

      Yes Gary, I had bad plantar faciitis, needed huge inserts, but not anymore. Make sure you transition SLOWLY and that you stretch calves and arches constantly in the beginning. I am a chiropractor and these are the only shoes that make sense to me since running barefoot in Montreal does not tempt me.

      August 15, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl

      I've owned a pair for a few months and wore them to run and walk around occasionally.Last night was my first 3 miler in them and my feet feel pretty good. I have no pain from my plantar fasciitis. I also have a bone spur in my left heel that isn't bothering me today. However, I sure could use an ankle and calf massage this morning!

      While I was running, I noticed increased "bounce" in my step and way more agility. In fact, I hit an uneven bit of cement that would have resulted in a rolled ankle in "normal" sneakers but I was able to stay on the ball of my feet and not bring my heel down. It was really cool.

      And, I was wayyy faster, too.

      Try them, that's what I say.

      August 16, 2011 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
  40. Sumo

    I like how nobody mentions the fact that these things look positively rediculous on adults. Every time I see someone wearing these, I have a lot of trouble taking anything they say seriously.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GENOVESE

      Wow, buried up to my neck? Good luck catching me in my V5's. And coexist is something that someone with a little pin-headed narrow mind like yourself could NEVER understand.

      August 16, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  41. j

    Like people with "Coexist" bumper stickers, I'd like to see everyone who wears these ridiculous things buried up to their necks at the bottom of the ocean for a few weeks. No offense or anything I just hate you and people like you.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy W

      Oh, wow... I've wanted a Coexist sticker for years. I think I'll go out and get one now. 🙂

      August 15, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
    • kooxist

      yea. i love when i get cut off by "coexist" cars. they get my 2nd in command finger.

      August 16, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • GENOVESE

      oops... see above.

      August 16, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  42. jb

    Joe: I used to go barefoot a lot as a kid, and I am intrigued by the idea of barefoot running shoes (I'm not going barefoot as an adult - even as a kid I got cut occasionally). I just think the "five fingers" thing makes no sense, and looks dumb. I want something I can walk around in and not attract attention (ideally maybe even something I could wear to work!). The trouble is that there aren't many "barefoot shoe" brands available yet, and the ones I've tried don't fit me (I'm something like a 7EEE). What I'd really like is not a hard Vibram sole, but a tough but rubbery one that I can really feel the ground through. Feelmax and Sockwa look interesting, but they aren't available locally, and I can risk buying online (because of the fit).

    nickfr21: Gloves for the hands make sense, because we use our fingers independently. Gloves for the feet do not make sense, because nobody uses their toes independently. And why would I want fabric between my toes anyway? For feet, mittens are the way to go.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nickfr21

      Actually, after barefooting around for awhile I've gained a lot of dexterity in my toes. I don't even bend over to pick anything up anymore, I just use my feet. I admit that the fabric felt weird the first time or two, but quickly felt natural soon after. I'd also like to point out that I'm not some crazy hippie either. Im as conservative (politically) as they come, I just enjoy using feet as they were intended. To each his own, but don't knock it until you try it.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
  43. boka

    I like running but anyone that runs over 10 miles is stupid.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Cathy W

    I've been wearing minimalist shoes since the spring of 2010 (Vibrams, Huaraches, and NB Minimus for the upcoming winter), and I love them. I doubt I'll ever go back to regular running shoes, which feel like you are running in boxing gloves or something. HOWEVER they are NOT a panacea for running injuries. You can get injured in regular shoes, and injured in BF shoes, too (I've had one serious injury in shoes, and two minor ones in VFF). You must increase your "barefoot" miles really, really gradually – far more so than most people are willing to to do. Everyone I know who has switched to VFF or similar has done the TMTS thing (Too Much Too Soon) and hurt themselves at least a little. Think of it this way: you've probably spent your life in shoes. It's going to take a truly long time to re-condition your feet to handle running in them long distances (more than just a few weeks or even months). There is no evidence that shoes prevent injury, but there is also no evidence (yet) that going barefoot prevents injury.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy W

      Another thing to consider it that there are lots of people out there who had been battling injury after injury, and when they switched to barefoot-style running, their injuries cleared up. But I also have friends who tried to run in the VFFs, battled injuries, and then when they switched back to shoes, their injuries cleared up. What I'm saying is "do what works for you." And if you do like BF-style running (as I do) take it easy, increase gradually, and listen carefully to your body.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
  45. Love VFF

    I didn't have any problem with them... I had a couple of blisters, but none of the pain described in the article (and I just put them on and went running!). I love these shoes...so much better than regular sneakers.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Night Stalker

    Wow, these sound incredible!!! Would someone please provide a page link where I can get a pair with six toe slots? Or, a YouTube video of how to modify a five toe pair to fit a sixth toe? I can't wait to cross-train in these!!

    August 15, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RaeVynn

    I love my Vibrams! With or without toe socks... in winter, I need the socks for warmth. I do not run – I am an older, obese woman, and my Vibrams are helping to keep me mobile. I've had a lifetime, quite literally since my teens, with severe foot, ankle, and knee pain. Vibrams help. A lot.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. paul

    sorry – running 3 miles is NOT running. that's a starter trot. as a serious marathon runner, i will not be partaking in this vibram 'craze'. counterfeits? do you know there are going to be 100 copycats coming to a store near you? it's inevitable when these guys charge $85 – $130 per shoe. comical.

    i, personally, will not run completely barefoot in a full marathon or use VFF's. been quite successful with "other light" shoes that i won't name, (as i'm not promoting). but if you're a serious runner, find YOUR shoe, don't read all the hype of what everyone else is doing. maybe after a year of serious transition you can take VFF's, maybe you can't. but don't go 'all in' on this and hype it up on a message board that you run 3 miles and it's so wonderful and free.

    August 16, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shoes

      I didn't know they handed out olympic gold medals for "starter trots."

      August 16, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Typically, marathon runners who claim that 3 miles is not a run, are not very fast. Especially when they refer to themselves as "serious" runners. Just saying...

      August 16, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Just gotta love the running snobs ... "3 miles isn't real running," or "that's not a run, that's just a jog," or "you haven't RUN a marathon if you finish in over 5 hours." Paul, I'm guessing you and your ilk need to criticise others in order to feel proud of your own accomplishments?

      August 23, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
  49. paul

    oh, the other thing i'll add after reading all these comments is i've run for 2 years (2 marathons, 4 half marathons, many many 10 and 5k's) and NO injury. not because of VFF, but because i trained right.

    August 16, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dayne

      2 years? HA! That's it? 3 miles are a starter trot? Oh but I run lots of 5k's and that's different? I was in the Navy for 5 years, ran all the time. Little bit of info for you. 5k = 3.1 miles. I know cause we did them all the time. I was the land based navy, we did 5k, 10k, 3 hour runs, Indian sprints, beach runs, street runs, parking garage runs, "fun" runs and more. Before you start insulting people or their running preference, give yourself more time. Actually, just don't do it. I don't run much anymore, prefer the bike now that I am out, but I love my Vibrams TrekSport. That's all I wear anymore. Best shoes for me, knee problems from all that Navy running are going away, and my feet feel better after a long day of moving around. Plus I like the gorilla foot look. They fit better then any shoe I have ever had before. I have 12.5inch wide feet. And Morton's toe. A little discomfort at first with that, but within a couple weeks that was gone, and my feet feel stronger now.

      August 16, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
  50. Belinda

    great article, I wish I'd followed the directions a little more too, I'm training fo a 4k and with fairly flat feet results in my ankle muscles (who knew they existed) making walking almost impossible the next day and forget about running for 3 days, guess I should start wearing my KSOs out and about a little more

    August 16, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.