I recently bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes after reading positive reviews online. The timing was also just right: It's summer, so the idea of going around nearly barefoot holds its appeal, and I'd literally worn holes into the soles of my current walking shoes. One way or the other, it was time for something new to cover my feet.
So far I've been wearing the Vibram Five Fingers SPRINT model for about a week. My original choice was the KSO (Keep Stuf Out) model, but they didn't have any in my size (I generally wear a men's size 10-11, depending on brand). Here are some general observations:
- They're comfy!
- Your toes are forced to be slightly separated from one another which, depending on your foot and the flexibility of your toes, can vary from "mild discomfort" to "torturous pain." My toes are abnormally tactile (Ask my Mom - she tell you stories about how I used to pick things up with my feet as a kid.) so it felt like a very mild stretch.
- They're sturdier than they appear. I do a lot of walking and after each outing I've checked the soles for signs of wear and tear. Each time I been pleasantly surprised. Even on the couple occasions I stepped on a sharp rock - an experience you will be profoundly aware of- I didn't notice any cuts or marks on the sole.
- You have to get used to walking in them. Actually, to be more accurate, you have to get used to walking around barefoot. - Thunderous heel-strikes and shuffling your feet are just two of the bad walking habits you'll be forced to leave behind. Walking on soft, natural surfaces like grass, dirt trails and, surprisingly, even gravel is a much nicer experience than walking on concrete...
- ...However, after a week of using these as my day shoes, my feet feel quite a bit tougher and the concrete doesn't bother me anymore.
- You may not think of your feet as being asymmetrical, but when you're wearing identical, tight-fitting gloves on each of them you become much more aware. My pink toe completely fills out the right root but leaves some noticeable space on the left.
- Previous observation aside, the sizing chart on the Vibram website is very helpful and quite accurate.
- I've only done actual running in these things once and even then only on the trails. I won't lie - it hurt. I'm an avid jogger but never attempted any barefoot running before. The good news? Ouchiness aside, there weren't any lingering "bad" pains the next day. In fact, I could tell that certain muscles in my feet and ankles were getting more burn than they usually do, which is a big selling point on the Vibram website. You have to use a slightly different technique, and for me this made my run considerably slower, but I could see myself getting used to this and running regularly with them without issue.
- Don't think I could "sneak up" on someone if I tried. A week in I can avoid the heel-strikes, and I am stepping softly/gingerly/differently than I was before, there's a noticeably "fwap" when my feet hit the ground. When I was running, it was quite loud. In shoes I'm actually a soft-stepper, but it hasn't translated with my Vibrams yet. Maybe as my foot strength builds it will happen.
- These things are delightfully funny looking and people will notice. Especially if you get them in bright red, like I did.