I am regualry getting asked, what are those things on your feet? Socks? Shoes?

So what are those?

Well they are shoes, sort off, sport shoes to be precise with a rubber sole. But that’s where the similarities to normal shoes end. The shoes I am wearing are minimalist running/fitness shoes. There have been a lot of types of minimalist shoes in the past few years, but what separates the Vibram FiveFingers from the others is that they have separate pockets for each toe. Vibram who is a specialist for rubber soles plays it’s best cards and provides very thin rubber soles with great feeling for the ground, but still providing protection against injury.  The most important thing is though that because of the toe pockets and the very flexible sole, it almost feels like you are walking barefoot or to be precise with socks on your feet. If you use them regularly you will notice a great increase in the strength of your feet (muscles will increase, you will be able to move your toes nearly as good as your fingers). This increases your overall balance and it also can decrease your risk of getting a flat foot or a splayfoot. That though depends on your feet condition before you start using them. I too don’t have too health feet either. I was told I have a nearly flat foot and must wear insoles to avoid getting back pain. Well I got the insoles but hardly used them. Instead I am wearing my FiveFingers on a daily basis for over 3 years now, and I can say that my foot flatness has decreased. Probably because I build up enough muscles to countermeasure the loose ligaments that cause flat feet.

Why do I wear them?

Well I actually like walking barefoot as much as possible. I like to feel the ground I am walking on and as I already elaborated it increases your overall foot fitness. Thing is though there are many locations where it is impossible to walk without shoes and also some occasions where it is inappropriate not to wear shoes. The reason why I hardly wear other, normal shoes now is that the FiveFingers are so comfortable that every time I slip into normal shoes, I feel like having concrete around my feet. The are as close to barefoot as it can get with shoes on.

Isn’t it kinda embarrassing to wear them?

Well of course I get strange looks from people, but here in Japan it is usually just because people are curious and not looking down on your “fashion unawareness”. I get asked by people if these are shoes and where I got them and how it feels…unfortunately though, because Japanese are rather shy (you wouldn’t imagine that with the harajiku-fashion) even though they might try them on, hardly any of them would wear them in public. They are too different, too outstanding. What a shame. Well I stick out anyways, so I don’t have a problem with that anymore *g*

Do you need socks to wear them?

You can where them barefoot or w

ith 5 Finger Socks. Sine the shoes are machine washable up to 40 deg, I prefer doing it barefoot style during the summer season and then with socks during spring and autumn. If you wash them regulary there should be no problem with smell. Just let them dry properly and clean your feet before using them (well that should be obvious anyways)

What is my size, where can I try them on?


So, where do I get them? Well the best way is over the internet. You have the biggest model choice and the prices are the same as in the shops. Well if you live in America, you are lucky. There are countless shops that sell FiveFingers over there, but here in Japan or back in Germany you will usually not find any shop that sells them. So the best possibility is to find a no-cost-return offering online shop and after measuring exact size of your feet order 2 or 3 sizes and try them on. In contrary to normal shoes you don’t need to add an additional cm to the measured size since the shoes are flexible enough to move with your feet. The tighter the better. Once you found out your size it’s very easy. Every model, at least the Japanese and European models, apperently not the American models, have the same size for each design. So if you got a EU43 in the Komodo-Sport an Bikila in EU43 will fit as well.

So the most important part is to measure your feet size from heel to the longest toe (btw. people with longer small toes than the big toe might not have the best feel in FiveFingers). Remember, you don’t need to add anything to that result.

The next step is to have a look at the conversion chart (here the German one: http://www.vibram-fivefingers.de/vibram-fivefingers-groessen) . You have too look for your feet size (for example in my case 27.1mm) in the chart and read which EU size you will need. So if you look at the following chart, my feet are too big for a 42 and there would be too much space in a 44, but with just 2mm space the 43 is best. So know you know your size, choose your design and try them on. Ah and even though I said, the tighter the better, don’t order them in a smaller size than you actually need. This will cause your toes touching the front and maybe even cause inflexibility and pain.

Where should I buy them?

Well as I said, if you live in America, go into a shop that sells them, try them on, find your size and maybe order the model you want if not available. For other countries I recommend ordering them over the official Online-Shop or resellers (international:  http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/ – Germany: http://www.vibram-fivefingers.de/ – Japan: http://www.barefootinc.jp/ ). Do not order them over eBay. Vibram forbids selling FiveFingers on eBay, which means they are either fake or fake. And when you find a shop that sells them for less than half the price, make sure that it is an official reseller. Everything below 70% off the normal retail price is deemed to be a fake.

Which model should I get?

For starters I would recommend getting one of the cheaper models which are good for fitness and casual. The more expensive ones have more cushioning are a little heavier but will provide you with more protection for running. At the moment I Am wearing my EL-EX and they are the best I have worn until now even though they are the cheapest. The heel has a bit of a hard seam, but a bit of soft tape will countermeasure that small flaw. (which might not occur to everybody depending on your heel shape) The other models I am owning are the ones I started of with, the KSO in black, than I got the Komodo Sport which was very good until it started wearing out after just a year and then I got the SPEED LR  for rainy weather and winter season. The last one looks very fasionable but it requires to be greased (real leather) after each wash and the leather is not durable so I already got a hole at the edge where it is glued to the rubber sole. So as I said, start of with a cheap model, KSO or EL-EX and then decide if you like them enough to spend more money or not.

Anything I need to know when using them?

Yes, a very very important thing: Do not put them on and start running straight away! Your feet are not used to that abuse, and you won’t notice it that something is not right until the next day or a few days afterwards. You will have to build up your muscles first and get flexibility into your feet by wearing them for a few weeks. Then when you finally think you can do it, don’t go the full distance you are usually runinng. Slowly increase the length starting with just 1km and wait until the next day to see if that wasn’t too much. Think of it as additional workout and not as exchanging your running shoes.
In my case, I couldn’t wait to do some barefoot runs, so I went 2-3km the first day straight away. Running was great, it felt completly different, but the next day, next 2 weeks, my feet and carves hurt like hell. Even after that I probably asked to much of my feet and now have trouble with a joint on my left feet. So really, start slowly.

Btw. the more people  wear them, the less embarrassing it will be wearing them 🙂

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