Vibram Five Fingers – The Review

I’ve had the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) for a couple of weeks now and feel I can now cast some judgement from the standpoint of an inexperienced barefoot or minimal shoe runner.

Just as a quick aside, I believe that barefoot running applies to running sans shoes but also encompasses runners who choose to wear minimal shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers or inov8 EvoSkins or the VivoBarefoot Evo from Terraplana. There are also shoes most accurately termed Reduced Shoes such as the Nike Free but these aren’t akin to barefoot running as they have a heel pad, albeit a reduced one.

Having decided I was going to try a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I did a quick search of the available reviews and found myself overwhelmed with sizing advice. It seems that most people need to take a size down when switching to VFFs. I followed the rules and measured my feet by standing on a ruler and then ignored the advice as it was suggesting I order size 6 vs my usual size 8.

With a shoe that is designed to wrap neatly around each of your toes sizing is a bit critical. Too long and the little toe will probably float around in the body of the shoe and risk snagging, too short and the problems are obvious.

I ordered size 7 in the end and although my left foot fits pretty well my right foot feels overly snug. Not that it seems to be damaging me but I am very aware of the casing around my toes and that seems a shame when the overall effect of minimal shoe running is so freeing. I suppose the ideal would be to whip them off, throw caution to the wind and run barefoot proper. But that’s not going happen any time soon – I want a sole.

I had a number of fears when I first ran in the Vibrams, I was convinced that they would slip about on the downhills and the natural braking action would leave me without skin on my forefoot. I was really very pleasantly surprised. The shoes really did fit me like a second skin and the effect was natural and fun.

Fun is the key word, on the first run I was encouraged to run further and further than I originally intended because it felt so free and comfortable. That goes against all the advice related to beginning barefoot running but I think it says a lot for the comfort of the VFF.

Having run further than I was supposed to do, I did develop a few niggles. A forefoot blister was simply the effect of inexperienced feet on hard tarmac but I also had a few rubs on the side of my feet which I think relate to rough seams on the Vibrams.

I chose the Sprint model, which has a few straps to assist with fit. Although they fit very securely I think the additional bulk does detract a little from the simplicity of the basic model. Not that any of the range are particularly attractive. I’ve already alluded to the fact that my family thinks I’m a freak for wearing them but they aren’t anywhere near as ugly as the inov8 Evoskin shoes reviewed here by Adam at Fitness Footwear. If I’m tempted by beauty or at least the allure of a normal looking shoe I’d be tempted to go for the Vivo Barefoot Evo, reviewed here by Running and Rambling.

I’ve now had a few runs out with the Vibrams and I’m taking it easier with the distance. I’m enjoying the experience and now feel as though I am so much more aware of my running. More often than not I choose to run without the iPod, happy to listen to the gentle slapping of my rubberized toes while I tune in to how my body is feeling and what the ground is doing. It’s a very involved and yet peaceful way to run.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

White Rabbits and Grey Shoes

I think I may have suggested a little while back, in a pub somewhere no doubt, that I would put happiness to one side and actually start running again in March. The arrival of the month also coincided quite nicely with the delivery of a damn fine pair of running shoes, so the pressure was building.

Salomon XA Pro Ultra GTX

These are the Salomon XA Pro GTXs and are a very desirable pair of trail running/adventure madness style shoes. They require rather beefy terrain so yesterday I bundled the non-runner and the mountain bike into the car and headed off to my favourite off road haunt – Swinley Forest in Bracknell.

Annihilation

The non-runner vowed to stick with me on the bike as I led the way on foot through the undergrowth. With an evil glint in my eye I hit an immediate right turn out of the car park and headed up and across the bracken to the forest proper. It was steep, strewn with stump hazards and ruts and altogether pretty tough going. My lungs were burning and I wanted to quit but the expletives exiting my loved one’s mouth made it all the worthwhile and I kept heading up until I thought she was going to quit on me and head back to the cafe.

Respite from laughter was required so we took a short flat section for a breather before heading off in search of shoe testing swamps and hills.

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The shoes are very impressive. They’re extraordinarily light, in fact I suspected the box may have been empty when I picked it off my doorstep, but I still felt very supported by them. They have a good cushioned sole a very simple and effective lace system. I really like them a lot actually and as I’ve they’ve got a gore tex lining, my feet stayed dry even after a bit of light puddle action.

They are fortunately very grippy as well.

I took the lead on one particularly exciting stretch of singletrack before realising that I didn’t really stand much chance of staying ahead of a carreering lunatic on a bike. I upped the pace and started squealing like an out of control rhino on a snowboard. Legs were ticking over at a rare ole pace but my body was still in the lead. I expected my chin to reach the forest floor just moments before the chasing bike nipped at my heels and left me with broad tread marks along my flattened body.

At the first sign of an escape route, I threw myself off to the side, to roll gently in a bank of soft mud, only to spot the non-runner, half way back up the slope, hands clenched tightly over both brakes, bouncing ever so tentatively and non-threateningly downwards on locked wheels.

I muddied my shoes for nothing…..

SF

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.