Sunday, April 10, 2016

My two year review of Vibram Five finger Toe Shoes

A lot of controversy has been thrown up at the mention of these shoes. They've had a lot of bad media, and I find it sad that the black check mark on these shoes deters people from buying something that would be a great pleasure and benefit to them.

   I honestly don't think there's any item I have ever owned that I've enjoyed more than these shoes.

Simply put. I. Love. These. Shoes. Period!

They are the best thing that have happened to my feet. The absolute best! I want pair for Sunday, for work, for play, for running, and winter boot vibrams, if any exist. I seriously love them!

            My sister was the first one who braved buying these shoes. She raved about them, but I couldn't get past the idea that my toes had to be confined into separate little compartments. I hated the idea that wearing such shoes meant that I had to encapsulate them in little tiny toe holes, and squeeze them into weird-glove socks.

            That thought stopped me from even considering wearing them. Nope. I told myself. Not going to try them. I knew I wouldn't be able to stand them.

            I thought wearing them would be horrid, and uncomfortable, and weird. Not to mention they are really odd looking.

            So I passed on wearing them because of my stubbornness.

Then, because of my knee troubles, I began looking for better shoes. I tried moccasins, they worked out pretty well. They were comfortable, soft, and fit my foot nicely. But for running shoes, they wore out fast. Too fast.

  I tried Nike air bendy shoes, and they made my knee hurt terribly. They had a really high heel, and heels were very hard on my knees. 

Then I decided that I'd try a flat heeled Vibram New balance shoe, that had the nice Vibram insole, with no heel, and no weird looking to compartments.

These shoes were the second best shoes I've ever worn. I used them until they wore out. 
I'll say right now, if you can't stand the thought of wearing Vibram five finger shoes, they are a pretty good alternative. The only con, is that with this particular shoe, the cloth they made it with, ripped way too easily. The cloth wore out too fast. The sole outlasted the top of the shoe, so I kept on wearing them until they began to make me look like a homeless person.  They were well-loved, and it took me a long while to finally trash them.

   My family thought they looked liked poverty shoes, and rightly so because they did. They looked like hobo shoes. But I liked my hobo shoes, and they liked my feet. They had been on many journeys with me, many miles, and many places. Finally, after doing a photo shoot of them, I was able to send them to the "Happy Running grounds," a place where all good, worn out shoes go.


 So, because my bestest most favorite shoes, thus far, had run out of life, I decided to be bold, and try something new and different so I bought a pair of Vibram five finger toe shoes.

  The first pair I ordered came a size too small, because I honestly didn't understand the sizing. I thought I was a size 39, which translates into US sizing as 7.5 which I wasn't, because I'm a size 8 1/2.

            Knowing how to buy the right size is a big thing to consider when buying shoes online, especially when sizing is different than US sizing.

I'm a size 8 1/2 which would translate into a size 40 or 41 depending which style you choose. I also sometimes wear the men's vibrams which also translates into a size 41. If you go to this sizing chart for vibrams, you're more likely to get the right shoe size when you buy them online.  Here's the website it will really help you when buying vibrams:


            After educating myself on sizing, I ordered another pair of shoes, and bought the right size this time. And they fit perfectly. Note that if you buy the vibrams with the Velcro strap, getting them on and off is ten times easier than if you decide to buy the older brand of vibrams, which are very, very hard to get on. 
      With these newer Vibrams it's a breeze. It is a little different than putting on normal shoes at first, but after while, it becomes second nature. I don't even think about it now.

            I had prepared myself for the weird feeling I thought would come when having my feet encapsulated in each little toe compartment. But it was oddly, very comfortable. It didn't bother me one bit.

            Now, putting on the socks is a little more slow, but you get used to that as well.

The first thing I noticed when wearing these shoes that I felt very grounded, and balanced. They made me feel confidant, and walk taller. They made me feel ready to stand my ground, which is a
good feeling to have. 

The second thing I noticed when wearing them were the fantastic textures of the ground. They felt delicious on my feet. I found great pleasure walking in soft earth, sand, and even firm mud. Wearing them made me feel like a kid again. I found myself going out of my way to step on new surfaces just to feel the texture beneath my feet. The shoes have wonderful grip, and being able to use my toes to dig into the ground as I hiked up mountains gave me great stability to climb up steep hills.
      One of my favorite pleasures when wearing these shoes is to walk through a dry stream beds, hopping from rock to rock.

            In these shoes, I end up going out of my way to hike up places I normally wouldn't go.


            It was funny because I enjoyed these shoes so much when first wearing them, my subconscious must have been greatly affected because I had a dream that I sprouted an extra big toe, alongside my original big toe. And that my feet were spreading out so much they looked like a monkeys. I asked a person in my dream if it was normal for me to be growing an extra big toe, and they were like, "Yes. It's about as normal as someone growing wisdom teeth. Everyone starts growing them at your age."

            It would be funny, except it's true. No, I haven't grown a second toe. But my feet have spread out a bit.

            I bought my first pair of Vibrams in Aug 23, 2014. And I've loved them ever since. I've gone through a few pairs, since. It's been two years now, and my feet have spread out a lot more than what they used to be, and so has my sister's feet. Not a ton, but enough to make me not want to wear my other older pairs of shoes, that are narrower, and now pinch my toes. 

            I also have one foot that is bigger and one foot that is a little smaller, so my toes are so much happier in vibrams, because I can stretch my baby toe in its normal range of motion.

   So that is another thing to consider when buying these shoes. Your feet are like plants. If kept in a smaller pot, they will get root bound. If given a bigger pot they will spread out and expand.  Scary thought for those of you who like ittle bitty toes.    

            I've had two years to think about and test these shoes in all kinds of terrains.  Below I've created a list of the pros and cons of these shoes, in hopes that you can make an informed decision when considering buying Vibram five finger toe shoes.

  • Pros:
  • 1. These shoes are very light, it's like you're not wearing shoes at all. They make me feel agile, and ready to sprint.
  • 2. I love how they make me feel more grounded, and balanced.
  • 3. I like the fact that my foot can respond to whatever I step on. My feet have gained a lot of muscle since wearing them. 
  • 4. The shoes are super comfortable, and I'm amazed how soft they feel for having zero padding.
  • 5. They feel especially wonderful when walking on sandy earth.
  • 6. They have great traction, so long as they aren't worn out.
  • 7. They build new muscles in your feet and legs.
  • 8. They help you have better balance.
  • 9. They make you feel more confidant.
  • 10. They are great for running. But not a total cure for knee pain. But they do help, lessen the stress on your knees especially when hiking.
  • 11. They are super bendy, and nave a wonderful flat heel.
  • 12. They work great as water shoes.
  • 13. They can easily be tossed in the wash if they get dirty or stinky.
  • 14. They let your foot bend in is natural range of motion, giving you more freedom and agility.
  • 15. These shoes the best conversation starters around, everywhere I went, people would look at my funny shoes, and ask me about them. And because I love these shoes I have no problem talking about them.
  • 16. (This is a pro-con) The shoes are so light, and comfy you'll feel very sad when you have to wear regular shoes. The other day, I was hiking where there were lots and lots of little cactus patches growing everywhere on the ground, so I decided to switch to thicker hiking shoes, because I ran into some cactus the previous week in my vibrams, and the spines went through my shoe---probably more so than they normally would have because the soles are very worn, and I need to buy a new pair.
  • 17. They are slick to slick off.
  • 18. They help you lose weight. How could shoes make you lose weight you might ask? Well, I'll tell you, they make you want to get up and dance. They make you want to move more. And because you move more you'll burn more calories.
  • 19. Their heels aren't thick, but they are tough, and will last you quite a while--depending on what kind of terrain you're walking on, and how much you use them. 
  • 20. Some people who have diabetes, and are trying to get better circulation their feet also find vibrams their shoe of choice.
  • 21. Overall, I just love these shoes!


Cons---I don't want to say anything bad about them. But there are cons, especially hazards you need to be aware of when wearing them.

  • 1. They can make your feet and legs sore at first, especially if you have been wearing padded, thick-soled shoes. The longer you've been wearing hard-stiff shoes, the longer I think it will take for you to get used to vibrams, which have a very thin sole, and pretty much zero padding. These shoes will give you a work out in muscles you may have never worked before. So start out slow with these shoes, maybe wear them a few hours at a time. Also they also don't really have any arch supports, because these shoes are supposed to help you build the muscles in your arches naturally. 
  • 2. If you don't wear socks along with these shoes, they can be the most slinkiest, sweatiest, smelliest, shoes you've ever owned. My sister went bare toed in them because she didn't want to fork out the money for toe socks. And let me tell your right now, buy the socks! We found some pretty good prices for toe socks on ebay, and I'm telling you, it'll save your shoes, and your feet from smellage, and your ego from having people think you smell like the garbage been. 
  • 3. You also have to be more aware of where your foot is placed when wearing these shoes, because normal shoes don't bend when you step on rocks. So you have to build up new muscles, and be careful with your ankles because your foot has to learn to respond differently than what your used to, so you don't roll your ankle.
  • 4. One of the worst hazards of these shoes is the fact that it's very easy to trap cords and various objects unawares between your toes. I've been hiking and come home with lots of weeds, and leaves protruding from between my toes. You can catch your toes on roots, and weird random objects. I remember sitting at my computer, and nearly pulling the laptop to the floor because my toes caught the cord between them.
  • 5. These shoes are great for some types of hiking, but if you're going to be on boulders that shift and move, your feet will be in danger of being crushed by rocks. I know because I've nearly had my tooties mashed. Note that the top of the shoe is pretty much cloth, so it's not ideal for real foot protection especially in dangerous environments, where there are snakes, or if you're going to be lifting heavy objects.
  • 6. This particular brand of Vibram shoe will freeze your feet in cold, rainy, snowy weather, especially if you live in colder climates. I've worn these in all types of weather, and can attest to the sad fact that while wearing these shoes, that if the ground is cold, your feet will probably be cold. I'm really wanting to find an affordable pair of vibrams that work for winter wear, that don't get water logged, or freeze your tootsies off.
  • 7. They will wear out, just like any shoe especially if you're
    Wearing them when they are worn out means they won't function like they should, they heel will peel away from the toe. And their soft skin on top makes them prone to puncture, including the sides of the toe capsules. So if you're walking in sticky terrain, beware. I've ripped holes in several of my toe holes on rough sticks.
    wearing them every day. And when they're worn out, you must take note that their traction goes down. And when they're worn out, you should buy a new pair. The pictured pair have been greatly worn, and used by me for a long time. So I actually think they are in pretty good condition considering where I've taken them.
  • 8. They are shoes you must use with smarts, know what you're going to be doing when you're wearing them. If you're going to be standing on a hard, cement surface for hours on end, I'd recommend buying yourself a good pair of Birkenstocks that have good support for your feet and arches especially when standing for long hours. Vibrams were made to be used in the outdoors on soft ground, to help give support for your feet. Your feet will scream at you if you wear them when standing stationary for long periods of time on hard, man-made surfaces.This I also can attest to.

            The truth is, most of the cons of wearing these shoes come about not because of the shoes themselves, but because I've worn them in all types of weather, and all types of conditions---conditions that were not all that smart to wear them in. They are not ideal for working on the farm when you're working around heavy or dangerous objects. Having a goat step on the soft part of the shoe is like having it step on your raw foot. Ouch! Or climbing a fence and having your toe catch on it, and bend it backwards. (Ouch)


            Since August of 2014 I'm still on my second now very worn-out pair.

Because I've worn them past their expiration date, It's hard to really tell when you'll actually have to buy yourselves a new pair once your old pair wears out. My guesstimate is that six months to a year is how long they will last, depending on how much you use them. I'm pretty hard on my shoes.


That may seem like a short time for a pair of shoes, but if you think about it, anything really good in life usually goes bad faster, take for instance the shelf life of butter, vs, margarine, or a Twinkie vs your favorite homemade chocolate chip cookie.

Good things have to be renewed. Always.

            Yes, it's a bummer. But that's life.

            Let's consider the alternative, you can buy yourself a pair of shoes that don't bend, that have horrible thick heels, and will last longer than your feet, knees or joints will.

            Our you can buy something that your feet would outlast. 

    If I had kids, I'd start them out wearing moccasins, or vibrams. I cringe every time I see kids wearing stiff, board shoes that make it so they can't bend or move. It's no wonder they like to throw off their shoes every chance they get.

            I would seriously love to see more verities of shoes like these, and I'd love to try out some winter versions of them. I'd also like to see modified versions of vibrams with more protection when hiking, that covers above the ankle. 

(Post update) After shopping around I'm happy to report that there are various vibrams specifically designed for hiking and other sports, you just have to refine your search.

Winter-ish lookingvibrams 

And just another useful looking buying guide. You should also be aware there are a lot of knock offs that are not real vibrams.


            I've tried to convince my mom of how wonderful these shoes are, and maybe in time, she'll want to try them. But in the meantime, she's opted for a flatter, sports-type of wresting shoe that gives her a lot more flexibility and balance, which is very important for older people. So I'm happy that she's using a shoe that works for her.


            And that's what you should should do to when you are buying a shoe. It's good to know what kind of shoe you will need for your lifestyle, and your physical needs. I have a neighbor who got into the shoe selling business because he lost a couple of his toes in an accident, and from then he's become a very educated 'sole' about the science of shoes and feet. He was a very interesting person to talk to. He helped out with my sister's scoliosis and her fallen arches, which in effect helped her back problems. He taught us about the importance of having shoes that bend, and how shoes can effect your whole body.

            The doctors said that the only thing that would help my sister's back was to have surgery. They said that the types of shoes my sister wore wouldn't effect her back, and that modifying her diet wouldn't help cure her scoliosis---but they were wrong.

            She was experiencing a lot of pain when playing her violin because of her back problems, and now because she's improved her diet, and changed her shoes, and built up the muscles in her feet and back, her back pain has decreased a ton. She wore Birkenstocks to build up her arches, and then began wearing vibrams, along with eating lots of raw eggs, switching from margarine, to butter, cutting out gmos, and eating fermented foods.  It's really a miracle how much her health, and her back has improved without an operation. Her back isn't completely straight, but her quality of life is so much better.  Who would have thought just changing a few things could help so much.

             So there you go, the power of shoes, and changing your diet. These shoes may not be for you. And the truth is, they aren't for everyone. But I do believe they are a wonderful shoe that has given me and my sister a lot of pleasure.

            Everywhere we go people ask us about our shoes, which I think is funny because it seems you would think that they wouldn't be such a novelty and  more people would know about them by now. But I guess not.

            I wore them on stage once while singing with my sister, and after our performance a woman came up to me, pointed to her feet and said with excitement in her voice, "Look, I have the same kind of shoes!"

             Normally that wouldn't mean much, but because these shoes are very unusual to the world, it instantly makes you feel bonded to perfect strangers, connected by shoes. It's like you belong to a league of good 'soles' who are open minded--some sort of weird running cult who've walked not over fire, but over miles of beautiful fields, connected to the raw real earth.    

            I've had people come up to me, out of the blue, and start talking about our shoes. It's really quite funny. To think that shoes could spark such a 'movement.'

            We are a guild bonded through our shoes. 

I think all runners, and adults and children alike who want more flexibility, long term joint health, and good balance, should give these shoes a try. Note that these shoes, just like all new shoes will take a while for you to get used to. I think, for most adults, who've been wearing shoes that do not bend, the longer it will take for their legs and feet to get accustomed to wearing them. That is the reason, I believe why so many of these shoes end up on ebay barely even used.


            Vibrams are amazing. That is just my humble opinion which may differ in your case, and your running, standing, walking needs. I've worn these shoes in all kinds of weather. I've walked in them through rain, slush, warm, and cold weather, soft and hard ground, rock, sand, and dry sandy deserts.


            This is my two year review of these shoes. I'm sure I can think of a lot more things to say while I'm off hiking, or running.
 Suffice it to say, I really think these shoes will make your feet Happy!

     If you liked this review, and think it might be helpful in any way to someone you may know, please spread the word, and become part of the guild of happy feet, and kindred 'soles'

If you're interested in learning more about your shoes effect your  body, here are some really good articles I've found that are very intriguing, and helpful.

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