Vibram Five Finger shoes are loved by lots of runners as a natural way to improve posture, stride, balance, speed, foot health, and reduce injuries. Many hikers, gym rats, crossfit and fitness buffs wear and swear by them as well.
When I first saw someone wearing them at the gym, I thought, those are goofy-looking and the next fad, I would never wear them! And considering my old foot injuries, I figured they would kill my feet.
I definitely never imagined running in them.
I’ve had surgeries on both feet, the first one in Japan on my right foot, due to a stress fracture that didn’t heal properly. (I was in Kyoto, Japan two years working as an English teacher.) The second injury was even worse, a LisFranc fracture and dislocation on the left foot. Both these injuries can be attributed to lots of running and sports, especially Ultimate Frisbee, and perhaps from my poor running form. I’m 41 years old.
One day a massage therapist recommended these for my feet, just for around the house, as a way to alleviate some of the chronic pain and poor circulation I’d been experiencing. For the past four years, whenever I walked barefoot on a hard surface like wooden floors or poolside concrete, I limped around slowly like an old man. It was embarrassing. I kept trying to find more and more ways to baby my feet, since they hurt. Turns out, what I truly needed was ways to use them more, and use them properly!
Wearing Five Finger Shoes around the house helped my feet considerably. Yes, there were some break-in periods, but I could tell good things were happening. My feet were waking up.
And they felt so good, I felt compelled to try the shoes in the gym. I figured that would be the extent of it…but I just kept wanting to use them in more and more activities.
So I hiked Red Rock in them, an hour plus hike with a bit of bouldering. I went carefully. Towards the end of the hike, my toes felt as if on fire, but that was from stimulating lots of tiny muscles I had let atrophy. That pain passed two hours later. Next day, my feet felt fantastic. And not just my feet — there was no right knee pain or the usual small joint pain and stiffness in my legs that I often experience.
So I started running in them, a half mile at a time, over the course of a few weeks.
When you run with them, you simply can’t heel strike, which seems to encourage injuries. Heel striking and poor posture may have caused a lot of mine. I was already transitioning to a midfoot strike with my other shoes, a few weeks before trying these.
I used to get minor shin splints, another symptom of heel striking. Those have disappeared. And again, a lot less joint pain and joint stiffness.
Today I finished my first full 5K in them, with a sprint at the end. The sprint at the end felt like I was a teenager running through a field of poppies – I felt free!
Now, I know there is some research out there that says they may cause a few injuries…but that’s amidst a tidal wave of supporters, namely, runners. What I recommend is you try them for yourself. Go carefully, and listen to your body. If you’ve had past foot injuries, start with them around your house. I should also say consult your doctor, but sometimes they know less than our own body’s intuition.
I’m no professional, this is just one person’s testimonial. That said, I’ve been a fitness junkie and health food nut for over 22 years.
Good luck! Brendan