Review – Vibram Five Finger Shoes

Five finger shoes…  And all the barefoot running shoes have been getting a lot of hype lately.  Tyler introduced me to them 2 months before our first tough mudder (Tri-State, Englishtown).  I was certainly a skeptic at first.  They look ridiculous and on top of that the pair I got are not only toe shoes but bright red.  They were sure to get some comments.  I had heard they took some getting used to but that was okay but that was okay because I still had some time before the mud run.  I had been training in sneakers and having to ice my knees a lot.  My knees are not awful but I had ACL surgery and meniscus about 3 years ago and have had to ice when overwork my knee.  I started out slow. I ran 1.5 miles in them and stretched a lot.  That first day felt easy, but the next 3 hurt!  Apparently they were very hard on my calves.  It felt like I had softballs for calves.  Once my calves ripened a little and softened up I tried 2 miles.  Then took about 3 days off to massage my cramped calves… But those two times were the worst of it and one thing I forgot to mention (the reason I put myself through this apparent agony), even though my calves were killing me my knees were fine.  Since I started using the Five Finger KSO shoes my calves hurt but I figured that calves are a muscle and can adapt and heal pretty quick, knees on the other hand are mostly bone, and wear out.

So I set a plan for myself running at least every two days, sometimes Tyler, Nick, or Jordan would come for a run and I kept a good routine slowly increasing my mileage and kept all my running to dirt.  3 miles this week, up to 4 miles the next week, 5 the week after, then 6 and I held steady at 7 to 8 for the rest of the weeks.  7 when I was by myself, 8 when someone was with me, haha.  I just tried to decrease my time per mile by a second or two each time I ran.

The day of the first tough mudder was a scary one.  I had trained, I tried to eat breakfast, and we were at Englishtown waiting for our start time.  No one could decide on what to wear.. Do you wear a sweatshirt to stay warm?  But once it’s wet it will just steal the heat from you.. Do you go as skimpy as possible?  Running shorts and no shirt?  But there are obstacles.  I had settled on underarmor heat gear pants (cause I was to cheap to buy cold gear) a pair of shorts I was planning on throwing away (because not everyone looks food in spandex), and we had team shirts made up in honor of tylers mom so that was warn with pride and reason.  Finally we were at the start line and the horn blared.

During the run I can’t say I noticed much different with five finger shoes.  I had trained in them and they fit like gloves.  If they had been looser it is possible the mud in the shoes could be a problem but mine fit like a second skin.  Dirt ad mud fell off every time you take a step.  They are already light but they do not pick up dirt like sneakers and stay light the entire race rather then putting on water weight and mud weight as you get more and more tired.  There was one downfall though.  The KSOs are great except they have no tread.  It was like wearing racing slicks.  On the pavement I felt light and nimble, even in the dirt but about 30% of the track was wet mud and I was sliding everywhere.  Every step my feet felt like they were on ice and the very worst part was going up the cliff hanger (big hill).  This one was not a quarter the size of some of the others we have gone up, but it was by far the slipperiest and most fun.  I knew what was coming and walked when I saw it coming up around the corner then as I got close sprinted faster and faster to get up the momentum to hurl myself up the hill.  I made it about 4 steps from the top before sliding right back down to the start.  Backed up ad tried it again.  Even further from the top.  This next time I would sprint and then start looking for small spots to put my toes to hold myself up and try harder to claw my finger tips into the hard wet clay.  And back down I went… The fifth time I took a second, caught my breathe and sprinted one last time up the mud hill.  I would have fallen again if it were not for the guy who was bring held three quarters down the hill by his ankles.  I barely got his finger tips but managed to climbed up, well, him and Tyler was right there to give me a hand.  I was a bit of a dick and although I said thank you I did not stay to help anyone else, even though they stayed to help me.  A mistake I have done my best to make sure it does not happen again.  When others help you, stay and help others:  Pay it forward.  The rest of the run was fantastic.  Five Finger shoes slid around a little but only a little and everything was good.

Due to that hill the next 4 tough mudders were run in sneakers.  For the simple fact of traction.  Then in south California I decided it was time to try again.  I bought some Five Finger Bikilas because Tyler found some very fruity blue and green ones for pretty cheap and ran the entire run in them and loved every step.  They have more padding than my KSOs and they have tread.  I would suggest them to anyone who is willing to put in the time to break their legs into them.  I will warn you that they have no arch support, from what I have read thy is the point of them.  They strengthen your feet to support the arch not the other way around.  Which is why you must take your time breaking them in.

For more on barefoot running, my little brother sent me a very thorough write up on it. Check it out



2 thoughts on “Review – Vibram Five Finger Shoes”

  1. Pingback: MudderCam
  2. I’ve got your solution: FiveFingers TrekSport. They have slightly more padding then bikila (good for small rocks and help with bigger ones) and they have excellent traction. They are the trail shoe version of FiveFingers.

    I just did New England #2 with them and had no problems slipping anywhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.