Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vibram FiveFingers Sprint Review

Running barefoot is problematic for the following reasons:

1-sometimes it's too cold
2-sometimes it's too dangerous
3-it takes time to develop calluses adequately thick to run long distances

For the above reasons, I looked to the most readily available source of minimalist footwear, Vibram for solutions. At the time, the only other minimalist shoe was Feelmax, not easily found. Vibram essentially has a monopoly of the US market for truly barefoot-style shoes. I went to Half Moon Outfitters and tried on a few sprints, classics, and KSOs to see what I liked and what non-conventional size fit me right. The classics felt the best, so I went to the Internet to find a better price. I settled on a mismatched pair on eBay for a slight discount. I loved them, and still mostly love them, but I have some reservations.

FiveFingers are problematic for the following reasons:

1-They are excruciatingly ugly. Why does this matter? Normally it wouldn't and in fact, as I mentioned before,  looking ridiculous is an integral part of my running philosophy. But these are beyond ugly. Ugly to the point that it's not fun or entertaining. It's shameful. It would be a suitable punishment to force thieves to wear these in public.

2-They smell like excrement after wearing them a few times. It's bad enough to necessitate keeping them outside. Injinji socks alleviate this problem somewhat. I hear washing them in the laundry helps. It's a bit of a pain to stay on top of the funk, though.

3-They are expensive. $80 or more for shoes? Come on. I'll pay for a valuable product, but I'm still going to complain about it.

4-They dig into the heel. Probably varies on the person, but mine dig in pretty deep. They seem to have stretched some.

5-They cause blisters of their own. On extended runs (5K+) socks are a necessity to prevent this.

6-The strap rips the top of my foot up. This won't be an issue with any model other than Sprint. Again, socks solve this one easily.

7-One major issue with FiveFingers is that I feel like I have to be a sales rep for Vibram whenever I wear them. If I'm not answering an onslaught of questions about them, I'm fearing for my well-being, as was the case at a truck stop in Alabama. I've never liked being the center of attention and for people like me, this is a significant issue.

That being said, I still love them! FiveFingers are great for the following reasons:

1-They separate the toes. After 27 years, it feels good to reverse the effects of foot binding.

2-They allow you to feel the ground. As close to barefoot as you'll currently find.

3-They protect your feet. Somethings I don't want to feel.

4-They are light. They don't weigh you down. Still feel springy as a gazelle.

5-They are durable. Sole is tough as nails. I anticipate wearing out the upper first.

Overall, they are an excellent step in the right direction (pun intended). Understandably, there is widespread fanaticism associated with them at sites such as We're excited to have an option that maintains the barefoot experience. However, this obsession often borders on religiosity heralding the infallibility of all things Vibram. There is still room for improvement. I'm dreading 10-20 years from now when annoying purists will be singing the praises of "the good ol days" when original FiveFingers came out and selling vintage pairs to each other online.

The good news is that more companies will inevitably push into the market and improve on the FiveFingers' weaknesses. Terra Plana's Evo is already on the market, and while ludicrously overpriced, appears promising. Skora Footwear is scheduled to launch this year. I'm excited for capitalism to do what it does best-stimulate production of better products for less money.


  1. I want to hear more about the Alabama truck stop!

  2. That deserves a post of it's own. Stay tuned...

  3. Great post! Barefoot running is moving mainstream thanks in part to the development of minimal running footwear. As a barefoot runner since 2002 I can attest to the benefits of going shoeless however let's face it, running barefoot isn't always practical.

  4. New development:

    RunAmoc moccasins.