Vibram Five Fingers

Yeah, I’m THAT guy wearing THOSE shoes…

I’ve been wearing my Vibram Spryidon’s for about a year and a half, and I’m still convinced that they are the sole (accidental pun?) reason I got back into running.

Since the shoes were released in 2005 I’d been interested in trying them out. In all honesty it was probably more the novelty than any practical application that originally intrigued me. The idea that running in a zero-drop, pseudo-barefoot, shoe seemed to make sense, but they were expensive, and I wasn’t about to drop $120+ on a pair of shoes that might be cool…

Flash forward to early 2015. I was in need of a bit more aerobic exercise, but running on the same stretch of pavement was starting to become mind-numbingly boring. I also was looking for somewhere to bring the dog and let her run with me, off-leash.

Enter Turkey Creek Trail. I wrote a post about the park not too long ago, so I won’t go into great details, but it’s a fantastic park. Turkey Creek is big enough to get a diverse workout, with plenty of hills, boulders, water-crossings, and straightaways for all your trail running needs. AND it’s one of the few decent off-leash parks in Austin, so the pups can enjoy a good run in the woods as well.

Jan and Olive 01

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really enjoying my footwear. At the time I had a pretty standard pair of New Balance running shoes. Not bad for running on pavement, but on the trail they seemed clumsy, slippery, and weighed a ton as soon as they got wet.

Time for a trip to REI 🙂

Vibrams come in a wide variety of styles, but I was planning on using them for trail-running, so the Spyridons seemed like the best bet. They’re pretty sturdy as far as Vibrams go, and I’ve been abusing mine for more than a year. I should probably replace them soon, but they’ve still got a few miles left.

Some things you may want to consider:

  • They have an odd sizing system. I thought they were using a standard UK sizing system, but it didn’t really match up with what I expected. These are shoes you’re definitely going to want to try on before buying. (Or plan on making a few returns to the online store.)
  • You might want to buy some toe socks before trying them on. I got lucky and REI happened to have a spare pair to use, but I think that was a fluke. Some of the Vibram styles could be used without socks, but I don’t’ really recommend it. Injinji makes some great socks. Not cheap, but well worth it.
  • They should be snug. Think glove rather than shoe. They’ll stretch a little bit with some use, and you really don’t want them sliding off your foot.

Obvious disclaimer…

There has been quite a bit of controversy about this style of shoe. I’m pretty sure I could even get some $$ from the class action lawsuit filed against Vibram for potential injuries caused by the shoes. Let me just state that they aren’t for everyone. Feet vary quite a bit from person to person, so you’ll want to take it easy. The first few weeks with a new pair I felt like a clown running through the woods as my feet slapped loudly and awkwardly on the ground. But a few weeks later, I could run down the trail in near silence.

Here are my major Pros

  • Great for running on strange surfaces. Actually being able to feel the ground, rocks, roots, etc., makes for much more confident trail running.
  • They don’t even try to be waterproof. “Waterproof” shoes tend to be a lie anyway. Besides, chances are the water you’re running through will go higher than your shoes. Vibrams do a really good job of letting water simply flow through the shoe and not get weighed down. (The Spyridons are a bit more substantial than some styles, so they do take a little bit of time to dry. Still better than any boots, and most other shoes.)
  • No more shin splints! This might be something unique to me, but I’ve found that any aches and pains I used to associate with running are gone. I didn’t even realize this until I decided to go running in my old New Balance shoes only to find out that my knees, shins, and calves were incredibly unhappy again. I don’t know if this is common amongst Vibram users, but If you suffer from any of these problems, it might be worth trying.
  • I’m not sure if this is a Pro, but plan on getting lots of odd looks, and starting up more conversations that usual.

And a few Cons…

  • Okay. They’re not cheap. I got mine on sale for under $100, but that seems pretty uncommon. However, I can easily say that without these shoes there is no way I would have ran as much as I did this past year.
  • They take a little getting used to, and they’re not for everyone. But, that seems to be part of the Five Fingers mythology. People either love them or hate them, and tend to do so passionately.

Give ’em a whirl!

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