If you’ve never heard of the Five Finger Vibrams, then chances are you’ll have seen them – though you’ll probably have been rather confused as to what you were looking at.
The Five Finger Vibram shoes are those shoes that look at first like gloves for your feet. Your toes can move around independently and they’re generally made of a thin, rubbery material that makes them look like they’d belong with a wet-suit.
The general idea behind these shoes is that by wearing less of a shoe, you can rely more on your foot’s natural design to keep you balanced and to help you run long distances. There are an army of fans behind this idea and it has sparked a rather large movement – the question is whether or not it’s really effective…
Why They Work
So how is this supposed to have any benefit for the user? Well basically it’s down to the fact that your foot should already be perfect for helping you to run while avoiding accidents. That’s true for instance because your foot is able to bend, and your toes are able to ‘splay’. That means that should your foot land in a ditch or on a root, your foot will form around that shape in order to allow you to carry on running. If you were wearing a shoe on the other hand, the flat and shiny surface would cause your ankle to tip over.
Likewise, your toes are capable of ‘pushing off’ of things individually when you run barefoot which can give you much more spring in your step. Running barefoot or in Five Fingers forces you to run on the balls of your feet, which is how we are designed to run, and which can help to prevent injury. Vibrams allow you to do all this, but still provide enough protection to stop you getting really cold or hurting yourself on a pebble. That’s the theory anyway.
My Personal Experience
I am in a position to speak on this matter with some authority having owned a pair of Vibrams for several years and tested them quite thoroughly during that time. The first time I purchased them I found them to be a revelation. I am a trakeur (someone who practices parkour or free running) and while wearing the vibrams I found that my balance, speed and lightness of foot were all greatly improved. This was most notable when I was balancing along a railing – during which time I would be able to much more accurately feel the bar on my foot and adjust my balance.
Likewise I could genuinely run faster and for further before getting tired out. Unfortunately though after sprinting one day I damaged my knee joint and was out of action for a long time – long enough to put me off the idea of Five Fingers.
So do I recommend them overall? Yes – but with reservations. I would say to try the Five Fingers as you will probably be pleasantly surprised, just make sure to take it easy at first and to avoid using them on concrete until you’re well versed in how they work.