My first month with my Vibram Five Fingers (Barefoot running shoes)


I got my vibrams about a month ago, and have slowly been trying to break my feet in.

I can now drive in them and wear them almost 3/4 of a day. I haven’t tried running yet, although i did try a small baby hike (slight elevation, 1.5 miles roundtrip at most). Result wasn’t good. Really bad blister on my right foot. But my other foot was okay. It was a serious workout for my ankles and calves, which was exactly what I wanted.

Do I like them?

Absolutely! I was looking for way to increase the strength in my calves and ankles, and this definitely seems to be working.

What to expect if you buy a pair

The first thing of course is TAKE IT SLOW. You will have sore muscles in crazy places, like on the very top of your feet, or in your toes. I would start off just wearing them around then house or office, then after a week, try to walk around the block. It will take that long for your feet to adjust. Driving will be a new experience, so make sure you don’t go farther than a quick few minute drive.

You’ll also have to retrain yourself how to walk down stairs. Be aware of this.

And just in case of an emergency (like a car in a parking lot is about to run you over), you will want to practice running a few yards. The first time i had to run in them out of necessity was going to the grocery store. I had to get out of the way of a car, and trying to run in them was pathetic. I thought about how little babies try to run when they first start walking, and it was a display very close to that. Now I can safely and comfortably run across a street if needed, since i’ve practice a little more since then (and hopefully have built up more muscles).

Suggestions

Do not buy pink! Many people think I’m barefooted (being stopped at a restaurant for not having shoes) or think I have a horrible sunburn. It makes for very awkward initial conversations. I really wanted black, but pink was my only option at the time.

Make sure you start with socks! I think regardless i was going to get a blister on my right foot, but socks would have helped.

I need help with

Figuring out sizing. Yeah, I know, welcome to the club. I am either a W37 or W38. The W38, even with socks, is a little loose in the heel, and a comfortable amount of room in the toes. The REI Flagship store in Seattle said you want your heel secure. I tried on the W37 and thought they might be a little tight, but I wasn’t sure what i was/am doing yet. I’m wondering if getting a smaller pair would help with blisters, but i wanted to hear what others thought.

Dealing with blisters. I have one right on the ball of my right foot. Most people on the forums are complaining about blisters on the right and left sides or toes, but there’s not much info on center of foot. Again, I’m back to just the basics, wearing them around all day in socks, and absolutely no running in them until I can walk without any issues.

Comments (21)

  1. Mark says:

    I've got a pair of these things, and I have no idea how I would wear socks with them… unless they were toe socks, and even then I doubt I could get my foot into them.

  2. saraford says:

    You can get the toe socks from REI. They are actually quite comfortable.

  3. Corey says:

    Been using them for about 6 months now and I love them. I used to run 4 miles to get the same results I can get in 1 when running barefoot. You're right though, take it slow. I injured my ankle by over doing it in the beginning.

  4. I've had my VFFs (KSO) for about a month now. The adjustment to begin running in them was actually rather quick. I went from 2 miles to 5 miles in a matter of a couple of weeks. However, I'm an avid runner and had my form relatively in order before attempting it. If you are a mid-to-forefoot striker (which is ideal regardless of the shoes you wear), then you won't have a lot of problems adjusting. Calf muscles definitely get a good workout though.

    My wife started running in her VFFs (classics than KSOs) 6 months ago and just ran the Cleveland Half in them in May.

    I can see wearing socks with them. That might help to slide them on easier, but once you get used to the process (and it is a process) of getting them on its not bad. The only thing I don't like about them is foot odors cling to them. Haven't figured out a good way to keep them 'fresh'.

    Enjoy your VFFs Sara.

    -Mark

  5. howez says:

    I do not wear them, but i thought about it.  I run barefoot old school and starting out I would bring my shoes and then take them off for the last mile or so, but for crying out loud do NOT go out for a long run on your first day you will trash your calfs.

    You have to change your gait and actually will not have a choice the form you end up with is awesome.

    I have run for most of my life (started at 8).  I never felt to free..

    Enjoy..

  6. kenny bright says:

    Sara,

    you are not suppose to wear socks. remember it's suppose to be barefoot!

  7. MichaelMJ says:

    I've only had my VFF KSOs for a little over a week, but I have to say I'm in love with them.  I think I didn't have a lot of the problems you mentioned because I spend all my out of work time barefoot if I can.  I skipped the socks and have been wearing these as my "normal" shoes.

    I also think no matter what color you end up with, you'll be having lots of conversations.  Every time I go out I have at least 1 person stop me and ask about them.  Usually more like 2 or 3.

    Great tips for people starting out, thanks!

  8. Colin Whitehouse says:

    Hi,

    I tried the classic, and found them too big. I then went to a size smaller KSO, and they fit like gloves. I started off doing a couple of 1 mile road  runs, then a couple of 3 mile cross countries. Going ok, but taking it slow (I play squash as well (not in vff) and have done my knees in a bit, so need a bit of rest). When you get into your stride, feels like you could run for ever. Have a look at pose running techniques.

    Will get there in the end. Hope it goes ok.

    Col.

  9. Daniel Auger says:

    I've had a pair of sprints for about a year or so. I get shin splints easily, and I have tried all the $120+ motion controlled running shoes to no avail. My shin splints went away as soon as I started using the vibrams and I was able to run much longer due to less pain after the initial adjustment period.

    I went through the adjustment period like this: I'd only run a mile until I didn't have any day after soreness. Then I upped it a mile per week until I got back to my usual run.

    As far as sizing goes, it does sound like you may need a smaller size. They should be snug at your heel and toepits (but not painfully so).

  10. Stephen says:

    Vibrams are great minimalist shoes! These shoes sure taught me the value of being patient – to slowly yet surely increase the mileage. One guy actually complained of a deformed pinky. You can read about his real life experience with breaking his feet in with Vibrams here barefootrunningshoes.org/…/long-term-vibram-five-fingers-classic-review.

  11. Scott says:

    When starting running, I found it beneficial to read the book "ChiRunning" by Danny Dreyer.  It talks a lot about efficient running form, which coincides with how to run barefoot!

    Enjoy!

  12. Kelli says:

    Oh yay!  I have had my VFF's for about two months now I guess after seeing my boyfriend romping around in his all carefree like. 😉  

    I bought the black sprints since I wanted the extra strap for appearances sake.. Weird but whatever.

    I love love love them.  The first few days, my heel was a little tender from how/where they rest on it.  The first pair I had were sent back for the next size up and it got better and better after that.  I am just now trying running, I first was wearing them around work and to the store and stuff.  I have run 1.8 miles in them a few times.  The only thing I am having issues with is that I apparently have a heavy heel strike and on days when I am already tired… I seem to be powerless to mindfully change that.  The result seems to be that my hips joints are acting as shock absorbers.  I'll get it figured out.  The great and interesting thing is that when I tried going back to my running shoes (BIG Asics fan) I had that same all over soreness that I just don't get with the VFF's.  Proof is in the pudding.  Now I just need to build up some distance.  Though we are going for a hike in them Sunday.  I'll be sure to bring shoe backups. 🙂  EnJOY Sara, it's a fun journey/experiment which seems like it can lead to a way of life.

  13. Mark says:

    I got a set and they fit wonderfully. I've had no problem with blisters. However there is no way I could fit the finger socks in there. I was told I would need to buy them a size larger for socks.

    Since the inside has a permenant antibacterial, antifungal I didn't think the socks were really neccessary. The instructions say that you can just toss them in the washing machine, and then let them drip dry for cleaning.

    I've also had no problems driving, on stairs and wearing them for extended periods right out of the box.

    I think yours are WAY too loose if you have room with socks.  Getting my pinkie toe in place is a chore when I put them on, but once my toes are properly seated everything works really well.

    Once again properly fitted they are very form fitting but very comfortable. There is no slop anywhere.

  14. Jess says:

    I've had my KSOs since about mid-April and then ran a half marathon in them on June 6. Best experience of my life. I love them. I lift in them, walk in them, obviously run, and I'd like to try rock climbing in them.

    I don't like driving in them, I prefer driving barefoot. But as for blisters, as far as I know, injinji socks help. A LOT.

    I don't use them, and I kind of just let the blisters take their toll since I figure it'll naturally just toughen my foot up, but I do tape up/bandaid up certain area for longer runs.

    When you run longer runs, you'll want the straps (if you have straps) to not be as tight because there ends up being too much blood in your feet and then they swell. But, you want them to fit rather snugly on the toes. Some people get blisters, others don't. I think it really depends on how much your feet sweat.

    My best advice for running in Vibrams is to actually run barefoot. If you're going to mimic barefoot form, you need to know what actual barefoot form IS. Vibrams allow for more feet dragging, which you will never do fully barefoot. Do some short jog distances barefoot to help train your muscle memory.

    And another thing that helps me is that I imagine myself like a predatorial beast, a stalking lion. You want to tread gently, to kiss the ground you run on. You're no longer a loud shod runner pounding pavement. You are one with the earth. 🙂

    Enjoy! And glad to see you're liking them so far!

  15. Aaron says:

    I've had my sprints since last spring and I love them. The only down side is you get tired of the constant questions and comments. Luckily in the past year, more and more people are wearing them 🙂

    Early last year I suffered a major ankle sprain playing flag football. I thought it had healed up nice but ended up rolling it mid way through spring softball. I began to notice that my ankle bothered me greatly in any kind of supporting shoe. Barefoot though, it was fine. Then I read Born To Run and immediately pickup my VFFs. Spent a good part of last summer in them and my ankle has never felt better.

  16. Charlie says:

    The room for socks/no room for socks seems to come down to how the sizing works with your feet and how your feet are shaped. The size that works best for me are way too small to fit socks, but if I go up a size my feet are swimming, socks or no socks, and I wouldn't consider running in them. I did the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand in January in my KSOs without too much training and they worked great. I thought my feet were going to be hamburger by the end of the trail, and they were pretty sore when we finished, but the next day they were perfectly fine aside from a sore toe that I stubbed on a rock. Your feet are pretty tough. Don't be afraid to push it (within reason), I think you'll be surprised how quickly they recover.

  17. Colleen says:

    Sara,

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I just bought my pink Vibram Sprint's the other day. I'm a stay at home mom who is always on the go.After much research, this shoe seemed to best fit my lifestyle. I love them so far… but my legs are a bit sore. I'm excited about progressing to my first run. As of right now, I am enjoying the adjustment period & the crazy looks from my toddler 🙂

  18. they says:

    I swore I’d never wear vibram five fingers. We called them the vibram kso of Suck a few years ago and I was sure they were crazy. Friends, I’m here to tell you I was wrong. And I’m sorry. Here’s my story: I ran a marathon a few years ago. I got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t run after the marathon. I worked through that inflammation but by the time I was ready to run vibram FiveFingers Sprint again I had gained thirty pounds. Wham. Shin-splints. So I was a fat former runner with leg problems. The prognosis wasn’t good. So I tried a few things – the elliptical, weight training, losing some freaking weight – but the thing that saved me were these vibram five fingers shoes.

  19. saraford says:

    @ "they" How did the shoes save you exactly? Did you just start training from scratch wearing the shoes, or did you find the right training program? I've heard a lot of stories about them working wonders, but i'm just really curious what actually happened. Less injuries getting back into it? Forces you to go slower?

    I just bought a pair of KSO, and i loved them. I had to get a size larger than my Sprints. but i love how they are thicker. I think i'll do much better avoiding the blisters i got with the Sprints.

  20. Brent Mann says:

    I've been using these for just over a year, almost exclusively (thanks for a liberal office policy)

    I had a little blistering on the inside toward the top of my feet when I started using them. (I have 2 classic, 1 sprint, 1 kso). Using a little lubricant on the skin about a 1/2 dozen times allowed me to adapt.

    I live in Florida, so I don't have huge need for socks. However, I do have a pair of toe socks for use in the winter for daily use.  I found running in 30-40 degree weather wasn't cold enough (personally) to require socks when running or otherwise active.

    As far as running "free" (ie, completely barefoot) I tend to do about 1/2 and 1/2. Most of the time, I let the weather dictate that. Cold, hot or wet I wear VFFs for runs longer than 45-60 minutes.

    Enjoy them, they are great!!!

  21. I'm glad to learn that I'm not the only one getting blisters on the balls of my feet.  I haven't had any toe glisters.  I've been wearing KSO's for running since April and continue to get blisters, but only on certain hard outdoor surfaces and especially when the tar is hot.  I'm trying to endure the blisters and toughen up the skin on the bottom of my feet…..but it sure hurts.  Here's what I've found helps:  

    1. Tape up the bottom of my feet where the blistering occurs (just the bottom, not around the top of the foot, because it prevents the foot from spreading naturally) with a light adhesive athletic/medical-type tape.  Don't get one with really strong adhesive or you risk tearing the skin off, doing more damage than good.  I hope to get to the point where I don't have to tape, because the skin will be think and hard, but I won't be there for a while.

    2. Wear Injinji or other 5-toe socks.  My KSO's aren't too large, yet I've had no problem getting the Injinji in.  It feels a little snug at first, but after a few steps, I don't even notice.  I made the mistake of taping, but not wearing socks during a 5 mile run on western Maine yesterday.  Now I have a monster of a blister on my left foot.  The tar was rough and very hot!  Bad move on my part!  On the other hand, one week before, taped up my foot and wore the Injinji's, then did a 7.5 mile run in warm weather in MA with no blistering.

    3. Keep wearing the KSO's and work to toughen up the skin on the ball of the foot with the practices listed above.

    4. Maybe look into the new Bikila's for running (if you're a runner)?  I've read that barefoot purists say it's a further step (pun intended) away from the barefoot running, especially if one is trying to get to true barefoot running.  However, I  understand that the added internal padding may reduce some blistering and enable one to run longer distances sooner….then eventually move to a KSO (or similar)….then to true barefoot, if that's one's goel.  I have checked out the Bikila's in a store and found the insole padding to be greater than in the KSO…..but nothing like traditional running shoes.

    Overall, I'm loving the FiveFingers!  Don't have the ITBand issues that I used to have in sneakers.