My Experience Of Running In Vibram Five Fingers

I’ve been talking about it on Twitter, Plurk and telling friends about my recent change I made for running.

For the last 4 weeks, I have chucked away my Asics running shoe and got myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO.

Vibram Five Fingers KSO 490x367

If you cannot tell from the image above, it looks like someone decided to stick a thin layer of rubber on a toe sock and in fact, the actual product isn’t far from the truth.

“What? You chucked away a S$130 Asics cushioned shoe for a pair of rubber gloves for your feet and YOU RUN IN THEM?

You have to understand the benefits of barefoot running and what modern shoes are offering to understand why I made the change but I shall not go too deep into that (Read this awesome article to change your perception about regular running shoes). I actually wanted to test the Vibram Five Fingers for another few more months before writing a post about it but I have to share with you how awesome it has been so far.

First, some personal history and the hard facts.

I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis in my left sole since 2003 and weak ankles in both my legs since 2002 from one too many sprains. I decided to quit soccer to keep my ankles (Yes I need em…). I picked up long distance running in May last year after failing my IPPT for the 1st time in 7 years.

Between May and October last year, I ran a total of 66 runs, clocking 218.35km and the longest run was 21km in 2hr 43mins.

I stopped running from October last year due to a cough that persisted for months and only started running again in January this year.

In my Vibram Five Fingers KSO for the last 4 weeks, I ran a total of 16 runs so far, clocking 78.59km and the longest run was 8.8km in 52mins 29secs.

Now, for the experience of running in Vibrams VS regular shoes.

Way before and also throughout the 220km I ran last year, I suffered sharp pains in my left sole due to plantar fasciitis and it happens so randomly but frequently that I come to regard it as being normal. After all, running so much has got to hurt right? I am running in thick, cushioned Asics shoes that is backed by decades of research and specifically chosen for me after an expert studied my feet and pronation and still it hurts. Running has got to hurt. Running is not natural. Injuries are common.

Or so they say…

After 3 months of not running, and doing research on barefoot running, I came across Vibram Five Fingers and they are arguably the next best thing to barefoot running. I am always up for radical solutions and I went ahead and got myself a pair of KSOs and went for runs…

1st run of 2.19km. The familiar pain in my left sole shot up my leg at the end of the run and I stopped.

2nd run of 3.3km. The pain occurred at the 2km mark but I kept at it and felt better from the 3km mark onwards.

3rd run of 4.5km. Pain started at the 3km mark and occurred frequently throughout the rest of the run.

4th run of 5km. No pain at all till the last 10metres from the finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

vibrams garmin connect1 489x98

Yup. "AMAZING SHIT" was what I described the Vibrams in my running log

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since then, I have not felt the same sharp pain from my sole till this date. That is 63.6km of running without my plantar fascia flaring up. And considering that I am running at a pace between 30-40seconds faster per km and twice as much mileage per month this year, I cannot describe this experience without mentioning the word ‘miracle’ and you can probably only share my joy if you suffer the same conditions as me.

Any idiot can tell that the odd looking Vibram Five Fingers that I have been wearing for the last 4 weeks are not miracle shoes. They did not cure me of my plantar facsiitis as I still feel some distant strain on my plantar fascia during my runs but the sharp pain never came. But they did however, allowed me to reap the benefits of barefoot running while I keep my feet away from elements such as the rough asphalt, gravel, occasional small stones and frogs (yes I think I stepped on one the other day. Sorry dude).

I strengthened my calves and ankles that have been so shielded by those thick running shoes. I naturally changed my style of running to a mid/forefoot landing strike and I feel a much stronger runner in me when I take off running. I tried running in my clunky Asics the other day after 4 weeks of running in Vibrams and hated my whole run. My feet were heavy and I had no feedback from the ground at all through those huge pads of rubber in between my sensitive sole and the ground.

I know it all sounds too good to be true and so I am letting you on a reality check.

The top of right foot, right above the ball of my foot is now hurt and I think I have been too overwhelmed with running with the Vibrams that I have neglected the fact that I have been walking/running for at least 2 decades in thick soled shoes. My nearly naked feet are not conditioned to the kind of pounding I do on the asphalt roads and cement and I ignored the fact that I actually had to do a more gradual transition.

While I listen to my body this time and take a good break to let my foot recover, I am almost certain that barefoot running or in minimalistic shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers is extremely good for me. I probably need a whole year of running and even more to be sure of the benefits that has graced me so far and of course to make sure that I don’t solve a few problems and uncover a whole nest of bigger injury troubles.

But as far as I can tell right now. This is AMAZING SHIT.

If you are still skeptical, you can always incorporate some barefoot running on softer grounds like grass or track on top of your normal running or go purchase minimalistic shoes like the Nike Free so that you can run in things you still regard as shoes.

Do go read Christopher McDougall’s book titled “Born to Run” and be blowned away. (Still in stock at Kinokuniya I think…)

Or if you are already convinced by this post of mine, Vibram Five Fingers are sold in Singapore in quite a number of stores and the locations can be found here.

I’ll definitely keep running in them with the aim of completing my 1st marathon at the end of the year and I will update you guys with my progress in this blog!

Update (6 June 2011): 1,000km in Vibram Five Fingers

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78 thoughts on “My Experience Of Running In Vibram Five Fingers

  1. woah..I have always wanted to get that pair man..and I don’t care if makes me look strange..LOL..how much you got it for ah?

    • Like you said, it will definitely make you look strange.. I wear it out and people cannot resist staring or taking multiple glances. Cas had a sharper eye. I did said “175″ in the post.. but I think it may have been $179

  2. Nice review. I’ll pick it up in my weekly round up of Five Fingers reviews (published Sundays).

    I hope your PF eventually goes away on VFF running. I think it just might, but who knows — definitely do an update down the road as you put more miles on them.

    I used to have the view that running has got to hurt because it always did hurt in my thick soled shoes. I now see that I was “doing it wrong.”

    Anyway – see you around VFF town.

    Justin

    • @Justin: Hey dude! Thanks for picking this up. Strangely, I was just at your site the other day and chanced upon a fellow singaporean who completed the northface 100 in VFFs. What a coincidence!

  3. I think you should cycle between the Nike Free 3.0 and this 5 Finger thingy…I just got the Free 3.0 and getting the 5 Fingers too!

  4. Hey i was at outdoor life the other day, isnt kso going for 199? is there a discount? dang ive been trying to get a W40 but all the outlets are out of stock! any idea whether i should try a M39 or something? i’ve big feet for a girl my height :(

    • Hi J! The KSO is going for $199 at outdoor life but if you pay via cash, there is a 10% discount and you can get it at $179. I mistakenly remembered it as $175 and have edited the post accordingly.

      Anyway, you should go down and try on the men’s shoes if you really cannot wait. It’s important to get a good fit for VFFs. Good luck!

      • Aha i was pretty pleased with my A level results :D so im definitely going to get one hurray! yeah i’ll go to outdoor life and try their men’s one. hoping that the brown fits. hope the heel isnt too broad. i have flipper feet :( narrow ankles and heel

  5. I dun like the way they construct the shoes & the clrs are ugly. Y can’t they make every bit of this a little tastier? maybe put sequins, diamante dye the fabric in pink or something.

  6. seriously that pair of Five Fingers look like booties for wet water activities to me.

    I’ve tried running barefoot but the impact gets to my head in less than 400m.

    Does it offer any form of cushioning at all?

    • @Life Coach: Hello! Actually, certain models like the KSO’s are also built for water activities and so you arn’t far from the truth.

      It takes time to adjust to barefoot/minimalist footwear running and if you read more into it and look up on it on youtube, you will find that no-cushioning = less impact forces on your legs. And to answer your question directly, the VFFs has a thin rubber sole at the bottom and so it provides close to nothing in ‘cushioning’.

      But despite that, I am such a big fan of the VFFs because I really see and feel the benefits of running in them after a couple of months. It takes a while to adjust but my runs are faster, longer and much more enjoyable!

  7. i saw some VFFs in stores the other day and thought i’ll check it up online to see what was it exactly, and chanced upon this blog review, very informative, thanks for this.

    like many others, i used to think running has to be painful in some way, but not anymore, especially now that i’ll be running more often (just completed my first biathalon).

    can’t wait to get my first pair!

    • @Zinger: Great to know that you find it informative. Just so you know, I’ve still been running in it and it feels even better!

      I hope you have gotten your first pair already! I already have the 2nd just for walking around with. Haha!

      • Cool! which model did you get for your second pair?

        i’m going to get my first pair this weekend, should i get the Sprint or the KSO for long-distance running?

        • @Zinger: I got a pair of classics! Extremely comfortable to walk ard with. But it does need some breaking in.

          I read in a couple of reviews that the KSOs are much more comfortable than Sprints. I don’t have the sprints but I can say the KSOs are superb! But you MUST get toe socks to be really comfortable in them. No socks = blisters. I got the Injinji toe socks (higher up the ankles version).

          Another 2 things you should note. Try on the KSOs wearing the toe socks to make sure you get a good fit. Another thing is that the Black coloured KSOs seem to be tighter around the ankle. So watch out for that if you are aiming for a black pair.

          Good luck in finding the right size and colour!

  8. Hi krisandro,
    I’m interested in this minimalist running method.

    Can I pls ask if Vibrams are suitable for severe flat feet?

    Thanks!

    • Coolpoof: If running barefoot is good for all kinds of feet, then Vibram is definitely good for severe flat feet. I have read of experiences by flat footed peeps that their arches rose over time.

  9. hey krisandro,

    for years i thought that the pains in my foot was normal until i browse ur website (while sourcing for the vibram bikilas that i brought yesterday), and trust me… i am glad that i got a name for the pain.

    it might be stupid, do u wear a toe socks when running in the vibram finger shoes?

    i love ny Vibram Bikilas….

    i just go

    • @bonta79: Sorry for the late reply! I’m glad tt you are loving the Bikila! Yes I do wear toe socks when I am in my KSOs. I tried running in em without once and I got blisters!

  10. I am currently reading the book Born To Run and I got to say that the books is changing the way I think about running.

    I have goal too which I had written it on my blog, which is to complete a marathon by the end of the year. I believe maybe I need to add a pair of Vibram into the picture.

    Cheers,
    Vincent

  11. Hello there,

    I am actually doing my research on VFF and I came across your site.
    I get those pains as well! Especially while I run!

    I am doing a half marathon(my first, as I tend to do 10k) soon, so I thought it’s best if I invest in a good pair of running shoes.

    I need a little advice from you,if you can help me, is which pair should I get. I am having a hard time choosing between the Bikila and the sprint.
    I hike quite a bit and when I run, I run on muddy/rocky terrains, so which type of VFF should I get?

    Thanks! And great post btw, you helped me made up my mind between the Nike Free and VFF

    • @Josie: Hello! Do not get the sprint. From what I read, it isn’t very comfortable compared to the other models. Consider the Bikila or the KSO. Both cover your feet to the base of your ankles and I think it should do well for your terrain running.
      Or if you prefer something thicker and more hardy, you can consider the KSO Trek.

      Good luck for your training! Running on rocky terrain is something that I have not considered doing.

  12. Pingback: What Doesn’t Kill Me, Makes Me Stronger | k r i s a n d r o

  13. Great info thanks.
    I was researching about VFF in Singapore and found your site. I play rugby and plan to use VFF for endurance run, strengthen my sprints.

    Thanks again.

  14. Krisandro,
    I know I’m not the only one dealing with PF, but finding somebody who has dealt with the problem as long as I have (5 years for me) encourages me. I have not tried Vibram shoes yet; however, I walk barefoot at home because it helps even though I’m told doing so aggrevates the problem. I live in the States and now that I’ve read your story I’ve gotta get me a pair.

    Thanks

    Do keep us all updated on your PF since going Vibram.

    • @Taey: I think my PF is rather mild. I read of people who feel pain upon waking up and intense pain to the point of not being able to continue a run.

      Glad that you have persisted on walking around barefoot despite the advice. I hope your PF will improve once you purchase a pair of VFFs!

      Just a small update – My PF has not given any problems to me so far. Running in VFFs has totally negated my problem.

  15. Hi Krisando, do u happen to know what models of VFF are available in Singapore? I ever saw them at Outdoors but think the model/size are limited.. Thanks. Thinking to get a pair for my runs.. currently having a pair of Newtons. Thanks again!:)

    • @Alex: Hi! I haven’t been actively looking at all the available models but those that I saw and know are available here are the Classics, Sprint, KSO, KSO Trek, Flow & Bikila. Get the Bikila or the KSOs!

  16. Hi Krisandro, i went to Novena and after trying on several models, i got the Trek Sport as it just seems to fit the best. I was deciding between the Bikila and the TrekSport but decided on the Treksports cos the only Bikila available had a stitching which was rubbing on my left arch even during the short walk around the shop.

    Anyway, to cut it short.. after getting it, i wore it to the mall, shop around just to get used to the feeling and strangely enough, at several occasions i felt like i was unbalanced.. haha.. i think wearing normal shoes walking around and in the VFF are really different. For the past 2 weekends, I’ve wore it for short 20min jog around the neighbourhood… after the first run, the outer part of both my calves were aching like crazy.. i was walking gingerly for the next few days as if i just ran the marathon.. haha… then yesterday’s second run, i did the same distance and so far, it felt GREAT.. no more of the soreness that comes with my first run.. i am planning for another one midweek. Gotta keep telling myself not to overdo it and hurt myself. But it’s really hard to contain the excitement of running again especially since i stopped running for the past 2 years..

    I like the VFF better than the Newtons which i had.. both didn’t gave me knee pains which is good, but i feel i tend to catch the heels of the Newtons rubbing on the ground. I think it’s gotta do with my running style as well(not lifting enough from the ground), however i dun have this issue in VFF.. it was just a pure enjoyment to run in! I think i will try out my newtons some time later.. just to see if it will work out as a longer distance shoes for me..

    Thanks and enjoy your runs! :)

  17. Hi, i am 53 and like to share my KSO experiences with you. I was a active sports man but after 20 years of sedentary life, my fitness deteriorate. Three years ago, i notice after walking around the shopping mall for half a day, my knees ache and swell. This is a warning to me. I could not run as the knees hurts. I resort to orthotics to allow me to walk properly. I also took up Nordic Walking to loose weight and improve on my mobility. I also use Patella strap to reduce pressure on my knees. I complete my first marathon last year with the help of my Nordic walking sticks in 7:30. Started to run in my KSO since January. My first run in my KSO was an amazing experience. I did not use the Patella strap, did a 2.7km landing mostly on my forefoot, and knees does not hurt at all, but my calf ache like hell. This show that i am working on my muscle, but not hurting my joints. I will continue to train in my KSO.

    Our human skeleton are held up by muscle by tension. They are not build to take pressure. Landing on heels cause pressure to the joints resulting in stresses at the joints. Hence;landing on forefoot/midfoot is a better landing method because the muscle tension at the calf is taking the weight.
    Finally; basic principle of shock absorption is deceleration. Just like stopping a car with brakes, harder the brakes, more force transfer to the driver. It also need distance. The sole of a well cushion shoe just do not have enough distance (height)to take the impact.
    My observation for sharing..

    • Hi Soon Fong! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and I hope you continue to share your story. All the over-hyped cushioning and benefits of shoes are in actual fact the cause of most injuries today.

      I’m glad that you found the KSO and are seeing the same miraculous gifts of going minimalist!

  18. I was looking for some info about this five fingers thingy and I was so glad that I landed on your review… Thank youuuu…. btw, which store offer the best deal now? I am planning to go to singapore in March. Thank youuu again… Great Review.

    • @anita: Thanks for the compliments! I’m not sure where one can find the best deal for VFFs in SG but I am pretty sure you’ll save a lot more if you bought it from the U.S.

  19. yipiee.. when i went to takashimaya, for 2011 models the range would be $159 to $199. When I returned to Jakarta, I got 2010 model which was only cost me RP250K equal to ($35)… Thanks God I don’t buy it in spore.. even mine was outdated.. but that is ok.

    • @wildan: Hey man… Even if it’s an older model, the price difference looks too big to be true! They is a lot of fakes going ard and I hope you didn’t end up buying one!

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  21. I followed all suggestions when I started to use the vibram fivefinger shoes. Starting with short runs and gradually increasing. Four weeks into using them I ended up with a stress fracture on my right foot and soreness on the same spot of my left foot. I returned them to REI. I’ll have a 6 week recovery period and my usual fall marathon is out of the question. I recommend that you do serious research before using these for any distance running. There are MANY articles about the increase of stress fractures using these shoes. Don’t be lulled into just looking at the pro-vff websites and reading what you want to believe.

    • Hi MB! You cautionary words are important to hear but I although I did get top of the foot pain along the course of my experience in VFFs, I have been running in them for over 1,100km already. I always warn people of the dangers involved in transitioning but I cannot help but be pro-VFF because it has worked more than wonderful for me.

      Hope you recover soon!

  22. What happened with the top of foot pain? I’m experiencing similar pain with my bikila’s. I’ve been wearing them to PT for 2 months (PT was for a knee scope). Then started running a .25 mile in them when the pain started. It’s been 2 weeks of no running now & still pain. I see my PT & surgeon this week.

  23. Just love the Vibram Five Fingers. Won’t run in anything else. However, you must gradually work up to long distances as you are using new muscles. warning! do not buy from any of the Sigapore/Bejing sites. It takes weeks to months to get the order, they do not replace no matter what the site says and for only $15-$20 more you can buy them in the USA and them in about 10 days.

  24. Huge fan of these shoes. About 4 months ago I purchased the Bikila’s and will absolutely never go back. I have never been a big fan of running, although i’ve done it most of my life for fitness reasons, and these shoes have really changed the way I view the sport. I actually enjoy running with these shoes and have begun to train for my first 10K with plans to complete my first tri in a few months. Highly recommend these shoes if anyone is not already convinced from all the positive posts above!

  25. Hi Kris

    Excellent blog! I just purchased a pair of Vibram Bikila LS after reading your blog on barefoot running!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  26. Just 1 question. Will this work as well for long distance walking? I will be traveling (backpacking) soon and will need a pair of good shoes. I have thalassemia which also caused my legs to be swollen and painful after prolong walking. Do you think this is suitable for me? thanks in advance for your help.

    • Hi Serene! Sorry for the delay in reply. I thought about your question for a bit and while I do a lot of walking in the VFFs on a daily basis, I think a shoe with some cushioning might be better for long distance walking. Unlike running/jogging with allows us to land on the forefoot, walking actually makes us land on the heel. I think that this might cause some discomfort if the distance is a long one.

      • Hello, I just saw your reply to serene and agree with what you say as I walk alot in mine and fine the longer distances harder (hoping the treks might help with this) with running you tend to land a bit lighter too ( well I do, I feel lighter too) and with walking I am more like an elephant, so I imagine with a pack on / extra weight it not be so good. Would be great if they could make some for walking! maybe extra padding on the heel? or have they already?

        • @Victoria: The trail types like the trek is slightly thicker I believe. Not sure if it’s thick enough for long distance walking. Maybe other brands like Merrell might have better solutions.

          • For walking, there are some similar school of thoughts as well. go read up on “POSE walking” or “Chi Walking”. The idea is the same, to land on the ball of the feet when walking. Likewise with running, take small steps, “fall forward” and let ur feet support you. So the five fingers are definitely good for walking as well.

          • For walking, there are some similar school of thoughts as well. go read up on “POSE walking” or “Chi Walking”. The idea is the same, to land on the ball of the feet when walking. Likewise with running, take small steps, “fall forward” and let ur feet support you. So the five fingers are definitely good for walking as well.

  27. YAH for you!! they are awesome ‘shoes’ I got a pair of KSO when they first came out in NZ back in April 2010 and have been running and doing crossfit etc in them ever since. I let my feet adjust to the change and built up my running and now I actually enjoy running whereas before it felt like such a task. My feet also used to pronate inwards so I had asics that extra arch support but I don’t have that problem anymore and if I do where my asics at all (which I don’t any more) they actaully hurt my feet.

    I have just bought another pair yesterday -classic’s to walk around in and run as I did notice the other day that the rubber as gotten a bit thin and I felt the sharp stones a bit more (but running on grass was still sweet), so it was time for some new ones and I also want to get some treks (for the trials)once I can afford some more as they aren’t cheap (but in saying that they last longer than regular shoes). My goal next year is to go barefoot (or in vibrams) as much as I can even if I get funny looks and a bit of stick about the not so attractive shoes. I will blog about it, I think i might have it’s challanges.

    • @Victoria: I love my KSOs! They lasted me a good 600km before I ran them to the ground. I did think about going barefoot like you are but there are worse things than sharp rocks to worry about when the feet goes nude on the ground. I’m happy that another person found the joy in the weird shoes like I did!

  28. Hi…i have a case of bunions on both my feet. and my big and second toe also tends to overlap ..would a VFF help? I only plan to use them in the gym where i require all my toes gripping the ground..appreciate ur reply…

  29. Hi!

    After reading many reviews and opinions online like yours, I went ahead and bought my first pair of VFFs. I did one short run in them two days later, about 2km, and I could really feel the difference in my calves, knees, back, shoulders… it felt amazing. But then I realised that they are just half a size too small (it touches the nail on my big toe a bit uncomfortably) so I haven’t run in them since because I thought I could sell these and get a bigger pair. But I was wondering, do these shoes ‘grow’ out after some time? Could I keep using them or should I get a bigger pair?

    Cheers!

    noahdecoco

    • Mine seem to loosen just a little over time and the difference probably isn’t much. Touching the nail sounds uncomfortably small and you might have problems as you run further. Our feet expands a little during long runs.

  30. Pingback: My experience using minimalist shoes | Marina's Bloggariffic

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