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Vibram FiveFingers

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by LucyPod, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. LucyPod

    LucyPod Active Member

  2. LucyPod

    LucyPod Active Member

    Thanks Mike
  3. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Lucy, I am a male and have been wearing various models of Vibram FiveFingers, VFF for the past year. I own a pair of Bikila's which is the model you are asking about. I also own a pair of KSO's and TrekSports. The difference between the 3 models comes primarily from the difference in the level of protection that the soles offer. The KSO have the least protection, Bikila's mid level and TrekSports the most protection. There is a trade off between the amount you can feel the ground and the level of protection. Depending on the surfaces you run on, dictate the best model to wear. KSO's for smooth surfaces up to TrekSports for rugged trails.

    The intent of the VFF is to protect your feet from the surface of the ground while allowing your feet to move and function as naturally as possible. Natural in this case means that your foot is encouraged to land fore foot or mid foot, that your toes will have a tendency to spread or splay, that your arch, achilies, and muscles will act as a spring to absorb the impact from the ground. In other words not required to conform or mechanically change as a result of intrusive running shoes. Which ultimately send shock up through your ankles, knees and hips.

    The point of having toes in the shoes allows the shoe to fit snugly to the foot, yet allowing the foot almost complete freedom of movement. Shoes that do not have toes that attempt to allow the foot to move naturally do so by having the foot move inside the shoe vs have the shoe move with the foot. A good analogy would be the difference between wearing gloves and mittens. While wearing a thin glove vs a thin mitten, the glove will always allow for better feel and dexterity given the same thinness and weight. This is where Vibrams have a big advantage over foot mittens.

    From first hand experience, I find the Vibram Fivefingers to be an OUTSTANDING running shoe. No they are not for everyone and no they are not something you should wear all of the time.

    Of course there will be plenty of people that will cut what I have said in this post to shreds. That's OK with me, I'm an experiment of one and I haven't done exhaustive studies to prove anything. I know what works and I don't need anyone's approval or agreement on what is a good shoe for my purposes.

    If you have an open mind, I would encourage you to try a pair and let your own experience be the judge as to whether the shoes are right for you or not.


    Who is not a medical professional and who is not a professional athlete but when it comes to running shoes, has 40 yrs of experience, knows a great shoe when it comes to market and has an open enough mind to try things out to compare it's performance first hand to other running shoes rather than just speculate.
  4. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Based on a scientific study I'm sure. More likely feedback from an $8/hr sales clerk who works once in a while on Saturday mornings for fun money that has never even run around the block.

    Even if the comment has an once of validity, often with great products, one size does not fit all. What is an absolutely outstanding shoe for some people might not work at all for others, possibly 50%. There is no compromise with Vibrams, they will either work for you or they won't. The only way to know for sure is to have enough backbone to actually buy a pair and try them out first hand to see if you are one of the millions of runners who swear by these shoes.

    Dana, who will always own at least one pair of toe shoes.
  5. Dana:

    Which one of these Vibram FiveFinger wearers is you again???

    Attached Files:

  6. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    Despite Dana's namesake, I'm willing to bet the one on the right... either way... Dana's looking pretty good ;).

    Anyhow, post 4 Dana is a good summary of the shoe.
  7. LucyPod

    LucyPod Active Member

    Thanks all. I don't think i will be racing to buy these shoes just yet.
  8. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Kevin, Matt is right, my body looks like the guy on the right except I don't have any ink. My body looks like that from 26 years of weightlifting, not from wearing Vibrams. I hope you can say the same about your body.

    You've written that you've gone into a store and tried on VFF on at least two different occasions. Why did you do that? Do you do that with other shoes? About 6 months ago I was in a store and tried on a pair of ReeZigs. I walked about 3 steps in them and took them off, I learned all I needed to know and that was the end of it. They where simply the antithesis of the type of shoe I like to wear.

    You go on and on about VFF. Kevin, they are only a pair of shoes. You are free to buy them and try them or not, I'm not sure anyone really cares either way. I find it interesting that someone can be so intrigued by a pair of shoes yet you refuse to try them out. I'm actually enjoying this. Your curiosity about these shoes is just killing you, yet your flat out stubbornness is preventing you from buying a pair and trying them out. If you only knew what it is like to do a 20 or 25 mile trail run in these shoes. But too bad, it's an experience you will never have because of your convictions.

    I have owned trail shoes that range from Vibrams up to The North Face and Solomons. Essentially a range extending from wearing almost nothing up to a fairly rugged and heavy hiking shoe. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING compares to running for hours on the trails in a pair of Vibrams. Kevin, you will never know or understand what I'm talking about and all of the debate on this forum will not change the fact that we both know that.

  9. Dana:

    I did try on a pair of Vibrams at the local running shoe store, ran in them for about 5 minutes, but decided I didn't want to spend the money on them. They weren't comfortable for me to run in. After 40+ years of running, I don't need to run far in a shoe to tell if it is right for me or not.

    I am happy that you like the Vibrams and, from what I hear, most stores are selling lots of them. That is good for Vibram which is ultimately good for the people they sponsor such as Dan Lieberman, PhD and Chris McDougall, both advocates of barefoot running.

    I could really care less if people run barefoot or run in Vibrams, as long as they don't get injured. However, when people do get injured running barefoot or in Vibrams, then it is my business to talk about what might have caused their injury. You see, Dana, every week I am often asked about these things by the popular media, by my patients and am asked to lecture on these subjects at seminars both nationally and internationally.

    Maybe, Dana, if you were a podiatrist and your life had been devoted to making people's lives better by healing their foot and lower extremity injuries for over the last quarter century, then you might understand my viewpoint.

    Happy running.:drinks
  10. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Kevin, thanks for reminding me that your viewpoint is one from pathology. I have certainly have seen over my lifetime how viewpoints have changed dramatically in medicine as we learn and understand more. From my viewpoint, it is the static view that concerns me.

    What we are dealing with is a possible change in viewpoint regarding injury and pathology with respect to running. We both know that nothing has been proven regarding the old viewpoint vs the new viewpoint and which approach might be better for a specific patient.

    For someone who does not have injury or pathology, I really like the less is more viewpoint and embrace it with both arms open. Until evidence of injury or pathology might be developing, why not take advantage of a lower mass alternative? My own anecdotal experience certainly shows me what option feels the best on my joints, bones and muscles, before, during and after exercise.

    For those who continue to have injury and pathology while following the old viewpoint of footwear, why not try something different? Obviously, the traditional method doesn't work, why not see if a more natural approach helps?

    I bought a pair of New Balance Minimus trail shoes. It took me around 70 miles running on various surfaces before I got a good feel for how the shoes perform compared to many of the other models of shoes I have. My experience tells me that how a shoe feels in the first mile will not be how they feel by mile 20. Simply trying those shoes around in the store for 5 minutes would have led me to a different conclusion.

    Dana, who is actively running in 13 different models of running shoes and enjoying the unique benefits they all have to offer and is pathology free.
  11. William Fowler

    William Fowler Active Member

  12. Dana:

    You seem to think that myself, and many other sports podiatrists, have been recommending clunky, thick-soled motion-control shoes for all of our patients and other runners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us who regularly treat quality runners have no problem understanding the concept that the runner should be training in the lightest shoe that will allow them to run pain free. This is what I have always done for my own running and I what I still reommend for other runners for over a quarter century. Therefore, I don't need someone lecturing me on being more "open-minded" when they have never heard me lecture on running shoes to podiatry students and podaitrists, never heard me talk to my patients about their running shoes and have never listened to the many talks I have given at the largest running shoe store in Sacramento (Fleet Feet) over the past 20+ years.

    Personally, I think the minimalist shoe movement is a good thing for the shoe industry. The minimalist shoe trend is forcing the shoe companies to seriously consider shoe weight much more rather than putting in unneccesary features into the shoe that adds weight, adds nothing to the function of the shoe but does allow the shoe company have an excuse to charge $20.00 more per pair of shoes. However, for those of us who have been interested in running shoes for four decades, I fail to see that many of the minimalist shoes are anything more than a return to a shoe design that we all had available to wear in the 1970s when we trained and raced.

    For example, here is the pair of running shoes I won when I finished my first marathon at the age of 17 in August 1974 (Ocean to Bay Marathon) and placed as the first "junior" in the marathon. I wore these Onitsuka Tiger Jayhawks to race and train in for the next year and they were one of my favorite shoes of all time. Light, slightly cushioned and fast.....aaahhhh to have young legs again!

    Attached Files:

  13. cpoc103

    cpoc103 Active Member

    Just out of curiosity Dana what is your background other than a runner?? are you a podiatrist, physio, medic, chiro or even a personal trainer?

    I practice in Sydney and over the last year I have seen an increase in march fractures, and LisFrancs fractures from people who have changed from conventional running shoes to VFFs. Some of these runners have been triathletes and long distance marathon runners who have been running for a long time, with no issues other than the usual aches and pains.
    The only different variables in their running has been the change to these VFF shoes.

    Now I'm not ditching these shoes, but rather stating what I'm seeing coming into clinic. Maybe its time to do some research into VFF style shoes, and whether or not there is an increase in forces acting upon the feet and whether there is a greater change in mechanics causing stress..

    interestingly like Kevin, I tried a pair of these shoes, my local runing shop actually gave me a pair to try out, and for me they were not..

  14. drsarbes

    drsarbes Well-Known Member

    My 2cents.

    Aside from any biomechanical considerations - I really wanted a pair of these mainly because they looked so "cool".

    Well, I went to purchase a pair and it took me literally 5 minutes per shoe to get them on.
    Once on the sensation of having material around each toe was very uncomfortable to me. I have, what I would describe, as very nice, straight toes. I can't imagine anyone with any "toe pathology" being able to wear these or even get them on.

    BTW: I still like the looks of them.

  15. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Kevin, thanks for the sincere post. Sorry if I came across as lecturing you about being "open-minded". What I really struggle with are comments such as when you told me you tried shoes on in the store for 5 minutes and instantly came to a conclusion. In order to do that, you had to make assumptions and speculate about how these shoes would feel and perform on long trail runs or any run for that matter. I know there is no way anyone will convince you to actually try doing a long run in Vibram FiveFingers so that you actually have some experience to base your assumptions and speculation on, that is a given. I honestly do struggle to understand how your approach in this case is open minded.

    By drawing conclusions about a pair of shoes after only wearing them in the store for 5 minutes, you have to be making assumptions. Those assumptions are based on 40 yrs of running. I too have 40 years of running and I have worn many of the examples of shoes that you have pointed out on this forum. In spite of me having a lot of experience with running shoes, I found it completely IMPOSSIBLE to predict what it is like to run in fivefingers without being out on the trail in them for 10 or 15 miles.

    What you are missing in the 5 min store trial is the fact that because these shoes provide minimal cushion, support and allow your feet the freedom to move naturally, a lot goes on with your feet while running in these shoes that does not happen in traditional shoes. Your muscles, tendons, ligaments are extending, contracting through their full range of movement or close to it. With that, increased circulation is encouraged. After running on trails in fivefingers for about 4 or 5 miles, your feet REALLY LOOSEN up and you can REALLY feel it. Like any other part of your body, the exercise phenomenon sets in, which is essentially the warming up of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The whole mechanism becomes pliable and it feels incredibly FANTASTIC.

    In traditional shoes which have more of a tendency to bind your feet and cushion them, there is no way you can feel that same exercise phenomenon with your feet that you can with fivefingers. I would also question with the restricted mobility of traditional running shoes that your feet ever even approach the same level of flexibility that they can achieve while wearing VFF. As I explained in an earlier post, what makes the VFF unique over traditional racing flats are the toes. They provide the glove effect of allowing the shoe to be snug while moving with your foot. Rather than the mitten effect of traditional shoes which results in reduced feel and dexterity.

    The second aspect of the shoes that you will not get from trying them on for 5 minutes in the store is the massage effect that happens when wearing these on natural surfaces. When running on uneven surfaces, you are stepping on stones, sand, rocks of all sizes, twigs, roots, dirt, etc., etc., landing on all of this stuff over the period of hours has a similar effect of having an incredible foot massage over the course of however long your run is. This again provides the benefit of increased circulation. When I am done running in these things, my feet feel like they are just glowing. It is a feeling that is hard to describe. It is a feeling that I have not experienced in my 40 yrs of running in traditional running shoes whether they are racing flats or trainers.

    Kevin, if you got all of this while trying Vibram Fivefingers for a few minutes in the store, then great. I know you will never run in Fivefingers and I simply don't think you can just imagine what they might be like. Frankly, I just can't understand why you are so resistant, but whatever, you aren't going to run in these shoes, I get it.

    You are right, I have never heard you talk to your patients or listened to you lecture about running shoes. Do you say something different than what you've said on this forum? What do you say to your patients about how if feels to run in VFF for 20 miles?

    I too wore Onitsuka Tigers in 1974, both flats and spikes. I am very familiar with the example of the shoe in the photo, how it felt and performed. The big difference between that shoe and what they are offering today has a lot to do with mass. The materials they are using today are simply much lighter. Today, similar shoes weigh half of what your example did. As you know, even before the minimalist shoe movement, there where always racing flats. A big difference in the minimalist shoes coming out now vs racing flats is the last they are using to build the shoe on. The last used in racing flats have a much tighter, more restrictive forefoot. The lasts used on shoes such as the New Balance Minimus or the Merrell Trail glove have a wide forefoot. The purpose is to allow the foot to actually move freely within the shoe and behave as naturally as possible. The soles in racing flats also tend to be stiffer in the rear foot for added stability with possibly a firm heel cup. While I think a lot of the minimal shoes are great for training and working your feet, for racing I still prefer more traditional racing flats with a tighter, more supportive forefoot.

    I couldn't agree with you more about your comments about the minimalist shoe movement. I also think that a lot of the push from the shoe companies to come out with their own line of minimal shoes is in response to Vibram Fivefingers eating their lunch in this market segment.


  16. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Steve, does it take you 5 minutes per glove to put on your hands? Isn't it a strange feeling to actually be required to move your toes independently in specific directions? We spend the bulk of our lives not to using our toes with any sort of dexterity. The result is we lose the connection between our brains and the muscles in our toes. It is almost like we have partial paralysis in our toes.

    When I first started wearing VFF, it took effort for me to put them on, not 5 minutes but I still had to focus. Now I can put them on almost instantly without using my hands other than to pull the heel on. I have essentially re-acquainted my brain to my toes so they do what I tell them to do.

    You are right these shoes are not for people with toes that are not somewhat normal. Same is true regarding gloves and people with certain hand pathologies.

  17. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Col, why are you curious about my background? Does being a podiatrist, physio, medic, chiro give my bull **** more credibility?

    We all know that there is little in the way of supporting studies and evidence about what is best. Also as I've seen pointed out many times on this forum is that a study must be specific about what it is measuring. The problem is that with all of the possible permutations and combinations, the likely hood of a study answering a specific question that we are interested in is next to zero.

    I just responded to Kevin's post about what you might expect if you run in VFF for more than a few minutes.

    I am not a proponent for wearing the same type or model of shoe for any length of time. I currently own 13 pairs of active running shoes and I rotate them constantly. Only 3 of those pairs happen to be VFF. I have no study or proof but my hypothesis is that if you wear the same pair of running shoes continuously, regardless of the type or model that you will have more of a tendency to develop injury over someone who routinely changes their shoes. Just a hypothesis.

    Do you know if the increase in injuries you are seeing is the result of the type of shoe or the lack of change in the type of shoe? I suppose you'd need to perform a controlled study to reach a credible conclusion.

  18. In other words, he works for IBM and is not medically qualified at all. A straight answer to your straight question, Col.
  19. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    That's right, my BS is not qualified. We all know that medically qualified BS has more credibility. Thanks for your help Simon.

  20. psturdy

    psturdy Member

    Quite agree with Dana's first response to this thread. As he says, they are not for everyone but providing you learn the required different style of running, they prevent all sorts of associated injuries from running. However, beware of over-zealous use in the early days and potential risk of metatarsal stress fractures. Am a great fan as is my son as a a professional athlete.
  21. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Why can't you use that "different style of running" in a 'typical' running shoe?
  22. psturdy

    psturdy Member

    Because you have to heel-strike in ordinary running shoes (especially trainers - possibly not in real flatties such as the traditional plimsol) and in five fingers you have to learn to run striking with your forefoot first as you would on any reasonably hard surface if you were barefoot. It's worth trying it to see what I mean.
  23. Wrong. There are plenty of midfoot and forefoot striking runners that use "ordinary running shoes". Runners can also heel strike in Vibram FiveFingers, but generally prefer to midfoot or forefoot strike due to the lack of any signficant heel cushioning. Even in elite runners, racing in relatively thin racing flats, 74.9% are rearfoot strikers (Hasegawa H, Yamauchi T, Kraemer WJ: Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. J Strength Cond Res, 21:888-893, 2007).

    One of the most stupid things a runner can do is to change his natural footstrike pattern from a heel striking pattern to a forefoot striking pattern just because some he read some idiotic account of why running with a heel-striking gait causes injuries or is less efficient than forefoot or midfoot striking running. Currently, in my practice, about 25% of the running injuries I now see have occurred after a naturally heel-striking runner tried to start running forefoot first upon the advice of another runner, a coach or something they read on the internet. All this poor advice on running form is good business for me, but very bad advice for the poor, injured runner that now can't run because of their attempted change in running pattern.:craig::bang::butcher:
  24. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I can forefoot strike in my ordinary running shoes.
  25. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    Out of curiosity... what type of "professional athlete"?

    Despite what the Barefoot Brigade puts out... you don't "have to heel-strike in ordinary shoes". I primarily train in Nike 3.0 now but there was a time when I did run in the traditional ("ordinary") training shoe (with a degree of heel - forefoot pitch) & I primarily midfoot striked during my average running sessions (i.e. recovery runs/jogs, interval runs of probably longer than 1km, tempo runs & long runs); speed work (1km & less) & uphill running on the forefoot; running downhill (particularly steep declines) heel-striking. In other words, my footstrike position did & does vary based on the circumstances (i.e. speed & terrain)... but most of the time it is midfoot.

    Therefore, there are more factors than just footwear that lead one individual to heel strike & another to midfoot strike.
  26. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Craig, I'm sure you are right. How about after running 20 miles or so? Without focusing on your foot strike, how do your feet tend to land in that situation?

    First hand experience can be a really powerful learning tool. If you don't have a pair of minimalist shoes that have zero height differential between the heel and forefoot, I would encourage you to go out and buy a pair. Don't confuse racing flats with minimal shoes. The only thing they tend to have in common is their weight. Racing flats tend to have a heel to toe height differential which you do not want.

    Once you have a pair of minimal shoes, wear them long enough so that your gait adjusts to the shoe and allows you to run efficiently and becomes second nature. This will take several weeks and can not be done by trying on a pair of minimal shoes for 5 minutes in the store.

    After adapting your running style to minimal shoes and becoming comfortable running in minimal shoes, switch back to your "ordinary" running shoes and tell me what you find. You might be surprised to learn there are differences that you haven't even thought of.

    If you need help finding a minimal shoe with a zero heel drop, let me know, I can give you several options to try and don't worry, I won't include VFF in the list.

  27. Dave_T

    Dave_T Welcome New Poster

    So what if I were to take out the spikes from the racing spikes designed for sprinters? Those are light weight shoes that "make" runners run on their toes.
  28. drdebrule

    drdebrule Active Member

    It seems to me that VFF, Nike, etc. charge a lot for their minimalist shoes. Shouldn't these shoes cost less if there is less material? A much cheaper alternative a patient recommended to me is the invisible shoe (www.invisibleshoe.com). This is a huarache type sandal and is as minimal as you can get: a 4mm or 6mm piece of vibram sole held to your foot/ankle by some string. You can put it together yourself for $20-$30 US. I suspect the invisible shoe won't smell bad:eek: like the VFF because it is open to the air.
  29. Michael:

    Back in the 1970s, when I was racing marathons, I remember some guy writing into Runner's World that he raced marathons in $5.00 bedroom slippers that he duct-taped to his feet as the ultimate low-mass shoe.

    Do you think these running shoe companies are stupid? They will be charging top dollar for this "new technology" for all the gullible runners who think they are buying the latest-greatest "natural" running shoes. As long as there is a demand and gullible people who want to try the latest fad, there will be people buying these shoes.

    Kinda reminds me of the Power Balance Band.:rolleyes:

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