Being in the business of foot-healthy shoes and natural footgear, one question we're often asked by customers and readers of our blog is the following:
What do you think about those toe shoes?
Those toe shoes, of course, being the distinctive and famous Vibram FiveFingers! We have a long personal history with FiveFingers shoes that stretches back over a decade, and in this article, we'll share with you our own personal experience with them and offer thoughts on who might benefit from using them (and who might not). We'll also share with you a few of our favorite models as well as a Natural Training Guide that will help you get most out of this ultra-minimalist footwear.
Our Experience with Vibram FiveFingers Shoes
We (Drs. Marty and Robyn Hughes) were early adopters of Vibram FiveFingers and have used them over the years for a variety of purposes, from road running to trail running to hiking, and even in casual situations as more mainstream-looking models arrived on the market. We've really enjoyed using this barefoot shoe in our own athletic and around-town pursuits, and it does tick off all the boxes in terms of what we look for in a truly foot-healthy shoe. Vibram FiveFingers shoes possess:
- A lightweight design that offers you a barefoot feel
- A toe box (or toe pockets) that accommodates natural toe splay
- A flexible sole that allows your foot to become strong on its own
- A completely flat sole from heel to toe that enables natural arch support
So, when viewed through our lens, we find that Vibram FiveFingers toe shoes embody our natural foot health philosophy. When used appropriately, by those whose feet are ready for them, Vibram FiveFingers can be an incredible training tool for building stronger, healthier feet. They're not for everyone, though—a topic we'll discuss in more detail in the next section.
Who Might Enjoy Using Vibram FiveFingers? Who Might Not?
Toe shoes, such as Vibram FiveFingers, may not be appropriate for every set of feet, but this most barefoot-like style of footwear can be a great tool for many in building strong and stable feet and toes. Those who may enjoy the fit and feel of Vibram FiveFingers shoes (which fit the foot like a glove) include the following:
- People who have already transitioned to minimalist footwear
- People looking for a versatile and foot-strength-promoting gym shoe
- People interested in experiencing natural barefoot movement during athletic activities, such as running, hiking, or CrossFit
- People who want to be closer to nature and experience maximal ground feel yet still have a layer of protection between the sole and the ground
- People who do not have significant toe deformities, or those who are well on the path to correcting them (i.e., folks who have used Correct Toes, metatarsal pads, and men's or women's wide toe box footwear for at least several months)
In our experience, we've found that Vibram FiveFingers work best for those who are already a little further down the path of minimalist footwear and foot and toe rehabilitation. A lot of adaptations take place in the foot and lower leg when using FiveFingers footwear, and it can be easy to overdo it in the early phases of use. People who are already experienced with minimalist footwear have a head start on these adaptations and tend to fare best in this thin-soled and highly flexible footwear.
With that in mind, Vibram FiveFingers may not be the best fit for the following individuals:
- People who have webbed toes
- People who have significant foot pain
- People who have significant toe deformities
- People who have diminished sensation in their feet
- People who don't want to, or who aren't able to, do a slow, progressive transition
- People who are only just starting down the path of foot and toe rehabilitation (these folks may do better with some of the other, slightly thicker-soled footwear options we feature on the site, to start with, and then Vibram FiveFingers may become an option at a later time, after toe alignment improves and the feet become stronger)
Everyone making the jump to Vibram FiveFingers should take a close look at Vibram's Natural Training Guide, a resource that we discuss in more detail at the end of this article.
Let's now take a look at some of our favorite models of Vibram FiveFingers, all of which work great in combination with Injinji toe socks and Pedag metatarsal pads ...
Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO (For Men)
The men's Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO is a barefoot shoe that allows for optimal joint articulation and ground feel. This splayed-toe, ultra-minimalist shoe is extremely lightweight, offers excellent traction on a variety of terrain, and provides sufficient protection for your foot’s sole. The KSO EVO possesses an airy, yet strong and durable upper and a flexible Vibram outsole that allows you to get closer to nature. The soft inner lining of the KSO EVO offers a comfortable next-to-skin feel.
Uses: The men's KSO EVO works great for hiking, running, plyometrics, functional fitness, primal movement training, and strength and balance workouts, as well as for casual wear around town.
Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO (For Women)
The women's Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO is a barefoot athletic shoe that helps build foot strength and encourages toe splay. This foot-healthy and minimalist toe shoe respects normal and natural foot and toe anatomy and features a soft, strategically perforated upper to maximize breathability and comfort. The durable KSO EVO is exceptionally lightweight and flexible in the sole, and it offers great traction on a variety of surfaces.
Uses: The women's KSO EVO works great for walking, trail running, road running, gym workouts, general fitness, and treadmill workouts.
Vibram FiveFingers VI-B (For Women)
The women's Vibram FiveFingers VI-B is a splayed-toe ballet flat designed for the elegant minimalist and women on the go. With a 3.5 mm rubber outsole and 2 mm EVA liner, this simple, adorable, and comfortable shoe offers the perfect blend of barefoot feel and sole protection. Featherlight, breathable, and slim-fitting, the easy on, easy off VI-B is a refined choice for those who want to look stylish while building strong, healthy feet.
Uses: The women's VI-B works great for walking, yoga, strength training, and for casual use around the house, out on errands, or at the office.
Vibram FiveFingers Natural Training Guide
We consider Vibram FiveFingers shoes to be a minimalist training tool for building stronger, healthier, and more resilient feet. This Natural Training Guide discusses all things Vibram FiveFingers, from helpful foot exercises to sample use and training programs to how to best get them on your feet! Check out this insightful guide to learn more about Vibram FiveFingers and how to get the most out of this incredible five-toe shoe.
VIEW TRAINING GUIDE