Vibram has been one of the driving forces behind the growing popularity of barefoot running. Believing that barefoot exercise is more natural and comfortable, many exercisers are opting for a minimalist shoe that mimics the feel of barefoot exercise while also protecting the foot from abrasions or other injuries.
The Vibram FiveFingers Classic is one of several designs Vibram offers that adhere to this basic principle. This shoe features a sculpted, non-marking sole that wraps around the bottom and sides of the foot and a stretch polyamide fabric that envelopes the toes and top of the foot. An elastic band that fastens at the heel allows users to adjust the coverage and fit. Like gloves, each toe has its own “slot.”
Needless to say, these shoes take some getting used to and will not appeal to everyone. They provide surprisingly good arch support and the sole is thick enough to minimize the feel of rocks or pebbles underfoot. (It also looks durable enough to withstand glass, but we did not try to confirm this.)
Water-resistant and machine washable, the Vibram FiveFingers is ideal for walking along rocky shorelines or climbing over boulders. And, for those who are convinced of the benefits, they provide adequate coverage for running long distances. Although the manufacturer recommends this shoe for yoga and Pilates, most people will still prefer to perform these activities in bare feet.
One of the challenges we encountered with the Vibram FiveFingers is that its molded shape makes it difficult to fit those who don’t have “standard” shaped feet. For example, individuals with a longer second toe or a predominant big toe may find the shoes don’t fit correctly or feel uncomfortable. Likewise, the high heel tab may irritate those with heel spurs or other issues.
What we liked:
- Cutting-edge design and high-tech materials
- Water-resistant and machine washable
- Ideal for walking along rocky shorelines or climbing over boulders
What we didn’t like:
- Appropriate only for individuals with “standard” shaped feet
- Requires considerable time to get used to the feel of the shoe
November 15, 2009
(Read the September 2011 ACE study on Vibram FiveFingers, "Like Barefoot, Only Better?" for more in-depth coverage)