Calling this a shoe review just doesn’t seem right…The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are like a glove for your feet. They take more getting used to from society than the wearer, as I found them immediately comfortable and fun to run in. You will get some raised eyebrow looks…but most long-distance runners should be used to that by now ;-)
Overall, the pros definitely outweighed the cons for me. For the injury reduction and performance enhancer…I’ll take the snickers from my XC team and dirty toes any day! I wore them for a month or approximately 50 miles during my cross country practices which are mostly grass and trail running and account for approximately 25% of my weekly mileage. For giggles, I tried them on a few medium mileage road runs (4-5 miles) and I fared just fine.
My first workout with the Five Fingers Sprints was great…such a free feeling of running! But that night my calves were aching?! It took about 3-4 workouts before the aching calves went away. I wear a neutral running shoe normally and I have a shoe odometer that keeps track of my stride rate. I noticed that my average stride rate crept up from 167 strides per minute to 175 strides per minute…that’s nearly a 5% increase that I attribute to my running form / gait change!
Wearing the Vibram Five Fingers is like running barefoot through the park…without having to get a tetanus shot. They flex in every way your foot will and they don’t restrict any movement or stretching of your soles. There is no stability or cushioning – just a comfortable shell for your foot. I was never a big heel-striker, but wearing these shoes has made me more of a forefoot-striker…a slight change for the better, I’ve found.
Not long after I purchased the Sprints, I noticed that Vibram introduced a new model called “KSO” (Keep Stuff Out)…and that’s exactly what they do. That added fabric on the top of your foot will keep dirt, grass clippings and dust from collecting around your toes. I wasn’t bothered by this at all when I was running…and the post-run shower usually took care of the rest, but it’s worth noting that there's a new model out there for those that may mind grass and grime between your toes.
In summary, I found the Vibram Five Fingers Sprints to be very well made, comfortable and durable. I definitely think that they have helped strengthen my feet and legs, which in turn has reduced my leg pain. They also have improved my running form and given me a quicker foot turnover. And given the premise that we were born to run barefoot…I think Vibram may be onto something here!