Barefoot / Minimalist

Frequently Asked Questions About the Vibram Five Fingers

I don’t wear my Vibram Five Fingers “out” in public very often, but on the rare occasions that I do — and even when I wear them to the gym — I often get questions about them. Most questions are repeats of questions I’ve received before, but I’m always happy to talk about my shoes and my decision to wear a minimalist shoe! In case you have questions about them, here are the frequently asked questions (and my answers) about my VFFs:

What kind of shoes are those?

They are Vibram Five Fingers Bikalas. They are my running shoes. Vibram offers several breeds of Five Finger shoes, including versions for trail running, speed work, and everyday activities.

Are your shoes comfortable?

Yes, the VFFs are very comfortable. Once I broke them in, I liken them to a pair of well-fitting house shoes.

Do you run in them? Does it hurt to run in them?

Yes, I do run in them. And no, it does not hurt. I allowed myself several weeks to adjust to running in them, gradually increasing the distance. It does not hurt my heels because I run more on my fore- and mid-foot than I strike with my heel.

Do they hurt your knees?

No. Actually, my knees feel better running in these shoes than they do in my regular running shoes. Minimalist shoes encourage your feet to run on your fore- or mid-foot rather than heel striking, which is a healthier form of running on all of your lower body joints.

Can you still wear high heels?

Uh, yes, I can still wear high heels. I can still wear any shoe I like though I certainly prefer wearing flats more than heels. My toes and forefoot have widened a little bit since I started wearing the VFFs, so now the toe boxes on my regular shoes fit a little snugger. But when I do wear high heels, my calves look fantastic. 🙂

What is the arch support like?

The VFFs have virtually no support. They bend every which way, and they essentially ask my feet to do all the work of supporting itself. I know it seems counterintuitive, but our feet are actually quite capable of supporting our body weight. Our modern shoes generally weaken our feet by supporting our body weight for us.

Do your feet get cold?

Yes, my feet get cold when the ground is extremely cold or when they get wet. But if it’s just a cool day, and I’m running they are warm enough. Injiji makes a sock to wear with the VFFs, but I have not bought a pair to try yet. (It was a warm winter.)

Do your feet sweat in them? Are they hot?

My feet are prone to sweating profusely in the first place, so yes, my feet sweat a lot in these shoes. This is why, after I broke them in, I generally stopped wearing them out and about and began saving them just for running or trips to the gym.

Do they give you blisters?

I feel like my feet are especially prone to blisters, so yes, they do give me blisters. When I first bought them and was breaking them in, they gave me a blister on my heel. These days, they don’t give me all-out blisters on my feet, but I do get “hot spots” under my big toes. I’ve found that a bit of lubricant (I like Arbonne’s Skin Conditioning Oil) minimizes the friction on those spots.

Can you wash them?

Yes, I wash mine every few weeks with my regular laundry. They take less than a day to air dry. And believe me, they start stink after a few runs, so washing them is imperative.

Could I run trails in those shoes?

I would not recommend running trails in the Bikalas unless it’s a well-worn, non-technical trail. You can feel just about every pebble, every imperfection of the road that is under your feet in these shoes. But Vibram does have a Five Fingers shoe for running trails, and you might want to give them a try.

What made you decide to buy those shoes?

I read Born to Run by Chris McDougall, and after reading about his nagging injuries and his quest to find a better way to run, I was intrigued about trying a more natural form of running. VFFs were specifically mentioned in the book, and my running partner had a pair that she was breaking in. I have an IT band that likes to flair up, and I decided that maybe, just maybe, improving my running form and working on a mid-foot strike rather than a heel strike might “fix” my IT band troubles. They have helped, but they are no substitue for good running form and a balanced, strong body.