Vibram FiveFingers Running Shoes

OK, clear your throat. Now let out a hearty laugh. Yes, these are gloves for your feet, and they look silly. Now listen: Vibram USA is onto something here. I have run close to 100 miles in a pair of FiveFingers, and darn if I’m not becoming a convert (Update: New related content, “Sneak Peek: Vibram FiveFingers 2011” line.)

Marketed as the first footwear to offer “the sensation of going barefoot with the protection and security of a sole,” Vibram’s FiveFingers shoe-gloves have stretchy synthetic uppers and thin rubber soles. Vibram touts its three FiveFingers models as promoting better foot health and stimulating the muscles in the feet and lower legs for greater balance, agility and strength. Other potential benefits the company cites include better posture and reduced back pain.

Vibram FiveFingers Running Shoes

I’ve been testing the Sprint model, which costs $80 and is made for hiking, yoga, sailing, surfing, canoeing, and “barefoot” running. Naturally, these shoes fit tight, wrapping each toe and following the lines of your foot back to a defined heel cup. The Sprint model has a Velcro strap that cinches over the top of the foot for extra security.

Despite the purported health advantages, first-time FiveFingers wearers have to be careful, especially for running. I am a regular runner, and I prefer shoes that promote minimal support in favor of bolstering foot and leg strength. But the FiveFingers philosophy is the epitome of this minimalism, as there’s zero cushioning underfoot.

You feel sticks, stones and cracks in the sidewalk through the shoes. The sole serves only to protect your skin, not your joints.


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Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.