Without a doubt, these are the clown-prince and joker shoes of the athletic footwear world. Wear these ugly things and you're sure to get a few stares when people realize what you're wearing. I'm the kind of guy who is naturally drawn towards weird and unconventional stuff so when I saw Vibram Five Fingers for the First time, I had to check them out and see what they were all about.
First of all, calling these shoes seems a little bit of a stretch. I think that a better description of these things are "feet gloves" because of the freedom of movement for your toes. They're pretty thin on the sides and the sole is incredibly minimal. When I put these on, I had some very serious doubts about them. I couldn't help but think that my feet were bound to get beat up in short order. I figured that these things would be shredded after a modest amount of use.
However, when I found a shoe store in Portland that carried them, I talked to a man who was replacing his first pair that he bought three years ago. He assured me that he used them as much as the weather allowed him and they held up very well. So, that soothed some of my worries about buying an $80.00 pair of feet gloves. I found out that they're not cool weather shoes by a longshot. So, I'd have to wait for the ground the fully thaw out here in New England before I could see what these were all about.
So, after several months of jumping rope, hill sprinting, strength training, yard work, doing some Lacrosse drills and a few sessions of catch later, I'm happy to say that these shoes were far from a waste of money and I think that they were worth every penny that I paid for them. One thing that I love about them is that they're so damn light! Another thing that was surprising that I learned is how responsive your feet are. A few times when went to step on a stone while running, I could feel it as clear as day and I simply adjusted my step, all without really noticing. Maybe that's the idea behind the name "Five Fingers": your feet are more like your hands than you think.
There is one thing that's inevitable when you first slip into these things: you're going to be a little sore. What we think of as athletic shoes are probably not too good for our feet, legs and back. They force our feet into a mold they're really not meant for. So, the muscles in our lower extremity suffer. What I realized that I was feeling was muscles that hadn't been worked properly in a while. So, what you end up with upon initial use of Five Fingers is some pain. I wouldn't recommend doing intense workouts at first with them.
Once I got over this, I've noticed several things. My balance is definitely better. I walk on my feet more naturally, distributing the weight of my body over my feet better. As a result, I don't wear out my shoes like I used to (excessive inversion). These have become some of my favorite shoes. I like them that much.
If you're going to buy a pair, I suggest that make the effort to buy them in person. Proper fit is mandatory. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for some serious blisters. Unfortunately, they're hard to find. If you must buy on the Internet, just keep in mind the importance of proper fit.
Vibram's Web Site