Vibram, the maker of rubber soles for many leading shoe manufacturers, has created an innovative shoe called FiveFingers. The shoes have been on the market for a few years, but new features have made them better than ever. FiveFingers are designed to mimic being barefoot and provide enhanced sensation to your feet as you walk over textured surfaces. They’re also designed to improve athletic performance in running, water sports, yoga and more.
FiveFingers also claim to deliver positive health benefits like more natural movement, improved balance and posture, stronger foot muscles, reduced back pain and the comfort of walking barefoot without the pain. So do these shoes really improve your health and athletic ability?
Our short answer, yes. We tested FiveFingers Sprint and KSO styles and found that walking in them was comfortable and allowed our feet to flex, move and stretch in ways other shoes don’t allow. You can also feel the texture of objects as you walk over them, which provides a mini massage to your feet and allows you to feel more connected to the ground. But you’ll need time to adapt because these shoes exercise muscles not normally used and can cause aches in feet and legs until your muscles get stronger. We know we felt it! But after wearing the shoes for a few weeks, you can bend and separate your toes more easily, naturally improving your balance and posture. Once you get used to these awesome, but silly-looking shoes, you won’t want to take them off. Even if people stare at your pocketed toes like you’re crazy, which they do, you won’t care because you’re walking barefoot…without pain!
Running in the shoes is easy, but doing too much at first will make you sore because the shoes don’t offer the support and cushioning of regular running shoes. They also cause your foot to strike in the forefoot instead of the heel, like it does while wearing running shoes, which can take some getting used to. So ease into it to build muscles and improve running times. But once you’ve adapted, FiveFingers are great for almost any activity. They’re also good for travel because they’re lightweight and packable.
If picking between the Sprint and KSO (Keep Stuff Out) styles, which are both made for running, we recommend the KSO because its mesh cover keeps your feet clean and they offer an updated strapping system. Sprint $80, KSO $85 www.vibramfivefingers.com
If you need a little extra cushioning or warmth while wearing FiveFingers, try Injinji Performance Toesocks. These socks separate your toes in different pockets, just like the shoes, and help provide additional comfort when running. We tried and loved the Performance Series Mini Crew Socks with Coolmax®. The new Coolmax® EcoMade is a polyester fabric made from recycled plastic bottles that wicks sweat and dries fast. Injinji socks are also seamless and lightweight, which makes them incredibly comfy, even in regular shoes. $14 www.injinji.com