Vibrams: In praise of the Five Fingers

I realize it’s no longer cool to be sporting the Vibrams. Or at the very least, support has been waning.

Vibrams Five Fingers

In fact, this lawsuit would suggest that they are downright dangerous.

But I never did it for the fad of it. I’ve been running in these shoes since 2011, around the time that they were peaking in popularity. At that time I happened to have been feeling twinges of plantar fasciitis that I had never experienced before, and bought in to some of the anecdotal claims that they could strengthen your feet and the small muscles of the lower legs to help protect against injury. And though it is these claims that seem to have fueled the lawsuit, I found them to be completely accurate in my case.

I don’t know if I have the right running mechanics (though I’m a bit of a heel striker, so I don’t know if that’s it), or if it’s that I’m light and the body impact isn’t as intense (though I also think I pound harder than your average runner – in other words, I run like an elephant), but for some reason these shoes work for me. For the last 4 years I’ve done 2 (out of 5) of my shortest runs of the week in them. I even ran a race in them.

Vibrams Viking Fest 2013

Viking Fest 2013

That was, until last summer when I tweaked my calf and cut back to 1 run. And then this fall when my foot started acting up I gave them up altogether. I was back to remedial running in my supportive trainers and custom orthodics.

Brooks Adrenaline

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Brooks Adrenalines. But after my 2 1/2 week break from running over the holidays, the foot wasn’t feeling significantly better. The problem was in this toe joint.


The operating theory is that the joint was bruised from running in shoes that weren’t working well for me. And apparently a joint can take a long time to heal. Especially when you spend a month running on it to make it through one last race of a season. But it didn’t feel THAT much better even after time off. The other issue I was having was that my shoes were feeling really tight. Which got me thinking about bringing back the Vibrams. And you know what? I had a breakthrough run in them. Suddenly the joint wasn’t bothering me in the same way. I managed to do a (short) run without pain, something I hadn’t done in two months. And as a bonus afterward, my shoes weren’t feeling quite so tight.

Now, I’m not saying to run right out and buy yourself a pair of Vibrams. And if you do, you need to slowly and carefully build up to running in them. I think I’m trying to make a broader point about doing what you need to do FOR YOU. It doesn’t matter which shoes/diet/training philosophy everyone else is following at the moment. Everyone is different and everyone has something that works for them. Have the confidence to stand out on your own. Even if that means wearing crazy shoes that have were the subject of a lawsuit.

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