It’s been all the rage this summer in the outdoor footwear world. (Yes, I’m aware how sad it is that I know there is even is a rage in the outdoor footwear world). The Vibram Five Fingers were introduced in 2009 to the midwest, however their success surprised no only retailers, but Vibram themselves. Actually, I should take that back. Vibram knew they had a dynamite product, but they weren’t prepared for the amount of success that was to come from them. The demand was much lower than they anticipated, therefore store stock was virtually empty, and most customers were left with bare feet until the next shipment came. Finally, we received a shipment a few weeks ago. Our other store has had them for the last two months, and it has instantly become their best selling shoe, despite the fact that they don’t even market it or really try and push it.
If you’re not familiar, the concept behind the Five Fingers is a low-impact piece of footwear. What that translates to is the idea that our feet are naturally designed for walking, running, jumping, bouncing, etc., but we have added footwear as a cushion to compensate for heal striking. In the world of running for example, most runners strike the ground with their heal first, which has little/no muscle in it to act as a spring/shock absorber. To compensate, shoe manufacturers have added EVA mid-soles and other cushioning devices to lessen the impact on the heal. With low-impact shoes, the wearer must “relearn” how to run, and concentrate their stride so that the forefoot’s impact falls on the ball of the foot, wear there is muscle to act as a spring/absorber. This style of running allows for minimal footwear and a strengthening of the calves and stabilizing muscles in the foot.
You’d never think such a long-winded explanation would be deserved for a pair of shoes, but in fact here we are. Of course, I had to give them a try and see what all the hype is about. I wore them around the shop for a few hours but wasn’t able to get a pair that I could take outside our doors to test on the trail. I have reasonably strong calves and have been doing a bit of trail running, so I’d like to get a pair and see how they perform. In particular, the Vibram KSO Trek’s seem perfect, as their have a reinforced bottom with extra traction for the trail. Anyway, I wore them around the store and found them to be slightly uncomfortable. Not so much the fit mind you, but simply because I’m not used to wearing anything without cushion under my feet for 10 hours a day.
Overall, I can see the benefits to wearing them, but wish I was able to try them on the trail. The look is something I have to get used to, being that all five toes are separate, but they were surprisingly comfortable and Vibram has the fit dialed in. I’ll give them another go-round when I pick up a pair and get them out on the trail.