Vibram Five Fingers

A lot of friends have been asking about my new “footwear” – especially since I wear them almost exclusively nowadays regardless of how controversial they “look.” While it’s nothing Google can’t answer, I’ll try to explain what the deal is with these shoes for those who are “tamad” to do the research.

Before getting into the details, let me answer one of the questions that’s often been asked: are they really that good? 1 and by “good” they probably mean “comfortable” To that, my answer would be “depends how much you like doing stuff barefoot.”

Having said that, in my case, ultra-mega-fuckin’ good!

Personal Introduction

I first saw these puppies being worn by Kevin Rose in an episode of Diggnation – and was summarily humiliated by his co-host with the grounds of him having Gorilla Feet. Mr. Rose never wore them to the show again, but I have to admit that as weird as they looked, they’ve always had this inexplicable appeal to me. I can only guess this appeal came from my innate preference of going barefoot.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I like going barefoot. To this day, I don’t wear slippers when inside the house. When recording or in practice, I often take off my shoes/slippers. I even on occasion take my shoes off while eating dinner in a restaurant. 2 And lets leave the unfortunate consequences of such actions for another day

I would never have thought that in 30 years, that preference/habit of mine would actually be an argument I could use in purchasing footwear.

I finally got to see them IRL while shopping in Rockwell. It took me a couple of visits before I got the nerve to try… and eventually buy a pair of KSOs.

As with everything I buy, I try to take the time to understand the technology behind a product so I wouldn’t be one of those pricks that would just buy stuff they don’t understand. That, or being a fashion victim – though I seriously doubt these could start a fashion trend – but then again, we’ve got people wearing scarves in a tropical country (and we still haven’t explained the whole Crocs phenomenon), so what the hell do I know right?

All the same, getting a second pair within weeks of the first (and a third after a month) is pretty telling of how much my feet have been enjoying these suckers.

What’s the Deal With These Shoes?

And so it comes to this; for what purpose do these kinds of shoes serve? What are they for?

The simple answer is that, if you really think about it, the human body is a pretty amazing “machine.” I’m sure we’ve all heard/read different studies claiming how the naked human body has evolved to be the most versatile piece of equipment ever seen. Evolutionally speaking, this is due to the need to survive; we’ve become less hairy to survive the tropics, we’ve got opposable thumbs for using tools, etc.

The human foot is no different – as it has evolved out of the need to be mobile in various terrain for hunting. 3 Cuz that’s exactly what the early humans were – hunters Our feet, as with the rest of our extremities, are brilliantly designed to handle climbing, swimming, and most importantly, running. And we know the early humans, as hunters, ran a whole lot!

I’m not a runner, but running is the activity that best highlights the benefits of going barefoot. Consider the picture below – which tracks the force of impact to body whenever your foot strikes the ground.

As you can see (and if you try running yourself), a shod runner tends to strike the ground with their heel, as the shoes have cushioning to protect us from the pain.

Remember; the impact generated is from your feet’s inertia coming an abrupt stop on each footfall. Having said that, it doesn’t take a genius to divine that [most] running injuries are related to this somehow. I mean, think about it; If early human hunters could run through uneven terrain on a daily basis to catch their food (or to escape from becoming food). Have we evolved to be so weak nowadays – that just running in a perfectly flat pavement can injure us?

The answer is yes and no.

No, because our feet are still of the same “design” as with our hunting ancestors – so we are perfectly capable of being hunters even today. Jungle-dwelling natives easily prove that fact.

Yes, because being shod has changed the natural way of how we run. Try running barefoot the same way you did when you had shoes on; you’ll find out that you can’t do it for long – because it’ll fucking kill your heels. Instead you’ll find yourself adjusting your stride in such a way that the ball of your foot will hit the ground first – just like in the picture on the right. And you can see how the impact is converted to rotational force.

From the visuals, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to assume that less impact = less impact related injuries = happier joints and body. That’s why Five Fingers are extremely popular with the serious runners in places the brand has gone mainstream.


As I said, I don’t run. Why do I use them? First, as I mentioned earlier, is because I like the barefoot feel.

Next, while running certainly highlights the benefits as far as preventing running-related injuries is concerned, but imagine how useful it can be for climbing, or any activity where foot balance and gripping is crucial.

I can only speak for myself, but I feel that a shoe that can protect your feet from wounds while maintaining the type of mobility as being barefoot is the best “all-around” shoe one could use. You gotta to admit; the science makes a lot of sense regardless of a persons’ knowledge of biomechanics. The simple fact that we can all implicitly agree on is that anything that allows any part of your body to move as freely/naturally as it should is always better.

So going back to what it’s for – It’s not an exaggeration to say “practically anything.” It’s a true cross-trainer, if you will.

The “Need” for Different Models

A very good question, I asked that myself, why do they have to come out with different models? Since being barefoot seems to be the best “condition” to do practically anything, why not just make a single model that does everything?

Hell if I know, but the legitimate answer (apart from profiting) I guess would be practicality, protection, and breathability. The KSO (Keep Stuff Out) is claimed to be the best all-around model because it can work for running, off-road, and water-related activities. Which is usually why if you plan to own only a single pair of VFFs, the “jack of all trades” KSO is usually the best choice. My first pair were KSOs as well.

However, the KSOs (and models of similar “coverage”) have a tendency to get too hot. Since VFFs are best worn without socks, which easily translates to smelly, sweaty feet. That, and they required much more effort and time to put on/get off.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I loved the barefoot feel VFFs provided so much that I wanted to use it them more often – exclusively if possible. I needed a pair that I can literally slip on and off for everyday use. The KSOs were obviously not an ideal pair in that regard – so I got myself a pair of Classics which are much easier to put on, and are the most breathable of the lot.

There are a couple of other models as well, they’re basically fine tuned here and there for a specific need. Like if you want the breathability of the Classics but don’t want it slipping off easily when you run, then the Sprint would be a better choice. If you plan to go hardcore in your running and need a bit more “specialization,” (i.e. cushioning and sole thickness) then you’re better of with a Bikila or Speed. The list goes on as they release more models.

As for me, I’m currently fine with two types; the Classics for everyday walking, and the KSOs for more active use (e.g. hiking/climbing shoes, aquasocks, etc.)

Now if you read this far and still want a really good and in-depth primer of the VFFs, you can read it here

Lastly, it’s pronounced VEE-bram – because it’s an Italian brand/name.


1 and by “good” they probably mean “comfortable”
2 And lets leave the unfortunate consequences of such actions for another day
3 Cuz that’s exactly what the early humans were – hunters

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