Vibram Five Fingers Shoes: The Barefoot Alternative

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Tim Ferriss on Vibram Shoes from Kevin Rose on Vimeo.

“The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering.”
—Leonardo Da Vinci

“OK, dude, what’s up with the goofy shoes?”

It was the second day of Pavel’s RKC kettlebell course, and I’d seen more than a few people wearing what appeared to be gecko feet. The sheer goofiness compelled me to ask Rudy Tapalla, a CrossFit instructor from Chicago, why on earth he would put these ridiculous gloves on his toes. He seemed to have good mojo — he was shorter than me but had a vertical jump to match Michael Jordan — so I figured he might have good reasons.

He did, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

I remained a skeptic but tested them a month later. Now, I have three pairs and find it hard to wear other shoes. Vibram Five Fingers shoes (“VFFs” to the die-hard fans) are worth a closer look.

After two weeks of wearing them, the lower-back pain I’d had for more than 10 years disappeared and hasn’t returned since I started experimentation about 8 weeks ago.

Sound ridiculously implausible?

It doesn’t once we look at how feet and posture adapt…

Nasty Pictures and Maladapted Feet

Each human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles and tendons. It’s a surprisingly malleable structure.

From the cached version of the most excellent Nature’s Magic Bullet, referred to me by Joseph Mascaro:

Most people, including doctors, have never seen a natural foot, unaltered by footwear. The following images of habitually bare feet are taken from a study performed almost 100 years ago, published 1905 in the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery, which examined the feet of native barefoot populations in the Philippines and Central Africa. A line can be drawn that runs through the heel, ball, and big toe of a habitually bare foot. The little toes spread naturally and fan out to provide a wide, stable base for walking or standing.

How do our shod feet compare? The following more common image, also taken from the 1905 study, demonstrates feet that are shaped like the owner’s shoes. No such line can be drawn, and the little toes crowd to a point—a comparatively unstable, narrow base for walking or standing.

The Simple Biomechanics of Bad Posture

Postural compensation is unavoidable while wearing shoes that elevate the heels. It’s necessary to maintain balance.

Chronic use of heels can result — and usually does — in some degree of kyphosis-lordosis and related pains in the lower back and mid-upper back.

Reversing Degeneration – Embracing the Barefoot Alternative


Vibram Five Finger models: KSO (blue), Classic (brown), Sprint (gray)

Laboratory studies show that the plantar arch alone returns at least 17 percent of the energy of impact. Running shoes have largely replaced our arches, but they are neither as effective nor as durable. Barefoot runners can clearly do as well as shoed runners, but it takes time to develop the strength in the foot to use our natural arch fully.

(Source: The Barefoot Route)

Ethiopian Abebe Bikila ran a world-record 2:15:17 marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Barefoot.

The unadorned human foot is built for running. In fact, some researchers have proposed that bipedalism is an evolved trait related to “persistence hunting”, which is common among predators like wolves. Don’t think a human can run an antelope to death? Think again.

So how do we reclaim our rightful arch strength, our stability, and undo the damage of years of unnatural posture? Not to mention rediscover the joy of feeling the terrain under our feet?

Going barefoot is one option, and one that I enjoy, but there are limits. In the concrete jungle, glass and other dangers make going Bushman a roll of the dice at best. Tetanus or a trip to the ER? I’ll pass.

The Vibram Five Fingers shoes, to differing degrees, allow you to both walk without a heel (as would wrestling shoes, Vivo Barefoot shoes, or thin flip-flops) and condition toe-spread, especially the big toe, for lateral stability.

I first tested the KSO (“keep stuff out”) model, which fits most like an aqua sock and has more padding than other models I tested.

I then tested the Classic model, the least complicated of all, and the Sprint model, which is almost a hybrid of the KSO and Classic.

I wear a size 9.5 men’s shoe in the US and tested EU 42 for the KSO and Classic, and an EU 43 for the Sprint.

The results, in brief:

My favorite model is, by far, the Classic. It’s easiest to get on, even with my worthless nub of a little toe, and it most closely mimics the true barefoot feel. The only downside is that, to get a snug fit and not have the heel come off the foot, you must slide the top slip-tie until it is quite tight. This will feel unusual for the first 24 hours or so. I have used the Classic to go trail running in SF and it is euphoric.

I love the KSO, but it is more of a process to get on, and far more conspicuous. At first, it’s fun to get a lot of attention with the shoes (gentlemen, you will not believe the “peacocking” effect of these puppies), but giving each person you meet a 5-minute explanation gets old fast. The Classic blends in more than the KSO or any model with straps. Black will help all models fade into the ground, but I prefer colors.

The Sprint model was so uncomfortable at first that I shelved them, never intending to test them again. It was the only model, and not due to size differences, that oddly pulled my little toe out, causing minor pain but great discomfort after even 10 minutes. I sent an e-mail to their US CEO, who responded back with a suggestion to “seat the heel”, particularly with the Sprint model. This means:

Slide your foot back to nestle your heel into the heel pocket. It’s important to get your heel deeply seated. Secure the instep strap BEFORE latching the heel straps. This will ensure the foot is positioned properly.

I have since been able to wear the Sprint model for 1-2 days at a time, no more than 1 hour of walking at a stretch, but the velcro strap can still bite into the skin without the KSO-like mesh below it. I find it the least comfortable of the three models.

But what about flat feet?

I had clinically-diagnosed arch problems as a child — flat feet supreme — and was prescribed not only custom orthopedic insoles but also exercises for the feet themselves, rolling up towels with the toes, etc.. For those who like random anecdotes, my mom e-mailed me this addition after I published this post:

You didn’t mention that you leapt at the orthopedist examining your feet, like Spidey to a wall.

Sounds like me. I was a little hellion. But we digress…

Needless to say, the exercises fell by the wayside, and I took to increasing levels of support through the shoes themselves. VFFs have been nothing short of spectacular for me, despite my history of flat feet.

Barefoot runners are often asked “but what do you use for arch support?”, to which they respond: “your arches”. I’ve found that my arches, and foot as a whole, feels better with less support rather than more.

Cautions and Cons

-Do not overdo it at first. Chances are that the ligaments and musculature of your feet is underdeveloped. Use them for no more than 1/2 – 1 mile in the first 24 hours, then take a day off. I suggest alternating VFFs with “normal” shoes or flat-soled shoes like Chuck Taylors for the first week. I now use VFFs for no more than three days in a row, as I’ve had some bruising on the heel with more, and such bruising is slow to heal and massively inconvenient. Asphalt is somewhat forgiving, concrete much less so (The Embarcadero in SF, for example), and marble or stone is brutal (casino floors in Las Vegas, etc.).

-Beware the sizing. There are complaints online of the VFF website sizing suggestions being inaccurate for some people. Get sized at a retail location that carries VFFs if possible. If you can’t, check the VFF return policy on their site or order through Amazon to ensure swaps are simple.

-Be prepared to wash them. VFFs are machine washable and should be air dried. There are five-toed socks like the Injinji brand, but I have found all of them to be incredibly painful between the toes, no matter which model of shoe is worn. I now only wear VFFs barefoot. One nice side-effect of the toe separation? No more athlete’s foot or foot skin issues.

In Closing

To embrace barefoot living or the barefoot alternative, you will have to change how you walk and run, avoiding the heel strike we’ve all used since putting thick Nike padding under our soles. No need to obsess, though, as your gait will adapt naturally — reverting to a natural state, as it were — as you avoid the discomfort of doing otherwise.

The fastest runners have a style quite similar to that of a person running without shoes. They absorb shock by landing lightly on their forefeet rather than on their heels, and their landing leg is beneath the torso, with the leg slightly bent to absorb impact.

According to exercise physiologist and Olympic marathoner Pete Pfitzinger, the key to starting out is to go slowly. He advises walking barefoot for a few weeks to toughen up the skin on the bottom of the foot as well as the muscles in the ankles and feet. Once you are ready to run, start with a mere five minutes, increasing slowly and running barefoot every couple of days. From there, build to up to 20 minutes over a month. After a few weeks of this, the feet and ankles will be stronger, thus reducing the risk of injury. Possible places to train include sandy beaches and golf courses.

The barefoot running technique has been described as falling forward. It has also been described as gently kissing the ground with the balls of your feet.

(Source: The Barefoot Route)

For those interested in developing the most efficient and low-impact running gait, I suggest starting with the Chi Running DVD (skip the book, which gets into too much pseudo-Asian chi mumbo jumbo) and moving to the Pose Method of Running book if interested in more specific details.

Experiment with rediscovering your feet and proper biomechanics.

If a few weeks can eradicate 10+ years of lower-back pain for me, it might just do something for you.

At the very least, you get to wear some goofy shoes that encourage you to wiggle your toes.

###

If you enjoyed this post, check out my latest book, The 4-Hour Body, #1 New York Times and #1 Amazon bestseller. You will learn: How to lose 20 pounds in 30 days (without exercise), how I gained 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days, how to go from running 5K to 50K in 12 weeks, and more.

You can also get the Expanded and Updated 4-Hour Workweek, which includes more than 50 new case studies of luxury lifestyle design, business building, reducing hours 80%+, and world travel.

Other things you might not have seen:
Tim Ferriss in NY Times Styles: Too Much Information? Ignore It.
Tim Ferriss on Twitter – what I am doing right now?
Tim Ferriss Investments – what have I invested in recently?

Posted on: May 7, 2009.

Please check out Tools of Titans, my latest book, which shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. It was distilled from more than 10,000 pages of notes, and everything has been vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion. The tips and tricks in Tools of Titans changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for sample chapters, full details, and a Foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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686 comments on “Vibram Five Fingers Shoes: The Barefoot Alternative

  1. This is sort of off the subject, but Do you have any opinions on beds? Our futon on the floor is driving me crazy (I’m not sure how best to take care of it, and when we should replace it?

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  2. Good seeing you at RailsConf! I’ve been using VFF’s for about a week now – I’ll report back on the effects, but I definitely feel soreness in the calves. However, I can do a 2 mile jog in them! Gonna try them for parkour on Sunday.

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  3. This post is absolutely spot on. I’ve owned my Vibram Five Fingers for about a year now and they are so much fun to run with! They really do capture the fun of running, like you did as a child… I am more playful with my runs (jump on things, smile more, less intense) but yet have managed to run faster. I too had the exact same complaints regarding the Sprint model (the strap rubbage would cut my skin. I own a pair of KSO and they are perfect.) If I can find a local retailer that sells classics, I would wear those to walk to work in my suit. Since purchasing my Vibram, I’ve begun to try and find the same kind of philosophies in all other shoe purchases (like buying thin soled ballet-type slippers as commute-to-work shoes (a 40 minute walk)), or moccassins for the winter and have abandoned any type of cushiony shoe. I feel solid on my feet and I have no back pain to complain of. Sadly, I do still love my heels though and can’t seem to abandon that sexy-powerful feeling they give me even if they set my body in a rocket-launch type of alignment.
    … maybe one day!

    Like

  4. I’ve been wearing the “Sprint” model for about a year model for workouts and love them.

    The best part, to me, is how they force you to run appropriately, landing on the ball of your foot (instead of the heel) and not overstepping your stride. And by “force” I mean it — if you land on your heel, the pain will shoot right up your leg and spine.

    Only “problem” I found with them was that they totally, completely destroyed my calves, and that if I went more than two weeks without a run, I could really feel it in my calves.

    I wouldn’t use anything else to run now. After a run, my legs don’t feel like jello. Rather, every muscle from my feet to my abs feels stretched and toned and ready to go.

    Like

  5. Going back to the first post by Dan:

    1) What if you have flat feet? Does barefoot running adversely impact knees and the foot ligaments due to pronation?

    I’m in the same boat. Any ideas here? Is it just a question of strength and flexibility work, and making sure my arches are active when I move?

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  6. Great light-shedding on the foot issue. Feels so exciting watching the world wake up to truths we shouldn’t have lost, of many varieties.

    Knowing/believing Pavel’s foot philosophies, I had briefly considered the Vibram’s but was told by a clerk at REI that they kept getting returned by people for CAUSING foot problems. From what you are reporting, I am guessing these customers simply did not acclimate correctly. I am thrilled that it might be time to give them another shot–still have some massive neck pain in my life!

    Back to your last post on your friend’s daughter with cancer, I am not sure if you read my response to you, or if it is even you managing your blog ( or perhaps a well-trained virtual Tim-twin!) , but in case you did not see it, I am now going to harp on the subject for a moment in the hopes that it catches your attention, or that your virtual Tim-twin gets this info to you since the situation is so critical for this girl.

    If it made it already to your ears/eyes, please forgive the harping to follow. Through my own hard healing search, I have felt increasing pain and frustration watching so many people suffer out of sheer ignorance of other approaches to health, and seeing well-intended docs cause often great harm thanks to their pharmaceutical-industry driven educations. Western medicine as it stands has many mind-boggling sophistications and successes, but it largely misses some basic points, just like the visually stunning, but physically damaging, shoe industry.

    So, on to the harping.

    I saw someone else had posted about a success with Gerson Therapy, which is one of the approaches I had mentioned. The writer of “30 and Terminal” I mentioned also used both Gerson and the Kelley/Gonzalez protocol. I don’t know if I was enthusiastic enough in my post about the information I presented, but I know many examples of people beating C with nutritional/detox approaches, including pancreatic, colon, lung, lymphoma, brain, stage IV’s!!!

    Speed of response, however, is critical to being able to help the body, so if your friend is not immediately at a minimum altering his daughters diet to whole organic no-sugars foods, even that will help. Alkaline water, simple detox like rebounding, skin brushing, lymphatic drainage massage, etc. etc. can all help, even if she’s going the chemo/radiation route. But really, I can’t advocate enough for at least a complementary intensive nutritional/detox protocol of some sort. If you didn’t read it, please refer to my Seneca post for more details on modalities I am aware of.

    One last resource to add: met a woman two days ago who beat Stage IV lymphoma using heavy nutritional/detox IV work by a board-certified oncologist/naturopath in Seattle. Perhaps he would know of someone doing similar work in your friend’s area. This woman did great throughout her treatment having great energy and continuing to work full time. She had refused to do chemo and pursued this course first. While getting IV’s at her naturopath’s office, she met another woman with Stage IV lymphoma who had decided to add nutritional/detox to her work. This woman had chosen chemo first and was haggard, emaciated and sick as a dog. When she saw my acquaintance’s vitality, she ditched the chemo, started working exclusively with the naturopath, and also recovered.

    from my acquaintance’s email response to me asking for details:
    “Dr Chen at Seattle Cancer and Wellness is the oncologist this friend used. http://www.seattlecancerwellness.com/
    Dr Gignac (pronounced Gee-knee-ak) is the naturopathic oncologist — he’s the best!
    http://www.seattlecancerwellness.com/naturopathic_oncologists.html

    Ok, harping over and out.

    e

    I

    Like

  7. Wow, I am going to have to try these out… I bought a pair of Dr. Martins that are a boot style with a high heal and have had SI joint problems ever since. After reading this article I will have to switch things up a little.

    Good Luck,

    Dana

    Like

  8. I can just confirm that running barefoot or with thin-sole shoes is just great. You get a new sense as you feel your environment much more. Instead of the VFF I use Feelmax shoes. Their sole is even a little bit thinner.

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  9. Tim, Great post. Glad they are working out so well for you. I’ll consider you another “goofy shoe” convert.

    I also agree with Mike on the Z-Health/joint mobility work in the toes, feet, and ankle to help that adjustment phase.

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  10. I’m at RailsConf, the annual Ruby on Rails web developer conference where Tim keynoted on Tuesday, and the two of us at the conference who wear Five Fingers were pleased to find in Tim a third Vibram brother!

    I’ve been wearing VFFs (brown KSO) for about six months and have a few tips. Unlike Tim, I find the Injinji toe socks very comfortable, and they’re great in cooler weather. They may seem ridiculously expensive (around $16 a pair for the tetrasok model I wear), but I’ve found I only need three pairs. They are made of a special high-quality wool that wicks away moisture, and I just rotate them, leaving them out to dry each night after wearing them. With this rotation, the socks can be worn for weeks at a time without developing any noticeable odor.

    One foot issue I deal with is a long second toe, which is longer than my big toe (Morton’s Toe, technically a short first metatarsal). Though my Vibrams are flexible enough to fit my oddly shaped feet, wearing them led to pain under my second toe, pain I have suffered from at times in the past and which is a common side-effect of Morton’s Toe. (I didn’t even know about Morton’s Toe until I started wearing VFFs; they have put me in touch with my feet like never before.) To correct the problem, I’ve made a custom orthotic based on advice from The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, which involves placing a thin pad under the first metatarsal (the “ball of the foot”). Though I have yet to find the perfect material (I use Dr. Scholl’s Molefoam for now, but it compresses over time and needs to be replaced every few weeks), Vibram Five Fingers with the orthotic make a huge difference in my posture, gait, and foot comfort.

    A final note about sizing: I bought size 44 Five Fingers based on trying them on in a store, but after a couple of weeks I began to suspect they were too big. Based on the Five Fingers online sizing chart, I ordered size 42 by mail, and they fit perfectly. Unfortunately, in my experience the only way to be confident of the right fit is to walk in them for a week or so, which makes them unreturnable. In my case this meant burning some cash on shoes I won’t wear, but now that I know the right size I can buy future pairs without worry.

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  11. Tim, thanks for plugging the VFF’s. I know a lot people don’t want to go completely barefoot, so VFF’s are a great alternative. Since switching to shoeless running a couple years ago, my knees and back are much happier, along with my feet.

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  12. Nice review, Tim! I posted a comment earlier this morning, but it must have gotten eaten by wordpress. Anyway, I stuck it over in a post about your review at my little five fingers fan site (birthday shoes dot com).

    Also, am curious how you are walking in your VFFs to cause bruising — hadn’t heard this happening except on heavy heel striking (or say dropping from a pull-up bar wrong).

    Like

  13. Can we just wear socks??? Those things are UGLY! Not to mention it looks like they are made out of neoprene for a nice sweat-fest…

    Best,

    Brian

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  14. I bought these 2 weeks ago after reading about them online. I had tried the Nike Frees before and loved them, however did not like them for trails. Since i’ve had the VFF I use them for walking my dog and light runs while my feet get used to them. I have the KSOs and they work great in the park when the grass is long. I cant wait to go tubing and kayaking with my KSOs. I read a comment that someone wears them to play soccer. I play soccer too, but the thought of getting stepped on is too scary to even try them on the field. ouch!

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  15. Great post Tim. Going barefoot has been on my mind for a while. Tough to get closer to nature on a nice workout too. I have preferred some nice sand with bare feet for a run whenever possible. The Vibram’s look awesome. I am strongly considering a purchase. Most likely the classic to start but I like the look of the KSO. A little peacocking can be ok now and then. Next stop is an SF trail. Any recommendations??

    -Scott

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  16. Thanks, Tim. I saw you wearing them in a video you posted recently, and I was fascinated. I did a bit of research and bought a pair of KSOs. The very first time I went running in them I took 1:07 off of my 2-mile run time. They’ve also made a huge different in my footwork when I fight, since I can interact with the ground like never before.

    I’ve since convinced various of my friends and associates to try them, and others are more and more tempted.

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  17. Hey Tim,
    I’ve been wearing these for about 3 years. I love hiking in them, and most of my KB or CrossFit training is done in them.

    Some time back I told you that I was going to do a fitness camp in Rio…well thanks to working the 4HWW hard and smart, it’s on. A 7 day Boot Camp in Rio this August, I’m pumped!
    Abracos,
    Coop

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  18. I agree they’re good for festivals 🙂 wore them to coachella and made lots of friends that way

    I wear them with the injinji socks at times. usually if I’m doing cold weather running or hiking. they make your feet less sweaty. the socks have never hurt me though.

    they do get stinky! I wash them about once a week and
    febreeze them after use. that’s one aspect true barefooting wins. they don’t breathe so well.

    I’m pretty sure the flow aren’t waterproof, but I definitely wanted some for stream crossings. sand gets all in my sprints.

    Like

  19. I forgot to mention that I also had flat feet as a kid and have suffered through plantar fascitis and achilles tendonitis. I can feel the pain in my achilles less and less now after using VFFs. Best invention ever!!

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  20. Love my VFFs. The Flows definitely aren’t waterproof, but they’re wetsuit material, so they keep your feet relatively warm even when wet (really make your feet sweat though).

    I love hiking in mine, and they make a great paddle shoe for kayaking. Really good traction on sandstone.

    One of the big things I’ve noticed though is that the sole offers little insulation. So in the summer, if you’re going to be walking on pavement, they’re not very comfortable.

    Like

  21. You just inspired me to go running in my Clark’s sandals. Felt real good, but my feet and calves are aching in interesting places right now. Just hit some muscles that haven’t been hit so hard in a long while. But I’m bumming to know that I shouldn’t use the New Balance running shoes I bought not long ago.

    I may go get a pair of Vibrams after your reco. But I would put in a plug for Clark’s footwear for those times you don’t want to look too weird. Clark’s shoes have a square toe box designed for us cavemen who refused to let their big toes get bent to fit in dress shoes. And their sandals look nice and feel like running on leather. The sandals do have a bit of higher heel than toe, alas, but it isn’t much.

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  22. I’ve had my VFF’s (I own the KSO’s) for the last 6 months, train with them everyday (I do Crossfit as well). The first few days my coach (who introduced me to them) limited running to just about 400m (instead of a mile) at moderate speed (instead of 80-90%). Even with that short distance I “discovered” muscles that have never been sore after exercising, eventually, the distance was increased, but little by little so my body could get used to them.
    Also, the first days he told me to wear them 2-3 hours a day maximum. Now there are days that I wear them al day long and feel great.
    Since I started using them my posture has really improved, and my knee and lower back problems have been drastically reduced.
    One word of advice: DON’T use any kind of foot powder with them! It tends to make your feet not only smell, but stink! Funny thing, because I thought that powder was necessary to prevent odor, but you don’t actually need to use anything, they are coated with some sort of anti-microbial stuff that keeps them almost odorless. Just wash your VFF’s in the washing machine with powder laundry soap and they will be perfect for a good 5-6 days (depending how often you wear them).

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  23. Picked some up a few weeks ago after seeing them in one of your vid blog posts….they absolutely rock for running!

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  24. Tim,

    I have been wearing the 5 fingers for over a year now. As a white boy who wears brown KSO’s, I definately get a lot of looks, but they have helped me get through lower back pain and plantar facitis that comes from a few years of overdoing it at ultra running.

    Agree your comments on the difficulties of getting the KSO’s on at first, but as an avid trail runner, Keeping Stuff Out is important to me and the ease of fit is a benefit. Besides, after an hour or so on muddy trails, I’m brown from the knees down.

    Long time lurker. Love your book and all you share.

    Like

  25. Hi All!

    Thanks for the fantastic comments and observations.

    Regarding the Pose Method and Chi Running, I’ve used both. I like to combine the Chi Running DVD with the Pose Method book. I’ve added links to both at the very end of the post.

    Happy trails 🙂

    Tim

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  26. Question posted earlier was

    “have you ever tried MBT shoes?

    http://www.swissmasaius.com/Default.aspx?lang=en-US

    They also claim to provide the benefits of barefoot walking. Wonder how they compare to the Vibrams?”

    I am not Tim (interested in his and everyone’s thoughts too), but my experience is that I am NOT a fan of the MBTs. I spent about 45 minutes at their booth at the last ACSM and while they were very nice people and got a cool gait assessment via force read out in real time to see the difference, I think the foot should have a 3D motion and with the MBTs it is pretty straight through the foot (not natural).

    My stride length also decreased (I had on a pair of Nike frees, trying to blend in there since I was presenting). I also had much less movement at my hips with the MBTs.

    Just my thoughts. From the people that I saw there that had them on, not many of them moved well in my opinion.

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson
    PhD(c), Z Health Master Trainer, RKC

    Like

  27. I have been wearing Vivo Barefoot shoes nonstop (except when running) since January. I just love them. However, I can’t find a running shoe I like. The Puma H Strees were probably the best. I have been competitively running for 35+years and have always enjoyed running in racing shoes. I tried a pair of these on last month and they felt good, but I didn’t run in them. I guess I’ll have to get a pair soon, even if they look ridiculous!

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  28. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for exposing me to the Vibram Five Fingers shoes! I bought a pair (KSO) for myself and my girlfriend (sprint) – and we both love em!

    Anyway, I’ve been using them in combination with the P90X home workout program and I had to take it easy on the Plyometrics DVD for fear of getting a blister. I’ve been training with them for 3 days now.

    For those who are running or training, having those Injinji socks might be a good idea to ease any friction, because the last thing you’d want is to get a blister and have to take some time off.

    My two-cents.

    – Will 🙂

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  29. Dang, I’m really tempted to try these, as I am a runner and often have lower back pain. BUT, I’m really having a hard time getting past the hideous design! The colors and lines seems to actually accentuate their freakishness. I understand some like the attention they bring, but I’d rather just get the health benefits without having to constantly explain my gecko feet.

    I wonder if the manufacturer has considered printing/designing a pair that looks a bit more like a normal pair of shoes, even if it would only look that way from a distance. (Less contrast in the colors? Silk screen some shoe laces? Racing stripes?) Or, perhaps I’ll have to wait till everyone is wearing them since I’m sure all the Tim-fans will now be rushing out to buy a pair. 🙂

    Thanks for the post, though. I’ll see if I can find a place to try them on.

    I’m a *big* fan, by the way, Tim. Hope to meet you someday!

    Like

  30. Tim:

    Great stuff!

    There are some very interesting studies on the incidence of running injuries and the relationship with running shoes (vs barefoot).

    Unfortunately, most people have been walking around in shoes for so long that they have lost a great degree of their normal capacity to tolerate the loads/demands of running/walking.

    To add to your point re: starting slowly … strength training will also help to increase the loading capacity and strength of the affected tissues, making this transition easier and more effective. Improving your running mechanics will also improve the loading capacity. Both will improve performance as well!

    I have written more about the science of running mechanics and similar training issues in “RunSmart: A Comprehensive Approach To Injury-Free Running”.

    Allan

    Like

  31. I read lots of posts about flat feet, what about really high arches? I have crazy high arches and most “flat” shoes end up causing stress on the arch and pain. I am not a fan of shoes, wish I could live somewhere I could give them up completely!!

    Does anyone know if these are good for high arches?

    j

    Like

  32. Great post as always, but PLEASE go back to you tube style video. I can play ( quite well) all your other videos EXCEPT this one! And i have been waiting for it..lol Oh well. Hope all is good with you and yours and keep up the good work. Hope we get that gear page up soon! Which reminds me..i need to start writing and working out again! 🙂

    Like

  33. Tim,

    I wrote a few months back asking about alternative healing for my torn achilles and I am back again! The achilles is healing well, but I have 9 weeks until I am “fully recovered”. I have been checking into VFF’s for a while, even before the tear, and am wondering if you know anything about wearing these shoes while crossfitting with/recovering/post recovery of a torn achilles. Anything will help

    -Barry

    Like

  34. Tim,

    I wrote a few months back asking about alternative healing for my torn achilles and I am back again! The achilles is healing well, but I have 9 weeks until I am “fully recovered”. I have been checking into VFF’s for a while, even before the tear, and am wondering if you know anything about wearing these shoes while crossfitting with/recovering/post recovery of a torn achilles. Anything will help

    -Barry

    Like

  35. I just watched your TED talk Tim. What’s the latest on modeling schools? It’s time to re-engineer schools! It seems they were created by government after the Depression to warehouse kids so they wouldn’t compete with adults for jobs. The is NO mission or purpose to schools. None!

    Kids spend at least 12 years of life in “education” and can’t seem to really do anything. How could anyone spend 12 years learning and not know what they learned, why, or have any useable skills other than remembering trivia so they could be on a game show.

    I’d really like to learn more and maybe pitch in. I’m a life coach and passionate about change and children.

    Like

  36. I’m getting a pair! I love walking bare foot, so this should be a good match. Just read your book Tim, and it was amazing. If you see an increase in sales in the Atlanta area it is me spreading the word.
    PEACE,
    JP

    Like

  37. Great post. I’ve been looking at VFF’s for a while now too. Plantar fasciitis, knee and back probs just aren’t going away with the usual treatment, I think you’ve just convinced me to get a pair, now to decide on the color!

    Like

  38. i’m really sorry tim, love your stuff… but lately i just can’t help but think there’s a lot of advertising. whether you’re paid or not (don’t get me wrong i love the products/books (like neils).etc) it just feels all a bit commercial.
    please more posts on down to earth simple things 🙂 just some pleasant feedback.
    cheers.

    Like

  39. Hmm this may explain why I always felt comfortable playing basketball barefooted. I live in Canada now but am originally from the Philippines where young boys would often play with flat bottomed sandals or barefoot at the local courts. The feel of running barefoot is awesome but can be really painful too newbies. I personally feel a more relaxed and natural spring to my run.

    PS. VFF’s in Canada will cost you $80-90 CAD

    Like

  40. I love the shoes, I am such a barefoot type person. Shoes are a pain. I need to get a pair. I hate high heels I think they are a danger, at least to me. I can’t wait to try these.

    Like

  41. Hey All/Tim

    I gain more strength by using my KSO VFFs over my custom orthopedic insoles. These last two days I’ve hit the gym with my VFFs and it’s a way better experience to lift weights (barbell deadlift/squat) when I have them on. These shoes draw a lot of attention when worn in public. I have to admit, I make a bold statement when I wear them and it’s a cool way of breaking the ice when I can comment about my shoes (only when people ask of course). I especially love these shoes for building solid calves and confidence. Nothing beats having sexier legs, healthier feet and all the other good stuff that comes along with wearing these funky designed shoes. Yet, after taking a ballroom/salsa dance class last night, I can’t say I would recommend them because of the discomfort I had while wearing them on the dance floor. Sure, laugh about that experience…I am too curious about these shoes. I did go skydiving with my KSO VFFs and thank goodness I prepared for that because I did not have a silky landing. Overall, my challenge is getting my little toe inside the toe pocket without making it such a prolong process. I definitely need the Classic model when I’m on the go. So Tim, I totally get you and I appreciate the helpful advice to “seat the heel”.

    Anyway, it’s like applying Zone Therapy to my feet when I wear the shoes. Our feet have tender parts and there is a correlation of pressure points to the various parts and organs of the body. I do myself a favor by massaging my feet with VFFs.

    Have a great night!

    Live it up.

    Like

  42. I’ve actually tried this on the last time I was at the REI store in Seattle. Unfortunately they only had the camo blue ones which were atrocious to look at for more than a few moments. That and my sister was a little creeped out since I could grab her with my feet.

    I’m definitely considering them as a barefoot/super-light shoe alternative for everyday movement, etc.

    I rarely wear shoes indoors and often times stretch my toes out relatively often. It’s a common thing in yoga to do (make sure the toes are spread and relaxed). Something I really enjoy the feeling of.

    Like

  43. Tim, I’d love to see an experiment from you on increasing your vertical jump. It seems it could be your type of experiment.

    In the vertical jump industry, there’s a lot of this-and-that about rapidly adding inches in weeks. (Gain 10 inches in 10 weeks for example.) Most athletes, as you’d know, love to improve their vertical jump. Perhaps it could also help with your supplementation business. I think you’d love deconstructing the VJ down to what matters most.

    Perhaps you can do a before and after of you dunking a basketball! Make a dunk your goal!

    Like

  44. Well, related to five-toed socks (Injinji brand alike), may be using a pair of shoes 1 or 2 size numbers bigger than yrs would solve this problem, fixing comfortably to for example make the using on the Winter pratical…

    Thanks for the Nice post, specially the link to “persistence hunting”

    Like

    • @Vik,

      LOL… yes, if I got paid a few dollars for each pair I sold ever pre-post, I’d have a serious piggy bank. Alas, just writing this because I like the shoes 🙂

      Tim

      Like

  45. To Marko: wearing shoes a size or two bigger will definitely allow you to spread your toes but won’t it also affect your stability as well?…since the shoe is a size or two bigger than your entire foot and not just in the toes area.

    Just wondering,

    Norman

    Like

  46. Tim –

    Question. My dad has diabetic neuropathy, which is a nerve degeneration condition. He has massive pain & tingling in his feet and hands from this condition. There is currently no medication to help the condition or way to reverse the effects, only pain relievers to mask the pain. He walks around barefoot or wears slippers because he doesn’t like anything on his feet. He also has very flat feet. Any idea if these shoes would be comfortable with someone of this type of condition – I didn’t see any responses from anyone commenting on this?

    Based on the research I’ve done, it appears to be a growing problem but many people are unaware of this condition – it does not receive the type of attention that breast cancer or other diseases do (those with large fundraising efforts behind them). As stated on the organization’s website, “peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common diseases people have never heard of”. (http://www.neuropathy.org/site/PageServer) Have you ever heard of this condition? Would you be interested in/able to use your blog to make others aware of this disease and any research you are able to do? As a daugther, it’s extremely sad to see the effects of this condition on my dad who is a very loving, funny, and intelligent man. It would be great if you could raise awareness of this debilitating condition that is spreading without any cure.

    Thank you,

    Melissa

    Like

  47. I have considered getting a pair of KSO for a while now. I didn’t make the purchase yet cause they cost 80-100 Euros in germany.

    I have big problems with my calves/shins and sometimes with the knees. Has anybody improved similar problems by switching to VFF?

    Like

  48. I have a pair of black KSO’s and I love them. As a strength and conditioning coach, I view going barefoot (or wearing VFF) as analogous to not wearing a weight belt in the weightroom – with proper progression, we are best letting our own muscles do the work.

    I have two boys, seven and five. What I’d really like to see are VFF made for their size. It seems like kids are going barefoot less and less due to the obvious safety reasons, but also probably related to the same reasons they are running around engaged in physical activity less and less. But one thing that makes it difficult for all the youngsters, is that so many traditional kids’ shoes are big clunkers that make physical activity analogous to running around with two bricks on the feet. I see VFF’s as perfect for kids’ natural inclination to be outdoors in play, especially for tree climbing, creek playing, and hill jumping.

    -Jeremy

    Like

  49. I’ve worked from home for about 15 years now and due to a lot of time barefoot I developed pain in (a ligament, I think) in my ankle due to over pronation. I now wear sneakers with really good arch support.

    I see that you had flat feet and wore an orthodic.

    Would this sort of shoe be better than walking barefoot?
    Other than the foot protection, how is this shoe better than walking barefoot?
    (I’m trying to figure out whether this shoe would make my pronation better or worse).

    Keep challenging that conventional wisdom!

    Like

  50. @Ryan & Liam – while some people climb barefoot once in a while, I wouldn’t recommend the VFFs for “proper” climbing *at all*; your toes are unlikely to fit snugly up to the end of every toe pocket, since everyone’s feet are different, and the rubber there intentionally curls limply around the tip of the toe. That’s not conducive to good climbing performance, and bare feet would almost certainly be better.

    Also, while Vibram make some excellent climbing shoe rubber, what’s on the VFF soles is instead the hard-wearing hiking-shoe rubber that will last for ages but has a smooth surface.

    That said, not all climbing shoes have to be stiff, pointy and sharp-edged; FiveTen’s Moccasym slippers in your street shoe size (or 1/2 size down) climb amazingly and offer a great foot workout without the pain of many performance climbing shoes.

    As for running in the VFFs, though, that’s another story. I’ve never run barefoot but I took my new KSOs out for a 12km run this morning and it was a very pleasant experience. I can feel in my calves how someone accustomed to a cushioned running shoe would need to work up to that distance gradually, though.

    Like

  51. Hey Tim,

    Great Blog! I was curious about how flexible the sole of the shoe is. Increasing the range of motion at the metatarsal joints are great, however if its a really stiff sole than it may be counter productive. I have been wearing nike frees for a few years now and have noticed with the new lines ie 7’s, they have been going backwards by increasing the stiffness and support in the shoe. This may have been due to people not really reeducating their feet how to support load during movement. Some exercise progressions like balance training–> walking–> hops (lateral, front and back)–>running on forgiving surfaces ie sand, grass–> to progressively tougher surfaces like concrete and most importantly gradually increasing volume may be a good idea. I can potentially see a lot of shin splint issues if people are not careful. However I love the direction of this product and will try and get my hands on these ASAP.

    Thanks again,

    Jonathan

    Like

  52. Just used my REI 20% dividend to purchase a classic pair – the stores are sold out – but ship to a store. Total of $65 including tax – deal!

    Like

  53. I totally agree with this idea. I have no formal education on the matter, however, it doesn’t take a genius to see that running shoes more and more have huge heels with all the air and springs they pump in for cushioning. It seems that higher heels would shorten your calves and back of leg muscles?

    I like the idea for the five toe shoe/socks, but don’t know if I’d want to deal with all the gawking and office comments.

    Like

    • Don’t wear them to work unless you work in the gym or something. I plan on buying them in all black and not wearing them with shorts. People don’t notice your feet as much if your pants cover them up pretty good.

      Like

  54. Hi Tim, great post. Saw the shoes on the video with Kevin Rose, and was waiting to hear more.

    Have you tried / do you have any opinion on MBT shoes? I have been wearing them since last Xmas with good results for my back, but they seem totally opposite in approach / phylosophy to the Vibram’s… I would appeciate your thoughts.

    Thanks

    Dan

    Like

  55. I went out and got a pair of Classics today after reading this. I had some problems tracking them down (I live in Sweden) but after a bit of googling it turned out that my favourite outdoors store, only five minutes from home (Naturkompaniet, Sickla), has them 🙂

    The store has a great 30 days money back deal, as long as you only wear them indoors. I started walking down the 11 stairs from my apparment with the idea of walking back up again. The first thing I noticed was that my toes naturally gripped the edge of each step. How cool is that! When I came down to the entrance I felt that I had to at least walk around a bit outside the house. Once outside my feet took me to a trail that runs around the neighbourhood and I couldn’t help myself. I started running. And it felt soo good.

    I have this ritual where I start going barefoot around this time of year when the weather allows it. For the first couple of weeks the feet hurt a bit as you feel each pebble and other piece of nature stick into the soles of the feet. Then the soles get gradually harder until in the end of the summer I can walk around barefoot without thinking about it. With the VFFs on it was just like the barefoot feeling of late summer. I can’t really describe how good that felt. I just ran around and felt playful and trusted the VFFs to not get my feet hurt whatever I stepped on.

    When I got back in I washed the soles of the VFFs and they looked good as new again, not a scratch. Which is good, cause after reading alot more about these shoes I thing I’ll have to get a pair of KSOs instead of Classics. I really don’t like getting stuff in the shoes while running.

    Like

  56. Hey Tim…resending from Twitter because it’s having issues after being down for maintenance.

    Challenge for you: wear a suit to Saturday wedding in SF + Vibrams. Of course it may steal attention from the bride! 🙂 Please send me a pic if you do it!

    Forrest
    @forrestbivens

    Like

  57. Sweet, my local outdoor store has these.. I will be picking up the classic ‘khaki’ ones on tues.

    What are you’lls favorite styles
    classic
    – sprint
    – kso
    – flow

    and color?

    Like

  58. Another commenter with horrendous feet. I’ve been wearing these for about 3 weeks and I’d share a few comments.

    For VFF
    shoes are great with flat feet

    shoes are OK with bunions but not great — people with severe bunions may have problems

    soft heel strikes take some practice but I’m finding its worth it

    For orthodtics — I still wear these when not wearing VFFs
    The best I’ve found are custom molded carbon fiber with a layer of foam rubber on top. That way you get the support you want with orthodtics and some give to let your arches do what they are designed to do.

    My first set of orthodtics were custom and hard plastic not worth it. The second were fancy carbon fiber that flexed a bit — a little better but still prevented the arches from acting as shock absorbers. The carbon fiber/ foam rubber turn every pair of shoes they fit in into a pair of sneakers. Great for people not ready to give up regular footwear.

    the best

    Like

  59. It figures you would pick up on the VFFs, Tim!

    I’ve been wearing them (the classic) for almost 6 months and couldn’t live without them. Like you, I do Judo, a barefoot sport, and I wanted something to wear at the gym so my workouts would have the same type of movement and balance I have on the mat. It’s worked out brilliantly. The only problem is that now wearing regular shoes feels like I’m walking around with Kleenex boxes on my feet.

    And, as you pointed out, you do have to explain them to people about 10 times a day…

    Like

  60. Tim, Read your book awhile ago and have been following ever since. Working on applying the muse concept to charity – we’ll see how it goes. 😀

    These are a great idea – I picked up a pair of Classics today, but in my zeal to try them out I managed to get sold on a pair that was slightly too small. Ordered a bigger pair since, waiting for it to arrive.

    I’d tell everyone to be careful of sizing, and say focus on your toes a little more than your heel. You can tighten it up, but if your toes get scrunched, you won’t be doing yourself too much benefit. I’d make sure to compare the online recommended sizes, check out how you feel with them in a store (Half Moon Outfitters gives you 2 weeks or so to try them out), then go from there.

    Thanks for the post!

    Like

  61. What have you done Timothy Ferriss? Now my husband wants to buy these shoes! Sure you have mentioned how great they are for your feet, but has anyone ever commented how silly they look? Our marriage could be on the line and you are to blame, I hope you can sleep at night.:)

    Like

  62. Hi Tim,

    I’ve always loved your work and the spirit of your message. But when I saw this, my respect and admiration for you just grew ten fold!

    I’ve been teaching my patients about getting more in touch with your feet, and have always wondered WHEN a real shoe made with toe-fingers will be invented.

    THANK YOU for sharing this. I can’t wait to get a few pairs. 🙂

    Dr. Blaise Ryan

    Child Brain Health Research Center

    Like

  63. Couldn’t help but notice that the San bushman in the “persistence hunting” video was wearing trainers! 🙂

    Am suddenly very interested in getting something like these, however the toes out, geeky look will never go down well here in Edinburgh where I’m currently living. However, thanks to BCRs post on May 7th regarding the Terra Plana brand of “barefoot shoes”, I might be able to do that. Look like ordinary shoes with all the advantages.

    Cheers

    Like

  64. Got a pair yesterday (Sprint / pink) and have gone on two three-mile walks since. I had the straps a little tight at first, but they feel great once I got the tightness corrected. I have worn heels nearly every day for the last decade and had the foot pain to go with it. The toe-stretching has already relieved a tremendous amount of the pain. I’m looking forward to building up to running in them.

    Great post – thanks!
    kk

    Like

  65. I just ordered my first pair! I opted for the Classics. I tried on the KSOs at a local store, but they had too many straps for my liking.

    Looking forward to giving them a test drive next weekend.

    Like

  66. Hi Tim,

    Great Ninja shoes – and this is the only shoe-related comment I shall provide 😛 I actually wanted to see if you will be in San Francisco this coming weekend. I’m scheming a road trip (Vancouver – your neck of the woods) as a mini escape, and after seeing your TED talk, I regained faith that strangely multi-faceted and interesting people with a wide spectrum of hobbies do exist (eventually one starts feeling a bit out of tune with the world where the majority surprisingly doesn’t pursue tennis, samba, painting, swimming, and African drumming at the same time…)

    My offer is a lunch, and a conversation in a number of languages (have you learned Russian or Ukrainian yet? :P) I realize it’s a bit of a long shot, but according to your “4-hour Week” theory, one should try especially if the idea seems far-fetched 🙂

    Like

  67. I bought these shoes after reading 48 hours ago. My feet are sore due to muscle strain, my sock budget in my luggage has dropped, and I love these shoes….

    Like

  68. Tim,

    YAY! Finally, shoes made for MY feet! It’s about time. My feet look VERY similar to the unshod picture. I go barefoot as much as I can get away with in civilized society. I can pick things up with my toes and have been (lovingly) accused of having “monkey toes.” I was known as “the barefoot professor” at the university where I taught graphic design for three years due to kicking off my 1 inch heels as soon as I was in the carpeted computer lab. I don’t even have a large foot (Women’s 71/2WW is the most comfortable). I sometimes buy boys sneakers to get the extra width. And now that I’m starting to get back to my exercise routine, I’m looking to replace my workout shoes. I have always HATED walking or running for exercise, except on beach sand, barefoot. I will be researching these VFFs.

    Thank you.

    Lark

    Like

  69. how good are these – I have been wearing them for 6 months now – wore them in India and got stopped everywhere – they are AMAZING – watch out for the 2009-2010 catalogue featuring purple and lilac ones – sweet!! 🙂

    Like

  70. I plan on getting classic’s in black.

    Have to switch away from strength training and change to cardio training for 2 reasons: 1) summer time & 2) no more free gym (as I’m graduating college).

    I figure I’ll add these for my next pair of running shoes and skip the gym membership. I can always do a full body work out every 5 days and retain (if not gain) mass.

    Anyway, Tim I love your blog. As far as the stuff you write, the actual stuff regarding how to FORM and DESIGN one’s life is everlasting (the book). What’s great about the blog is how you show small little stuff to fill the void (THE CONTENT).

    Big role model.

    Like

  71. Sounds like a good invention….though the problem with this is that they still only have stores in US ( or Canada and Mexico) and its hard to get them (or first try them) in Europe! But this shoes must imitate the feeling of running on the beach and digging your toes in the sand for extra speed…..must really do wonders for your running and sprint strengh.

    Like

  72. It took me a few to find out about these shoes since the Kevin Rose interview when the camera man zoomed into them as a sort of questioning joke.

    It then took me a whole of a week to go out where I can purchase a set (Adventure 16 in Los Angeles was out of stock and had to go to Westwood to another shoe store)

    From there I fell in love with the Vibram’s and how they feel running, even so much as when my dog escaped from my office and ran at full speed across the busy intersection of Highland and Mt. View in San Bernardino, catching her was a breeze at a full and grippy sprint. You learn quickly how to spring your toes and use that arch when you have to catch some serious speed.

    I have also noticed that I am able to drive a stick shift with greater ease and accuracy as compared to many (and embarrassing) stalled starts on hills and bridges when wearing my classic Converses or New Balances.

    I am glad these shoes were shown me, even if by accident.

    Like

  73. I just bought a pair and really like them. However, I have been using ballet shoes for years to get that barefoot feeling while inside. I used them when I traveled as you never know what goes on in hotels. These are great for using outside because they have a much sturdier sole versus the leather on ballet shoes.

    Like

  74. One more thing that I’ve noticed just now with the VFF’s – the toes in your feet stretch out. My friend noticed that my toes are considerably longer now – very odd!

    Like

  75. These VFF’s are great. One thing, careful while on an escalator. The rubber sole wraps slighty up and around your toes, my pinky toe gripped the escalator wall and almost got caught. Thankfully no bloody mess but it took me a few minutes to get my fore toe and pinky toe back in place….. only had them a few weeks and haven’t mastered getting them on just yet.

    Like

  76. Do you get a cut of this? or something for endorsing them? I think some disclosure is warranted here. No, I don’t expect you to publish this comment

    Like

    • LOL… relax “me”. If someone orders through an Amazon link anywhere on this site, I get some paltry amount, but Vibram has not paid me anything for this post.

      Best,

      Tim

      Like

  77. I just got a pair of Classics last week. So far they are pretty awesome. Had some heel blister issues after the first run, but they’re ok now. The only problem I’ve had is that the cinch cord of the Classics (which isn’t present on the other models) hit against the big tendon on the top of my foot when I walk, especially if I tighten up the shoe.

    Tim, seeing as the Classics are your favorite of the 3 you’ve tried, I’m guessing you didn’t experience this?

    Like