Vibram Five Fingers Shoes: The Barefoot Alternative

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.


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.


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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?

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687 Replies to “Vibram Five Fingers Shoes: The Barefoot Alternative”

  1. I have used the KSO’s for 6 months now, so good to see an article on here.

    Now being recommended by CHEK pratitioners, Tim you should check out Paul CHEK

    £5 discount for people in the UK

    Enter coupon code at google checkout:-


    Free your Feet!


  2. Tim

    I’ve had chronic pronation with my feet since age 20. Wore too many work boots to school as a child. I’ve started my own experiment to walk in bare feet an wear less in shoe time. I want to see what happens to my feet. I also have a bad back. Will keep updates as time passes.

  3. Well, I hate to be captain contradiction here, but a friend of mine got into these shoes a while ago and I looked into them. Honestly, the research looks kinda thin. I ran track for years and had a fair amount of problems, like shin splints that were caused by running on pavement with thin shoes and (here’s where all the research seems to be lacking) running with poor form. Once I learned HOW to run, these problems went away.

    If you look at a slow motion video of Olympic runners in full stride, you’ll see that running is a series of short hops. You’ll also see that these hops are made on the balls of the feet.

    Most people take up running thinking that they already know how to run, so as long as they get all the running gear and a workout plan they’re set. The truth is, and I fell for it too, if you’ve never been trained in proper form you’ll probably end up hurting yourself.

    I live on a pretty famous street in New Jersey that sits atop a cliff and runs the length of the New York Skyline. It’s a great place to go running and many people do run along it. I’ve been watching how people run and, with the exception of the local high school track team, I have yet to see anyone running with proper form. Their arms remain close to their bodies and barely move, their stride is more like a shuffle and they always run on their heels.

    The claim with this running barefoot movement is that it forces you to run on the balls of your feet – you can do this without buying a different kind of shoe. I’ve noticed that I seem to shift my weight to the balls of my feet in most of my walking and running. I even go up and down stairs on the balls of my feet. As a result, looking at all my older pairs of shoes, I have noticed that all of the wear seems to be in the front, with little wear in the heel; this even applies to my more formal heeled dress shoes. Take a look at your old shoes and see where they are worn; this will probably surprise you.

    In looking into the studies that I could find on this topic I could not find a study that indicated that proper form was considered in the numbers relating to injuries associated with running in modern running shoes. I suspect that if this was considered, the results would be a little less impressive about how much better barefoot running is supposed to be.

    All of the research points to the indigenous people of here and there that run for miles and miles barefoot and experience little injury. Yet many of these people don’t spend their time running on paved surfaces. They run on grass and dirt trails.

    Tim, I believe that your lower back pain was probably due to too much reliance on your heels and repetitive shock which you alluded to. I would implore anyone who tries these shoes to avoid running on pavement and instead stick to dirt, grass or a non-paved track.

    Not to be a jerk, but the marketing and advocacy around these shoes basically says “buy these shoes… oh, and run with proper form.” Hell Tim, you even end the post with recommendations on how to learn to run after explaining how these shoes are supposed to make a difference.

    These shoes really don’t make the difference that they claim to and I’m afraid people will believe that the shoes will make all the difference. Marketing did it with basketball shoes; do you really play better with $200 sneakers? Of course not. I really think that you all should learn to run first and see how that works before shelling out the cash for these shoes.

    After all, we all read the post about Tim learning to love swimming after he learned the proper way to do it. What makes this any different?

  4. Sup Tim, i’ve been wearing these for close to a year now and love them. I noticed you had a pair on during one of your last video interviews, and knew for sure a follow up post was going to come, because they stood out when you were sitting on the couch.

    I get asked all the time whats up with my toe-shoes at the gym, and it’s hard to explain in a 15-second time frame where i’m not engaged in something. Cool to see you spreading the word!

    Crossfit hooooooo!

  5. I have been wearing VFFs for 2 years now (the Sprints). I was an early adopter of them after being introduced to them by barefootted. I also traveled to Copper Canyon to run with the Tarahumara in the 2008 Copper Canyon Ultramarathon.

    My feet have changed shape to become broader and more muscular. My running style has changed from being a heel to a mid-foot striker and I am able to power up hills easier since I can now recruit stronger foot muscles and my calves are much stronger and well developed.

    Cheers, PC

  6. I am a VFF fan, too: [URL removed per comment rules] The “shoes” were a step in changing my perspective on running shoes. Now I most often employ minimally-padded shoes from the likes of Inov-8. And I tried running w/o shoes once, but with some pretty ill results.

  7. Thanks for all the info and your impressions about these shoes! I just picked up a pair yesterday, and there’s definitely going to be an adjustment period.

    If you’re interested in the Classics, I found a site that has them on sale for $50.

    Not sure about shipping etc, as I bought them in store…

    Oh, and I do not work for or represent nykayak. Just thought people might be interested in the lower price.

  8. Have you seen this brand new book on the subject of running barefoot?

    Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

    Here is the Barnes and Nobel link:

    “…convincingly overturn standard running ideas (you don’t need those super-expensive, mega-cushioned shoes!), figure out just why our ancestors picked up their hands from the ground and started running upright, and back up the concept that Nike is to blame for every running injury in existence for the past two decades.”

  9. Pat, I partially agree with you in that a shoe (any shoe) won’t make you a better runner or correct your form. However, traditional shoes cause heel-strike in ~75% of recreational runners. By removing the positive (raised) heel, by use of VFFs, mocs, or others, this change in gait is the catalyst in retaining and finding correct form. I’ve been a barefoot runner for 8+ years and believe me when I say that regular running shoes force heel-strike – this is the problem. Yes, proper form training will help retrain you as well, but unless you’re a fast runner, the heels will still strike first — instead, remove the shoes (or heck, grind down the heels so the midsole is the same height as the forefoot area) and go at it. Happy trails, David.

  10. justjenn posted on May 7th, 2009 at 5:49 pm, asking about how these are for high arches.

    I have high arches (“No,” said the woman at the orthotics store, “you have EXTREMELY high arches”) and have dealt with varying levels of foot discomfort and pain for as long as I can remember. Following a bad foot injury in August 2007, I started looking into the “minimal” shoes.

    So far I haven’t tried the Five Fingers, but what I’ve found is that the more minimal the shoe – the less padding and arch support it has, and the more flexible (floppy!) the sole is – the better my feet feel. At this point, my feet have gotten strong enough that I can comfortably walk two miles barefoot on concrete (and do). Broken glass and the like are still a problem to watch for, and I managed to give myself blisters last week because the pavement was too hot. But that’s a surface-level pain, not a bone-and-tendon-level pain like I used to deal with.

    You might get yourself a pair of ballet slippers and see how they feel. That’s what persuaded me: after walking a mile on concrete in ballet slippers, my feet felt better than walking the same distance in my “properly supportive” shoes.

  11. David,

    I suppose one of the points that I was addressing is that padded shoes do have a place in that the typical runner is running on a street or paved surface which is unnatural. The argument that barefoot running is natural is a fine argument to make, however, adding a natural process to an unnatural environment doesn’t solve anything.

    I’d go even further to say that the idea that padded shoes cause heel strike, even with correct form, is a myth. If you have a shoe with 1/2″ padding in the front and 3/4″ padding on the back and you’re getting heel strike, you are not running with proper form. This is the problem with recreational runners – they simply do not know how to run. None of the research that claims the adverse effects of running with padded shoes even mention how form factors into the equation. I’d argue that if you gave these shoes to the same group of recreational runners and left out the part about running the right way, you’d probably see drastically higher numbers of injuries than you would with padded shoes.

    The literature, websites and advocates of these shoes all say the same thing (this post included) – Get these shoes, and learn to run properly. It’s like all those fat-lose pills; they say that their product, and diet and exercise, will help you lose weight. All the pills really do is amp you up on caffeine, and all these shoes do is remind you that you don’t have a heel in your shoe, so you better not run on it. Technically, you’re supposed to run on the ball or pad of your foot and your heel should never even come close to making contact, so what you have on your feet (or not on your feet) shouldn’t make any difference.

    I’d suggest reading Lore of Running by Noakes if you find that you’re getting injured while running. The book’s about the size of an average Yellow Pages phone book and will taunt you with how much you really don’t know about running – it blew my doors off to see how much I was missing.

  12. I wrote: “I’d buy the hell out of these things if they only made them in my size (15).”

    Sizing chart says: “you might be able to fit into a 48”

    Figure “hey, it’s only $60” and yep, damn things fit and are great.

  13. I just bought some tonight. A friend of mine has had some for awhile but the goofy factor was too much until I saw and read the article explaining them in the context of biomechanics of the body. I am also super ecstatic that these can replace my rock climbing shoes (that were never comfortable) as well as my “aqua socks”. I also love that these can just be thrown in the washing machine. I am in my late 20’s and figuring out as I get older how things that multi-task make life much simpler. I am learning to really appreciate the few times I can run across something this practical, simple and well worth the money!

  14. Pat

    I think it is possible to run with good form in “normal” shoes. I also think that it is easy to run with bad form. With five fingers, it’s not that easy to run with bad form. You seem to be arguing at length for a position nobody is opposing. Good form makes the difference. These shoes help with form because you have better feedback from your feet. Doing it wrong hurts.

    Also, your bias seems to be very much toward running. Have you considered other activities? Eg. Walking correctly? Standing correctly?

    Your feet do more than help you run, and they didn’t evolve an extra half inch at the heel, let alone 6.

  15. Just bought my black KSOs from Adventure 16 last night in west Los Angeles. Although REI has them on their site, they do not have them in Manhattan Beach.

    Nor did the Sports Chalet in MDR have them, although other locations apparently do.

    Size 45. I normally wear a 12 or 13 depending on the shoe. I’m flat footed and looking to help with that.

    The measurement guide said a 44 or just past. So we went with the 45.

    They feel funny, but they are supposed to, I guess. I think feeling the toe cap on my big toe makes me think they are too small, but there is not any restriction. The salesrep (Ben) said he wears them and that’s how they should fit. I guess I’ll find out. The 46 was way too big.

  16. Tim,

    Thanks for the inspiration to try out VFFs. Purchased a pair of classics today. I had a friend in college try them out, but he had so much gear that I never thought twice about his newest thing. I have recently gotten into being healthier, particularly with running. Last semester I was 240 and generally worthless. Fast forward to now and I am still losing weight at 200. I have run into (pun!) some problems with my running; namely my knee. I hope to take some time off, wear these around, and in a month or so start up again and incorporate VFFs in to some of my runs. Thanks for all of your inspiration and wisdom.



    p.s. loved the post on Seneca. Picked up the Republic and some other classical stuff, but do you have an “all-in-one” book of Seneca’s essays to recommend?

  17. Tim, great post. Have been looking for them since saw your interview w/Loic. Up in the mountains of NH, lots of outdoor / shoe outfitters, but NONE of them carried the VFFs. For anyone in NH/ME, there is a store in Nashua and Runner’s World in Portland, ME, where I bought mine. Vibram website has store locations for for those remotely located. Tried on several pairs to get right size, picked up the KVOs in Black and love them!!! It was worth paying an extra $5 at retail vs Amazon since took several tries to get the right size. But now that have that will order next pair, and there will be more pairs, online.

    On Peacocking, my 14 yr old son loves them, as do his friends, but at stage where they outgrow shoes every few months think will wait a bit for them. My wife and daughter insisted on walking 20 yrds behind me when I wore them to the movies! Too many people were staring and commenting.

    Only sore first day, wore about 30 minutes. Next day wore all day, and have been wearing since. What a blessing to us w/wide feet. I grew up in FL, going barefoot when ever not in school, running on beach and pavement, got use to heat, etc. Feet haven’t felt this good since I was a kid.

    Thanks for the turning us on to the VFFs

  18. Does anybody have an idea which shoe I could use in the office?

    It should look like an almost normal shoe, has to be completely black and has to be as close as possible to barefeet.

  19. Wow. They should have you writing their website. There’s one thing you didn’t mention, though: the state of pariah that comes from wearing such horribly ugly shoes — and not in a “cute” way like Uggs or Crocs in their heydays! Hehe!

    I really want to get some of these — they even have a cute purple color — but I’m fat and already have terrible posture. I wonder if they would help or worsen my posture as I lose weight. At any rate, I’ll give them a try because they’re hilarious!

  20. Those shoes look really sick! I plan on getting those in the near future. Also, I always thought that having wide feet was bad, but I guess now I feel a bit better about myself.

  21. Doh! So according the helpful visual aid wearing high heels could give me a tummy pooch huh? That’s f***in awesome >:P

    Whatever…I’ll do yoga or something…maybe.

    And damn those shoes are kind of creepy. Feet can be so weird.

  22. Tim,

    Congratulations to a fellow RKC. Nice work in February! I’ve been wearing the VFF for over a year. I had tons of foot problems prior to wearing them such as general pain, overpronation etc. ALL GONE. The kettlebell training got rid of my back pain prior to that LOL.

  23. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing. Planning on picking up a pair soon, found a place in Tulsa, OK that sells the shoes. I do a lot of running and have always been told “you need arch support.”

    Have you done any running with the Vibram Five Finger shoes? ( I’m thinking like 5- 9 miles). Just curious, if not, no worries. When I get my pair, I’ll give them a warm welcome break in. 🙂 I’ll keep ya posted, cheers!


  24. Tim,

    I just bought a pair of them today. Sincere thanks for this tip. I can feel the muscles working already and my feet are a tad sore. Despite that, they are still incredibly comfortable. If these work out, I’m considering getting the neoprene model for swimming and winter running. As you said to Kevin in the video, they are great to drive in and I can’t wait for that tomorrow leaving for Memorial Day weekend. And enjoy your holiday weekend. Thanks again!

    Billy, NYC

    PS: Loved the Random episode… you guys should do them more often.

  25. Bought a pair two weeks back. Enjoying them…have used them for surfing and just running around. Thanks for turning me on to these. Agree on the sizing issue – be sure to go a store to get sized.

  26. Thanks for the post Tim.

    I have been interested in the pros / cons of barefoot running and shoes that are designed to simulate barefoot running such as the Nike Free (have owned 3 pairs). I will read more about the Vibram.

    Has anyone tried the new Ecco Biom running shoe? Ecco is not a company you would traditionally associate with running, but it looks like they’ve spent significant amounts of time, money and research into this project. I live in London and have also noticed lots of advertising for FitFlops…would also be interested in hearing what women think about them (not sure if a men’s version is available).

  27. I just got my first pair of VFF’s – the classic model. They felt AMAZING for my first 2 mile run in them, but realize they are a bit too big. Be careful with sizing, make sure the heel fits properly! If the heel is loose at all you will feel some friction against your achilles tendon.

    Go at least 1 size smaller than your normal shoe size.

  28. Hi Tim, are you very comfortable with your height then? I know you mentioned before that you were very small in school and suffered bullying. You have no problems with walking around barefoot while everybody else has a little boost from shoes/heels?

    from another Timothy

  29. I was looking for something ideal for outdoor Muy Thai conditioning – wearing shoes just feels funky, but you don’t want to go bearfoot – I think we’ve got a winner! – But for normal civilian gear, I think I’ll stick with my Nike’s, 2 inch heel and all – I know party pooper –

  30. And anyone notice that the subsequent postural imbalance that Tim pointed out to high-heel shoes is probably the reason that models (and model caliber women) have that sexy posture, where their chests and butts are simultaneously sticking out an their back is arched? I guess not all postural compensation is bad (yes I’m a pig).

  31. Got these bad boys a couple weeks ago. Love them. Perfect fit, get them snug and close to your foot. $65 in New york! Took them out to portland for some rock climbing, hiking and jogging.. amazing! I use them mostly for Kung Fu and Yoga in the city. High recommended.. wouldn’t have found about them without this blog. Thanks Tim!

  32. Hi Tim!

    Being that I have narrow feet, I didn’t think these would work on me. They were first introduced to me by tower racer, Tim Van Orden.

    Well, I went to A-16 here in SoCal and tried on a pair. The first ones I was introduced to were the KSO’s. Yeah, right. How much time do we have to get the lil toesies into the lil footsies? I asked for something easier and was brought the Sprint. I absolutely love them! Being narrow footed, they work well for me because they are adjustable, over the instep AND at the heel and yes, just like what I do with my running shoes, I “seat” the heel before strapping over the instep. I’ve had absolutely no problems with the strap bothering my foot at all. I’ve gone hiking up hill, 2.7 miles and running back down. They give a GREAT reflexology session! If you’re not used to going barefoot, they may be a problem. Since I don’t wear shoes inside or, out in our yard, maybe my feet were already suited to these but I’ve had no aches or pains at all EXCEPT when I’m on unnatural surfaces, then they get tired.


  33. How funny. I just had a student in one of my Beach boot camps in Chicago wearing a pair in the sand. I didn’t think much about them at the time, but now my interest is peaked. I will have to ask her if the sand gets in and causes irritation or not…but she seemed to really like them. Thanks for the interesting post.

  34. Hey Tim,

    Vibram’s are total peacock! I wore them to a house party when I first got them in late April and seeing my shoes became the initiation rite for everyone who arrived after me, Anyway, my only fear now is that they’re peacock because they smell so bad (I am using them for my ‘geak to freak’ case study workouts.) Any suggestions? Oh, as a side note I’ve really put these things to the test in terms of endurance and the fabric covering the big toe on the sprint model tore a bit on each side while playing tennis on an cement court. Maybe it’s just because I was so inspired after that epic Madrid Open match between Nadal and Djokovic. Regardless, I’ll take it up with the people at Vibram 😉

  35. Okay all 252 of you. Regarding all the feet issues…most brilliant foot surgeon on this planet, Dr. Ali Sadrieh Designer of unique procedures to resolve almost any issue, esp for athletes who want to be back in the game asap. Don’t give props like this unless well deserved. I was back in the run 4 weeks post-op and I’ve been running 20 years. If you have any issues & are an athlete, contact his office manager, Shu Shu, for a consult and say @ProfBrendi sent you via @tferriss. He is all that…because I am running hard again. Game on with healthy feet, my friends. 🙂

  36. Just returned with Wife and 21 month old daughter from amazing 3 month Mini Retirement to Europe/USA/Canada (thanks for the inspiration Tim! – Opened my eyes to a new way of being and to what a nice bunch you americans are!)

    Bought the Vibram 5 fingers in Annapolis MD and love them… as a personal Trainer for 14 years Ive seen some hype but these things are brilliant… favorite uses so far… Hill sprints offroad + MMA last night. COOL

  37. Most comfortable shoes ever. It’s even worth getting called “Aquaman” (not in a complimentary way) every once in a while. I like the KSOs, and have some Vivo Barefoots for the office. I asked VFF about a less conspicuous model that would be more appropriate for the office and they said to forget about ever getting a VFF without 5 toes, but that there’s a new KSO model coming in the fall of ’09 that is much less conspicuous.

  38. I get the concept and looks like it would be comfortable, but why the individual toe wraps? Why not have a design that allows the toes to splay out naturally in the shoe while encompassing the end of the shoe in an overall wrapped appearance? I think it would look less “goofy” that way.

  39. I just picked up my pair of KSOs yesterday and spent most of the day in them. So far, I’m loving them. They fit great and snug, yet breath really well.

    After reading Born to Run (*highly* recommended) and seeing Tim in his VFFs at RailsConf, I decided to pick up a pair and use them as part of my training to get under 5:00 in the mile barefoot (see link if you’re interested in following my progress).

    There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there about what you can and can’t do barefoot (or with a minimalist shoe). Even the guys at the running shoe store that sold me my KSOs said you should only run in them for short distances. There are plenty of people out there that have already proved otherwise.

    Oh yeah, and within 15 minutes of wearing them in public for the first time, I had a crowd of 4 around me at the grocery store asking me about a dozen questions 🙂

  40. I just bought these last week and went on flying trapeze with them, didn’t have to use socks which can be annoying with the net. Absoluetely love them. Got the KSOs as I think I’d rather keep stuff out…

  41. @BigW:

    I’m not sure why they put the individual toes in there, but I have found that it helps with balance a lot. Then there is the fact that it allows your toes a chance to expand as needed, I don’t think a regular shaped shoe could ever do that.

  42. They’ve got individual toesies so you can wave at people as you pass them.

    Just cruised through the comments and someone was asking if Tim is making money from mentioning these. Too funny! Vibram is making money. If Tim DID get a piece of it (don’t know if he is or not and don’t care), so what?

    My thoughts on that would be ~ if one has issues over someone creating income promoting things they like ~ I’m thinking the one with issues isn’t making money and wont just because of their attitude against someone else “possibly” making some paltry amount by suggesting they like something. Sheesh!

    O.k., back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  43. Tim. You are one of the best bullsh*tters on earth. Even if what you are saying is blatantly related to an ad, I continue reading. I have to admit I may not try these shoes, for fear of hitting my toes on a tough urban object.

    1. @Steven,

      Well, sir, I’ll take that as a compliment, I guess 🙂 I’m not getting paid to talk about Vibrams. I got 3 pairs for free, but I would never save $200 to be beholden to a company — that would just be silly. I honestly love these things. I’m wearing my classics here in AZ as I type right now.

      Hope all is well,


  44. So I finally purchased a pair of KSO’s…When I first was trying them on I did not think they very durable…so I went up to the cottage and tried them out on some pretty challenging terrains. If you would like to take a look……

  45. With all of the talk of barefoot technology this is the best example yet. It is not new to the world that barefoot technology is the correct way to go. The Vibram FiveFingers took it to extremes. Good job. You have my support. The Vibram FiveFingers will be bigger than big foot. A whole new generation of footwear has been introduced to the world and ActionSportsWeb.

  46. Ignore that first link….. if you are interested try this one…

    (a lot shorter)

    Sort of a silly movie….but I basically put the shoes through some pretty tough terrains and walked away unscathed…I am really impressed with these shoes….

  47. Tim – I know you said you are flat footed. How bad is your pronation?

    The reason I ask is that I’ve gone running in my KSOs twice now for only 10-minute sessions on a treadmill and I am worried that my over-pronation will render me unable to run in them again. They tilt noticeably inward now- check out this pic on Flickr:

    The first session, while it was quite a workout on my feet and calves, felt amazing. I was really excited and felt re-invigorated about running again. However, during the second running session a week later, my feet and legs fatigued much quicker than before, which I thought was odd.

    Then I went home and examined them and saw how they tilt inward as the above linked photo illustrates.

    My tendon on my lower right leg (right foot has more severe pronation than left) is painfully sore 3 days and counting after the 2nd session. This is disconcerting since both of my legs were equally sore after the first session – and it was general muscle soreness then, not the shooting pain I’m experiencing now.

    Tim, can you (or anyone else on the blog) shed light on this? The first time I ran in them was so great, I’m really bummed out to think that my pronation will prevent me from running in them long term by wearing them out after one session on a treadmill.

    PS While I’m not exactly light at 5’10” 180lbs, I have decent form for an over-pronator. I was going at a 7:30-8:30 mile pace both sessions with the KSOs, landing on my forefoot, trying to keep light on my feet, etc.

    Any advice (even if it isn’t what I want to hear) is greatly appreciated. Even if I can’t run in them they are still awesome for lifting weights or just walking around.

  48. I’m so excited about these shoes! My husband found the Vibram website a few weeks ago, and my first reaction was how funny they look. But I love walking around barefoot. I never wear shoes at home, and will even walk around my neighborhood without shoes. I’ve always wished for something I could wear that would protect my feet yet feel like being barefoot. I’ve gotten myself over my misgivings about how they look. I just don’t care anymore! I just want to be comfortable! So we’re savings up for our first pairs!

  49. Wanted to add:

    @BigW – Toes move constantly to help with balance as we walk. Up, down, out, and in. They also move individually without us noticing for even greater stability. With regular shoes the individual movements of the toes are lost because of the single area of the sole, hence balance and stability isn’t as refined. (I used to dance, so that’s how I know about toes.) With individual pockets for each toe, the individual movements of each toe aren’t lost. It makes the shoes seem weird to us because they’re different than the norm, but it’s quite ingenious.

  50. Tim,

    I discovered your blog recently and am considering reading the ‘4-Hour Workweek’ as the more I read the more interesting it sounds. I actually wanted to comment on the shoes (obviously, considering where I’m posting this). They sound very cool and I may check them out but I just want to say that when I saw episode 2 of your ‘Random’ show I didn’t know you were wearing shoes, I just thought you had the dirtiest feet in the universe! I discovered my assumption was incorrect after I scrolled down a little further. No insult intended but I thought it was funny…..

  51. My feeling about pronation is often caused from the knees. As a qigong instructor, I’ve seen how, when someone gets the correct alignment from the hips and knees, the feet automatically come into alignment and the arches pull up for support.

    My husband’s feet use to turn out. After a few months of weekly qigong, his feet now face forward when walking w/out him having to think about it.

  52. Tim, I’m an avid reader of your blog. I have to say, I bought a pair a year ago and wear them whenever I’m not down at my community college. They are completely awesome, and I’m glad you did a review about them. All of the research I gathered is summed up nicely here. Great job.

  53. I got my first pair (Classic) for my birthday last month. My wife will never hear the end of how much I love them–and how cool she is.

    The Classic elastic is tight, which can cause blisters or irritation, but until my feet toughen up, Band-Aids make the experience scrumptralescent.

    Thanks for showing them to me.

  54. hi, i would just like to ask since is it comfy for everyday usage? any models to recommend?

    my knees are giving me some problems from time to time and i hope that by walking in them would help my posture..

    i gave up running cause my knees keep failing me.

  55. Update from my earlier comment: I went trail-running on the KSOs for the first time this weekend to see if that made a difference vs. the treadmill.

    As you can imagine, it was a completely different experience on the trails. I’m writing this the day after I had a good 20 minutes of bliss on the trails, and I have only mild soreness throughout my entire legs – the kind of soreness that tells you that you had a good workout. On the treadmill I was only able to go for 10 minutes before I had to stop, and I had shooting pain in my Achilles for the following week, so this is a marked improvement.

    So the lesson learned for me is is that a treadmill is NOT sufficient cushion for running in the 5 fingers. I also think that landing on the forefoot vs. the heel and being “light on your feet” is important to circumvent overpronation tendencies (the longer your foot is digging into the ground means more time to roll inward, etc.)

    Another observation – it had just rained, and I had to cross several streams, patches of mud, etc. It was so liberating to have absolutely no qualms over jumping right into the water or ankle-deep mud and not think anything of it. In normal shoes I’d be trying to tip-toe around and curse myself if I slipped and stepped into the mud or water.

    Thanks Tim for brining this amazing product to my attention, it is literally reinvigorating my passion running after a nearly 8 year lapse.

  56. Tim,

    What shoe is best for running in the sand?

    I am in Florida and have had trouble with knees and running for years now (ACL & MCL reconstruction 20 years ago).

    When the muscles around my knees are in shape I can get away with running on the beach but road running just isn’t happening no matter what shape I am in.

    Because I am tired of getting cuts on my feet, I wear running shoes while training on the beach but I would like a better solution.

  57. Hi Tim,

    Just got a pair of KSO’s after seeing your video. Apart from the obvious benefits for activities outlined above, I see a great one for myself – MMA training!

    When doing the freestyle wrestling and sprawl and brawl part of our cross training, it’s necessary to wear wrestling boots to reduce wear and tear on the feet (particularly in winter, stubbing toes hurts!). These have fantastic grip – better than my wrestling boots – and as a nogi practitioner yourself you’ll appreciate the added benefit of not being as easy to heel-hook as boots.

    New book sounds awesome btw – your diet and weight cutting advice alone is gospel for myself and other fighters I know.



    P.S. I’ve 80/20’d my life, made some lists, and have quit my job to teach English in Buenos Aires and southern Brazil for the forseeable future. I’m vagabonding to BA from August onwards if you’re around for a coffee (or whatever the local beverage is, ‘mate’ is it?).

  58. Hey Tim –

    I read your post about the Five Fingers and was intrigued. You see, I’ve had problems with angulation of my big toes (my big toe leans toward my second toe). Most people think of this as a bunion, but I digress. I went into a foot doctor because I’ve had pain in both feet for the last 6 months or so. He suggested surgery. I asked him what caused this to happen in my feet and he said that although it is partially hereditary, the main cause is wearing shoes. I couldn’t believe it. But as I got to thinking, it made sense. I’ve basically been “binding” my feet for 30 years. No wonder!

    Anyhoo – I read your post and thought this would be the perfect shoe for me. And I wondered if it could perhaps get rid of my pain and (maybe!) prevent me from needing surgery. I have to say, that since I have been wearing these – I am absolutely pain free. And wearing them is such an amazing feeling. I played badminton in them for a couple hours the other day and was in love! The only issue is I haven’t tried wearing them to work yet… I might look like I’m not “serious” about my job (I’m not, but they don’t know that). So, like clockwork, as soon as I put on my heels, the pain comes back. I’m busy reading your book on lifestyle design right now, so in the near future I won’t have to worry about wearing heels anymore as I will be done working for the man.

    Thanks for the suggestion on these shoes. They are a lifesaver. Oh – and I run, too! I haven’t tried them for that yet, but once I finish physical therapy on my knees, I can’t wait to run in them!

  59. Re: Flat Feet


    I’m a believer.

    I have pancake feet, really, really flat: Two collapsed arches, two busted navicular bones, broken meditarsals, titanium pins, I’ve tried five different makers of orthotics and they have felt like walking on sharp bags of broken glass for 12 years.

    Three months ago I began running stairs barefoot after reading an article about the Tarahumara Indians and they have firmed up, I’ve worked out painful scar tissure and they’ve never felt better.

    I’ll try the cute toe shoes.

    Have you heard about Feelmax? Ultralight, ultrathinsoled. Highly recommended by barefoot Ted.

  60. Great post! You gave me the inspiration to buy a pair of the Five Fingers and I must say, they rock! Really feel more in touch with the ground, and my stride has changed significantly (I think in a positive way).

    Only issue is I feel a little chaffing on my achilles…hope this goes away as I get more used to these “un-shoes.”

    All the best.

    btw…just posted some thoughts on barefoot running/Vibram FiveFingers on my blog @

  61. Great review, I was convinced. I’ve got two pairs of the KSO now and I wear them everywhere.

    I don’t think they will wear out quickly. Most shoes have little knobs all over the bottom and stiff soles, which puts all of the pressure in a few spots. These have flat flexy soles that distribute weight and use the razor siping for traction, which I’ve found far more effective than the knobs anyway.

  62. Tim, in the chair post you mentioned eliminating your plantar fasciiitis. HOW?? All my research says don’t go barefoot, don’t go flat sole, don’t go thin sole,etc.. Basically the opposite of what you say. Does anybody have an answer for this one? And Tim, if you know how to rectify the PF problem, that alone will sell a lot of copies of your new book. I’m a 4 hour believer. I’m living it. It works.

  63. Hello Tim

    Your 3 min breakfast is great!

    Sorry to hear you have to hold your nose while taking the flax seed oil. In case you are not aware by now there is flavored flax oil now. The Cinnamon flavor is great and you know the additional benefits of cinnamon. Its by Barlean’s organic oils. I can tip the container over and squeeze it into my mouth without holding my nose. I usually make a smoothie with cinnamon flax oil(3 table spoons), including frozen dole blueberry’s at least 1 cup, cottage cheese 1%fat 3 to 4 table spoons, lemon flavored fish or cod liver oil(1 table spoon). I alternate the last to items, add some rice milk and blend to thickness of your choice. Either eat with a spoon or throw in a straw. Maybe you can help me figure out how many calorie of a meal this is…Thx Doug

  64. Tim, I just finished your “Four Hour Workweek” book and couldn’t stop laughing at how many similarities we share. Thank you for writing it, you brightened my day 🙂 I hope the elbow gets better…you do realize a staph infection is a big deal, right??

  65. tried the KSO after reading Born to Run (great read – – great info and some races that were so dramatic I literally had to put the book down to deal with the stress) and reading Tim’s blog, They are really wonderful – – they make you realize what running shoes do to your feet, they rob them of their grasping and pulling capacity and spring.. With the KSO your feet are alive and so any issues with circulation (which I have) are taken care of by the complete engagement of all the muscles of the foot and calf.

    Have not run much at all for other reasons, but for walking any distance they are priceless.

  66. I just finished my Five Fingers experiment and posted my findings on my blog, Hozaku. To summarize, while the VFF might work for some, they didn’t end up working for me, at least not as a barefoot running alternative.

    Tim: thanks for the suggestion of baby powder or Vaseline. While it did make a difference, it didn’t make enough of one.

  67. Tim great article! I bought a pair of classics a little over a year ago and just bought a second pair (gray) today. I love my VFFs.

  68. I’ve been eyeing up the Vibram Five Fingers since they first came out having often trained in barefeet in my previous life as a semi-ok athlete but hadn’t got a pair due to a combination of fear that they would be useless and no one in the UK stocking them.

    Having read your review of them though and how near to the barefoot style of Zola Budd they really are I’m definitely tempted to get a pair once I’ve counted up all my pennies and made sure I can afford them.

    Would you think that the Classic Vibram is the best one to go with to start off with Tim?

  69. Hey Tim,

    I’ve been listening to your audio book. Mate it’s bloody hilarious. An absolute crack up. Love it.



  70. What about all of us webbed toes? Almost all are the 2nd and 3rd toe in from the big toe…sure it’s only about .05% of the population, but all we need is a bit of stretch fabric (and I’d buy them!)

  71. I have been running short distance 2 to 5 miles two to three times a week for the past month with my sprint VFF’s. I was thrilled at the beginning. I am 45 and I endured back pain after every run before I started using the VFF’s. With VFFs I have no back pain at all. Also, I had nagging pain in my knees before my VFF’s and none with the VFFs. The problem: During the last four runs with VFFs, I have gotten muscle pain in my calves that is very painful. Any ideas why that would happen? Any ideas for how to make it stop?

  72. hello fellow five fingers!

    Ran my first 10 k with these “shoes” and I have to say they are awesome!

  73. I love, love, love my VFFs — and that’s saying something from a gal obsessed with cute shoes, and especially heels (though I’m paying for that already with bad posture I’m working to correct).

    I used to hate going on walks, but now I love it because not only does it not hurt (no more shin splints, yay!), but it actually feels REALLY good going over gravel. Like a foot massage 😀

    I actually have the Sprints. The classics just didn’t fit securely on me unless they were too snug in the toes — I think because I have very narrow heels. With the Sprints I can leave the heel rather loose and it’s not a problem. In fact, it’s even comfier. And the KSOs were just too hard for me to get my foot in, perhaps because I have a rather high arch. So, for anyone trying out these shoes, do experiment with the different styles until you find the right one for you.

    My husband loves his KSOs. I bought them for him after I fell in love with mine. I told him he had to try them and he did — and loved them. Now we love finding great stuff to walk over together, lol. We even wore them in a state park and had a tourist lady take photos of our toes. You can expect some attention when you wear these shoes — for better or worse.

  74. Hey Joel

    I had some similar problems with my calves also! The way I took cake of it was by adding some weight training and building up my calves a little bit! Now if the problem persist u can also try slowing down on your runs and milage and start over again! Mow if none of that works my advice is to visit a sport doc. ! Hope this was helpful in any way and good luck!

  75. Hey Joel,

    If you are running on the balls of your feet vs. the traditional heel to toe strike, you will be eccentrically loading your calves more during your run. Which basically means more muscle damage. Strength exercises are a great idea. You may also want to try skipping for a while, which may help you become accustomed to loading weight in the calfs, it is also a great way to develop agility and power. Like previously stated the best thing you could probably do for now is adapt your activity so you are not in pain, and when the pain subsides you can gradually try and increase the running volume so your body will be able to adapt to the load. When I say adapt that does not mean stop, try either decreasing the volume, intensity or frequency of your runs, or find a different activity altogether (walking, cycling, swimming) However if the pain is more like a cramping sensation it may be something else (dehydration).



  76. Thanks Jon and Angel

    This weekend I added a run with standard running shoes and did some serious stretching before my run with VFF’s. Today, my calves do not hurt nearly as much. So, stretching and some alternating seems to be the answer.

    I was a little disappointed in how much it hurt the bottoms of my feet when I ran on a rocky trail and then a gravel path with rocks that were hard to avoid. I found myself having to concentrate on every footfall and the soles of my feet hurt a ton at the end.

    I guess this is just a matter of toughening up the bottoms of my feet.


  77. I tried this question before, but got no responses. Tim mentioned in an earlier post that he cleared up his up his plantar fasciitis but he didn’t say how. Seems his general running advice, flat sole shoes, very little cushioning, etc., conflicts with all the plantar fasciitis remedies I have found on the Web. Does anyone have “the cure” for plantar fasciitis? Please.

    1. Hi Walter,

      Just using these heel-less shoes did it for me. I didn’t read the research or what you refer to, but this was the outcome for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

      Good luck!


  78. Thanks Tim. I appreciate the personal response. I’ll try it and let you know. I’m looking forward to the new book.