Beginner's Guide To Vibram FiveFingers

New to wearing Vibram FiveFingers? Here's a beginners guide varying from how to start training in them, to how to wash them.

Why?

First, let's quickly summarize why you may have switched to Vibram FiveFingers.

It's great for improving running efficiency, health benefits (including lowered risk to injury), and more. Read our full post on why switching to is beneficial.

Equipment/Requirements

  • Vibram FiveFinger Shoes
  • Feet

Now that we have the (extreme) basics required for switching to VFF's, let's go into more detail about them.

Vibram FiveFingers models offer many different uses, so it's important, but easy to choose the right pair for you. They range from casual/traveling, running, fitness, water-use and so on. So select the right pair that fits for your ideal use by keeping informed by each models category and specific summary. Vibram FiveFinger's site has them categorized, which makes it easy to find the right pair for you.

To put them on, it's best to sit down, untie/unbuckle and slide your toes in, then lift the heel part of the shoe over your heel and up to your ankle (as high as you can).

Your VFF's should fit like a hand-glove. Tight all around, and your toes just barely or close to touching the end of the shoe.

"TOO SMALL IS BETTER THAN TOO BIG"

Fitting tips:

  • Walk and run around in them, or even do a few exercises/stretches in them.
  • Make sure you also take into account the extra space for/if you decide to wear toe socks with your shoes.
  • From personal experience and others, too small is better than too big. (Depending on how small they are for your foot size.)
  • If ordering online, try our sizing chart/tool.
  • Again, if ordering online, try the same or similar pair in a store to better experience how well they fit.

Washing Your Shoes:

Sooner or later, your shoes are going to smell like your feet, especially the more you sweat in them. To wash them, simply follow these guidelines:

  • Warm water temperature
  • Gentle/delicate cycle

And do not put them in the dryer or near any hot heat sources, as they can cause them to shrink and/or ruin the material.

Training

Now that we have the right pair that fits us, we can start training! If you're new to being barefoot, start slow and easy for the first few weeksSince if you're used to normal shoes, when you start training with your FiveFingers, you are using different muscles in your legs. Muscles that are used that much with normal shoes. Don't attempt your usual workout, and if you do, you will experience stiffness/soreness if your leg muscles. They can become sore right in mid-workout and the soreness can last for a few days. So take it slow and easy when starting off. Walks, traveling or 1/4 of your workout is a good way to get used to them. Once you have found the right amount of exercise activity, gradually progress from then on.

Your calves will most likely get sore first, but don't worry. Thats a sign of progress and a reminder to let them rest.

The Proper Foot-Strike

It's a good idea to start improving on your foot-strike, since if you're used to normal running shoes, there's a good chance you have the heel-strike habit, which is discouraged. Midfoot and forefoot strikes are more beneficial since they are more efficient for running by being easier on your joints and have a greater chance at preventing injuries.

The ideal foot-strike for jogging/running is the midfoot strike (MFS) which is when the heel and ball land simultaneously. For sprinting, the best strike is the 'balls of your feet' strike (BOF) also known as the forefoot strike (FFS), which is when the balls of the your feet land first, allowing for quicker and stronger push-off from the ground, allowing for a faster run/sprint, but with the cost of more energy being needed.

So basically, mid-foot strikes and forefoot strikes are good. Heel-strikes are bad, since they stretch out and allow for more tension on your (legs) joints.

FAQ

Q: How well did you progress?

A: I'd say pretty well. Before I started with VFF's, I was barefoot for quite a few activities which kept my legs and feet used to running/training barefoot. Mainly only in the late-spring, summer, and early fall, being a trampolinist and being around the pool was more of a help than expected. Trampoline, since you're barefoot, and always pushing off and landing. With the pool, you're swimming barefoot and walking around it included walking on cement (which toughen up my feet) and on grass to and from the house/trampoline to the pool. So my feet and legs were already pretty well exercised and tough enough to walk on hard surfaces.

Enough about what I did before I switched to the VFF side. I didn't exactly take it slow, but I don't necessarily regret it. My first run with VFF's (KMD Sports) was around 4k, running back my muscles were stiff, but I love that feeling, and knowing you're getting a good workout. After that run, and letting my legs rest for a few days, they rarely felt stiff after each run/workout, and got better over time. So even though I didn't take it very slow, I transitioned fairly well over to the barefoot side thanks to previous activities.

Q: Do your feet get sore when walking/standing on a hard surface for a considerable amount of time?

A: Sometimes, mostly when standing though. It takes some time, but your feet will get used to it.

Q: Which pair do you recommend training in first?

A: Either the KMD Sports, since I had great success with them, or similar pairs like them, for example SeeYa LS, Bikila, and more.

Read more frequently asked questions on our FAQ page.

Photo courtesy: Vibram FiveFingers