These Vibram Five Fingers are remarkable shoes. They were, I admit, met with a healthy dose of scepticism… until I first wore them out. The experience was singular, liberating and hugely positive. Once I’d got over the look (my two year old calls them my ‘monster feet’), they slipped on like a pair of socks and stayed comfortable for two long days out. Compared with many other shoes, you do feel the floor more, but nowhere near what you’d imagine – and around the same as other low-drop minimalist shoes. Even when walking on rocky paths the protection under the foot and around the toes was impressive. This model is designed for walking, but I have tried them several times trail running and the feeling of spiky rocks is more acute. I’m not ready to make that leap with running shoes yet.
Surprisingly, they also feel incredibly stable. Toes are making constant adjustments when walking and running, and these allow you to balance as though walking barefoot. Another concern I had was the protection of the toes, but the sole comes around each toe and slightly above the nail which I found adequate. They do need to fit perfectly – it would get uncomfortable if you couldn’t straighten your toes out, for example. The sole is ‘sticky’ and felt positive on rocks (I’m looking forward to trying them scrambling). The only time I really noticed the ‘five fingers’ was walking through long grass that dragged slightly on the abrasive rubber and occasionally between the toes, but I wouldn’t consider it a serious drawback. When I have run in them, I did become aware of some clamminess because there’s no need for socks.
The weight is a real bonus. They weigh a mere 352g for a size 11. The uppers are a mesh and dry quickly, although hold no resistance to water. They grip well around the heel and a simple Velcro strap holds them firmly to the foot.
There’s no doubt that I’ll continue to wear these walking. Because they are so light, I’m planning to take them alongside a heftier pair of boots on an upcoming backpacking trip in the Eastern Highlands. I may get a few funny looks, but hey, I for one will be going back to my monster feet, and next time you’re in an outdoor shop I’d urge you to at least try them on.