I haven’t done a proper review in ages so please take this as you will — the language will be somewhat wordy and colloquial but I added pictures for those with ADHD! Yay! Also, to comply with FTC Rules, I did not receive this product for free and was nutters enough to purchase it directly from Vibram Five Fingers’ website and on top of that, paid the shipping fees (I free shipping and later found out this online shop sells some VFF models + free ship!) >_< With that out of the way, ze shoes…
It was a sunny Sunday when I was down in San Diego visiting my sis for the weekend when we decided to hit up the local REI store to check out their clearance deals. In the parking lot, I spotted a dude (dreadlocks, 3/4 “euro” trousers, hemp man-purse) wearing these really funky shoes — they were black and they looked like feet-gloves. I didn’t have the guts to ask him what the hech he was wearing but knew I had to find out. Some Googleing later that evening, I found out they were Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) shoes.
Fast forward to 2 years later (after much deliberation on the Benefits of Barefoot running “technology”), aaaaand after reading this dude’s mini-review, I finally got a pair of my own. I rationalised that the cost ($85 + shipping) would be around the same price (even cheaper) than my fav pair of running trainers ($100+) and that these shoes will be more beneficial to my body in the long run (pun intended).
Vibram Five Fingers – KSO
Sizing: Before ordering online, I was too lazy to check if REI had these shoes at their stores (they do) so I just went by the VFF’s website guide on sizing since they don’t come in standard shoe sizing (US, UK or otherwise). You essentially have to stand against a wall with the back of your bare feet (i.e., heels) touching the wall. Then with a paper under each foot, have someone draw the outline of your feet. Grab a ruler and measure the length of your feet (according to your longest toe). After figuring out my size (the largest measurement +/- some fractions of an inch), I made the move. I was hoping to get the black ones but they didn’t have my size. I opted for my next choice: pink and grey!
Packaging: I received the package around March 12th, 2010 after placing the online order on March 3rd (as mentioned, directly on the VFF website). After opening the box, I was greeted with my VFF’s in their very own (easy-to-dilapidate-and-recycle) box. The photos below should explain themselves.
I liked how there was a guide on the box lid with instructions on how to fit the shoe onto your, er, feet and then there was a mini-booklet that had information on their products, why bare-footing is good and in the back, how to take your first steps in them.
But before that stepping goodness, let’s take a closer look at this shoe and its sole.
De la Sole: From the photos on VFF’s website (or even in the 1st of February 2010 issue of Time magazine – see right), you can’t really tell how these shoes would fit until looking up close (and personal) at the soul sole — then you get an understanding (sorta) of how they will really fit your feet. There’s some “structure” to the shoe in a sense that it’s moulded semi-rigidly (so it’s basically not just a sock with rubber coating), but within that moulding are mini-grooves that give the shoe that “give” when you walk, to truly mimic the barefoot experience. Now, these apply to the KSO model and I can’t attest to the soles of the other Vibram models they have (about 7 models at the time this review was penned).
First steps: Like a good girl (I am!), I read the manual and looked over the guide and slowly put the shoes on my feet. Man did it take me a while to put them on! It was like my toes had a mind of their own and were not aligning to the little toe slots of the shoe (get into your home!) After some wiggling and reassuring my toes they aren’t entering the “shoes of certain doom”, I was walking around the house (mostly on the carpet) with VFF’s strapped to my feet, somewhat feeling that sensation when I normally walk around the house (barefoot).
After about an hour with these strapped to my feet lounging indoors, my toes felt ok but for my left foot’s big toe; it was kinda scraping something in the toe-chute. I thought it might be the size (a tad too small?) but then my right foot felt fine (fit like a glove!) I chalked this up to the unusual sensation of wearing toe-shoes as the next day, decided to walk about in them… outdoors!
Let’s see, I went to my friend’s house, the supermarket and finally, Church. Whilst I had them on, it definitely felt like I was barefoot.
That evening, I felt some tingling in my leg muscles and attributed them to walking around in VFF’s for a couple of hours. I thought that with the LA Marathon in a fortnight, I shouldn’t really try anything different so I decided to postpone breaking in my VFF’s until after my race.
Another fast forward later (that is, a week after the LA Marathon), I went back to walking in them for errands and to supper (last Monday, the 29th) where I was given a challenge by Jo Nisha — run a half-marathon in these shoes (which we have officially dubbed, the Frodo shoes) and she will (finally) do a marathon. Not being the sissy-girl that I normally am, I accepted the challenge (wOOt!) and went for my first Vibram Five Fingers run yesterday (*dun dun duuuuuuuun*).
The Run: Z.O.M.G. I was planning on doing just half a mile in these shoes but ended up doing an easy 2-mile loop. I felt totally fine in them but for the weird sensation of running on the park’s pebbly-path and switching between path and uneven, twig-strewn grass (BTW, some dog owners don’t pick up after their dogs! UGH. Don’t let them poop on the grass and NOT pick up after them! /rant)
During the run, I’d occasionally look down at my feet and check to see whether my toes were pointing out (they were, but slightly >_< ) and then I’d keep thinking to myself, am I landing my feet correctly? Since the pace was easy (almost too-slow, even), I just tried to focus on adapting to jogging barefoot. In hindsight, I think I was over-thinking the entire time and should have just ran.
As noted above, I felt *everything* on the ground (but not so much that it hurt the soles of my feet) — felt the path and wondered why they’d mix concrete and mini-pebbles? (don’t know how to describe it) and then felt grass (closest to the path) was balding with some leaves, twigs and small rocks (plus the occasional dog poop! I avoided those, thankfully.)
I actually felt naked running without my cushiony running shoes but at the same time, enjoyed the sensation of lighter feet. After the first loop (1 mile), I could already feel the difference in my legs (my right calf was kinda tingling already) and my arches were getting somewhat sore but kept on going anyway because, well, it felt great ; it was almost liberating, if I could use that word with caution . I had to stop myself after the 2nd mile and walked about a quarter of a mile to cool down. Then, like I tend to do after my weekend runs, I rewarded myself with a treat: Big Mista’s BBQ brisket sarnie… Mmmm…. Brisket. Oh, and I got my pic taken with the Easter Bunny. LMFAO.
Wear-Pattern: I thought it was interesting to see the soles with some dirt on them — you can see how I ran in them (though, the pattern isn’t as clear as it was since I wiped off some of the dirt). I know I’m not completely flat-footed (based on the Road Runner Sports “Shoe Dog” test), but seeing which part of my feet I land on/use is kinda neat. Next time, I’m hoping to bring a friend to film me as I run in these Frodo shoes to get a better idea of what I do whilst running.
The Day-After ze Run: Ouchies. LOL. My calves are effing SORE. As in, sore-as-if-I-did-hills-training-for-10-miles. Now, I’m not sure if these can directly be attributed to my test run or if I’m out-of-shape (couldn’t be cos I did a similar slow run on Sunday), or even if my gait was incorrect (possibly) but MAN are my calves FEELING it. I am already wearing my compression calf sleeves (graduated support lvl: 18-24mm/Hg) and can still feel the soreness! I have to say that I did stretch after my run (after lunch anyway), but I think I missed another stretch or two for my calves. Sheryl also told me about the stretching sequence in the P90X “Back and Legs” video, but I was lazy and didn’t do it last night. >_< I think I should’ve just stopped at 1 mile, but I can be stubborn sometimes and ignore what my body is telling me! ACK.
Still, I’m going to incorporate these shoes more into my training, but not more than once a week for, maybe the first two weeks. LOL. The San Diego marathon is in June so even if I get injured (Godforbid!), I should have time to recover/recuperate (I deffo cannot run the SD Marathon in these. Too soon. )
I’m hoping that with regular use, my feet and leg muscles become stronger and I don’t have to wear special insoles (orthotics) in my running shoes. I’ll continue posting updates on my Frodo’s (and don’t worry, they won’t be as long as this one! Hehehe.)
Thanks for reading!