Vibram FiveFingers and Barefoot Running

Vibram Five Fingers

If my Vibram FiveFingers® hurt while running, should I continue using them?

Minor initial discomfort is not unusual for some individuals, depending on your foot type and running style, but you should not continue if pain persists. Transitioning slowly to build proper strength is imperative when beginning to run in Vibram FiveFingers.

I have always used motion control shoes. Should I drop down into a mid-range shoe before entering into a pair of Vibram FiveFingers®?

While some customers have transitioned successfully using this method, we've found that it is not the most effective way to make a transition. More minimal sneakers tend to continue enabling a heel-strike running form, whereas running in Vibram FiveFingers means learning to run on the forefoot. We recommend running first completely barefoot on a hard flat surface. This serves a dual purpose. One, it naturally forces you to run with a very light forefoot strike. Two, it allows your skin to function as a failsafe, so that you don't push yourself too hard too soon. As you develop a solid forefoot running form you can begin transitioning to Vibram FiveFingers. Slowly building your mileage is critical as your body needs time to build the necessary lower leg strength for forefoot running.

Vibram FiveFingers® do not have a cushioned heel pad. What will that mean to my biomechanics?

In your typical running shoe, the heel is higher than the forefoot. In FiveFingers both the heel and forefoot lie on the same plane, so there is no cushioned heel. If you are a traditional heavy heel-strike runner or walker, you might have a biomechanical change to make, but this change is likely a good one. Humans are not meant to heel strike heavily, particularly when running. Try running without shoes on; you will see what we mean. Running barefoot with a strong heel strike will send you to the sofa to let your bone contusion or fracture heal. One of the goals of Vibram FiveFingers footwear is to encourage forefoot striking, meaning your forefoot will contact the ground first then engage muscles in your feet and lower legs as your heel touches down. This style of running may be safer and lead to fewer injuries, in addition to being biomechanically more sound from an energy and force distribution standpoint. Basically, it is a smarter way to ambulate.

Can I still run in my regular running shoes and use my Vibram FiveFingers® for training?

Yes. Training in Vibram FiveFingers will enhance your proprioception and foot strength and help you run better, especially if you utilize the technique adaptations you learned while using Vibram FiveFingers. That said, if you do continue to use running shoes in rotation with your Vibram FiveFingers, we recommend you seek out flat, thin-sole running shoes that allow you to maintain the good technique you will have learned using Vibram FiveFingers. Many have used Vibram FiveFingers® as a training tool at first, but often make the full switch as their form improves and feet strengthen.

How long until I see results in my training?

A change in your running style (to a more natural forefoot strike) should occur almost immediately, with lasting adaptations within a few weeks. As your form and foot strength improve you will become more adept at forefoot running and therefore be able to increase your speed and mileage. Maintaining a patient outlook is critical in transitioning to Vibram FiveFingers. Remember, you are learning to use a new athletic skill. Many runners will feel driven to regain the mileage they were used to doing in sneakers in a short period of time. Doing so can lead to overuse injuries, because muscles and tendons need sufficient time to build the strength required for running with a forefoot strike. Sticking to a slow, but steady transition will build a strength base for longterm success.

Some transitioning tips:

  • Tips on correct forefoot running form can be found here
  • Run no more than 10% of your typical running distance for the first 2–3 weeks
  • After 2–3 weeks, gradually increase mileage by 10%–20% every couple of weeks
  • If you ever start to feel pain during a run, stop! You can always try again in a couple of days
  • Never run 2 days in a row for the first month
  • Stretch before and after each run, focusing on calves and feet, because Vibram FiveFingers running will stimulate these muscles
  • If, after several weeks of training, you are consistently very sore, you need to rest and back-off on your mileage
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