Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Initial impression of the VFFs

I just came back from a long walk in the Zurichberg woods and I wanted to give my initial impression of how I found the VFFs or Vibram FiveFingers.  As I have already mentioned, looks wise they are strange and I don't think they will ever look sexy regardless of how popular they become.

Me in my VFFs

It didn't take me that long to get them on.  Contrary to some other reviews that I was reading, I managed to put each shoe on correctly in about 1 minute.  I am not sure why it took some people as long as 10 or 15 minutes.  Maybe the model that I chose is easier to put on.

As I walked out of the door I was already able to notice the texture of the pavement.  It is not the same as walking barefoot but you can easily tell what kind of surface you are walking on.  The other thing that I instantly liked was the fact that I could feel a breeze blowing through the glove.  I can imagine that in winter they would be a bit cold though, and that Injinji toesocks (the socks I used in the MDS where your toes are separated) would come in useful.

My feet started to sweat almost immediately in the VFFs and it will be interesting to see how long it takes before they start to smell.  The label says they are machine washable so at least it should be easy enough to clean them when needed.

For my 2 hour walk the shoes felt very comfortable - more comfortable than normal shoes in fact.  I cannot feel any pressure points and the only slight discomfort is the sweatiness of my feet due to the material, but this I can live with.

I walked over various surfaces in the forest, and there were only 2 times when I felt a little discomfort.  Both times this was when I stepped on a sharp stone, and it would have been much worse had I not been wearing the VFFs.  I think the balance between being able to sense the terrain beneath your feet and protecting your feet is very good.  I assume that after a lot of walking in the VFFs my feet would start to toughen up and small sharp stones would no longer be an issue.  Probably wearing the VFFs regularly off road would have been a great way to toughen my feet up for the Marathon des Sables.

Now that I am back in the house, my feet feel as though they have been massaged and they feel stimulated. It is almost as though someone woke them up from a long sleep.  Running in the VFFs is going to be very interesting as I can imagine I will have to be a lot more careful where I step with the extra impact of running compared to walking.  I will start running in the VFFs step by step and at first only for very short distances and for short times.  I will keep you updated on how that goes.


  1. Interesting. In my running (nearly all street running but some off road) I ended up concluding that I need a lot of cushioning. Before I got my last pair of running shoes I was getting shin splints I am pretty sure due to the previous pair loosign their cushioning.

    Do you think you could get so used to those VFFs that you could cope with running on stones and loose rock?

    I also had a thought for how one could toughen their feet for events like the MDS, from reading your accounts. What if you did training runs in all kinds of shoes and mixed it up a lot so you never got used to any of them apart from the proper runing shoes? Could do a run in walking boots, army boots, old proper shoes, tennis shoes etc etc.

  2. I only got shin splints when starting running after a break. Once the muscles strengthened up they went away. You can do exercises at your desk where you lift your toes up towards you whilst keeping your foot still. Repeat that each day for maybe 10 minutes and those muscles will get stronger and maybe the shin splints will go away. The more cushioning your shoe gives you the less work your foot has to do to absorb the impact and the worse your running style can be whilst still managing to get away with it, so I wouldn't want to go for that approach myself.

    If you like we could both sign up for MDS 2014 and try out separate approaches with regards to toughening up feet and see which works best. Your approach may work too. The ideal is that your feet become tough but the skin should still be flexible so it doesn't crack. That is why their are differing opinions on the use of products such as surgical spirit. It makes your skin tough for sure, but it also makes it dry. Those against it say that means the blisters will be deeper and more serious.

    I really wish I had the contact details of the Japanese guy who ran in Vibram FiveFingers in the MDS to see how he got on. I can imagine his feet were a complete mess. I don't think I would ever try that myself. Training runs yes but in a race like the MDS I would want something more substantial to protect my feet from impact and bruising. Maybe one day some ever crazier person will run the MDS barefoot.

    Are you tempted by the MDS 2014 Pete?