One foot at a time | One sole at a time | One hell of a good time


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Paradigm Shifting Trojan Horses - Vibram Five Fingers

So, it has been nearly 4 years since I got my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers...several months before they were launched to the public in March 2006. I have been testing the next generation prototypes ever since then...and it has been amazing to watch as they have grown in popularity, and greatly satisfying and validating to be playing a role in their popularization.

(photo to right, Boston Marathon 2006)

I remember how excited I was to get my first pair...they were the first shoes that I felt came close to a true barefoot feel and would also allow me to run more comfortably on tough mountain trails. Furthermore, they were the first minimal shoe that I tested that didn't fall apart after 20 miles of hard trail running.

My progress with the FiveFingers came fast and furious, but keep in mind, I had already been running for nearly 2 years barefoot, and had already completed several road marathons barefoot.

Some of the firsts I was privileged to do wearing Vibram Fivefingers include the first marathon, first Boston marathon and Boston qualifying marathon, first ultra marathon and first 100 mile trail race in VFFs.

I really felt that I was playing a small part in facilitating a stretching of our collective imaginative boundaries of what is possible and looked forward to seeing others stretch their own boundaries, carrying our fundamental human capacity, to run, further along while at the same time more closely mimicking the way our ancestors moved...on foot.

(photo left Los Angeles Marathon 2006)

I still think that barefoot is best, but barefoot is free..., and I always knew that the only way barefooting was going to become a true, mainstream hit was that there was going to have to be a product...something people could buy. And the VFF is that product..., or from my perspective, Trojan Horse.

The Vibram Fivefinger is a foot glove. No support, no real cushioning. Yet, it is a thing I can buy. A solution that can be purchased. Consumer cultures feel comfortable with it. But what is its real message? It seems the real message of the VFF is that your foot is just fine AS IT IS! That regaining strength and range of motion in your foot is a worthy goal. That you are not broken by default.

Furthermore, I wanted to see the concept of barefoot running enter into the dialogue of contemporary popular culture. The publishing of McDougall's book "Born to Run", from my point of view, was a pivotal, paradigm shifting moment in the re-awakening of the American consciousness about barefooting and our capacities as humans...before the addition of the padded shoe.

So run free if you wish, or buy a pair of VFFs or other minimal shoe, but always remember, you already have the best pair of shoes you will ever own...and they are the only ones that are self-nourishing, self-healing and get stronger and smarter with use...the only ones you can grow...by eating.

(photo left by Luis Escobar, 2006 Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon)

Viva barefoot.

Barefoot Ted

Order Vibram FiveFingers from here and smile :-)

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Blogger Boris T. said...

Great post! I agree that in todays culture free is not good enough and that something only has value and is worth doing if it has a price tag attached. Funny we can't even walk 'barefoot' without paying for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

It's just a fact of our culture...and I am happy to work within our cultures definitions...while at the same time pushing the boundaries of them...and bringing new ideas to fit within them. Expanding them. Not pretending they don't exist.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blogger Boris T. said...

A bit off topic Ted, but how would I search your site for past blog posts? There doesn't seem to be a button with that option.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

Take a look on the right hand column...you'll find a search there, or click use this link:



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anonymous Dax said...

I think this is only partially true. Although my n = 1, I do think that people just feel more comfortable having some form of protection, even if it is just from dirt. Running in the city, like I've always done, you are bound to step in the most vile crap you can come across: dog poo, rotting trash, enormous snails (and sometimes you spot them too late resulting in a squish and an unfortunately dead snail), glass, etc. Although your feet can handle that, especially after a while of running, it's still disgusting and potentially dangerous. Even more for people who do not have toughened soles, yet.

This is were VVFs and Feelmax' come in. They provide a way for people to come close to barefoot running, or at least a true minimalist form of running, without the yuk and danger factor.

By the way, why are racing flats not flat?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blogger Bleeet said...

Thank you, BFT. I've only recently started barefooting it. I started in late-August, and it's been great! Unfortunately, I went for a run on October 1 in rain and temps of about 42 degrees F. My toes got numb and weren't responding to the street, and I essentially rubbed one of them down quite seriously without realizing it.

I've been limping for two weeks, because it takes a while for that size of an abrasion to heal, especially on the bottom of your toe.

I live in Minnesota, and I'm definitely wanting to run barefoot outside, even in the middle of winter. Just bought my first pair of VFF, should arrive today. I've been told the KSO model keeps your feet warm. I hope that's the case.

What's your experience with cold weather running barefoot vs. VFF? I was wondering if my experience with numb toes and a greater propensity for serious abrasions was typical.

(I fully intend on running only barefoot once it warms up again!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

Howdy Dax

Yes, I can easily agree with you comments and add also the cold and times when you need a shoe.

So, as I guess you already see, I am not dogmatically barefoot.

I think the Trojan Horse idea is the sense the best minimalist shoe is not doing anything to support or control our foot. Just making it a little safer perhaps...or warmer.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blogger Piper said...

I'm curious why a minimalist shoe needs "fingers". Is that part of the consumer thing, too? That a pair of cheap aqua socks isn't enough of a trojan horse because they're only $6?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

I personally think that the articulation of the toes, individually, is extraordinarily important for runners. Many have their big toe rise at landing while the other toes stay down. If you have all your toes on the same plane, this bio-mechanical motion is messed up.

So, at the very least, IMHO, a shoe should have a big toe that can move freely separate from the smaller toes.

Also, the splaying of the forefoot is an important part of landing...if toe box is too narrow, that is a bad thing.

The other part of the VFF is that they look like you foot...reminding you and everyone else of what the fundamentally best thing about the foot is...that it is a foot. :)


Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogger Jim said...

CNN Interview

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anonymous Chad Randolph said...

Agreed, BFT. I've been running in my Fivefingers (one pair KSO and the other Classics) since the beginning of the year and have enjoyed them immensely. Now I'm trying some pure barefoot running and am experiencing something truly different, namely unadulterated contact with the ground. It's been tough going, but I'm up to a mile barefoot. I think I'll use barefooting as a means of cross-training, at least for now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogger Michael McCormick said...

Running completely barefoot is a radical argument, something that 99% of people will dismiss out of hand, as something that only crazies would do, something they would never do themselves. VFFs are a great intermediate step: different enough to be noticed, but not so different as to be dismissed.

I've been in VFFs for four months now, and I can't imagine going back to shoes - last time I tried I hated it. I just finished a half-marathon in them and got a few chances to talk them up.

Next spring when the warm weather returns, I'll be trying out even less - maybe some sandals, maybe nothing. Thanks, Ted, for showing the way!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogger Mithun said...

Hi BFT, I have to say that I completely agree with the essence of the post. I do have a question though. Isn't it true that barefoot, the nature's way, best when you are truly running on natural terrain? If you are running on cemented, asphalted surface, astro-turf or even tread mill, aren't we using our feet on places where they were not originally designed for? Shouldn't you be using shoes for those runs?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blogger T-Money said...

Hey BFT,

Love the site. I would agree that it is important to stress to everyone who decides to switch from shoes to vff, to take the time to run completely barefoot for at least a few months. I was one of those who made the jump straight from motion control shoes to vff expecting instant results.

It took running completely barefoot for me to figure out the stride best for my body (5'10") 200lb. Now I alternate between barefoot and vff depending on the weather/conditions. There's just something magical about feeling the ground beneath your sole that isn't conveyed by the vffs. Personal note, running on a layer of pine needles over smooth sidewalks is sublime.

Thanks for all you do. Should you ever make it to Birmingham AL, let me know, I'd love to join you for a long barefoot run.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blogger Mushtaq Ali said...

I was in the local runner's store yesterday, the only store in West Michigan that sells VFF. The clerk told me that this time last year they couldn't sell a pair to save their lives, this year they can't keep them on the shelves. They sold out their entire stock of Treks in 24 hours.

If that's what's going on in as conservative a part of the country as I live in then VFF have, I think, gone viral.

I think the popularity of "Born to Run" and the description of you using VFF was the tipping point.

Good on ya for that!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blogger pocketina said...

I think it's an interesting cycle of Born To Run, barefoot proponents like yourself, and VFF:

1. Barefoot running didn't have a product associated with it before, so no brand for people to become fans of.
2. VFF needed a larger consumer base.
3. Born To Run: both 1 & 2 needed a philosophy to get behind, which I think is the theme within the stories of the Tarahumara/Caballo Blanco, the author, and Barefoot Ted. I think the evolutionary biology data was very persuasive too.

And at that point, for people like me, all the elements were there: the
examples of people actually doing this, the means to run while protecting the skin of my feet, and the fundamentals of barefoot mechanics, which I'd never really experienced before.

I actually had a pair of VFFs a year & a half ago, and couldn't get used to them: back then, the salespeople weren't as knowledgeable about how they're supposed to fit. This year, I went to the Pedestrian Shop in Boulder & bought a pair with expert assistance, including advice on how to run/walk, and even what kind of toe socks help prevent blisters. I'm a true convert, now.

Even if I drift away from VFFs someday, I've got a very healthy skepticism about assistive shoes, orthotic solutions, and most of all, the idea that shoes can make up for poor biomechanics. And I'm grateful to you, Ted, as well as all the other pioneers, for that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Dweendaddy said...

As far as cold goes.. I was getting too cold running in Classics under 20 degrees fahrenheit for more than 30 minutes, so I bought a pair of Flows, which I wear when the temperature is less than 30, but below 15 or so I get out my one old pair of "typical" running shoes and feel like I have snowshoes on!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blogger Piper said...

I recently tried barefoot running and got such pain in my legs I could barely walk for a week. I don't run much anyway. I was hoping to start. I think I'll stick to walking and hiking.

I bought some VFFs when they first came out hoping to use them for walking but they didn't fit. My little toes just don't fit in them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blogger Turner said...

Barefoot Ted,

Barefoot runner Turner here blogging from New Zealand, spreading the word on the fivefingers, which are few and far between over here. I'll be reporting on a particular comfortable 9K run in the hills of Bombay in a few days; thanks for spreading the word!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post "No teme" in your blog with the link to you?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post "No teme" in your blog with the link to you?

Sure. But what is "no teme"?


Monday, November 02, 2009

Blogger PapaBear16 said...

I haven't read all the comments, so I'm sorry if someone has already said this.

BFT, I love the Vibrams as you do, but I believe they serve a purpose beyond commercialization of barefooting. (Although, like you, I can accept that commercialization for what it is.) That purpose is, they open up "barefoot" running to more casual runners, such as my self.

See, I'm a weightlifter primarily. I run mostly for fun and as active recovery from lifting - I'm not doing marathons or trying to break the 4:00-minute mile. Since I'm largely stuck running on pavement, I doubt that I could get my feet into proper condition, nor maintain that condition, to really run barefoot. After all, I'm only doing 3-5 miles every other days, with the occasional longer run thrown in. It's too bad our modern, shoed world has softened my feet to that degree, but there it is.

However, with Vibrams, I run "barefoot" all the time. My muscles have adapted, and I feel wonderful doing it. But I don't have to worry about hardening my feet or anything of the like, nor do I have to worry about taking a week off from running and then being limited because the soles of my feet have softened again.

For a runner like me, Vibrams are a real blessing.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Blogger Raramuri said...

Hi Ted,

the book born to run(and your involvement) brought me to the 5 fingers KSO and I am able to run 15km with them on a mix of normal roads and dirt roads. I run for over 30 years now with a marathon pr of 2:25H but it feels I just started to run again. Of course there is no cushion and the body needs to adjust but as I am not aiming to beat PR's anymore I have the greatest fun in life using the fingers..I hope in 3 years by the age of 50 to run a marathon with them. Thanks for the inspiration also from your blog.
Best Regards from Germany,

Monday, November 09, 2009

Anonymous rebecca said...

Like Michael, the book Born to Run got me into barefooting! I try to run barefoot wherever possible and VFF's are the perfect way to enable me to do this! I love my Sprints and i'm now keen to get a pair of KSO's... i've just seen them with a 20% discount from LoveThoseShoes.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blogger IslandCatholic said...


Thank you for promoting barefoot running! I read "Born To Run" in the late spring and got interested in running. My wife and I got FiveFingers in the summer.

Well, yesterday, we ran our very first half marathon, the Seattle Half Marathon, and we wore our FiveFingers! I've got sore legs, but my feet feel completely normal today. Not a single blister or bruise.

I'm 40 years old and have never run more than 3 miles until yesterday. My legs and feet always hurt too much to go farther than that. I figured I would walk the majority of the course. Yet, because of running in my FiveFingers and running "properly", I was able to run the entire race. IT WAS AWESOME!

I definitely want to thank Christopher McDougall, you, and Vibram for my successful day yesterday!

Seattle Half Marathon 2009
Time: 2:54:40

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blogger Brent said...

Another Great Post! I've been reading your blog since July 31st of this year. That was a pivotal day for me. True story, on that day, I ran my first 50K run. It was the last day I ran in shoes, as I injured my knee. That evening, I was in a bookstore and bought Born to Run and haven't looked back. I own several pairs of VFFs and wear them exclusively (my office is casual). My shorter runs have gone completely free, which leads me to a humorous story. This morning, out running "free" (I live in FL) the cops where called as it was 'unnatural' for someone to running down the street w/o shoes on. Keep spreading the word, you are an inspiration!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Blogger Louisa said...

I started running two months ago, in a pair of Mizunos. Two weeks ago, I got Born to Run from the library on a whim. I've now read it four times (I know that's excessive, but I just wasn't ready to let it go yet!). It made me want to try barefooting it, but I live in Pennsylvania and it's getting cold out and will only get colder and I don't have a treadmill, so I promised myself I'd try it in the spring.

Well, last week I started having symptoms of runner's knee- probably because of poor mechanics, even though I was trying to have a midfoot strike and light motion. I was desperate not to lose the progress I'd made, from being absolutely out of shape to being 20 pounds lighter and able to run two miles. So I looked up the VFF and found out there was a store in town that sold them.

Last night I went for my first run in my brand new KSOs. I didn't just run two and a half miles- I ran two and a half miles and my breathing stayed normal. I sprinted half a block just for the hell of it and could keep jogging afterward. I got home and my knee hurt less than it did before I started! And today, although my knee still hurts some, I'm not otherwise sore. These shoes are truly amazing and I'm so glad I bought them.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Anonymous Sarah said...

I love my Flows especially when the weather gets colder and wetter :) I saw Pipers comment about the fingers and I have friends comment that they just look so strange that they wouldn't even entertain the prospect of wearing them which I find really dissapoitning because they are so great and the separation is key! In saying that, I did manage to bring a friend of mine on board as a barefooter by introducing her to other barefooting trainers out there which were a bit easier on the eye...

She now wears Feelmax and absolutely loves them. She works in a nursery and wears her Black Kuusaa's under trousers so she has found a way to incorporate barefoot into her everyday life!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if Vibram changed the sizing on the VFF KSO's? The size chart says a 41 is 10 1/2 inches. I do not remember them being that big to begin with.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Anonymous kelly said...

It's been two months since you posted anything on this blog. What's new?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

For a place to ask more questions and more-likely-than-not to get an intelligent answer to a question about minimalism or barefoot running, please visit:

The Minimalist Runner Google Group:


Best Regards, Barefoot Ted

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blogger Debzillah said...

I desperately long for a pair of 5 fingers, but alas my 2nd and 3rd toes on both feet are webbed, making them impossible for me to wear. I'm stuck in nike frees :(

Friday, December 25, 2009

Blogger halod1 said...

I run 10ks reasonably comfortably 3 or 4 times a week and got around to giving barefoot running a try 3 evenings ago (while my son had football practice). Did the 3.4km Waikawa Walk circuit in the Redwoods forest at Rotorua, NZ. After 1 lap the soles of my fron toes were a little tender and I said to myself before looking "No blood and you do another lap. Any at all and you stop now". Did 2 more laps. Felt great, but my upper calves have only now calmed down. I will be trying a footpath barefoot run tomorrow of about 10k so will be interesting to see how the calves go.
I see there is a place at Rotorua that sells the VFFs so better get me a pair so I too can be a consumer (having to make an effort to get Italian shoes beats picking from the rows of aisles at the local sports shop) and step it out on some of my favourite tracks that I know have mean sharp rock.
Also browsed "Born to Run" but was too slow to buy - its sold out until May here in NZ.
Thanks for the inspiration Ted and co.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blogger Adam said...

Hey Barefoot Ted, I was doing some research on Vibram Five Fingers and found your blog.

I've heard a mixture of good and bad things about them.

We've just got them in where I work and while I'm tempted to give them a try, I'm not sure if they would be right for me due to my crooked toes.

Wondered if you could give me any advice or info before I find out the hardway :)

Cheers -Adam

Monday, April 19, 2010


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