As a barefooter, I was very interested in trying on a pair of Vibram Fivefingers and putting them through their paces to see just how good of a "barefoot alternative" they are. I have worn them a lot and for many different uses -- and therefore taken longer to post a review -- because I wanted to find out just how versatile a set of toe shoes can be. The answer? Very.
The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are like no other footwear...except other Fivefingers. Anyone who has worn these in public knows that they get looks and a lot of comments and questions. What's fortunate is that they're almost always positive in nature. People seem really drawn to the idea of toe shoes. For me personally, I've never been self-conscious while wearing these, though I know others are -- or would be, and that's why they don't buy them. (looking in my wife's direction) I think this line of shoes is very stylish and unique.
The build quality on Fivefinger Sprints is very good. All seams feel very secure, the materials seem to be of good quality, and the shoes even hold up well in the laundry. No complaints here. They may not be as "green" as the Vivo Barefoot shoes, but they're just as well built or better.
Some see the cost of these shoes as exorbitant. To me, $80 USD seems reasonable considering the research that likely went into designing them, the materials used to build them and their overall quality. For all the things you can do with these Vibram Fivefingers -- and I'm only commenting on the Sprints -- and the length of use that you can likely get from them, I believe these are priced at an okay price point.
The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are very comfortable footwear...for an item of footwear. As for a hat, they don't work so well. But seriously, I like the fact that these shoes are a lot less on the foot than any other standard shoe-styled footwear. I tell people that they kind of feel like a second skin with a very flexible protective sole. If you get the right size -- which the chart on Vibram's site is very good to help you accomplish -- all is well. I would suggest finding a local store, if available, to try these on and get just the perfect size before you plop down your hard-earned nickels and dimes. I think once you get them on you'll be hooked.
Going barefoot so much before wearing minimalist shoes spoiled me. Nothing can replace the feeling of bare sole on the ground below, so I have to take a mental step back and review these on their merits: a flexible shoe with an ultra-thin, durable sole.Vibram Fivefingers certainly get closer to a barefoot feel than either of the Vivo Barefoot shoes that I've tried. With your toes able to flex individually and a very flexible structure all around, natural foot movement is far greater than any other footwear I've worn. The open top of the Sprints also helps your foot feel a greater sense of freedom than other shoes, giving this style of Fivefingers a bit of a sandal-type quality. Because they fit so snugly on the foot, they do feel like a sort of second skin, so you sometimes forget that you're wearing them.
This is where I drop in my word of warning: Vibram Fivefingers are VERY good at giving enough sense of going "barefoot" that anyone who's used to regular shoes and wants to try going barefoot would likely stop here if they tried to use them as a gateway shoe. They are that comfortable. But there really isn't anything like putting a bare sole to the ground. I recommend to any barefooter -- or someone who wants to begin barefooting -- to get comfortable with being totally unshod first. Rediscover and get to know your feet and how awesome they feel without anything on them before you jump into Fivefingers. That way you'll be able to know and remember what you're missing even when wearing such comfortable footwear.
Like other minimalist shoes, you can definitely feel the ground below better than "normal" shoes. When I went camping recently, my feet felt well massaged as I walked across the gravel and acorns covering the ground of our campsites. In Fivefingers it was fine. Barefoot it was uncomfortable.
Fivefingers are great for those places where bare feet are not usually allowed. I wore them recently to my son's pediatrician visit.
The Final Words
My Vibram Fivefinger Sprints have become my "go-to" footwear when I know I can't/shouldn't go barefoot, such as businesses that have a "No Shoes, No Service" policy. I've literally walked, run, mowed the grass, hiked, shopped and more in these shoes and they've always risen to the challenge. I obviously still prefer to go barefoot, but these are a good alternative if footwear is required. While they may lose "style points" in some peoples' minds, they certainly make up for it in function and comfort.
On the Web: VibramFivefingers.com