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FiveFingers Hitting the Mainstream

by Christine Skelly » on Jun 20, 2011 6

Several of us around the site have reported on FiveFinger sightings that rise beyond the obscure savvy runner. Celebrities and general well-knowns are outing their toes and have been spotted in FiveFingers – such as Scarlet Johansson, Keith Olberman and Sergey Brin (one of the founders of Google). The phenomenon is beginning to hit a broader audience than before, and after the general audience has seen them around for a while and heard the benefits they are beginning to hold back their scoffs and interest is being piqued.

Mixed feelings came when I saw FiveFingers featured in my local paper.

I was ecstatic at first, the phenomenon was getting real attention besides one minute mentions on the news and sports specials that questioned barefoot running and the surrounding culture. But secondary waves of doubt came as popularization can bring the potential watering down of the original ideals that was founded to meet public demand. When a niche explodes into the norm, compromises tend to happen. I fear thicker soles wiggling into the equation, not to mention knock offs that will try to dethrone Vibram in the world of wiggling toes.

My over-protectiveness for this brand and its ideals clash with wanting to teach people about how it can help them. Perhaps because I take this so seriously I worry about a complacent populous that will stroll into their local running shop, pick up a pair, complain about rocks and never wear them again. I worry for the FiveFinger loyalists (for some reason) that may be alienated by changes to the future VFF products due to a new consumer.

But of course this is all speculation and useless worrying.

Besides all of this worrying the articles induced, I was interested in the other shoes the article began comparing VFFs to. The feature picture was the new Bikila style with ties (which I am not personally a fan of for aesthetic reasons) and compared it to the INOV8 EVOSKIN which is a one piece silicone shoe with toes that are 3.5 mm thick. Visiting their website you see nothing but “natural” running shoes (that have no toes mind you) as far as the eye can see and your finger can click. It took serious searching to find the Evoskin, showing they make no effort to break into the burgeoning market of toe pockets. Here is their product page.

I cannot help but see this as a water shoe, but they say you can use it for trail running, so more power to them.

The rest of the article in my local paper reviewed the Merrell Trail Glove (good light shoe for running and hiking) and the Somnio Nada which seems to be a light tennis shoe with a very thin sole of foam. Normal street shoes prior to the wedged sneaker craze sparking in the 1970s, basically.

It seems many companies are trying to jump on the thin, bendable sole craze. Many companies are copying the Nike Free and the Reebok version of those which are gridded. Skechers has jumped on board, of course, and even has a style of “Shape-ups” that have divisions like the Nike Frees, and I am rolling my eyes so hard they hurt. Blatant product copying makes me disrespect Skechers and boosts my opinion of the Frees: at least it was on the front of the innovation curve in the big brands.

So while FiveFingers becoming more well known may spark new debates about who is a “true” 5Finger fan, perhaps I can at least hope that one day 5Fingers owners will far outnumber those who strut around in Shape Ups.

One can only hope.

Do you think there will be impostors trying to dethrone Vibram? Or are the competitors stuck in debating about the bendability of their shoes? Has anyone had a pair of Frees or Shape Ups and converted or still remain loyal? Lend us your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Melanie

    June 20th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I would love for fivefingers to become fashionable. Then people might dress their children in them, and women might choose to wear them instead of high heels. That would be a major step forward in social freedom and evolution, IMO, if we eradicated our Western version of foot-binding.


  2. Chris Lee

    June 20th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Echo most all your thoughts.

    Especially the distaste for Skechers. Have they ever come up with an original design? Blatant rips of MBTs, Nike Frees, Diesels, Aldos, Vans & countless others.

    Just really hope Vibram doesn’t start going thicker soled.


  3. Corey Nagle

    June 20th, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Ditto. Though, I am really surprised how much FiveFingers are catching on in my fairly isolated part of the world.


  4. Attila

    June 21st, 2011 at 5:35 am

    my feelings on the matter are a bit on the souring side…
    i love my VFFs and wear them almost all the time im not at work or barefoot. i’ve even worn them on a submarine far below the surface of the ocean! (got yelled at for that lol)
    another thing to describe my thought-process is that i don’t like mass media. actually i hate it. sure this typing on the interweb is just that, but its for a good purpose. its the tv culture, trying to “be cool”, etc that i hate mostly. you know the superficial crap in our world.
    anyway, sorry, back on track.
    seeing these wonderful shoes becoming fashionable takes away a lot of their personality because few will actually wear them for their physiological benefits. instead, they will prance around showing off their new kicks because of the social benefits when they all of a sudden are “cool” vice “weird”.
    this i reckon stems from humans being naturally jealous and greedy creatures. i admit i am greedy with my delightfully healthy footwear and sometimes after i convince someone of this, i regret it because VFFs are becoming commonplace.
    therefore, i have decided to rarely promote these shoes and only to individuals who understand the whole point of VFFs. oh don’t worry, they will still sell by the millions, but maybe i can make a difference in how the trend takes hold (who has them).
    sorry i’m a bit disgruntled and jaded. in a few more years we shall how tightly the world grips the old style shoe… thanks for reading my rant.


    • Melanie

      June 22nd, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      Attila, does the fact that your neighbors wear VFFs make them any less comfortable and healthy for YOU?

      When a young woman chooses to wear VFFs instead of high heels because the VFFs are fashionable, does that negate the fact that she will be much less of a burden on the national health care system as a senior, since her feet are healthy instead of the crippled claws that they might have been?

      If Vibram makes a pair of KSOs in a beautiful blue color, does that make the shoes less healthy and comfortable than if they were made in a putrid green?

      Does Vibram not deserve to be made rich and successful as a reward for their revolutionary footwear that has so improved our lives?

      When your neighbor wears VFFs, does that take away your right to wear whatever fooptwear you like? More importantly, does your wearing VFFs take away your neighbor’s right to wear whatever THEY like?

      The more popular VFFs get, the more available they will be, and the cheaper, too, thanks to competition and economies of scale. Increased popularity means you will got MORE for LESS. Pure self-interest should make you WANT them to become popular.

      If you don’t like fashion, then don’t let fashion make your decisions for you, either positively or negatively.


  5. Attila

    June 25th, 2011 at 1:33 am


    i must admit you are quite right. also, if i have offended, which i feel i may have, i apologize.

    with regard to VFFs getting popular and me not liking that, i’ll love them even if all my neighbors have them. yes, they will still be as fantastic as the day i got my first pair of ugly brown KSOs.

    i realize most of your questions are meant as rhetorical, but i must address one. on the matter of my wearing not taking the right of another to wear, i have been misunderstood. i would not and shall not ever consider trying to stop anyone from owning VFFs! i was not raised to impose my will on others! i have no desire to control anyone in any way!
    i was just saying that i will go out of my way to promote them to those who are interested for a more healthy and wholesome lifestyle, and prefer to keep silent when someone just wants a pair because they’re cool.
    with regard to fashion… fashion is annoying sometimes, but nearly everyone conforms to fashion norms to some degree. otherwise it wouldn’t be fashion. one of the few aspects of fashion i shall not conform to nor condone is wearing name brands just because its a name brand that is VIEWED as “cool” or is expensive. thats a silly reason to buy something and i don’t want VFFs to become such. people shall continue to do what they will and i shall carry on as before, tolerating the silliness (and don’t forget “silliness”, as i put it, is just my opinion. you are welcome to have your own opinion if you don’t like mine)

    i hope this helps explain what i wrote the other day… again, i mean no offense.


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