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Life as a full-time Five Fingers wearer

by Tyler Hurst » on Nov 01, 2010 42

I’ve seen people working out in Five Fingers. I’ve seen them run in Vibrams and I’ve seen them walk around the house in them. I’ve even seen plenty of people wear them every once in a while around town.

But I ain’t never seen a full-time Five Fingers guy that wasn’t me. Whether I’m in my Classics (daily), KSOs (cold days or when my Classics are drying) working out in my Sprints (or running) or attempting to learn to run in my Bikilas (still love the shoes), a day doesn’t go by without me slipping on some VIbrams. Sure, I own dress shoes, one pair of basketball shoes and some older trail Asics that I used to wear daily, but me in anything non-Five Fingers has become a rare sighting.

Full-time Vibram wearers have a host of other issues that those who wear them only to work out or even sparingly. Super hot days can be a problem and warmer climates coupled with day after day wearing can make Five Fingers a little more aromatic than most people would like. Here are some tips I’ve used to make the experience more pleasurable for everyone.

This looks more awesome than most people are able to admit.

1. Learn to roll up your pants
Never considered this before I started wearing my Classics daily in March. I usually wear 36/32 pants, but that assumes my shoes add almost an inch to my height. My cuff doesn’t land well on my Vibrams, nor is there anything to make it bunch up and keep it off the ground, so I’ve resorted to rolling my pants. I did once, on a very hot day, roll my pants up to almost knee height. I’m embarrassed to admit that this emo-dipshit, male-capri look was really, really comfortable.

2. Get ready to answer questions
If you ever wanted to make a sign to get people to ask you questions, a pair of Five Fingers will do you just fine. I’m an extrovert, so the attention doesn’t bother me, but I can imagine it would annoy some. Tips? Figure out where people can buy them, be honest and figure out a way to get a cut of whatever you recommend to them. REI and Shoe Mill in Tempe AZ owe me some serious commission by now.

These SPEEDs make anyone look awesome, but they're only available in the UK. Cheapest price to get them here is $145.

3. You look like a granola-eating, pot-smoking, almost-hippie yuppie – deal with it
Seriously. Ditch the pretense that you think you’re a super-cool badass who gets invited to the swanky parties. Your shoes are weird, you probably are too and that’s okay. Be a nice person, answer questions and smile the entire time. Also, figure out a way to get a commission from the sales you recommend (me, bitter much?).

4. Figure out a way to clean them
I try to wash my Five Fingers less than once a week, but thanks to the seriously warm AZ fall, and the baking summer, that’s not always possible. Some weeks I wash them every three days, depending on the aroma I notice. I use some spray OxiClean a few hours after I toss them in a cold wash and I always air-dry. Although Vibram says not to, I do also sometimes dry my Five Fingers in the sun, as the rays do a great job of killing a lot of odor-causing bacteria. BE AWARE THAT DRYING VIBRAMS WILL PROBABLY SHRINK THEM. My Five Fingers were all a SMIDGE too big, so if mine shrunk at all, I’m just a lucky dude.

From top: Bikilas, KSOs, Sprints, Classics

5. Buy normal colors
‘though my Sprints are the ugly blue camo and my Bikilas are even worse yellow, green and blue combination, my KSOs and Classics (both of which I wear around) are black. While I haven’t worn them with slacks or a suit yet, I feel a helluva lot less ridiculous in black toe shoes and you probably will too. Unless you’re some weirdo who runs shirtless and can’t figure out how NOT to be loud, then I can’t help you.

Anyone else wear their Vibrams a lot? What weird looks or stories have you dealt with? What about from other athletes? Do you feel a kinship with other Five Fingers wearers?

Submitted Comments

  1. My boss gave me grief over my VFFs almost every day for the full six months that I wore them. I’ve noticed that he stopped talking to me at all since I switched back to traditional shoes. Not sure whether he is finally satisfied that I’m not a freak of nature, or if he’s lost interest in me because he can no longer depend on teasing me about my feet. It’s a toss up.

  2. Hi Tyler. You’re not alone!

    I’ve been wearing almost nothing but VFFs for almost a year. I have a black pair of KSO’s that I wear everyday to work. Talk about getting strange looks and questions, I commute on a bus and the New York Subway System.

    I also have two pair of the green/gray KSO’s. I use these to run in the Winter.

    In July I switched to running exclusively barefoot (skin on ground) but I will probably need the VFFs when it gets below about 25 degrees.

    The only time when I’m not wearing VFFs is when I’m barefoot (usually running) or when I have a really important business meeting. I keep a pair of dress shoes in my office and switch at the last possible moment. I now hate regular shoes of any kind.

    The NYC cops seem to be the most interested in them. I’ve had multiple long subway rides talking to NYPD Blue about my “gorilla shoes”.

    Good post!!

  3. Tyler says:

    I was wrong about knowing full-time Vibram wearers and that’s great! Apparently @markng is a big fan and @nickhammond. Very cool

  4. Nick Hammond says:

    I usually sport them 2-3 days a week, can’t beat the barefoot feeling. I stopped wearing them for a bit over the summer since the pavement can be pretty hot in AZ. If I’m not wearing my Vibrams I am typically in a pair of Toms or sandals though. I’ve really grown to dislike bulky, enclosed shoes.

    @Tyler going to try out the Oxiclean spray, usually I take detergent and a toothbrush to them but that hasn’t been working as well for my older pair.

    Not related to the post but to the site, the comment box could use a little contrast. The “Name, Email and Website” fields look like you should fill them in on the right but the fields are to the left of the labels.

  5. Nic Fouts says:

    I’m a full time VFF wearer for a little over a year now. I own 4 pairs (black Flows, black Classics, taupe Sprints, red Sprints). I alternate between the Classics and red Sprints on a daily basis, use the Flows during cold nights out walking around downtown, and the other Sprints are my workout shoes. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn regular shoes in the last year.

    The questions from random strangers have dropped off drastically in the last 6 months as more and more people are used to seeing them (or have at least heard of them). When I first started wearing them I always had at least 2 questions when I went out (even people who wanted to touch my feet). Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for nobody to even look twice.

  6. Nic Fouts says:

    Also meant to talk about cleaning. I’ve found that Efferdent (yes, the denture cleaner) is excellent for getting the odors out of the Vibrams. Just get yourself a bucket that is big enough to hold a pair and fill it up with warm water. Add 2 tablets and let them sit for about 30-45 minutes. Rinse and let air dry and you’ve got odorless shoes once again.

  7. John T. says:

    Thanks for the post and comments! I have been on the fence about buying a pair (or two or three) for a while now. I guess I really do have to man up and accept that I am going to look strange; not that I don’t anyway according to my wife. Being in Nevada means quite an extreme of temperature shifts from blistering 100+ degree weather in summer to near freezing in winter, so I really appreciate the Arizona feedback. I learned something important from every comment. If I make them my full time shoe (a good chance since I tend to wear the same couple of pairs of shoes until they all but give out), then I will definitely post back here to let you know my experiences. I wonder if they’ll ever make a dressier model shoe so I can wear them on the Strip, since there is a dress code for some places where any kind of sneaker, sandal or athletic shoe bars you from entry.

  8. Marcus says:

    I have been wearing my VFF everyday for the last 3 months. I had to drive somewhere last week in normal shoes and I could barely drive my car, I couldn’t feel the gas and brake and I was afraid I was going to get my foot stuck between them!

    I have gotten my fair share of comments, I have random people come up and want to touch them and there is no end of questions. Many people have seen them online or heard of them, but never met someone in real life that had a pair, I haven’t gotten much negative feedback, just some good natured ribbing is all.

  9. Brandon says:

    My only question is about the leather KSO TRX. I wore my other pair of Vibrams anytime I wasn’t in my combat (work) boots. Now that I have this new pair, I am having a lot of trouble with the smell. I’m sure it is because of all the leather. I’m not sure how to go about cleaning them without ruining them. Any suggestions?

  10. John T. says:

    I can speak from having to launder my KSOs. Washing machine, powdered detergent, and air dry. On a fast spin cycle, the washer does most of the work of removing the water… they’re just a bit damp. Be sure to fasten the velcro all the way to be sure they don’t latch onto each other or other clothing during the wash. The Treks should be the same. I so, there should be symbols on the inside of each shoe. A white box with 2 dots inside means warm water washing, the symbol with the vertical wavy lines means air dry. Hope that helps.

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  12. Danielle says:

    Am I just a person with unusually sweaty feet?

    When I wear sneaks my feet don’t get so sweaty, they never even stink. I wear my Vibram KSO five fingers indoors, and even doing light exercises or yoga, my feet soak up the shoes within 30 minutes and the vibrams get soggy and slippery. Before my body is even sweating, my feet are wet and the shoes feel soaked. It’s gross! I can’t finish a full workout without taking them off and trying to dry them out in the window sill with a fan on them or by the heater, but they’re STILL moist when I put them back on and get soggy again after a short time.

    I always clean my feet first with alcohol and a wet wipe before putting them on and I put baby powder and/or Gold Bond foot powder on my feet and in the shoes. I wash the five fingers when they smell, but the problem is really the wetness.

    I don’t know if they’re not staying dry because they’re wearing out (I’ve had them for almost 6 months) or because my feet have suddenly started to sweat more. Does anyone have suggestions for keeping the five fingers dry while wearing them?

    PS. The weather is not yet warm and I workout with the windows open anyway just to decrease the foot sweat.


  13. Annie says:

    I wear them full time- mostly! If i’m not wearing 5 fingers, I’m wearing my homemade huaraches (they never stink because they are so airy!). I always wear them for exercise, and when it’s cold, or nasty or I need more protection than my huaraches…I’m in five fingers!

  14. schlingel says:

    About rolling up your pants: As I think it looks really ridiculous, I use S-Binders instead. Clip one Biner to each heel (almost all models have some rubber band or loop to hang them to) and then clip put then lower end of the pants legs into the other clip of the S-Biner. Costs $5 and works like a charm.

  15. John T says:

    The parts of our bodies that sweat the most are scalp, hands, and feet. The more you exercise, the more you sweat. Many people assume that once they get more fit, that they will sweat less. The opposite is true… you sweat MORE… WAY MORE. The parts exposed to a breeze may dry quicker; but in any shoe, where there is no way to evaporate the moisture, just allows the sweat to build up. If it seems gross that your feet sweat that much, there’s nothing to be done about it. I have had to make sure the straps on mine are quite tight to prevent my heel from sliding around (or else run the risk of blisters). Be sure you don’t cut off circulation though. Adding lots of powder (in an effort to keep things drier) for me just turns the powder into a gooey paste, so now I just use a slight amount of powder (if any) and live with the moisture buildup. Hope that helps answer your question.

  16. John T says:

    You could try Injinji sock liners, but it’s probably not going to make that much difference even though they are moisture wicking. The Vibram smartwool classics I own do a much better job of handling moisture, but they cause friction on the back of my achilles from the stiff back of the shoes. Necessary to keep the shoe on as it is very slipper-like, but I have to pick my activities carefully in them. You may have better luck though. There are Vibrams made specifically for indoor activity like yoga that have much less rubber sole and are not suited to outdoors which may allow for better breathability as well. I don’t know anyone who has worn them though as most people I know are runners.

  17. Michael says:

    Posting this from my phone on a lunch break, so bear with me if there are typos.

    The only time I don’t wear my VFFs is at formal occassions when a suit is required (weddings, funerals, et al.) and in my home. I get comments ALL THE TIME, being that I’m a nurse. I float from ER to ICU frequently and 90% of the comments come from people in the ER. One Doctor tried to have me booted off the floor because he didn’t “think they were professional”. But, he shut up after a quick conversation about the difference between my Speeds (which I dubbed my work shoes) and EVERYONE ELSES SNEAKERS, including his Basics, which look remarkably similar.

    I don’t have an issue with the foot funk because – I believe – I wear the Injini socks with all 4 pairs of VFFs. They help a lot. I only have to wash them every other month when a slight odor appears.

  18. Cherise says:

    I also use the efferdent tabs! I have found though that adding the Injinji socks makes a HUGE HUGE HUGE difference in cutting down on the odor! I wear mine to work everyday.

  19. Shanon says:

    I have been wearing nothing but VFF’s for about 6 months now. I live in Nebraska. There are not a lot of people here who have ever even seen them, let alone would consider wearing them. I get all sorts of questions, looks, comments etc. At least I’ve been wearing them long enough at work (a veterinary clinic) that most of the people that come in are used to them so I get less questions there. My boss was super accepting as she wears them to work out in, so knows how good they are. Mine get real smelly especially in the summer, but I’ve always had a smelly foot issue. :)
    I wash them in the washer with my jeans about once a week.
    The most amazing thing about wearing these most all the time is the changes in my feet! I had very high arches which oddly now are higher, I think my forefoot may be just a little bit wider, and I have almost no knee or hip aches and pains from some old injuries. I can hardly stand to put on any of my other shoes other than a couple of pairs of sandals that are pretty open.

  20. Jodie says:

    I wear mine when I’m not in my steel caps. Each and every time I wear them, I get asked about them and people have even taken photos of my feet just to show other people. I’m owed a bucket load of commission from Mountain Designs in Perth, Western Australia because I’ve sent dozens of people in their direction to buy VFF’s. I’m just beginning to get sneaky and wear mine to work now that I have a black pair as long as I have my steel caps if I need to go on the depot proper. I love them, love them, LOVE THEM!!!

  21. Brad says:

    I’ve been wearing my black KSO to work with my dress pants dress shirt and tie for about a year now. Most surprising is that even though I see 80-100 people a day it takes some of them six or seven contacts with me before they ask….about my cute, funny, socks, shoes or as my wife calls them monkey feet. Luckily I am a chiropractor and I am able to use the conversation to discuss proper foot wear. As far a keeping them clean socks, socks, and more socks!!

  22. liz says:

    I have classics for out and about. Sprints for running and Bilka Ls’s when i want to ‘blend’ with the world. I gave my second, unworn, pair of claasics to a friend and her mum pinched them and loves wearing them even if her hubby finds them strange! I agree with the commission idea… i love sharing the joys of foot freedom!

  23. MuddyJ says:

    I wear exclusively “toe shoes” I started with Fila Skeletoes 2.0 (to try them out) I then upgraded to VFF KSO’s and a “regular” shoe no longer feels right.

    I live in Texas, so I most often wear shorts, hence, I haven’t really had the “pants issue” you described in your write-up. I have worn pants with them a few times, and found that a safety pin in the back of the shoe connected to the pull loop and then pinned through the pants keeps them from dragging too much.
    When I say everything, I mean I wear them for everything, running, gymnastics, parkour, free-running, indoor workouts, trails, pavement…..everything!!!

  24. Regan says:

    Since spring I am exclusively wearing VFF everywhere. I’m a pastor and am now preaching on Sundays in either my brown Trek LS or black Speed LR’s. (Which just came Saturday.) Otherwise, I wear my Bikilas around and for running and my KSO’s for my Canada fishing trip and all around. The trend is growing through my family and now through our church’s youth group. My one issue now is keeping my jeans off the ground with my two leather pairs. They don’t have loops so I can’t use the S-biners. Any other ideas? (I’m not rolling them.)

  25. Schlingel says:

    @Regan even though they are dorky, I can recommend
    The big advantage over s-biners is that you don’t connect your pants with your shoes.

  26. moxie says:

    I have been in nothing but 5 fingers for about 2 years now and I love them. One question for my barefoot brethren I recently moved to Edinburgh much colder than NC and though I love the cold wearing shorts and a t-shirts all year (even growing up in Maine) my feet do not like it any suggestions. I’m thinking about just making myself a pair of good mockasins as a cheap alternative as they are very simalar to barefoot

  27. Ren.Dnb says:

    Haha! Awesome there’s a group of people that wear VFF’s all the time just like me! These things have really helped out my lower back by making me walk properly and not leverage the angle of my hiking boots. I have a pair of KSO EVO’s, but my new cocker-spaniel decided to turn the right one into a chew toy. While that pissed me off, it just made my buy the Spyridon MR’s a little faster than I wanted to.

    Fast forward to now, and I’m using my Spyridon MR’s full time. I’m just worried about when it gets cold out as I don’t want to stop wearing my VFF’s. So, I’m going to invest in a pair of Lontra’s.

    Glad to see there’s a full-time wearing VFF community!

  28. al says:

    24/7/365, that’s me. I go along with your statement about black and brown , my favorite ‘dress’ pairs are my Bormios and the kangaroo suedes. I wear mine everywhere all the time and have never gotten any hassle about them. Lot’s of curiosity of course.
    I don’t have any odor problem myself. My feet don’t perspire much. In fact I haven’t washed a pair in the 2+ years I’ve been 100% VFF.
    You are not alone!

  29. raychil says:

    Have a pair black classics for running, never thought to wear em normally until today coz i didnt have anything else to wear and they were so fecking comfy I wanted to see if i was the only person in the world wanting to wear em normally all the time. Didnt expect to find all u guys doing it already! Well impressed.

  30. Chips N says:

    My only question, as a potential buyer, is if you start wearing them everyday, let’s say in a range of 3 months to a year, can you easily revert back to “normal” shoes of any kind? Like from Vibrams for 5 months and back to high heels, or Vi’s for a year and then back to gym sneaks? Or is wearing Vibrams almost permanent?

  31. Tyler Hurst says:

    Sure, but you’ll notice how uncomfortable most shoes are because they’re trying to force your foot to do something it doesn’t want to do.

    I went from Vibrams to Skora without an issue.

  32. al says:

    Im a VFF man about 97% of the time. I wear mine for casual and dress all the time, all venues everywhere.
    When i have to wear my tux, i need my patent leather shoes (so far havent seen any VFF patents, but if there are any in future, im there!) Have to trade style for pain unfortunately. When i do, its very noticeable since the comfort factor is to different, plus any kind of heel and you feel like you are going to tip over forward, but its not an issue for me to switch discomfort wise. I just dont ever WANT to!

    The reason im VFF24-7 is the arthritis in my right foot. They dont make my foot hurt like all regular shoes do. (my combat boots are the only other things that dont hurt.) AND the swelling is actually going down over time. Dont let anyone tell you that they have no therapeutic value. I can demonstrate differently.

  33. Burnell Yow! says:

    Wear nothing but VFFs for over six years, mostly Bikila but still have a few pair of KSOs. Thirteen pairs in various colors. Never wear the same pair two days in a row. Absolutely love them and plan on wearing them the rest of my days. Before VFFs, I had consistent heel pain and spent thousands I’ve the years on shoes with gel inserts. I was a heel to toe walker. Got my first pair of VFFs and didn’t change my walking style. Big mistake! Got achilles tendonitis and had to not wear them for a few months. Then I went back to the Vibrams and really worked at landing on the forefoot. Changed my style of walking and have not looked back. I love these shoes. A normal shoe feels like a brick and feels way too restrictive. I really like having my toes being actively engaged in walking and standing now. No problem with odor since I don’t wear the same pair every day.

  34. Jason says:

    Thanks for this great discussion on wearing them all the time. I just bought my first pair today. I bought them because after practicing martial arts for a while, I felt restricted in normal shoes.

    How long do they last? I hope they stand the test of time.

  35. Tyler Hurst says:

    My running pair of Sprints and KSOs, while I was 60 lbs heavier, lasted five years and about 260 miles each.

    My current running pair of KSOs is on 250+ and is just now showing wear on the tread.

    In all my pairs, usually it’s somewhere between a year and five, depending on how often and heavy (running vs hiking) they’re worn.

  36. Jason says:

    Thanks Tyler for the quick reply. I bought retail so I could ensure I have the right size. That limited my selection and I got a set of Spyridon MRs.

    Already I am planning on buying two more pairs for different situations (water and causual).

  37. Al haller says:

    I will preface by saying that i am not a rough rider. At 67 yo, im looking for comfort and joy and not the warrior mud dash any more.
    I have about 15 pair, i wear them all in some sort of unpredictable probably fashion color / venue rotation (like no lime green and orange in church….:-) 24 / 7 since 2013 i think, ive never had to throw out a pair, none of the soles show enough wear to cause any concern at all. 1 velcro strap started to separate, so got out the sewing machine and took care of that. The seem to be made to my specs exactly. perfect fit, excellent balance, terrific muscle and bone exercise. Cant imagine going to anything else.

  38. Jason says:

    Thank you Al for you insight. I am on day three and have few issues. I have been conditioning my feet for many years, and only have some minor skin rub at the Achilles Tendon (new clauses here I come)

    I bought mine for work (in an office). 40 hours a week of incorrect walking is a wasted opportunity. So far going barefoot, wearing socks, slippers, and flip-flops are not allowed. So now I have proper “shoes”. I ran in them for the first time after a coffee accident. It was a joy; I have not enjoyed running like that since I was 5 year old.

    I am awe struck by reports of the ruggedness of these shoes.

  39. Al haller says:

    As an addendum, i will add that i never wear mine without sox. I have pairs and pairs, in matching and contrasting colors for, ‘The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize. Clairee Belcher’ !
    I have had to darn a few of those, but darned few *snicker* so my feet are actually less calloused than they have ever been in my life. I suppose the VFF fit is why…

  40. Jason says:

    I wondered about socks. I read about one person that transitioned to socks due to what he perceived as a design flaw in his newest pair.

    I imagine I’ll continue to have callouses, I tend to go barefoot whenever possible and have done so since I was a child. It occurred to me that shoes may do bad things to our feet. I am the kind of person that ponders how humans survived not being civilized.

    The shoe lady at the store told me not to wear socks. I’m not sure I could even get my feet in them with socks.

    I would love to hear from people that have worn these with and without socks, and how they feel about the experience.

  41. Hector Ordorica says:

    About the socks vs no socks thing. It depends on the weather and temperature. It definitely helps with the feeling of being wet and stink.

    If it’s cold I usually use the socks. It does make it feel tighter unless you upsize or buy very thin socks.

    But in San Diego it’s normally fairly warm and many people wear sandals full time. I usually don’t use socks while wearing vibrams.

    If i’m wearing a minimalist shoe that isn’t vibram though, I do wear toe socks. I really can’t stand normal socks anymore as they don’t wick away or prevent blisters in normal shoes.

    I think the quality of the vibrams, and sole, has gotten better lately. More airy to prevent sweating, while having a flexible sole.

    As long as you have a few pairs, you can let them dry outside and the stink and wear is minimal.

  42. Walter Richardson says:

    I am a full timer, I teach high school and only had an ugly pair of green KSOs. After missing two days because I slipped a disc, I was walking around my house barefoot and put on shoes to make a run to the store when I realized wearing shoes hurt my back but bare feet didn’t. I wore my KSOs to school and like it so much I got discrete black ones I cal my “dress goofy shoes” and started wearing wool Injinju socks. Now I wear them everyday. I have ones for running, walking, teaching, and cold weather. Here’s a little tip…get some cheap overshoes for when it rains.

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