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Vibram FiveFingers Are The Worst Shoes For Your Feet

by Brian Patterson » on Sep 13, 2011 47

Well, at least according to this lady.

Dr. Hillary Brenner, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine

Dr. Brenner recently contributed to an article on WebMD titled “The Worst Shoes For Your Feet”.  We were completely blown away to see minimalist shoes as a group included in her list, and she specifically calls out FiveFingers.

The Worst Shoes for Your Feet!

The best part of it all may be this little writeup to go along with the photo:

Newer additions to the shoe scene are minimalist shoes. They aim to mimic the natural feel and mechanics of walking barefoot. Brenner is not impressed. “There’s no support for your heel or arch and no shock absorption,” she says. In addition, in some brands, the “fingers” separate the toes, interfering with the natural walking position.

Crazy right!?!  I mean… shoes that mimic the natural feel and mechanics of walking barefoot?  How dare they claim to be good for your feet!  [sarcasm]

I also find it ironic that she feels that your toes being spread out is bad.  Maybe she should take a look at this post, which has photos of feet that have never worn shoes.  Those toes are very spread out.

Dr. Brenner certainly gets around in the publicity realm, as a quick google search of her name brought up her contributions to foot issues on,,, and other publications.  She seems to be a big supporter of arch support, foot padding, orthotics, and anything else that takes away from the natural abilities of your feet.  To borrow her phrase, “I’m not impressed”.

I’m sure Dr. Hillary Brenner means well, and has great credentials, but I’ll side with the research of these guys.

Rant over. Steps off soapbox.

Submitted Comments

  1. Alexander says:

    Well, there are two ways of being, you can be a strong athlete with strong feet developed just they should be developed for working barefoot and contribute or you can wear shoes with protectors, eat a lot of wood and drive your car instead of walking and running. The choice is always up to you. Moreover, according to different sources there are NO peer-reviewed sources which prove that ANY shoes actually DO absorb any shock. So, it is even more disgusting…

  2. Dan says:

    I love how the article claims that shoes that are designed to “mimic the natural feel and mechanics of walking…[are] interfering with the natural walking position” HAH!

  3. Alexander says:

    The interesting thing is that actually she blames almost all shoes except some kind cushioned sneakers. Yeah, of course, there is hard boots of difficult routes but i do not think she actually considered them when she was writing this. :( It seems like the article is biased and just promotes cushioned sneackes which started to lose their positions on market, maybe. Moreover, there were no actual observations or tests, just theory.

  4. Jon says:

    Highly amused by the ‘expert’ opinion. I can only go with my own experiences since changing from traditional running shoes to vff’s. Lower back pain – gone. Regular knee pain – gone. Yes it took a while to transition and yes I made the mistake of pushing too far, too fast. But as with anything, regular practice helped and now I’m a better runner than I have ever been. Anecdotal? Yes. Unique. Not in the slightest.

  5. Charlie says:

    It’s hard to read the articles because of the annoying ad puts on top it. You can hardly read the ad and there appears to be no way of closing it.

  6. Michele says:

    Wow, Dr. Brenner even says walking barefoot is bad for your feet and leads to plantar fasciitis (page 11 of her article on webMD). How did our ancestors ever survive before “proper” shoes were developed???

  7. summer says:

    not that it makes a difference but I have worked with many doctors and PAs and none of them put any merit into web MD. So I never use the site. love my VFFs and will continue to love them.

  8. Dan says:

    Hey Charlie,

    Thanks for pointing this out. We’ve fixed it. If you have problems in the future be sure to shoot us an email at and we’ll get right on it!

  9. This sort of thing from supposed “experts” is what really frightens me about the web. So much information is available, but people really need to verify their sources. As for me, I’m extremely excited to try my first pair of fivefingers, I’m sure they’re going to be awesome!! I think I’m going to see if I can win the pair, though :)

  10. Alvin says:

    Is it wrong to immediately discredit any article that arises from WebMD?

    I also side with the Harvard research and have had no problem with my feet so far!

  11. Louise says:

    Did she personally trial them as part of the research?

    I have no issue with mixed reviews, but I like to know what the writer’s claims are based upon.

  12. Louise says:

    I’m with you Charlie, I hate ‘pop up’ ads – does anybody ever buy from a pop up ad; does it really enforce a brand…probably.

    Usually there is a X box on the corner (top right) you can click to remove the ad.

  13. Kristen M says:

    I think that when you are only occasionally going barefoot and thus still walking as though you have shoes on even when you do not (I know I was previously a heel-striker when barefoot), being barefoot too much without adjusting gait for it can contribute to PF; it was a semester when I was taking a TKD class 2x a week and training at my regular karate class another 3x a week that I developed PF myself. Too much barefoot on bad surfaces was to blame, but specifically too much barefoot time walking/running/landing incorrectly. When she says this, she is not taking into account that if you spend enough time barefoot or in minimalist footwear, you start to walk and run differently, and end up putting less strain on the arch of your foot because you start landing with your weight more evenly distributed across your foot. So basically, I see where she’s coming from, but she’s not following the concept through in a logical way; her answer is true if you try to adjust to them too quickly and/or do not adjust your gait for the lack of shoes.

  14. Dave says:

    I am a practicing podiatric physician, who owns two pair of fivefingers, and I LOVE THEM.

    I tell my patient “if it feels good doit” “if it hurts listen to your body”

    A truly great product.

  15. Brian Patterson says:

    Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. I’d love to talk to you about your experience – if you are interested in a guest post or interview, shoot us a note at

  16. Marc says:

    I would be curious to know what kind of shoes this ‘expert’ wears (I’m betting spike heels ALWAYS). I’m no expert, but since I started wearing VFFs I’ve done a LOT of research on shoes & their effects on feet. VFFs just make sense! I’m lucky enough to be able to wear mine to work – I’m much less tired at the end of the day. I’ve been trying to get up my nerve to wear them to church- it’ll help when I get some of the “dressy” leathers. After that, I’ll probably never wear “normal” shoes again. Don’t want to offend anyone, but my experience tells me that this ‘expert’ is nothing more than a wannabe expert. This lady needs to do more in-depth research before making such misleading comments. And her comment about the toes separating interfering with natural walking position tends to make me think she’s an educated idiot.

  17. Jamie says:

    The whole article completely contradicts itself. Don’t wear heels, because those interfere with the natural position of your foot. Don’t wear minimal shoes, because they mimic the natural position of the foot. Don’t wear shoes with pointy toes, but don’t wear shoes that allow your toes to spread out naturally.

    How ridiculous. I actually got a laugh out of it. I love going barefoot.

  18. Lydia says:

    Personally this woman is a crock but I did think vff’s were weird but then I bought my pair just to try em out and I hate when I were regular tennis shoes now I’ve traded all my heels in for these shoes which are amazing and super cute

  19. anne says:

    personally i think five finger shoes are gross looking. my friend got some and they didn’t fit her toes right so they they bent up at the bottom. they also started to stink so she doesn’t wear them any more

  20. Kimmm says:

    Side with the non doctors over the doctors, smart!

  21. jk says:

    I am looking for something to reduce or even remove foot pain from being on my feet all day. I am 30-40 lbs overweight, due to sitting at a desk 9 hours a day. I recently traded my desk for a treadmill desk setup, but the pain in my heels is almost unbearable at times. I don’t want to spend $100+ for VFF if they aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. I am always skeptical when I see research done, like this, that has something like this at the end of their page: “FUNDING DISCLAIMER: Research presented on this site was funded by Harvard University and, in part, by Vibram USA®.” Any thoughts?

  22. Kristen M says:

    My situation before I switched to VFFs was not a whole lot different than yours: I got into running and lost a bunch of weight during my last year of college, but graduate school and working 1-2 extra jobs at a time caused me to put most of it back on, and at one point, I developed plantar fasciitis, which it sounds like you might have. (Risk of that is apparently upped by both being overweight and also being very flat-footed–pronation is a common cause of PF. Both applied to me.). My response at the time was to get inserts for all my shoes, and in the event that I had time to go running, wearing motion-controlled shoes to prevent pronation. Granted, these did solve the plantar fasciitis symptoms after a while, but running was miserable in those shoes. My also-flat-footed brother took up running a few years ago and used VFFs, and though he swore by them, I was skeptical. After several months of researching, I gave in, getting some just for running in October 2010, and by January 2011, I was so happy with the differences I was experiencing that I switched to wearing VFFs or going barefoot full time. I would venture to say that at least some of the benefits I’ve reaped have come from the fact that I do run in them–I’m building up the muscles in my feet and ankles, and I’ve even developed slight arches in both feet (slightly more stable in the right than left but they’ve both been fairly stable the last few months) in the process. The barefoot shoes, if you let them, can teach you and encourage you to walk (and run) with a fore- to mid-foot strike, and if you’re doing that consistently, it’s going to relieve a lot of the stress on your arch, and that in turn should alleviate the PF problems. I was definitely a heel-striker for both walking and running before switching. I spent a lot of time barefoot for martial arts training and competition plus just being raised a Georgia girl who likes to be barefoot, but shoes had trained me to land heel-first, and I vividly recall realizing that while walking barefoot on a gym floor at a karate tournament a few years ago. My feet used to be my most common source of pain, and now they only hurt when I have to stand still for long periods of time. That’s something I don’t know of any shoe to fix. I’ve also had zero knee pain, even from running (and again, like you, around 40 pounds overweight), and also pretty much zero back pain except for the kind caused by sleeping or sitting in a funny position. I definitely don’t get paid by Vibram (and have paid them a good bit of money, since I’m up to quite a few pairs at this point), and I can say I’ve had excellent results.

  23. jk says:

    About how long, on average, do your pairs of VFFs last? My other issue is if I’m going to spend $110 on shoes, they better last more than 6 months.

  24. Kristen M says:

    That varies for me by pair. My work pairs, Performa Janes, last a very long time, at least a year, and when they wear out, it’s wearing a hole through the ball of the foot. The only other two pairs I’ve killed have been from wearing through the fabric between the toes, and that came from, the first time, constantly running in wet grass (and that took a year, a pair of KSO Treks), and the second pair, from a 5k in the mud where I had probably a few pounds of mud and all the stuff in it like twigs and rocks inside my shoes for the whole three miles. They were holding up great till that, but that filled up the toe pockets and had them rubbing into each other for a long distance and the fabric couldn’t stand up to that. That was a pair of KomodoSport LSs.

    Also, no need to drop the full 110 on a pair. I recommend going to a store and trying them on to be sure of your size and then keeping an eye on online sites like Rock Creek, Trailblazer, Citysports, The Shoe Mart, Birkenstock SD, and others that put them on sale regularly. I don’t think I’ve paid full price for a pair since buying my first pair in a store.

  25. Kristen M says:

    If you aren’t out running in the elements, I’d say you’d get at least one good year, probably more, out of a pair of these.

  26. jk says:

    The majority of my day would be spent walking on a treadmill while writing application code. I’m not much of a running right now, and might start someday, but not yet. I’m looking at the Komodosport LS. Not sure if those are the best for that. I’m also confused about the sizes, as for one kind it said i needed a 39, but another kind said 40.

  27. Kristen M says:

    In those conditions, the shoes should last you at least a year, probably well more than that. Komodosport LS is a great choice, hands down my favorite. With the sizes, idk why they have two different scales for sizes, but I saw that, too. If you don’t have a store nearby where you can try them on, I’d just make sure you pick a place that has a policy where you can return/swap if they are the wrong size. I’ve heard CitySports is really good about that. REI has a great reputation for letting people return and swap. I’d imagine a lot of the others have similar policies.

  28. Reticuli says:

    Don’t mistake WebMD for the NIH database of peer reviewed lit. The only field of physicians more notorious for pseudoscience than podiatrists are those that have integrated “holistic” medicine into their repertoire. She appears to be one of those celebrity doctors using their looks and connections to get fame and patients, and not their actual brains and research. No one in academia takes opinions like this seriously. There is not actual data to assert the utility of arch support or heal height. In fact, there is growing data refuting them. The thing about separated toes interfering with “natural walking” is laughable and should tip anyone off she’s a sell-out.

  29. Dave says:

    I would state that the American Foolege of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, does not represent a psudo science. A very negative and unwarranted comment.

    As a practicing foot and ankle surgeon I am a big fan of my five fingers. An objective assesment. If Reticuli would like to fund an objective research project I would gladly participate and assist.

  30. Dave says:

    American College of Fooat and ankle surgeons, sorry for the miss spell.

  31. Andrew h says:

    Given her affiliates, she is apart of the fearmongering crowd. It’s my way or the highway and anything new that upsets the balance of things is bad for you. Foxnews, bah. Your toes being separated bad? Wow, it has proven to give better balance. I have seen too many older people that wore heels and horrible shoe their whole life and now their toes are all shaped to a point and look horrible. Not to mention their arch is all mis-shaped. They have ruined their foot by constant use of shoes this lady deems healthy.

  32. Andrew Harwood says:

    She will be cursing herself when she turns 80 and all her toes are slanted in ontop of each other. My grandmother wore heels and shoes that came to a point at the toes. Her toes are now forever smushed together. It is gross. This lady is just some dumb banter spewing lobbiest. She makes money spreading lies and crap. I would much rather give Jerry Springer my attention than this idiot.

  33. Nicole says:

    “I have seen too many older people that wore heels and horrible shoe their whole life and now their toes are all shaped to a point and look horrible. Not to mention their arch is all mis-shaped.”

    I hate high heels and any dumb dressy shoes.

    One thing I hate about being a woman at fancy stuff like weddings or fancy pants restaurants I have to wear high heels.

    I hate it at my brother’s wedding I was tortured. Feet felt horrible not from dancing to much, but due to torture devices called high heels.

    Luckily I found a pair of nice shoes that do fine at fancy events, but aren’t high heels.

    Yeah five finger shows do get a bit smelly, but so does my normal shoes and boots.

    Luckily these can be washed in washer.

    I haven’t had smell issue yet been wearing them whenever weather is decent enough.

    I really love the feel of them my feet feel more comfortable with them.

    Be sure to try the toe shoes in store as some sizes might not work and need go size up or down.

  34. Dan Daman says:

    I bet she reported this wearing High Heel shoes. The concept is to return to origins of natural body movements, which the Vibram does an excellent job, ask anyone with ankle, knee or lower back issues if they start slow and work up to a jog if their pains go away, Mine did!

  35. Dan Daman says:

    BTW I spent many years in the military who strickly strike with the heels. Once the mind and body retrained, this was a natural progression to my return to form and health.

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  37. Jules says:

    My podiatrist recommended I wear VFFs and after years of wearing orthotics, I’m happy to report my feet are stronger and more pain free than ever!

  38. Chris says:

    Any type of material between your foot and the ground absorbs some shock. A piece of rubber deforms fairly significantly under the load of your body, subsequently reducing the shock load transferred back into your body. Looking for peer reviews? Go look in any physics or engineering book on dynamics/vibrations.

  39. Peter Draemann says:

    I wear Fivefingers for 3 years now and I wear them all year round. Meanwhile I owe 14 pairs. Last summer I did a 11 days hiking (189 Kilometers and 13000 meters upgoing)in the Valtelline alps under very rough conditions without any problems with my feet. The longest stage was 9 hours and 1800 meters going up. So if you wnat to feel healthy I would recommend Fivefinges.

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  41. Robert says:

    This opinion piece didn’t effectively offer a counter argument to Dr. Brenner.

  42. Angel says:

    I purchased a pair of five fingered KSO EVOs in March of this year and I ABSOLUTELY agree with the Harvard research. Initially, it took some getting used to (2 times) but my entire body adjusted (or shall I say “corrected” itself). I hike regularly in the Santa Monica mountains and rebound 4-5 times a week. My feet adjusted naturally which has eliminated pain in my lower back and hip. My toes and ankles have also gotten a lot stronger. I LOVE VIBRAM FIVE FINGERED SHOES!

  43. Bob says:

    I bought my first pair of VFF Kamodos after I retired in 2012 when my son challenged me to run a 5k with him. Since I had never run before in my life, I chose VFF’s because barefoot or near barefoot running just makes sense. To make a long story short, I won that 5k in my age group and have since run many 5 & 10k’s. I won a half-marathon last November and ran my third full marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, with a time of 4:03:01, on Feb. 14, 2016 wearing my third pair of VFF’s with Injinji socks. I’m 68 years old, very active, and I can’t afford an injury. That’s why I love my Kamodos, I’ve never been sidetracked with a running related injury. Btw, I’ve logged over 3000 miles since I started running!

  44. Cheyenne says:

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  45. brittany says:

    can you straighten crooked toes with five fingers?

  46. David Haile says:

    Still recommending your shoes

  47. Dave The Podiatrist says:

    No they will not straighten hammer toe contractures.

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