Vibram Fivefingers "shoes"

4:02 p.m. on March 25, 2007 (EDT)
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Ok, so, I happened upon this website
http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/index.html
while I was searching for some new hiking boots. The design looks good, but when I went to search for reviews, user descriptions, basically anything beyond what little is on the website, I got nada.
Has anyone out there bought, tried on, used, or have a friend/acquaintance with a pair? Before I do something rash like order a pair (there are no stores in my area that carry them, so I'd be risking the whole exchange-by-mail timetable were I to be unhappy with them), I want to know as much as humanly possible about them.
Were I to get some, I would want them ideally for daily use, but more specifically I'm thinking ahead to my summer travels in Costa Rica, and would want these to take the place of cumbersome hiking boots.
Any and all help is appreciated. Post away! :-)

10:09 a.m. on March 26, 2007 (EDT)
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I'd look like a Yeti with those on my feet (when you're starting with a 13.5 EE that's easy to do~!) - I'm not so sure that it'd be real comfortable to have all that space between your toes - as they generally (at least on my feet) are all together - interesting concept though!

Have you thought of using a lightweight wading shoe (much like fly-fishermen wear)or just a pair of Teva like river runner sandals - perhaps with a pair of poly-pro or neoprene socks to provide a bit more protection?

11:55 a.m. on March 26, 2007 (EDT)
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The concept is not really all that new. A few years ago at the Outdoor Retailer show, a company called Injinji was handing out samples of a "toe-ed" sock. I haven't seen them in stores, but occasionally I will wear the socks. The big problem with them, and with the Vibram shoes, is that there is a huge variation in the relative length of the 5 toes on each foot from person to person, plus a fairly significant range of foot shapes (that's why there is such a big business in custom orthotics). I would strongly urge that you get them from a shop where you can wear them for a couple of hours of walking around the shop to see whether they really match your feet well enough. I would be really leery of getting something like this by mail order. I notice in their dealer locator that REI carries them, though maybe not at all stores.

It may be that there is enough stretch in the footgear to compensate for the difference between your feet and the "standard" Vibram last ("last" is the standardized foot model that footwear makers use - if it matches your foot, you get a comfortable fit, but if not, you can be in absolute misery). In the Injinji socks, there is a lot of stretch, so the fit is pretty comfortable. A really nice thing about the "fingered" socks is that it allows your toes to slide more easily against each other and could reduce blistering between the toes (something I see people suffering on hikes sometimes, although much more rarely than heel blisters). However, use of a good foot powder or lubricant, as recommended in the excellent book Fixing Your Feet, will do the same thing cheaper.

As you probably read in the review articles that are linked in the Vibram website, there is some question about the life of the soles. The rubber is a sticky rubber that is microporous, hence likely to wear pretty rapidly. I kind of wondered, though, how they would be as rock shoes. I suspect the lack of rigidity would be a problem, although there are lots of climbers who climb certain types of pitches barefoot, so maybe these would work.

Little bit of trivia - the website reminded me that the inventor and founder of Vibram was named Bramani. Way back, when I was first getting seriously into climbing, I did a lot of reading of books and journals. As the changeover from nailed boots took place, the highly recommended boot sole was the "Bramani" sole. Some of my early mentors referred to them as Bramanis, in fact. If you compare the original Vibram pattern (still available, and the only pattern Vibram made up through the 1970s or so), to the nailing patterns illustrated in climbing magazines and books from the 1930s, it looks a lot like a rubberized versions of the nails.

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