User Review: Vibram Men's FiveFingers Flow
Materials: Neoprene, Vibram, EVA
Use: dayhikes, cold weather running, Ultimate Frisbee, paddling, acrobatics
Break-in Period: non.
Price Paid: $94
Let me start off by saying that I am a Footwear Guru at Eastern Mountain Sports and I am ashamed that we don't carry any of the Five Fingers product line.
Unfortunately, most consumers and retailers approach footwear from the standpoint that the foot is an extremely precarious body part in need of maximum support at all times. This is the driving philosophy behind most motion control running shoes and hiking/backpacking footwear.
To be fair, support can and is necessary at times, but not all the time. This is where Vibram Five Fingers comes in. Believe it or not, the human foot did evolve to support the healthy and reasonably weighted human body and if the foot and lower leg are strengthened and used on a regular basis, the need for expensive motion control shoes and orthotics almost disappears.
The Five Fingers Flow:
The flow is the insulated product from Vibram. It looks almost identical the the KSO but uses a thin neoprene upper and a very thin EVA bottom. I purchased these after I had bought the KSO and realized that I wanted something for cold weather running/walking/hiking.
The first problem that I noticed was that my toes were very constricted in the shoes and I don't have massive toes by any means. After walking around town for a while in them, I realized that my toes were getting very cold due to lack of blood flow. Also, these things don't breath so if you plan on wearing them for a long period of time, your feet will be soggy.
Because my toes were constricted and chilly frequently, I came to the conclusion that I should only use the Flow for high output activities in chilly weather like running or hard day hikes. Since approaching the shoe with this mindset, it has been fabulous. Running and hiking in these things after using typical shoes for years is borderline spiritual, I kid you not. You have 200,000 nerves on the bottom of each foot and they are very, very engaged while hopping around in these.
Running takes some adjustment because running with a heel-to-toe strike is simply not an option, you must use a midfoot strike which basically means your heel does not touch the ground. Once my calves were strong enough (a few weeks of running this way off and on is a good procedure for training) I found that I had to increase my mileage and run harder because I was saving energy. Many advanced runners use a midfoot strike I have recently come to find out and now I totally understand why.
I recently spent two weeks hiking around Bozeman and Missoula, Montana, in these and it was great. You can feel the rocks (sometimes to much if you are not paying attention) and the textures on the ground. If you hike to feel more in touch with your surroundings and appreciate the world we live in, then these will be a great addition to your experience.
Overall, these are amazing. They will not be adequate for very cold temperatures but fall, spring and summer activities will be great with these things.