Skip to content
February 22nd, 2010 / Sean Willson

Working out in my Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Finger KSO in BlackI’ve been working out for almost 8 weeks now in my Vibram Five Fingers KSO (VFF). I picked them up in early January after reading Born to Run. I thought it would be fun to update people how they’ve been holding up to the stress of my workouts.

Since the first of the year I’ve worn them for every single workout, about 50 workouts. I’ve been working out 6 days per week for an average of 60 minutes. Here are my impressions using the VFF during the different exercises I’ve put them through their paces wearing.

Weight Training (Lower)
This is where the VFF has really shined for me. I’ve never been a fan of lunges and always felt like my weight distribution for my squats was a bit off. With the VFF removing most of the padding on my feet my balance has really been spot on. Whether it’s front, rear, or side lunges the balance was great. This improvement in balance and my overall form has led to huge changes in my squats as well. I honestly feel like I’m getting some of my best quadricep workouts ever.
The one thing that took some time getting used to was the toe placement on rear lunges. With normal shoes you are pretty much oblivious to your toes, it’s more about foot placement, at least it was for me. Wearing the VFF however you use your toes much much more. With the rear lunge it initially feels weird with the toes in their “finger sockets” and I often wouldn’t place my toes correctly. I’d end up either on the tips of my toes or the tops which as you can imagine isn’t where you want to be. Once I mastered toe placement I was good to go though.
Another thing that’s different about lower body weight training is using the different machines like calf raise, donkey squats, etc. First and foremost you really feel all of the muscles in your feet on the platforms, more so than you ever did in regular shoes. A few of them also have surfaces with ridges for traction with normal shoes. With the VFF you feel everything under your feet so this takes some getting used to. Not a show stopper but good to make note of.
Weight Training (Upper)
Other than traction and balance as I noted above there wasn’t really any advantages or disadvantages to the VFF when doing upper body weight training.
Elliptical Trainer
There were a few annoying things about the elliptical and the VFF. One was the fact that the Precor at my gym have lots of quarter size bumps on the foot platforms. While these aren’t a problem they definitely take some getting used to in the VFF since you feel everything your walking or standing on.
The second is that since I’m lighter on my feet in the VFF I find that my weight shifts differently so my feet moved around a bit on the platforms. Again, nothing major and once you adjust your weight a bit during the motion your fine.
Stationary & Spin Bikes
Because the form factor of the VFF is so much smaller than a traditional shoe you have to get used to making significant adjusting to the straps on all bikes. For stationary bikes that’s about all you have to do, the power transfer to the pedals felt about the same to me but then again I don’t do a ton of stationary cycling in the shoes. As for spin, it’s a different story.
A lot of spin bikes have pedals that aren’t conducive to VFF. They’re either spiked to keep you on the pedals, very small and designed for clip in shoes, or both. Hopefully your gym has a better offering than mine in the pedal department. Check ahead of time before you ruin your planned workout and can’t cycle.
Treadmill
Image of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never SeenI’ve been slowly working on my running over the past two months. Being a very heavy runner I don’t want to put too much stress on my joints, especially my knees. Because of this I haven’t run any marathons so I can’t advise you on their use there, check out Birthday Shoes for that. I can however tell you that it’s really important to ease into running with them. The first first times your feet will be very sore. The first time I ran a mile and then two miles my feet were sore for a few days. Not to the point where I couldn’t walk but definitely sore.
A few other things to make sure you do, which are highlighted in Born to Run, is to watch your posture (keep you back straight), your tempo (small fast strides), and think light on your feet. Every time I started feeling it in my feet I found that I had strayed from one of the these three mantras … Posture, Tempo, Light.
Step Cardio
I wasn’t really surprised how well the VFF handled the step. I was lighter on my feet, never kicked the steps, and felt great during all of the workouts. The steps I use have lots of little ridges for traction but they were small enough that I wasn’t bothered by them. In regular shoes I often felt that my step offs or jumps we’re clumsy but in the VFF I actually had good form. It was a lot like the lower body workout (see above) in that my balance was just spot on wearing the VFF.
Circuit Training
All of the balance and form comments above are highlighted in spades doing circuits. The combination of weights and cardio circuits really feel great wearing the VFF. The only thing I did have trouble with at first though was doing pushups in them. In regular shoes the thick stiff sole takes up a fair amount of the stress in a pushup. Wearing the VFF your toes and feet take up the stress. Until you develop the toe strength and balance the pushup might be a bit challenging but you’ll be fine in no time.

Overall my experiences wearing the VFF for workouts has been very positive. I have a few other things I wanted to make note of though.

First, they are starting to smell a bit which is a common problem with VFF that are wore a lot and a number of VFF owners have reported the same issue. They can easily be cleaned by throwing them into the washer though so I don’t see this being a problem.

Second, prepare yourself for pointing and questions from people about your VFF. I certainly got more stares and pointing than questions though. I think people were afraid to ask me about them because I had my headphones on and because I’m a big guy. The ones that did though saw and heard how excited I was about them. A few days later they were sporting a pair of their own which was exciting.

I’m looking forward to wearing the VFF more and picking up a pair of Leather KSO Trek for trail running this summer. I’ll keep you posted when I pick them up.

My Vibram Five Fingers KSO have given me a new found excitement and confidence in my cardio and weight training. If your in the market for new workout shoes I highly suggest you find a store near you to try them on, you won’t be disappointed.

Similar Posts

4 Comments

  1. Steve / Feb 22 2010

    I’m hearing so many good things about the Five Fingers…and yet I’m still hestitant to try them. Ugh :(

    That’s great they are working out for ya though, keep updating on the progress with them and I may be tempted to get a pair.

  2. justin / Feb 23 2010

    I like how your review here highlights how VFFs perform for various activities in the gym. Despite getting plenty of user stories and reading reviews galore, it’s been a rare thing that I’ve seen people detail how VFFs work for weight lifting. This is strange in that I know a ton of Five Fingers fans lift, so I don’t know why they are so quiet.

    Anyway, I’m definitely picking this up in the latest reviews round-up that I put out on Sundays, so check that out.

    Really impressed with your weight loss progress! And thank you for the shout out. Don’t know if you’d be interested, but I recently started a VFF community links page: http://birthdayshoes.com/links/ — check it out and if you want to be on it, just pop that widget somewhere (sidebar/footer) and let me know! Otherwise, hope to see you around VFF-town!

    Justin

  3. Teresa / May 19 2010

    Sean —
    Thanks so much for the review. I have had my vibram kso’s for a few months. I bought them because I had terrible achilles tendonitis and the beginnings of plantar’s p (again). I haven’t really used them to workout but wore them daily around the house. I found changing shoes often seemed to help. I’ve been almost exclusively in mbts for the past 3 years due to debillitating plantar’s p in one foot a few years ago. One never realize’s the importance of feet until they quit working!
    Anyway — once the problems resurfaced I didn’t wait until it was too late — I started making changes – including the vibrams. I took them to Jamiaca on Spring Break because I knew walking on the beach or anywhere for that matter would be excruciating. I had NO feet issues the entire trip. Obviously I looked like a dweeb — but I wore them to the beach, to the pool, walking around the resort.

    I love them – anything I would normally do barefoot – pilates or bellydancing class, etc… but I’ve been hesitant until now to use them on my eliptical.

    Thanks — good luck on your weight-loss. I’ve got about 50lbs to lose – and it hangs on tight!

    ps.. I stuck them in a tub of sudsy water for a few hours — rinsed and air-dried to clean them with no problems.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. V is for… « Tea Time With Lin

Comments are closed.