Thursday, July 19, 2012

FiveFingers, So Many Choices What's Best for Me?

*****  Updates on Entrada, Alitza, Maiori, EL-X, Signa and Treksport Sandal coming soon ***

Vibram FiveFingers, we wear them because we just like the feeling of being barefoot and free
  • We are cool
  • We are all about functionality
  • We seek an healthy alternative to regular footwear
  • We want to look look different
  • We are attention seekers
  • We are hardcore minimalists

Or just because …..

Nevertheless we love our FiveFingers.

I am writing this entry because I am constantly being asked why I pick this style over that other one in my 59 pairs of FiveFingers (so far and counting) for whatever activity I participate in.  I am not a FiveFingers Guru but since this has been my only footwear since Feb. 2005 I can safely say that I have invested quite a bit of time and energy in finding the right footwear for the right activities.

So, what is the style that meets my activities best? What are the differences?

FiveFingers come in many styles and choices.and as it turns out they are not all equal. 

You can drive both a SUV and a Lamborghini to the mountain, yet you have better chances driving the SUV in your quest. What I am saying is that the many FiveFingers styles available were designed with a specific set of activities in mind with a sole crafted for a particular terrain and impact type on the user's forefoot.

Here is my rundown on styles and what they are best for:

The TREKSPORT SANDAL is a 2013 addition to the VFF's Lineup , sporting the popular aggressive sole found in the TREKSPORT. This incarnation is well ventilated on the sides, back of the heel and on the top thus making it a great addition for warm summer days as they will keep your feet cool. I find them to be great for golfing, everyday city treks, hikes (with reservations) and any type of activities that do not include sand and mud and other wet debris. I find these sandals very difficult to wear in muddy, sandy and dusty terrains as all that stuff will pile-up rapidly inside the sandal's foot bed and get to be very irritating to the skin and making this situation very uncomfortable. The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

The SIGNA is the absolute minimalist dream, designed for warm water wear, super flexible (fold down and fits in your pockets) and the 'Wave Grip' sole makes you feel like a gecko on wet surfaces. The SIGNA does not provide any cushioning to the forefoot. This VFF is great for water applications; the sole is designed with many drainage holes which allow the footwear to dry faster than you can think. I have used the SIGNA for short runs and I found them very comfortable and resilient.

The MAIORI is the 'Hummer' of cold waters. I do like the fact that Vibram took in consideration the fact the 4th toe and the pinky toe are connected together at the sole thus preventing injuries that are so common while entering a kayak and other small volume crafts. The high collar provides good protection to the ankle bone. They are also very toasty in colder waters and the 'Wave Grip' sole provides exceptional traction on wet surfaces. The ankle collar is tight and might present a challenge to the unaccustomed VFF users but will keep all water borne debris out of your footwear. In essence, the SIGNA is the more practical version of the FLOW and the former SURGE; MAIORI has great grip on wet surfaces and unlike the FLOW & SURGE, the MAIORI's sole is very flexible thus allowing your toes to really grip downward whatever in under your feet. Wearing socks with MAIORI is definitely a NO NO as that will defeat the purpose of the neoprene vamp.

Crafted for the ladies, these new styles are a great replacement option for those who long the departure of the CLASSIC. If anything, the ENTRADA and the ALITZA are much nicer, more breathable with the mesh upper, have a better and more flexible sole than the CLASSIC. An abrasion test on the soles showed little degradation (4.2% material loss) after a 750 Km simulation using the FOX method of running and walking. They are very easy to clean and do dry much faster than the CLASSIC. You can also fit hem in your pockets. The ALITZA is a very elegant design with the little cross straps. Definitely not designed for running or trekking but perfect for casual everyday wear.

The EL-X is a simple design for men, very easy to put on, and well ventilated with its mesh upper. The sole offers a good grip on dry and wet surfaces and is similar to the ENTRADA as performance is concerned. Don't be afraid to clean the m daily as they dry very fast. The EL-X is great for everyday casual wear and travel wear. I do not classify them as running or trail material (TREKSPORT, SEEYA (LS) and BIKILA (LS) are made for running). The EL-X will fit nicely in your pockets when not needed. I recommend caution as I lost one while jumping in a pool; the water pressure on entry took it right off my foot. The EL-X is a great addition for the VFF beginner and the seasoned wearer alike.

I use them for light exercises, walking around, traveling. I do not use them for running as there are better options for that activity.  I do not use them for water activities as they get rip off my feet easily with water. They are fine in the rain and perfect for warm weather with their very open design. (I wash them after each use).  The thin razor striped sole offers exceptional dexterity.  When you need that extra edge with a toe grip the KSO will deliver; the FRESCA does not flex as much.

I use them for running short distances (2 Km or less), light exercises, walking around, traveling, long walks wet and dry. The difference is the strap that holds your foot down and prevent slippage; wet or sweat do not affect the performance as the insole gets grimy. ( wash them after each use).  The thin razor striped sole offers exceptional dexterity.  When you need that extra edge with a toe grip this one will deliver..

I consider the KSO to be the SUV the the FiveFingers line of products. KSO will take you from the sidewalk to the road, the lake and the mud and back to the street without having to worry about traction. They have the ability to shed water better than any other FiveFingers and easy to maintain. KSO are my favorite climbing footwear. They stay on your feet, no mater whatever you throw at them. (I wash them after each use.  The thin razor striped sole offers exceptional dexterity.  When you need that extra edge with a toe grip this one will deliver..Also great for Parkour.

The TREKSPORT is the Hummer of the FiveFingers. They sport most of the features the KSO has to offer but with a more aggressive sole. They have a very similar upper Velcro fastening system and stay put on your feet when needed. The heel cup has tendencies to absorb more water as it is more padded but other than that it does what its intended to do. The insole is a little thicker thus offering more protection against the harsh elements. Over time, they have become my favorite golf and trail footwear . (I wash them after each use)  The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

The SPYRIDON LS is the new “Oshkosh M-ATV” of the FiveFingers line of products. This style sports a mid-sole armor plating that distributes foot strike impacts thus minimizing fascia bruising while impacting very rough terrain with those pesky pointy rocks. The aggressive sole allows for great grip under dry and wet conditions. They are not as breathable and feel much warmer than the KSO and TREKSPORT but they are worth the sacrifice. They also have the tendencies to accumulate more water and other debris when wet and take much longer to dry than the CLASSIC, SPRINT, KSO and TREKSPORT. One of my favorite when going up a mountain (approach).  They do also work well for Parkour.  The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

 The SPYRIDON is where 'Thread meets Tread'... Armor plated, quick drying, tight ankle collar, very aggressive all terrain  XSTrek Vibram Rubber sole, Stretch Mesh and Polyamide Upper.....  Think of the SPYRIDON as the KSO on steroids .....  Dry & Dusty, Wet & Muddy, Pebbles & Jagged Rocks,   the SPYRIDON screams "Bring-it-On" yet feels very comfortable in the urban jungle.  In a post-Apocalypse world the SPYRIDON would be my first choice.  It is my opinion the the SPYRIDON is the better version of the LS version.

BIKILA (and LS):
Born to run with their specialized forefoot padding and a sole designed for long distance running the BIKILA is perfect for that purpose. (Vibram carefully crafted this style for the runner). They are also great for long walks and casual wear. I see them as stylish and love them. I think of them as my little foot Ferrari. I do not take them to water-sport related activities because of too many points of entry for stuff to get in (I have SUV for that).

Ah! My beloved SPEED …... The SPEED offers similar  features as the BIKILA and the SPEED has a breathable Nylon/Poly sandwich mesh upper, a Lycra fabric flex zone on the upper vamp, and Non Slip Nylon Lace 10 eye System. The only noticeable difference is in the thickness of the insole which is roughly 1 mm thinner than the BIKILA, in general I find that the SPEED gives a better ground feedback.  Overall, the SPEED is definitely the perfect travel companion; not my choice for long runs but absolutely casual perfect for an all night-out.   

This one is my favorite for cool and cold dry weather.  Definitely not my choice for wet weather but offers good protection in cool weather, great traction and forefoot padding.  Great for travel, long walks and some hiking.  The suede leather feels very nice and soft.  That nice look will return after a quick wash and a suede brush.  The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

My favorite cross-fit training footwear. The sole is specifically designed to allow lateral movement (side to side) with a thicker insole to absorb impacts; they are in their ideal environment at the gym. I do not use for water related activities (water activities require sure footing with grip, lateral movement is not part of good grip); and the mid-sole and padding absorb quite a bit of water when wet (water related debris also accumulate underneath the insole and make them uncomfortable). Short runs are OK and so is casual wear. The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip. Most definitely NOT for the trails.

FLOW is one of my favorite winter footwear in wet conditions. The sole, similar to KSO is made with IdroGrip performance rubber that makes you feel like a Gecko. This is a similar rubber compound as what is used on climbing shoes. Perfect for cool and cold wet weather and any water-sport activities. Also, wearing socks with the FLOW defeats the purpose of neoprene which is designed to tightly fit against the skin.  The insulating properties of the neoprene are achieved when a moisture film is deposited between the epidermis and the neoprene;  wearing socks especially wet will hold too much water and you get to feel cold much faster.  Also great for Parkour.

SeeYa (and LS):
The SeeYa is the ridiculously minimalistic running footwear. providing that you know how to run barefoot; the Seeya will give you road hazard protection. They are really like almost wearing nothing. The heel-cup seems to run wide but they will stay on your feet; after-all you run forefoot. I had a few few friends that got nasty blisters on the top of their feet which I believe are caused by the new, more abrasive Polyester Stretch Mesh. I understand that some of these issues have been addressed with the LS version.

JAYA (and LR):
The JAYA are by far the least minimalistic of the FiveFingers line with a sole made of 5.5mm EVA and 3.5mm TC1 Inlays. They are designed for indoor fitness. The outside world is definitely not good friend with the soft EVA sole of the JAYA, and most definitely not a water-sport footwear. The rubber pads do provide good grip in the gym and fitness classroom.

I love my BORMIO and TREK LS and CAREZZA. I treated them with 4 layers of warm Beeswax and they are very very water resistant. They are my choice of footwear in cold snowy weather. The warm boiled wool interiors of the BORMIO keep my toes warm and cozy; a brush of paraffin wax on the zippers makes them almost totally waterproof.  The TREK LS is my footwear of choice for dress casual wear.  I do wear  the TREK LS with socks.  the TREK LS has tendencies to shed its tones on bare skin.  My BORMIO and TREK LS can and do get washed from time to time; once dried I treat them again with beeswax   When left untreated the black will look grey-ish and brown will look very faded and they absorb water quickly.  These bad boys are made of real leather; treat them respectfully.  The CAREZZA is the ultimate knee-hi fur lined boot and perfect for harsh cold snowy winters.

The Lontra is like a tank, a little stiffer than other VFF's, after-all thay are winter footwear made to protect the wearer from frost and other harsh element; they are sporting a multilayer laminate upper with fully taped seams provides insulation and water resistance; a micro-pile fleece liner make this VFF very warm and comfortable to wear even barefoot, still I prefer to wear them with a pair of Smart-Wool Injinji socks; a 4mm EVA mid-sole on the forefoot provides insulation against frozen terrains which is very efficient.  I find them to be almost too warm.  I especially like the tight neoprene heel cuff which keeps the  snow and other trail debris out of my footwear.  I've been thru some pretty wet areas with mud and melting snow and my feet stayed dry and warm; that's a nice bonus for cold wet winter weather.  I find them very easy to put on, but again it's only my opinion and experience as I have spent most of my life  running barefoot and have been wearing VFF"s since 2005.  I can easily imagine that it could be challenging for some people to put a pair on.

Some people have bunny slippers and I have my MOC. MOC and PERFORMA are the most minimalistic FiveFingers footwear to date. Definitely an interior footwear. I have seen people in the recent past walking downtown with MOC and PERFORMA and it literally broke my heart.

Notes on Beaches and Yoga:
Beaches are better done barefoot. Who goes running at the beach wearing any footwear? Enjoy the sand, exfoliate those fascias, it will do you good !

Yoga is one activity that should always be done barefoot, but again I am no Guru. It's OK to connect with your mat and mother earth.

In retrospect I use different FiveFingers for specific activities:


Running on Road:
BIKILA, BIKILA LS and for the very experienced SEEYA and SEEYA LS

Trail Running:
SPYRIDON, SPYRIDON LS, TREKSPORT and KSO for the hardcore runners
TREKSPORT SANDAL (with reservations)

At the Gym Cross-Fit Training:

At the Gym Fitness Training:

Casual Wear and Travel:


Beach and Yoga:
Go barefoot and enjoy yourself

And remember: It's OK to clean your FiveFingers after each use, have fun, jump in the shower with your footwear and use the suds, rinse them and let them dry overnight in a cool ventilated area and they will be ready, waiting to take you to your next adventure.

Here is also the link on how to maintain them:

Orange Blossom.

My Version of a Shoe Tree ...... my 63 pairs and counting...

I have been a "Barefoot" minimalist for the past 55 years.
I use the "Run like a Fox - Stalk like a Fox" method.
I am not sponsored by Vibram in any ways.
This is my personal collection of VFF's that I have purchased since VFF's inception.
I use a running style called “Fox Running”and walking style "Fox Stalking"
I get, on average 2,800 Km  ( 1,750 miles) of usability per pair.

--  Some VFF's were not rated for water because they offered less grip in wet conditions and were accumulating too much stuff insde to be comfortable wearing in extreme conditions.

-- Some VFF's were rated Inside only because that is their intended purpose and the EVA mid-sole is too soft for hard and harsh terrain.

-- Some VFF's were not rated for running because of a detachable insole or were not providing the right amount of protection on forefoot strike.

-- Some VFF's were not rated for trails because they do not offer the minimum amount of protection required for a fun trail run experience.