My Experience with the Vibram Five Fingers Shoes

Earlier this year, my brother got me a pair of Vibram FiveFinger KSO‘s for my birthday. They’re pretty freaky. Here are some random notes on my adventures with these shoes.


Picture by Yoav

When I was picking them up from Nomadic Outfitters here in San Francisco, the woman who was serving me said that back to the manufacturer, they were sold out of size 44’s, and everything black (for males). She also described them as being “like drugs” and said that once people are hooked, they want more, more MORE. She said she had one guy come in and buy 10 pairs. Apparently he sold them on eBay at $140 a pair (a ~$60 premium).

Initial Wearing

When I first put them on, the shoes felt weird, but “cozy”. I didn’t have any immediate pain/discomfort, but I was only wearing them for shorter periods. There was a distinct feeling of walking around barefoot, yet still feeling protected. It took some getting used to when walking around downtown or somewhere where I was quite conscious of the idea of walking in that area barefoot.

Krav Maga

After being warned that I should “take it easy” while I was getting used to my new shoes and the new style of walking they encouraged, I made the rookie mistake of wearing them to a couple of consecutive Krav Maga classes. I found they had lots of grip, almost too much (on rubber floor pads), and that it felt quite weird (almost unsafe) to have separate toes gripping/flexing independently. The day after I wore them, my calves and butt-muscles burned and felt super tight.


I’d heard that people went hiking in their Vibrams, but I wasn’t ready to go that hardcore just yet. I was going camping though, so I took them along  to try them out. They performed pretty much as expected; They were not warm (not wearing socks), I could feel more sticks, stones etc, and my actual feet got wet very easily from dew on the grass. On the flip side, they provided great traction, even in mud/on stones and allowed me to feel more directly connected to the Earth. They also made it much easier to feel your contact with the ground and walk quietly/carefully (while still protecting your soles from sticks and things stabbing into them).

Out & About

The last test is what they’re life for “everyday wear”. I get lots of stares & looks from random people. They look at my feet, then up to me. Back to my feet, then back to me. Your shoes are now DIAMONDS. Sorry, I got sidetracked 🙂 I get people asking me “are they shoes” and wanting to know about them, so I end up being a traveling marketer. Great advertising for the brand I guess. People ask about if my feet hurt, if they protect my feet, etc etc. Oh, and I have also most definitely been approached/hit on by girls in a bar, based purely on the shoes 😉

I’d recommend giving them a shot, especially if you have the flexibility to wear them around quite a bit (e.g. if they’d be acceptable at your place of employment). The biggest downside I’ve noticed is that my feet smell absolutely horrible when I’m wearing them, and I haven’t found a way to remedy that just yet.

  1. Titanas said:

    I so want to buy them but the smelling part really changed my mind. Have you tried any kind of those foot sprays?

    • Beau Lebens said:

      I haven't tried them, no. I've tried just spraying some normaldeodorant into them, but it didn't seem to help. It almost seems likea reaction between the materials in the shoes and my feet orsomething. Not quite sure.

  2. Donncha said:

    Perhaps your feet can't breath as you're not wearing socks and the shoes would I presume be tight on your feet? I've hardly ever seen them on this side of the world, but I do remember walking to a bar with Matt when he was in Dublin a few months ago and saw a guy walking down the street wearing a black pair.

    So, something for the single lads on a night out then? Just hope the girls don't find out about the smell …

    • Beau Lebens said:

      Yep, I have a pair of 5-toed socks as well, but don't usually wear them. I might need to wash the shoes, then try only wearing them with the socks for a while to see how much of a difference that makes. Matt is also a convert now BTW, and is wearing them all the time 😉

  3. Stephen R said:

    Different but similar, you might try MBT shoes. I have three pair and my wife has two — despite the high price, and we both absolutely love them. They take a different route towards the "barefoot" thing. MBTs try to make it as though you're always walking on soft ground.

    No "smell" issues – pretty much like any other shoe in that regard, but you have to be careful getting them wet. I wouldn't wear them camping and such — they're for when you're in "civilization": pavement, flooring, blacktop, etc.

  4. Jesse Mansfield said:

    Be prepared for confrontation in establishments that have "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" policies. LOL….

  5. Ella said:

    I have a pair that I wear everyday at work and on the weekends. I have owned them for a few months and love them, I have just ordered another pair to use indoors. The shoes are machine washable and I think that will resolve the smell. I have not had any issues wearing them into establishments, although I have not worn them with skirts.

    • Beau Lebens said:

      Machine washing them does immediately remove any smell. I've also noticed that if I wear them with socks, even when I'm doing something like going for a bit of a run or working out or something, they don't smell afterwards. Only wearing them with no socks gets a bit stinky.

      • Michaela said:

        Agree! One run in the washing mashine removes the smell… But Vibram Fivefingers and socks? That sounds strange to me – Even stranger than Vibrams themselves 😀
        I wear mine without socks and just for running and exercises, cause I work in an office and VFFs doesn't fit really well there 😉

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  7. Cody said:

    If anyone is still looking at this thread, Vibram have suggested denture cleaning tablets in a bucket of water to remove the smell and people on somethingawful have gotten very good results.

  8. helen said:

    put bicarbonate soda in them before and after using them.. and if you put bicarbonate soda in them put in plastic bag in put in freezer overnight you will kill the bacteria in the shoe..

  9. Naz said:

    I so want to get them too and the remedy for the smell is to get a toe socks to wear it with your toe shoes :):)

  10. blazers said:

    The look of Vibram five fingers shoe pain is very impressive and I was excited to purchase one pair as well. But reading through complete post, the smell part is discouraging me not to buy that shoe pair.

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