I had a nice suprise recently when Max and Sally of OC Fitness sent me a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Classics to try out. I've been wanting to compare FiveFingers with my running sandals for some time and thanks to Max and Sally's generosity I now had the chance.
First impressions: I like them. A lot !
The pair that I have are size 42 and they feel very snug. From measuring my feet and looking at the FiveFingers sizing chart I'm between sizes 42 and 43. The first few times that I put them on it was a time consuming exercise, especially the puzzle of how to convince my little toe to go into its own pocket. After a bit of practise though this got a lot easier.
So far I've worn them for a number of short runs (less than 10km) and one 16km run with substantial hills and lots of puddles. In terms of feeling the ground, the 5Fs are noticeably more cushioned than my thinnest Vibram Cherry sandals but less so than my off-road neoprene sandals. Because I do most of my running with the Cherry sandals the more insulated sensation of the 5Fs was off-putting to begin with, but after a few minutes of running in them I forgot all about that and began to enjoy them more and more.
The thing that appeals to me most is the stability of my foot in the 5Fs. With my sandals I still find my foot slips a little on the footbed, especially in the wet. I'm endlessly experimenting with different lacing patterns and non-slip additions to the footbed to remedy this. It's a very minor point, especially when set against the overall comfort and enjoyment of running with the sandals, but it's one that I'm still trying to improve. In comparison, the 5Fs, with their glove-like fit, free you from worrying about this even on downhill sections in the wet. On the hilly 16km run I found myself seeking out puddles just for the fun of it.
So, will I be switching from sandals to 5Fs for all my running ? No, but they'll definitely be part of my minimalist footwear armoury (footoury ?).
The Cherry sandals provide a closer-to-barefoot feeling of the ground and nothing beats having the tops and sides of your feet in the open air on a warm day. The 5Fs, although super to run in, feel enclosed in comparison, though not when compared to shoes and socks of course, and I notice my feet getting a little hotter and moister. On the other hand, I really appreciate the stability of the 5Fs on steep hills and in the wet and I suspect that they'll be my footwear of choice on cold winter runs too.