Learning to move and run in Vibram FiveFingers®.
Since the launch of Vibram FiveFingers® in 2006, the concept of minimalism, and minimalist running in particular, has spawned a recurring public debate. So, how are we supposed to do this minimalist/barefoot thing? The truth is, there isn’t a single correct approach – it’s probably more complicated than that. However, as one of the prominent leaders in this movement, we want to give you Vibram’s take on it. We believe that moving and running in FiveFingers can make us healthier, happier, and more connected to our bodies. We hope the following information will help you discover how YOU can safely explore the joys of natural movement.
Wearing FiveFingers for running, fitness training, water sports or just for fun will make your feet stronger and healthier—naturally. And while we do love our Vibram FiveFingers®, we don’t believe it is the only footwear you will ever need. There are many times when you need the protection and security of a shoe or boot. Like all things in life, there is a balance, and Vibram FiveFingers® provides a healthy alternative to traditional footwear. Following the tips below will allow you to make the switch to FiveFingers more comfortably, safely and effectively.
-Listen to your feet! Switching to Vibram FiveFingers® from traditional shoes is a transition that may take time. For some, it is a matter of weeks, for others months, and for a few it could be a year or more. Much is dependent on your foot type, the activities you’re using FiveFingers for, and the amount of pronation you experience. Listen to your body.
-Stop if your arches or the top of your foot is hurting, or if anything else hurts! Remember to transition slowly to FiveFingers in order to build strength in your lower legs and feet and to minimize discomfort. An adjustment period is normal, and any discomfort should decrease after a week or two of use. When running in FiveFingers, sometimes arch and foot pain occurs from landing with your feet too far forward relative to your hips and having to point your toes too much. It can also occur from landing with too rigid a foot and not letting your heel drop gently.
-Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal; bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury.
-In the beginning, remember to carry your traditional footwear in your hands as a backup. If you need to stop in the middle of a workout, you can put on your cushioned running shoes and continue with your activity.
Step 1: Understand Your Feet
Vibram Fivefingers® assists the natural form and function of your foot. Before you make the transition to wearing FiveFingers, it is important to familiarize yourself with your bare foot through our series of sensory exercises provided by our fitness advisor Stacey Lei Krauss.
Your feet contain 52 bones, 66 joints, 40 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons, and ligaments—collectively forming two of the body’s most beautifully efficient mechanisms.Yet most people assume that there is something inherently “wrong” with their feet: too wide, too narrow, arches too high or flat, etc. Traditional shoes have become a way of “fixing” these assumed abnormalities. And, as a result, the powerful architecture of our feet has become hidden, disliked, and incredibly sensitive – even weakened. Feet have taken the brunt of a cultural notion that your foot is “wrong;” that corrective shoes will make it “right.”
By practicing our recommended sensory exercises, you’ll rediscover the vast potential of your feet and come to a better understanding of how they look, feel, and perform – before and after making the switch to Vibram FiveFingers®.
Step 2: Try Different Surfaces
Walk, feel, explore. Your feet will determine the pace of your progress.
The thin, flexible, and deconstructed sole of your Vibram FiveFingers® allows the foot to curl and flex. The five toes are separate—just like your feet! Because of these features,every step taken in FiveFingers® is a lesson in texture, temperature, and biomechanics.
Your feet are excellent at collecting information. Thousands of neurological receptors send valuable information to the brain to tell your body where it is in space and what the terrain is like.
- First, start by practicing our recommended sensory exercises and notice how your entire foot feels.
- Next, walk on different surfaces. This is one of the most obvious and easiest ways to stimulate and exercise the foot. With bare feet or in Vibram FiveFingers®, explore your home and its surroundings. Notice how your feet feel on smooth vs. rough surfaces and try to sense/recognize the signals that your feet send to your brain.
You’ll probably notice that your foot strike and stride instinctively adjust to different surfaces. Experiment in a safe, controlled way on grass, carpeting, pavement, dirt, pebbles, and smooth rock—keeping your eyes open for potential hazards or unfriendly objects.
Step 3: Foot Fitness Program
2-week strength training program.
Now that you have begun to familiarize yourself with your feet, you’ve probably noticed that they are pretty weak. Maybe it’s hard to spread or control your toes? Perhaps being barefoot for an extended amount of time leaves your feet sore or tired? To safely begin the transition to wearing Vibram FiveFingers® for barefoot running and fitness, we highly recommend the following foot strengthening exercises.
Practice the exercises below in 3 sets of 20 reps, 3-5X/week for 2 weeks. Your feet may feel tired afterwards, but you should not be in pain. Ultimately, this series of exercises will be part of your warm-up routine.
- 1. Heel raise
- 2. Toe grip
- 3. Dorsi/plantar flexion
- 4. Toe spread/tap
- 5. Exaggerated eversion/inversion
- 6. Grabbing a towel on the floor with toes and pass to other foot
- 7. Walking in FiveFingers: never underestimate the power of just being barefoot or in FiveFingers. One- to two-hour intervals of general day-to-day activity in your FiveFingers is an excellent way to slowly build the small muscles in the feet and ankles.
Making The Switch To Vibram FiveFingers®
Rule #1: Always listen to your body.
Everybody’s feet are different, so it’s important to listen to yours, as you make the transition to wearing Vibram FiveFingers®. Here are some frequently asked questions about running and exercising in Vibram FiveFingers® with answers supplied by the Vibram Medical Advisory Board. For additional information, visit the FAQ section of our web site.
How long will it take to transition to Vibram FiveFingers®?
For some, it is a matter of weeks, for others months, and for a few it could be a year or more. Much is dependent on your foot type, the activities you're using Vibram FiveFingers for, and the amount of pronation you experience. The progression will ultimately be worth the wait, and your foot and body will be stronger and better off for it. The answer lies in your inherent foot and body biomechcanics and the condition of your muscles. Just remember, improving the skill of those muscles then practicing and using those muscles in Vibram FiveFingers can help increase both endurance and strength. Listen to your body.
My feet hurt after wearing Vibram FiveFingers®. Is this normal?
An adjustment period is normal at first as your feet and lower legs increase strength and mobility. This should decrease after a week or two of use. Remember to transition slowly to acclimate your lower legs and feet and to minimize discomfort.
I wear orthotics. Can I still wear Vibram FiveFingers®?
Vibram FiveFingers are designed to promote better foot mechanics—naturally. As such, they’re meant to be worn directly against the sole of your foot, allowing your foot to move as if barefoot. An orthotic is an assistive device to support your foot's function and help you compensate for any biological aberrations. Attempting to utilize an orthotic with Vibram FiveFingers would defeat their purpose. If you have an extremely flat foot, you will need to work into wearing your Vibram FiveFingers gradually, as your muscles will need time to adapt and strengthen.
When it comes to running and fitness, very few people stop and think about the two most important tools: your feet. They contain 52 bones, 66 joints, 40 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons, and ligaments—collectively forming two of the body’s most beautifully efficient mechanisms. It’s about time that we got to know them!
Start With Our Recommended Sensory Foot Exercises
LOOK: Take off your shoes and socks. Take a good look at your feet. Become familiar with the shape and condition of the feet. This will help you understand and identify the changes that will take place as you transition to moving and running in FiveFingers.
TOUCH: Massage is one of the best ways to stimulate the nerves and muscles of the feet—and it feels good, too! Try these exercises sitting down and barefoot.
- Run your fingers between your toes – push back and forth, twisting your hand a little.
- Use your elbow to rub the entire base of the foot
- Use your hand to push toes back and forth creating a gentle stretch
- Administer gentle pressure with your thumbs, moving towards your toes. Feel/tweak your tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue
FEEL: Feet are excellent at collecting information. Thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain to tell your body where it is in space and what the terrain is like. Actively stimulating these receptors improves balance, increases circulation, and enhances overall foot health.
- After practicing these exercises, notice how your entire foot feels. Remember these sensations the next time you practice self-massage and when you begin to move and run in Vibram FiveFingers®.
- Walk on different surfaces, With bare feet or in Vibram FiveFingers®, explore your home and its surroundings. Notice how your feet feel on smooth vs. rough surfaces and try to sense/recognize the signals that your feet send to your brain.
- You’ll probably notice that your foot strike and stride instinctively adjust to different surfaces. Experiment in a safe, controlled way on grass, carpeting, pavement, dirt, pebbles, and smooth rock—keeping your eyes open for potential hazards or unfriendly objects.
1. Run fingers between toes
2. Use elbow to rub the entire base
3. Use hand to push toes back and forth
4. Administer gentle pressure with thumbs
Create a Personal Plan for Success
Before you start running in Vibram FiveFingers®, we encourage you to read the important information in How To Get Started and Get To Know Your Feet. Once you follow our recommended program, you’ll probably notice some significant improvements in the strength and flexibility of your feet. Now you’re ready for a test session to explore the light and joyful feeling of barefoot running!
In order to make this as easy as possible, we’ve broken down the process into 4 parts: choosing a surface, Minimalist technique, measurable distances, and a sample training plan. Please remember, the information and advice we are about to share is based on scientific research, anecdotal evidence, and personal experience. There is no single training and transition program that is suitable for everyone. You should try to discover what works for your body in order to make this transition safe and successful.
One of the reasons barefoot running has become so popular is that it is synonymous with freedom and exploration. Give yourself the gift of time and patience as you explore this “new” way of running and moving. Forget about splits, time, distance and PRs for a little while and focus on running for the pure joy of connecting to your body, and your environment in a new way. Your patience will pay off in the long run as you emerge from this experience with a refreshed outlook on running.