Review: Vibram Five Fingers Classic

I swore I’d never wear them. We called them the Five Fingers of Suck a few years ago and I was sure they were crazy. Friends, I’m here to tell you I was wrong. And I’m sorry.

Here’s my story: I ran a marathon a few years ago. I got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t run after the marathon. I worked through that inflammation but by the time I was ready to run again I had gained thirty pounds. Wham. Shin-splints. So I was a fat former runner with leg problems. The prognosis wasn’t good.

So I tried a few things – the elliptical, weight training, losing some freaking weight – but the thing that saved me were these shoes.


First, a caveat. I’m not a doctor, I’m an amateur runner and a bad one at that. Before you use these shoes, talk to a doctor. I can attest to what they did for me but I have no idea what they will do for you.

We are born to run. Heck, there’s even a book about it. Our first weapon, before fire and spears, was running. You see, animals like gazelles can run very fast for a short amount of time. They have great sprint speeds but they get tired easily. So we, as a pack predator, would get into formation and literally run animals to death. Then we’d eat them. We are good at running.

But we’re good at running barefoot. We’re not good at running in marshmallow-based shoes with padding, support, and protection. In fact, we get injured because of these shoes. There is some data that shows, in fact, that the more expensive the running shoe the worse it is for your feet and legs. I knew something was wrong when my feet would fall asleep while I was running. Something was up.

I don’t want to get into a religious argument – this is like arguing for veganism or onanism and you eventually fall into the hippie trap of equating something to “freedom” – but it makes sense. I bought the best shoes I could find for the marathon. And the shows – and the marathon – beat me down.

So I tried the Nike Free, a thinner soled shoe with separate compartments on the bottom for increased mobility. This got rid of most of my foot pain but I still had ankle pain. I ran a little in regular shoes and then read Born to Run and decided to go naked.

The thinking is this: we can run without injuries barefoot. It’s our natural mode of transportation and by wearing shoes we are weakening our bodies.

However, running barefoot in Brooklyn is a bad idea. So I ordered the Five Fingers Classic for about $75 – I bought 44 for my size 11.5 foot and they fit very well – and waited. I ran. My knees were screaming. My ankles hurt. Then, a few minutes later, all the pain was gone. I was running normally and, thanks to the light weight and comfort I could run longer than I ever could. I could run without stopping, which was a big change for me. I could run for quite a while. The only limitations were the blisters I got during the first few runs. Even those went away.

So I’m a Five Fingers convert. The shoes give your ankles a workout rather than a coddling. I felt my ankles get stronger and my feet get more resilient. I felt some of the pounds drop. I felt good.

They say we need lots of arch support but for most of our biological history we didn’t even know what an arch was let alone how to support it. While these shoes look ridiculous I’m happy to report that they work and they’re now my go-to running shoes.

Bottom Line

I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences with shoes and these shoes in particular. They make you look like an absolute doofus but they’re also absolutely great.