Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vibram Five Fingers "Sprint" Review

I know there must be thousands of reviews of VFFs out there, by now, but I just thought I'd throw my input out there.  I've been running in my sprints (off and on, they're not my favorite at this point, but they were my first minimal footwear) for about 15 months.  Here's my take on it:

I will preface this by saying I've only tried two kinds of minimal shoes (at this point) for running - my VFF sprints and my Merrell Barefoot Pace Gloves.  Aside from that I've run completely without shoes, so that gives you an idea of my experience.  Generally I run 3-4 miles per run, although I've just signed up for a half-marathon, so I'm excited to see how my barefooting holds up!  I've worn my VFFs trail running, street running, and also for hiking/general walking, not to mention just casually.

Most people's first question is "what do they feel like??"  Well, they feel basically like wearing gloves on your feet.  They're not difficult to get on if you have any ability to move your toes, though there's a slight learning curve - the first couple times were a little weird and I needed to use my fingers to guide my smaller toes in, but now I'm pretty used to it and they slip on easily.  The fabric is thin, about the thickness of the material in a woman's bathing suit, though not quite as stretchy.  Before I ordered them, I thought the pictures always looked a bit puffy, as if they're made out of maybe neoprene or something, so I was a little shocked to find this out when I received them.

I'll concede that probably some of the problems on here may, or even certainly do relate to the style (the "sprints" vs. other styles of VFF)

  • These shoes are very thin and flexible.  You can literally roll them right up.  Really easy to pack to take with you on vacation or whatever.
  • When wearing them you can feel little bumps and rocks in the road, though not enough for it to be uncomfortable.  Still, a lot of ground feel, thus, very similar to barefoot - more similar to barefoot than my Merrell barefoot pace gloves.
  • It's easy to spread my toes.
  • They LOOK really cool and get asked about a lot.  This can be a con if you like to hide, but I kind of like the opportunity to enlighten people.  Sometimes their faces look horrified and they say "WHAT IS ON YOUR FEET?" though and I reply with sort of a meek "uh... shoes?" but that usually leads into a discussion of how they feel and why I would wear such a thing and whatnot.  
  • Though the toes fit my toes well, occasionally they twist when I'm running and feel sort of funny (not a huge issue, but I do squirm my feet around while running once this happens and lose focus)
  • I'm not a huge fan of the velcro.  It sticks to things sometimes (like if it's in a bag with other stuff), and occasionally it cuts in/chafes my skin if I haven't worn them in a while.  I'm considering trying one of the types of VFF that is a bit more like a sneaker.
  • The heel slides down, but when I pull it up, the sides cut into my ankles and are uncomfortable.  I think it's possible that I should downsize, but here's a picture of what I mean: 


             See how the blue velcro is touching the top of the sole in the first picture (and not in the     second)?  That is a bit annoying while running.  I noticed that the newer style they've made        some changes to this part of the shoe, so it's possible that that is no longer an issue.  I do know         that in other VFF styles, the heel cup is more like a sneaker, which would fix this issue entirely, I expect.
  •    The infamous VFF stench.  Funny because the first couple months of using them I didn't really get much of the stench... but oh boy, yes, now I get it.  And ew.  It's possible that they've managed to fix this in the past year, too... 
  • This is minor since these have so much ground feel, but running in them is still different from running barefoot.  If you only ever run in minimal shoes, you should give completely barefoot a try if for no other reason than to see the difference.  I mean, these are *really* minimal and I can feel rocks and stuff through them, and it's still somewhat different than running completely barefoot.
  • My last complaint is that these don't have enough grip on the bottom.  They only have thin little razor slices in them.  I'll admit that this is completely due to the style.  Other ones have more grip... and honestly more grip, I assume, would result in less ground-feel, but these are not shoes I would recommend for a lot of trail running.  They slide in mud... not exactly what you would want for a trail run.  If you're set on VFFs for trail running (which I was), definitely check out some of the other styles with more grippy bottoms.  Totally would be worth it, and again, I'm seriously contemplating getting those.
Anyway, so that's it!  Would I buy sprints again?  Hmm... I think they'd be great water shoes or for water sports, definitely.  For me, however, I would prefer something with less velcro and with a better heel cup/collar.

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