If you're interested in a specific pair and would like to see my individual review, feel free to scroll down and check them out.
About 2 years ago I attempted what was, at the time, considered the new fitness “fad”. Barefoot running shoes, also known as minimalist shoes. The basis of the shoe is simple, to minimize the contact between your foot and the ground, while still providing enough protection to prevent rocks/slivers/glass/etc from piercing the skin.
I went in head first, purchasing myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/index.htm), or more commonly known as “those toe shoe things”. I fell in love in minutes, as soon as I tried them on in the store and walk around, I thought ‘where have these been all my life?!’.
Now I made one large mistake, I treated them as regular shoes. As soon as I got home I went outside for a 7km run. I wanted to feel how every surface felt, I ran to a park in the sand, through a field, on cement, on asphalt, on gravel, everything! The thing I didn’t realize, you need to ease into them, multiple websites and review recommend no more than 30% of your daily mileage in toe shoes when you first wear them. I did about 80% of my daily mileage in them...
When used properly, these minimalist shoes, namely the toe shoes, will change the way you walk and run. Instead of landing on your heel, you’ll learn to land on the ball of your foot (also known as a toe strike). This puts a lot more impact on the muscles, but removes a lot of impact from hitting joints directly, which is a good thing. But, the first time you wear them this can, and most likely will, be a huge strain on the muscles. Walking isn’t as noticeable, but when I first ran in Five Fingers, I felt muscles working in ways I’ve never experienced in the past. All sorts of stabilizer muscles working over time to teach my foot to work the way it’s naturally meant too. The only reason it hasn’t worked this way, is shoes with such large, padded, heels. Moral of the story, ease into your new shoes.
Individual Product Review
I’ve purchased myself many a pair of Five Finger since, because I’m a little bit obsessed with them, and want an indoor pair, an outdoor pair, and of course I need different pairs for exercising than I do for general use (not really, but it helps me sleep at night). So here is my reviews of the shoes I have worn myself. I personally do not enjoy wearing toe socks, because I can feel them between my toes, I don’t find the same sensation with shoes.
These right here are the ‘basic’ model of toe shoes. Made for general after sport and light running activities. I personally find these to be my favorite overall pair, they were the first pair I ever bought, and I continue to purchase them as the pair I wear at work (I’ve only gone through 1 pair in the last 2 years, which is awesome). They provide very little impact resistance on the foot during running, so be aware of that if you plan on running in them.
Fun fact: KSO stands for keep stuff out, and for the most part it really works, the only time I’ve had issues is when my foot is underwater and submerged completely in mud; which for some strange reason has happened more than once.
Now known as Trek LS, the only difference is the version sold now have laces. The pair I purchased did not have laces. These are a good shoes for warmth and comfort. The cross grip on the bottom makes them great for minor rock climbing and trekking. The grip also provide a bit of a massage when stepping on uneven surfaces, which is a nice bonus.
This is probably my least favorite pair I’ve purchased. I may have had a defective pair, but these are the only Five Fingers I’ve ever owned that have caused blisters, and I got some nasty ones. The shoe itself is very similar to KSO, just with different impact areas, which did make it more comfortable for running (minus the blisters, but as I said, I think it was a defect pair, lots of areas stuck out inside the shoe).
Be forewarned, try these on first! Even if you’ve already bought Five Fingers. These fit significantly tighter, mainly around the toes, than any other pair I’ve purchased. They are also, by far, the warmest pair of Five Finger. I did once try wearing them in minus 20 weather, and the rubber on the bottom froze. So while I would not suggest them for winter, they are great for cold water sports, or chilly fall nights. Try them on first, they will be a different size than normal. I know I already said this, but really keep this in mind!
The ‘toe boot’. I love these thing, they are very comfortable. They are exactly the same make as the Trek, using the same leather, same grip on the bottom, only difference is the fact that it covers the ankle a bit. I would not suggest using these for hiking or trekking. The top of the boot is not tight, leaving a lot of space for things to get in. But these make a great shoe for just walking around. They are for sure my favorite just ‘wondering around’ pair of shoes.
These are another pair to try on first, they fit a little tighter than most pairs of five fingers. I really enjoyed running in these, by far my favorite running pair so far. Since they take no damage from water (like all five fingers) it makes them a great pair to wear to rocky beaches. They dry quick, and they have good padding on the ball of the foot, so you won’t feel much of the rocks.
My newest pair, I haven’t worn them much. One thing's for sure, these are by far the most ‘rugged’ pair. They have a very thick feeling sole (though actually not thicker than the others), which awesome traction. Though I’ve only had them for a bit, they grip everything extremely well. They also have a ‘rock guard’ that I’ve yet to see in use. When I take them out for a run I’ll make sure to run on gravel. The area the rock guard is in, is the only area I’ve ever had an issue with rocks actually hurting, so that’s a nice addition. The rock guard also provides much more arch support than any of the other pairs. Spyrion is for sure the most different pair of Five Fingers. They feel much different than all the other pairs I’ve tried on, which could be great for some.