Vibram Five Fingers V-Alpha Shoes | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Vibram Five Fingers V-Alpha Shoes | Review

Vibram’s Five Fingers certainly divide opinion, and we’re firmly in the ‘for’ camp

Why We Chose The Vibram Five Fingers V-Alpha Shoes: Barefoot benefits, sensory feedback, lightweight.

Right, OK, we know. They do look a little odd, and they can generate a reaction along the lines of ‘what the hell are you wearing’, but just hear us out on these, because we think they’re really good.

These are shoes designed for people who want a more natural run. They have a zero drop, tiny stack height of just 5mm, low cushioning and of course that glove-like design, all of which combine to give your feet a sensory perception and dexterity akin to running barefoot with the added bonus of skin protection and grip.

“Vibram, in case you haven’t heard of them, are probably the arguably the best regarded shoe sole maker in the world”

Vibram, in case you haven’t heard of them, are arguably the best regarded shoe sole makers in the world, with their ultra grippy compounds used by some of the biggest brands and across all different sports. As of 2007 they moved away from being just an ‘ingredient’ brand and started selling a new ‘out there’ take on a shoe called ‘Five Fingers which quickly emerged as one of the go-to choices for barefoot enthusiasts. This, the V-Alpha, is one of the latest evolutions of that original design.

Vibram Five Finger shoes are commonly praised by people for improving their running style. It encourages a midfoot strike rather than a heel-to-toe strike which you tend to get from normal running shoes, and the benefit of this can be less strain on the hips and lower back.

An interesting report from the University of Northumbria states that habitual barefoot runners use “mid-foot landings, shorter stride lengths, faster stride rates, and less time in contact with the ground”. It also states that these runners “hit the ground with lower impact force and loading rates than runners who land on the rear foot in trainers”.

Vibram are arguably the best regarded shoe sole maker in the world. Photo: Chris Johnson
A pull tab found on the heel makes getting the shoes on a little easier. Photo: Chris Johnson
A velcro patch holds down the lacing tab. Photo: Chris Johnson

They’re not for everyone though. For some people, that midfoot landing just won’t suit them. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you can’t just run out the door with these and expect you’re running gait to be transformed for the better in an instant. It takes time, and you certainly need to get your feet and calves used to the barefoot style, easing yourself in gradually.

Here’s how Outdoors Magic editor Will Renwick has found his pair of Vibram Five Fingers V-Alphas…

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, Outdoors Magic Editor

“I’ve been wearing these quite a lot since I got them a couple of months ago. I’ve walked in them, worked in them, and run on roads and trails in them. I even took them on holiday with me for a week as my only pair of shoes. And I’ve really, really enjoyed wearing them.

“I know they look strange, and they’ve certainly brought a lot of amusement to my friends and colleagues, but running in these feels absolutely brilliant. On trails, that sensory perception adds a whole new dimension, you get such a feel and connection with the ground below you, and generally feel much more agile and nimble.

“On one of my more notable runs in these, I covered about 10 miles of coastal path in Pembrokeshire, and felt fully protected the whole time, even while running over sharp rocks, brambles and roots. I even jumped in the sea while wearing them then carried on running and they dried out really quickly. Vibram have a specialist version of the Five Fingers for that kind of thing though mind.

The difference in gait, compared to that of cushioned running shoes takes time to get used to. Photo: Chris Johnson

“As I expected, when I started out in these, I did find it was a bit of a shock to some of my muscles, getting sore feet and calves after each run, and also a sore backside for some reason! That’s all gradually gone away and my body has got used to the different running style.

“Over the past year, I’ve developed a sore lower back from what I suspect might be running in high drop trail shoes too often. From what I can tell from reports from other reviewers online switching to these might help. It’s too early to tell at the moment, but I’ll update this review with my verdict in a few months time.

“A little niggle that I found with the Vibram Five Fingers was that they were quite hard to get on when I first started using them, though it does eventually get easier as the toes stretch and shape to your feet. I’ve also found that they do start to smell after a number of big runs. Fortunately you can stick them in a washing machine (on a cold wash), and wearing them with Vibram’s special socks will help with this also.”

Vibram Five Fingers V-Alpha Shoes

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