Vibram FiveFingers

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FiveFingers KSO Trek

The Vibram FiveFingers are a type of minimalist shoe manufactured by Vibram, originally marketed as a more natural alternative for outdoor activities (sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and as a camp or after-hike shoe).[1] The footwear is meant to replicate being barefoot and has thin, flexible soles that are contoured to the shape of the human foot, including visible individual sections for the toes.[2] The company settled a lawsuit alleging false health claims and set aside $3.75 million to pay refunds of up to $94 to anyone who had purchased the product since March 21, 2009.[3]


Invented by Robert Fliri, a design student from Vinschgau who wanted to "figure out a way to move around in nature better." Vibram FiveFingers were developed and introduced in 2005.[2][4][5][6][7][8]


Vibram FiveFingers were originally targeted to yacht racers to maintain grip on slippery decks without compromising the barefoot experience.[9] Their potential use as a minimalist running shoe was suggested by the Vibram USA CEO to Ted McDonald, a runner who earned the nickname "Barefoot Ted" and ran in the shoes during the 2006 Boston Marathon as part of the brand launch.[10] The purpose of these shoes as outlined by the manufacturers is to provide footwear to be mainly used for fitness, running, water sports, yoga, trekking and travelling, and other sports.[11]



FiveFingers Spyridon LS
FiveFingers Bikila

Vibram FiveFingers come in a variety of styles and sizes, including FiveFingers KMD Sport, KMD Sport LS, Classic, Sprint, Flow, KSO, TrekSport, KSO Trek, Bikila (named after Abebe Bikila, whose family unsuccessfully sued Vibram for damages over use of the name), Bikila LS, Speed and also men's styles FiveFingers Spyridon (named after Spyridon Louis), Trek LS and Bormio and women's styles FiveFingers Jaya and Jaya LR.[12] Children's KSO, Sprint and Speed styles are available.[13][14] Children's KSO, Sprint and Speed styles are available.[13]

Since 2020, Vibram has collaborated with fashion labels to develop FiveFingers-based designer footwear on at least three occasions: a $1,300 "Toe" shoe released by Balenciaga, a shoe with painted nails produced by Japanese footwear brand Suicoke and label Midorikawa, and a shoe based on traditional sneakers from Suicoke and designer Takahiro Miyashita.[15]


Unlike traditional footwear, Vibram FiveFingers do not follow the typical US or UK shoe-sizing scales.[citation needed] They require precise foot length measurement with accuracy of 1/8 inch (3 mm) and conversion to the FiveFingers sizing chart. This ranges from 38 to 50 for men, 34–42 for women, and 29–36 for children. As a result, the shoe sizing more closely mirrors the EU system. However, minor discrepancies exist between the women's and men's sizing, so, e.g., a women's size 39 does not equal a men's size 39.[16]


Vibram FiveFingers comprise many different materials that vary depending on the style of shoe. The most common components are Vibram TC-1 performance rubber, which makes up the sole of these shoes, a thin stretch polyamide comprising the frame of the shoe that molds to the contours of the user's foot, and an antimicrobial microfiber footbed.[citation needed]

Minimalist shoes[edit]

In a report on an article in Nature, co-author Daniel E. Lieberman (whose research was partially funded by Vibram) stated that "People who wear conventional running shoes tend to run with a significantly different strike than those who run in minimalist shoes or barefoot. More specifically, the ball of the foot should strike the ground before the heel when running (or walking) barefoot or in minimalist shoes. By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision."[17][18] Lieberman has "emphasized that his research does not include data on injury or show that barefoot running is better for you" but that it is "a reasonable hypothesis that needs to be tested".[19] Lieberman et al.'s study was an experiment that involved five groups of runners from Kenya and the United States. The two American groups were adult athletes who had run with shoes since childhood, and those who habitually ran barefoot or with minimal footwear such as Vibram FiveFingers (mentioned by name in the study). The three Kenyan groups were adults who had never run in shoes until late adolescence, as well as two teenage groups: those that habitually wore shoes and those that always ran barefoot. The runners were instructed to run over a force plate that was embedded in a 25-meter track, and were recorded during the run using a three-dimensional infrared kinematic system. These measurements were used to assess the pattern with which the foot strikes the ground and how forcibly it does so.[20]

FiveFingers with toe socks

Health effects[edit]

Barefoot running, which is similar to running with FiveFingers on, appears to decrease the risk of ankle sprain and plantar fasciitis.[21]

If not conditioned slowly enough, especially when transitioning away from heelstrike running or from wearing shoes with an elevated heel, the sole of the foot or plantar fascia can become inflamed or damaged with activity.[20] Also due to over-training or incorrect form, runners may experience Achilles tendonitis or metatarsal inflammation and fractures. Over-striding in Vibram FiveFingers, that is, landing with the foot too far in front of one's hips, adds extra unnecessary stress to the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the arch of the foot, which can lead to serious health problems if not addressed.[20]

One study found a greater number of new wearers of FiveFingers showed an increase in bone marrow edema than those in the study's control group.[22] It recommended transition to use of the shoe be very slow and gradual.


In 2012, an initial lawsuit was filed against Vibram over claims made about their FiveFingers minimalist shoe. Vibram claimed that the shoe "reduce[s] foot injuries and strengthen[s] foot muscles". The claim was based on Gert-Peter Bruggermann research accepted at the 2005 Conference for the International Society of Biomechanics. While Vibram has "expressly" denied "any actual or potential fault ... or liability", on May 7, 2014, it was announced that company has moved to settle the suit and agreed to set aside $3.75 million to pay refunds of up to $94 to anyone who had purchased the product since March 21, 2009.[3]

In 2015, the family of deceased Ethiopian Olympic runner Abebe Bikila filed a lawsuit against Vibram for using and trademarking the Bikila name without permission. The suit was dismissed in 2016 on the basis that the Bikila family unreasonably delayed in seeking to enforce their rights. The family had become aware of Vibram's use of the Bikila name in 2011. Following the dismissal, the Bikila family's attorney stated that "Vibram has never asked the Bikila Family for permission, nor compensated them for using Abebe Bikila’s personality."[14]

Trail vibram shoes after a muddy run.
Close view of the soles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Living Barefoot Show episode #3: Interview to Michael Martin, National Sales Manager for Vibram FiveFingers". 2009-07-30. 47 minutes in. {{cite episode}}: Missing or empty |series= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Foot mechanics and health". Vibram FiveFingers. 2010-07-20. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
  3. ^ a b Lenny Bernstein (May 8, 2014). "People who bought these Vibram FiveFinger shoes may be entitled to a refund". Washington Post. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  4. ^ "The story of the five fingers" Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine. Bodyconsciousdesign. 2006. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  5. ^ Dziernak, Lou (November 2009). "Barefoot your Soul". SGB. doi:1933424561. ISSN 1548-7407.
  6. ^ "Vibram FiveFingers shoes". Steve van Dulken. 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  7. ^ Vonhof, John (2011). Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes. Wilderness press. pp. 85-86. ISBN 978-0-89997-638-9.
  8. ^ "Bare facts; Running fads". The Economist. September 16, 2011. doi:2458505431.
  9. ^ "Protect your feet at the beach, in the boat or at the mall with shoes designed for water and land but with more support than a water sock.". Star Tribune. June 20, 2006. doi:1064219291.
  10. ^ McDougall, Christopher (2009). Born To Run (1st ed.). New York: Vintage Books. pp. 163–164. ISBN 9780307279187.
  11. ^ "Men's Footwear". Vibram. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  12. ^ "Women's Footwear". Vibram. Archived from the original on November 13, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Kid's Footwear." Vibram, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <>.
  14. ^ a b Johnson, Gene (November 1, 2016). "Lawsuit over use of barefoot marathoner's name is dismissed". Associated Press. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  15. ^ Watamanuk, Tyler (August 19, 2021). "Are Sneakerheads Ready for Barefoot Shoes?". GQ. Condé Nast. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "Size Conversion Chart". Vibram. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  17. ^ "Barefoot running: How humans ran comfortably and safely before the invention of shoes". 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
  18. ^ Peter Vigneron (March 30, 2012). "The Vibram Lawsuit". Outside Online. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  19. ^ Ki Mae Huessner (January 29, 2010). "Barefoot Running: Is Going Shoe-Free for You?". ABC News. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  20. ^ a b c Lieberman, DE.; Venkadesan, M.; Werbel, WA.; Daoud, AI.; D'Andrea, S.; Davis, IS.; Mang'eni, RO.; Pitsiladis, Y. (Jan 2010). "Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners". Nature. 463 (7280): 531–5. Bibcode:2010Natur.463..531L. doi:10.1038/nature08723. PMID 20111000. S2CID 216420.
  21. ^ "Barefoot Running". Retrieved 2022-03-01.
  22. ^[bare URL PDF]

External links[edit]