Barefoot Running Shoes – Which Vibram Fivefingers Should I Get?

Running Barefoot – back to the future?

There’s little point in reviewing any other barefoot running shoes because the leading sole manufacturer Vibram, is by far and away the ‘go to’ product in this discipline. There are a lot of other review sites listing barefoot running options and feature ‘full on’ trainers, I simply don’t understand this. It’s simply an oxymoron. If you’re not ready to go ‘barefoot’ and you need a chunky eva midsole to support you with laces and tongues in your barefoot shoes then you’re not really embracing the barefoot concept!

In terms of human development, we humans have been pack hunting gazelles on the African Savannah for countless millennia, running mile after mile in bare feet. It’s only relatively recently in the big scheme of things that we’ve been donning soles. Don’t just take it from us, here’s a quick 6 minute video compiled by Harvard’s Barefoot Professor, Daniel Lieberman…

Experts say we’re built for barefoot, though nowadays jogging through a local park barefoot is fraught with dangers for our feet! Our ‘wimpy’ soft soled feet will be the subject of a few ‘oohhs’ and ‘ouches’ as gravel, chippings, sharp stones and worse still, sharp thorns pierce the underside of our feet.

This is where the Vibram soles come into play. Here’s an official video from the guys at Vibram:

The benefits of barefoot running have long been touted by numerous experts, we’ll leave some interesting further reading on barefoot running at the errrm ‘foot’ of this article but focusing on the Vibram product brings us to a happy medium between our inner, primal caveman and the modern day runner who craves to feel a little more at one with the ground under their feet.

Instead, we’ll focus on which of the Vibram Five Fingers shoes are best suited for various outdoor disciplines. We’ve done a LOT of reading around and collated our information from countless other review articles on the Vibram Fivefinger family.

Best Vibram FiveFingers for Running on the Road – V Running Bikila

Road Running Pick – V Running Bikila EVO

An ideal fivefinger pick for those who run on a mix of road and trail. The midsole is slightly thicker than the other Vibram fivefinger soles so there’s that extra bit of cushioning. These V Running Bikila’s will come into their own after 2 to 3 miles of pounding the tarmac whilst still giving you a barefoot sensory experience.

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Blessed with breathable, perforated air holes, speed laces and a thicker eva midsole, the latest version of Vibrams Fivefingers Bikila running shoe is best for the avid road runner who wants a more barefooted experience. There are comments circulating that the Bikila EVO can stretch after a while so perhaps try a half size down. The grips on the Bikila are quite interesting, they are ideal for traction should loose shale or gravel present a problem on your road run.

  • Decent cushioning
  • Excellent breathability
  • Will grip on shale/gravel
  • They stretch, buy half size down

Best Vibram FiveFingers for Offroad Trails – V-Trail

Trail Running Pick – V-Trail

With very robust lugs on the soles, the V Trail will give the off-load runner confidence to blast a path, no matter what the surface. These fivefingers will keep the foot wrapped nicely with a lace-up function instead of velcro. You can pick these up for less than £100 too which is good value.

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The team at Vibram have developed the V Trail from an earlier Fivefinger shoe called the Spyridon MR. The V-Trail is a superb choice for the trail runner. Reviewers found this new 2017 edition V-Trail has incredible grip and the lugs on the sole (shapes of the grips for the layman!) are dispersed in haphazard directions for extra traction on loose stones and debris. The toes have an extra curl of rubber to prevent stubbing or injury and they also get great reviews for their breathability. The V-Trail Vibram’s have slightly thicker soles than the KSO’s, but further, these V-Trail’s are durable, stand up to mud, sludge and grimy conditions.

  • Solid ‘Lugs’ for grips
  • Toe protection
  • Work well in wet conditions
  • Be careful with sizing

Best Vibram FiveFingers for Hiking – Trek Ascent

Hiking Pick – Trek Ascent

With an 8mm sole, the Trek Ascent offers cushioning but still gives sensory feedback from hiking trails. This shoe performs well on paved roads too. Flatter heel than other models, ideal for the strict barefoot purist!

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Vibram upgraded their TrekSport edition and rebadged it Trek Ascent. It’s certainly in the ascendancy when it comes to a barefoot hiking shoe. The newly crowned Trek Ascent from Vibram Fivefingers scores very highly on every review site we checked. One customer lamented no issues with wet grass, moss, mud, loose rocks or even paved roads. A lot of the plaudits are due to the 8mm thick soles (their KSO shoe has just 5mm) making for incredible grip and a pull toggle lacing system gives more support on top of the foot. Throw all these factors into the mix and the Trek Ascent would be our go-to Fivefingers pair for hiking and walking in the hills.

  • 8mm cushioned yet responsive
  • Elastic laces for support
  • Work well in wet conditions
  • Flatter – may require practice

Best Vibram FiveFingers for Indoor Gym Use – KSO EVO

Indoor Gym Pick – KSO EVO

Super lightweight and literally fit the foot like a glove. KSO EVO’s are a bit of a flagship pair and score highly on review sites. Breathable mesh make these ideal for indoor use.

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This feels like a strange conundrum, barefoot shoes for an indoor gym? These Fivefinger things are the domain of the outdoors – surely? Once you have adapted and become experienced at wearing Vibram Fivefingers, apparently there’s no going back. The KSO EVO would be the better shoe for the indoor gym go-er. The men’s version is 4.1oz and the women’s is 3.5o.z, getting you close to a truly lightweight barefoot experience. The breathable mesh on the top of the foot also bodes well for sweaty indoor use, ensuring dryness and comfort during a workout. The KSO EVO Fitness shoe also has an anti-microbial inner sock lining, perfect for sweat management, especially if you’re not bothering with Fivefinger socks!

  • Very lightweight
  • Pull toggle for laces
  • Breathability in hot gyms
  • Reports of sizing issues
  • Choose alternative for outdoor (KSO’s can rip)

Top 10 Vibram Fivefingers Recommendations by Activity

  1. Running on the Road – Bikila – see our review above
  2. Running with Hi-Vis – Bikila H-Vis
  3. Running on Offroad Trails – V-Trail – see our review above
  4. Hiking the Hills Lightweight – Trek Ascent – see our review above
  5. Hiking the Hills – Heavy Ankle Support/Warmth – Trek Ascent Insulated
  6. Indoor Gym Use – KSO EVO – see our review above
  7. Yoga, Pilates & Mat Based Exercise – El-x
  8. For Watersports & Kayaking – V Aqua
  9. Closest to Barefoot Option 1 El-x
  10. Closest to Barefoot Option 2 Vi-b

Credit for Featured Image – published under Creative Commons

Those Barefoot Resources we talked about earlier…

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