Vibram and Vivobarefoot are probably the two biggest brands designed specifically for the barefoot runner, while other industry giants may have dabbled, these two are first and foremost barefoot brands.

In my experience, I’ve always found that those who train in barefoot or minimalist shoes, tend to like to tell you about it. They’ll scoff at your padding and wiggle their toes until they go blue in the face, but why are people so enthusiastic about being barefoot? Should we all be ditching the padding and reverting to a barefoot style shoe. It seems like in a world where technology is constantly advancing, the fitness industry is constantly trying to rewind history, first with the Paleo diet and now barefoot shoes!

Vibram Trainers

Vibram vs Vivobarefoot

Appearance

As a twenty-something female, when it comes to trainers, as much as I want function, I’m in it for the aesthetics. I want to look good in my trainers and wear them as casualwear as well as whilst I’m training. I would not wear either of these trainers as casualwear. Make no mistake, neither barefoot trainer blends into your workout wardrobe. They stand out. They create a reaction. People will stare. People will ask, are you prepared to answer? Once you’ve tried them, I bet you will be.

5 Finger KSO Evo

Sole: The hugging sole of the Vibrams is less than 5mm (so very very thin). The soles are made with the XS TREK technology that is said to provide traction, stability, comfort and durability. Although they are barely existent. The soles do feel like you are directly on the floor and I think combined with the fact you have no socks on, you’ll feel bare.

Lacing: The shoe fastens with a speed lace system, which features a toggle fastening. I rate the lacing system on these. It’s quick and easy and stays really secure. I often have to stop and re- adjust my laces, so this was a real bonus. The lace allows plenty of adjustment as well meaning it's suitable for both a wide and narrower foot.

The toes: This is where I struggled. The Vibram is designed with individual toes to mimic being barefoot as closely as possible, allowing each toe to grip individually and strengthen the toes. The difficulty here is that people’s toes are rather different. Some people have a longer second toe, some people have toes which decrease in size as they move down the foot and some people's toes just have a mind of their own. The toe sockets on the Vibram have the first and second toes as equal and then decrease in size. For me, this was no good, I have small toes and they didn’t manage to fill the sockets, leaving the empty space at the end which was annoying as well as uncomfortable.

Vivobarefoot Stealth

The Vivobarefoot Stealth has a very flat sole, whereas the Vibram contours around your foot, the Vivobarefoot sits completely smooth against the ground. The trainers are very flexible and very lightweight. The toe box is really wide allowing plenty of room for your toes to wiggle about, but with this shoe they can do so whilst snug together in one box. The upper is seamless with the Vivobarefoots signature hexagon laminate upper, which allows breathability and endurance in one, plus it looks cool. I feel more protected in these than the five fingers, whilst remaining grounded.

Vivobarefoot Trainers

Performance

When transitioning from a regular trainer to a barefoot running shoe, runners often experience pain. Why? It’s something other than what they're used to. Barefoot running requires different strengths and therefore both barefoot designers recommend a transitional period, starting with running short distances in their shoes while your muscles become accustomed to the new style.

Vibram

Running in the Vibrams feels cool, granted I’ve only run for shorter distances so far, which is what is recommended as you transition, but I felt lighter, despite the lack of cushioning, I felt bouncier. Why’s this? Barefoot running forces you to run with better posture, landing on the front of your foot. Running over fields and other debris is fine as the sole of the shoe still has you covered. My path was reasonably clear but a few bits of rubble didn’t put me off, you can feel it, but it’s not painful.

Vivobarefoot

Running in the Vivobarefoots felt equally as lightweight as the five fingers, but somehow a bit more protected. I think this is due to their design being more similar to what I’m used to, just having the comfort of all my toes working together, for me, was better. The wide toe box allows your forefoot to lead the way comfortably, whilst the tongue and laces ensure your foot isn’t slipping forward in the shoe. I also trained legs in these and found I could lift heavier and jump higher, being able to push off my heels rather than push into the cushioning of a regular trainer.

Multi-purpose

Both trainers are designed to be multi-purpose, I see coverts wearing Vibrams 24/7, not just for their gym session but for their daily food shop. Equally Vivobarefoot have a range of casual footwear for every occasion, with their barefoot sole design.

Statistics

Vibram 5 Fingers

Vivobarefoot Stealth

Weight

99g (womens)

185g

Arch

Minimal

Minimal

Heel to Toe Drop

0mm

0mm

Fastening

Speed lace and toggle

Laces

Price

£60 - 95

£50 - £90

Verdict

Whilst both trainers put in a good performance on a barefoot run, personally I prefer my toes being together, call me old fashioned, but for me, this makes the Vivostealth my winner.

For anyone new to running in a minimalist shoe, I would recommend reading up on the benefits of barefoot running. Either of these shoes would be good to support your transition when changing to a barefoot running style, I would argue that there is no clear winner and your decision is going to be down to personal preference and finding which trainer has the best fit for your feet.

Minimalist Running Shoes

Sales of minimalist running shoes have grown into a $1.7 billion industry in the US. Sales of minimalist running shoes grew from $450,000 in 2006 to $59 million in 2012, and grew 303% from November 2010 through November 2012, compared to a 19% increase in the overall sales of running shoes during the same time period. In the summer of 2012, both Vibram and Adidas were sued in the United States regarding allegations of deceptive claims of increased training efficiency, foot strength, and decreased risk of injury resulting from use of their minimalist running shoes. These lawsuits follow on the heels of recent settlements by Skechers and Reebok with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that their barefoot shoes strengthen the body in ways no shoes ever had before.

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