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  1. #1
    Doesn't ride enough Lamabb's Avatar
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    Vibrams for off-bike shoe?

    I am riding the Sierra Cascade bicycle route this upcoming summer and wanted to clip into my bike so I can have an easier time climbing all the mountains. The problem is that I also want to do some light hiking, and having an off-the-bike shoe is a nice idea since even with a mountain biking shoe, the stiff sole can make my feet uncomfortable after a while.

    Carrying another large set of shoes for this purpose seemed like it would be too heavy and take up too much space. My friend loves his Vibrams and recommended I bring along a pair for just this purpose. They take up as much space (or less) as sandals and weigh very little. They can be used for hiking as long as they are broken in properly beforehand, and if they get wet by crossing a stream, they dry very quickly.

    Does anyone have any experience touring with vibrams as an off-bike shoe?
    Thoughts, comments?

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I got Vibram resoles on my Birkenstock shoes, their lugged type,
    packed them in for hiking..

  3. #3
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I just got these and went hiking last week, in them, and they were great. They ride great too. One shoe, for both on and off bike, is a great concept. The vibram fivefingers look like great fun and if I was younger, with more malleable feet, I'd try them.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    IMO Vibrams are not necessarily optimal for hiking, unless you are really into the barefoot thing.

    You don't "break in" Vibrams; rather, you need to be accustomed to walking or running in them. We've spent lifetimes wearing relatively stiff soles, so your legs and feet need to adapt to extended walking without shoes. In addition, Vibrams offer very little protection from the trail, and can get very uncomfortable after a mile or so. They don't save you all that much space or weight compared to a good-quality sandal. There also isn't any experience yet that they are better or worse for your feet or stride.

    However, ultimately this is a subjective thing. You might love them; you might hate them; you might like them around the camp but not on the trail. I don't think you can predict how you'll react until you try them.

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    There are newer models of Vibrams that offer more protection for the sole of the foot from rocks, etc. I agree that you need time to adapt to barefoot walking or running, but it is worth it. I started barefoot running a few years ago to improve my stride. I have been unable to wear Vibrams since I have two toes on each foot that are webbed. I have a pair now that I have been able to wear and I'm getting them modified. I love them. I usually wear Nike Free 3.0s and since I got away from the stiff soled shoes I have had no problems with shin splints, etc. I hate being in regular shoes anymore. My casual shoes even have thin, very thin leather soles with rubber pads that are not joined to each other to mimic being barefoot.

    If you like them, go for it. I wore mine while doing photography in South Korea recently and have to say despite the fact they haven't been modified, they were great. Climbing hillsides off trails was very easy. The soles on mine gave good traction and since there are flexible it was easier to grip.

    If you have never worn them and are accustomed to stiff shoes, you will be working muscles you haven't used for a long time, if ever. You will be sore. After you develop those muscles though you will be less prone to many injuries and should have better balance.

    The Nike 3.0s pack relatively small as well. The heel cup is not hard and will collapse easily. The pair weights only 8.5 ounces so that may be an option for you as well. The 3.0s have been tough to find in stores so I bough my last pair online. The Nike Frees they sell at most stores now have gone away from the minimalist style and are not as easy to pack.

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    I have the Vibram's Five Fingers. I have the Classic and Speed LS versions. The LS is a thicker sole and sneaker-like upper while the classic is almost like a spandex half-sock with a very light sole. I've had problems in my feet and legs for years when walking in normal shoes. No matter how good/new the shoe, after 30 min I'm uncomfortable with feet that felt like they've been slammed with sledgehammers. After an hour, I'm off my feet the rest of the day.

    Five Fingers I have no such issue, which is kind of strange given they have no real cushioning or support. I've been using them exclusively once the snow and ice went away.

    That said, they do require a little getting used to. I had a muscle cramps in my feet and calves during longer walks for the first week or so when I first started wearing them about 2 years ago. Since then, I've never been better. So, they're definitely going into my packs when I go on a tour since I wear clipless to help with hill climbs.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phughes View Post
    There are newer models of Vibrams that offer more protection for the sole of the foot from rocks, etc.
    I have one of those (the Treksport). It's not much different than their standard soles, at least for hiking on trails.

    Again, there is no solid evidence yet that barefoot is actually better or worse than normal shoes. E.g. I tried the Vibrams to resolve some arch issues when hiking, and they did help with the arch -- but were still punishing on the soles in the woods. It turns out that high-end inserts with decent hiking boots also help my arch, and are more comfortable. (But, obviously, heavier.)

    As such, it's a matter of preference and personal taste, and there is no way to know if thin soles will work for you unless you try it. In my case, I'm keeping them as around-camp shoes, and would be OK if I was hiking less than once a week on tour. More than that, and I'd use something else.

    At the risk of hawking for a retailer REI has a very liberal return policy, including for footwear.

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    it really depends on your definition of lite hiking. for me, i could get away with lite hiking in my MTB clipless shoes.

    for what it's worth keen sandals have changed my life. the only negative i can see with hiking would be the openesss allowing rocks and other trail debris to enter the shoe. but again, what is your definition of lite hiking? this may be an acceptable trade-off for having a great all-round off-bike shoe.

  9. #9
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamabb View Post
    Does anyone have any experience touring with vibrams as an off-bike shoe?
    Thoughts, comments?


    I've got a couple pairs of Vibram Five Fingers.

    They are an acquired taste. I wouldn't use mine for hiking personally, but some folks do. You won't know if you like them or not for that activity unless you try them. I think it would be safe to say you could use them as your camp/off bike shoes without a long test period, but I wouldn't assume you'll be happy on 4hr hike with them.

    I use mine for board sports on the beach to keep my feet from getting cut open by coral, shells, urchins, etc... For that use I love them. I've also used them as my day to day shoes for a while to break my feet in. That worked fine, but not something I use them for regularly now.
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  10. #10
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    I've had several pairs of fivefingers and carried a pair of KSOs as my running shoes / backup shoes on our recent backpacking trip to Asia. They are super-lightweight and very comfortable but they are not stiff at all so they would not be great as backup pedalers if your regular cycling shoes get wet or uncomfortable.

    I still like the Salomon Techamphibian shoes as they are more versatile but relatively lightweight. I just got another pair and they weigh 26 ounces vs 13 ounces for a comparably sized (11) fivefingers. The sole is stiff enough for pedaling, the grip is enough for hiking and the shoe is light enough to use as a running shoe. The heel folds down so they are easy to slip on and off when getting in and out of a tent.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I wouldn't choose the VFFs unless you already are a fan. I own and have run in mine quite a bit and still am not taking them on my next tour. For one thing they are harder to put on than regular shoes. A more "normal" lightweight trail runner may be better. I bought a cheap-ish pair of New Balance MT310 and am liking them pretty well. They weigh a pound and offer better rock protection and are easier to put on.

    If not hiking much I'd just take Crocs or maybe no off bike shoes. I carried a pair last few tours and they worked out fine. Last tour I did very little hiking so I didn't miss them when they went missing. Crocs are bulky, but I just hang them outside with a carabiner. You can save a bit of weight by taking off the straps.

    I plan to do more hiking and some peak bagging next tour so am taking the MT310s.

  12. #12
    Doesn't ride enough Lamabb's Avatar
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    Well I just went along and got myself a pair of Vibrams. The Treksport model for hiking. I just can't help loving how small they can get by squeezing into my panniers. I am just hoping I can break them with 4 weeks to go until my tour. I think the longest hike I may do is something along the lines of 4 hours and nothing more.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamabb View Post
    Well I just went along and got myself a pair of Vibrams. The Treksport model for hiking. I just can't help loving how small they can get by squeezing into my panniers. I am just hoping I can break them with 4 weeks to go until my tour. I think the longest hike I may do is something along the lines of 4 hours and nothing more.
    Enjoy them. I think most of the "breaking in" is getting used to them more than them breaking in. For running I'd recommend a gradual switch to them, but for hiking I think that will not be so much of an issue.

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    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamabb View Post
    Well I just went along and got myself a pair of Vibrams. The Treksport model for hiking. I just can't help loving how small they can get by squeezing into my panniers. I am just hoping I can break them with 4 weeks to go until my tour. I think the longest hike I may do is something along the lines of 4 hours and nothing more.
    Just listen to your feet and be ready to turn around while you can still walk comfortably back to the trailhead.

    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Enjoy them. I think most of the "breaking in" is getting used to them more than them breaking in. For running I'd recommend a gradual switch to them, but for hiking I think that will not be so much of an issue.
    +1 - you aren't breaking in the Five Fingers - you are training your feet to function in them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamabb View Post
    I am riding the Sierra Cascade bicycle route this upcoming summer and wanted to clip into my bike so I can have an easier time climbing all the mountains. The problem is that I also want to do some light hiking, and having an off-the-bike shoe is a nice idea since even with a mountain biking shoe, the stiff sole can make my feet uncomfortable after a while.

    Carrying another large set of shoes for this purpose seemed like it would be too heavy and take up too much space. My friend loves his Vibrams and recommended I bring along a pair for just this purpose. They take up as much space (or less) as sandals and weigh very little. They can be used for hiking as long as they are broken in properly beforehand, and if they get wet by crossing a stream, they dry very quickly.

    Does anyone have any experience touring with vibrams as an off-bike shoe?
    Thoughts, comments?
    One of the most common injuries (walking and running) nowadays are not attributed to stiff overbuilt shoes that has pronation control, but rather it is caused by bare foot running and walking. The Vibram 5 fingers (VFF) and the likes are minimal shoes and since your feet aren't accustomed to walking or running bare, you'll likely end up with a multitude of injuries like ruptured Achilles Tendon, torn calve muscles etc as well as stress fractures which takes a long long time to heal. Some of these injuries can take a minimum of 6 months up to a year to completely heal, though you can still walk or run with some discomfort while your injury heals. So unlike built up shoes, minimal shoes do not accommodate to your feet, but rather your posture will change to accommodate a neutral to forward biased standing posture and this takes time for your tendons and ligaments to stretch as you are no longer heel biased when walking barefeet. Barefeet walking tend to be heel to toe, with the landing predominantly on the forefoot or base of the foot. Secondly, you also need to build up some good core stability hiking in minimal shoes since these shoes provide absolutely NO ankle protection and all the stability will have to come from your lower core (typical Transversus Abdominus) which helps stabilize your pelvis. Try standing with only one foot and hold it for long periods of time. If you can do that, your core is strong. If you topple and become unstable, then you need to train that. And it does not take a few hours to get good core either. That is why there are a lot of running injuries coming from barefoot running due to the insufficient time for the body to train and acclimatized to the rigors of barefoot walking. If you sprain your ankle and depending on how serious it is, it can and may take up to 6 months min to completely heal it. Do you want to take that chance on your trip?

    And despite what some barefoot proponents like to advertise, not everyone is lucky enough to have perfect feet. Sometimes, your degree of pronation will actually cause you to sustain more injuries walking barefeet. Unless you're willing to do some major feet work through Yoga sitting in a Lotus position to loosen the ankles lots, I highly recommend that you try walking barefeet in the house or to work with minimal shoes. If your feet start to hurt, then at least you know this won't work out for you in the near term. If you find this out in the field and your feet and legs hurt, then how are you planning to cycle out cause you need the same feet to turn the pedals?
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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacificcyclist View Post
    One of the most common injuries (walking and running) nowadays are not attributed to stiff overbuilt shoes that has pronation control, but rather it is caused by bare foot running and walking.....
    I'm not aware of any statistical evidence whatsoever to back this up.

    Nor is barefoot walking/running a guarantee you won't get injured. Sure, some of the advocates are too zealous, but that happens with every new little thing. The idea that vitamin C is a blanket antiviral agent is absurd, yet people will swear up and down that Airborne saved them from getting sick on the plane.

    The key, again, is to slowly get accustomed to them. And since the OP is walking rather than running, the chances of injury are fairly low, as long as he doesn't try to do a 6-hour hike in the first week.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    The key, again, is to slowly get accustomed to them. And since the OP is walking rather than running, the chances of injury are fairly low, as long as he doesn't try to do a 6-hour hike in the first week.
    I agree. Walking a few miles is way less likely to be a problem than running. I would have been inclined to have recommended great caution in easing into using them if he were going to run in them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I'm not aware of any statistical evidence whatsoever to back this up.

    Nor is barefoot walking/running a guarantee you won't get injured. Sure, some of the advocates are too zealous, but that happens with every new little thing. The idea that vitamin C is a blanket antiviral agent is absurd, yet people will swear up and down that Airborne saved them from getting sick on the plane.

    The key, again, is to slowly get accustomed to them. And since the OP is walking rather than running, the chances of injury are fairly low, as long as he doesn't try to do a 6-hour hike in the first week.
    If you attend the latest coach training seminars held by a number of physicians and health care professionals (as I am a fitness trainer myself and a barefoot runner myself and a run coach), they are citing the recent trends of foot injuries related to bare foot running, but I suspect that it is the affirmation from them of years of warning people not to treat barefoot running as the panacea to common running injuries. I agree that barefoot running and walking is good for the feet. Obviously our ancestors didn't have access to a New Balance store when they hunt for food! But I disagree with walking with VFF as being a harmless thing especially on trails if you haven't walked barefeet at all. That's because, trails are rarely flat as pancake as a normal city sidewalk. What happens when the city feet gets no support and the trails are unstable. The ankles and knee joints are not muscle groups, but because people aren't used to running/walking bare feet, they tend to use them to stabilize the whole body posture thus overworking these weaker muscle groups and the tendons and ligaments get stretched over a period of time without recovery. You probably won't do any damage to the feet, but you put a strain on muscle groups and the connective tissues that aren't used to the new way of walking or running for that matter. As a run/walk coach, I had seen a fair share of walking and running injuries that is attributed to getting into barefoot too fast and too soon. Most people do not realize that it takes a period of time to walk barefeet ok, but we are taught to be instantly gratified and that's where the problem originates.

    The point is that barefoot running comes about because there are people who like Chris Mcdougall (Born To Run) and instructors who teach technique running like ChiRunning, Pose tech, Good Form and a whole slew of others and I'm sure it benefits some people, but what does not get mentioned are the number of injuries that come about of these running classes. A physio friend of mine loves these people come into town, because if it helps some people he welcomes them, but ofcourse he is very very happy to get new customers after they left!

    If you start slow walking barefeet even in the house or your local park is the best way to train your feet rather than blindly telling people yeah just get VFF and do hiking like it's a pair of normal shoes. And when people start saying that their VFF needs to be broken in, it's a sign their feet isn't singing the happy tunes.
    Last edited by pacificcyclist; 05-24-12 at 05:11 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I agree. Walking a few miles is way less likely to be a problem than running. I would have been inclined to have recommended great caution in easing into using them if he were going to run in them.
    The only difference between running and walking is the implied bearing weight acted on the whole body and feet (more on running obviously). You can get injured also by walking too, but can share similarities with running. What people do not realize is that barefoot walking and running promotes good standing posture where when you stand all the muscle groups work in tandem to balance out the weight. A good posture balances weight that is roughly 50% on the core group and another 50% on the back and you can stand for long periods of time without feeling heavy. You need that especially if you're an ultra marathon runner! Bad posture puts all the weight on the back and guess what you get?!? Bad or sore back and all that weight feels on the heel. When a person has poor posture goes barefoot walking, the muscle groups that are dormant and not used are suddenly called into use. Soreness on the lower legs, sometimes ankles and knees can be common. The idea is to train gradually, because there's some micro tear that can happen and you need to let them heal properly. If you're a young dude, then the healing process is faster than a middle aged or a mature person. If you insist on walking through the pain as most people do (just to train for a long walk or a marathon) is when you do the significant damage. Worst, the body does a very good job of compensating muscle groups to work in place of the injured ones so you can still walk or run, but then eventually you need to detrain these groups or you'll have chronic issues of muscle imbalance, which is where my physio friend comes in to correct mistakes they learned from these running technique classes. What seems to be a harmless act can become a bigger problem down the road.
    Again, not everyone is built alike and can get used to walking barefoot the same way. Unfortunately, the people out there seemed to suggest that walking barefeet is good and if you feel pain to just tough it out. I've seen too many of these sad stories of people believing the internet and not listening to their doctors. My suggestion to the OP is simple. If unsure, ask a doctor and let him or her exam your walking gait. He or she can immediately identify if you're a candidate for barefoot walking or not. Better safe than sorry. Personally, I feel barefoot walking helps keep good posture but only if done gradually.
    Last edited by pacificcyclist; 05-24-12 at 05:38 PM.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member marmot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by benda18 View Post
    it really depends on your definition of lite hiking. for me, i could get away with lite hiking in my MTB clipless shoes.

    for what it's worth keen sandals have changed my life. the only negative i can see with hiking would be the openesss allowing rocks and other trail debris to enter the shoe. but again, what is your definition of lite hiking? this may be an acceptable trade-off for having a great all-round off-bike shoe.
    Amen on the Keens. I just bought a pair yesterday morning. So far I've worn them for fishing, swimming, wading out to fetch the boat, slogging through a swamp, cycling, dog walking, a trip to the supermarket and an afternoon of carpentry and cottage chores. Can't say how long they'll last, but they seem to be about as comfortable and versatile as a summer shoe can get. If I were setting out on a tour, that's the off-bike shoe I would take.
    (I'm a skeptical old crank, but those foot gloves look like a silly gimmick to me.)

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    Whoa, I was wondering... Vibrams used to mean a 7 pound pair of mountaineering boots. The profit margin on these new doilies must be a lot higher.

    I would just carry lightweight running shoes, that is what a lot of hikers wear. They are not an acquired taste with a long period of acclimatization. A lot of trails have rough stones, or outcroppings and without a minimal amount of protection the feet tend to get pretty beat. I'm lucky because my cycling sandals are about the most comfortable walking shoes I have, so it is an all in one thing for me. I have Look sandals, with Shimano soles, but I don't know if they are even still available. I bought a few pairs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    (I'm a skeptical old crank, but those foot gloves look like a silly gimmick to me.)
    Absolutely, I think that is the whole idea. A lot of stuff ends up being a whole lot more marketable if it somehow loudly states it's manifesto in it's physical form. These not only apparently work for barefoot type runners, but they don't leave anyone in the tri state area unacquainted with the wearer's new hobby and trend-setter status.

  23. #23
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I have switched to wearing barefoot shoes for everything except cycling where I use an spd shoe most of the time and on flat pedals wear barefoot shoes as well.

    VFF shoes are not the only shoe like this and I have a pair of these as well as a pair of Merrel Bare Access shoes and a pair of their Trail Gloves which have a thicker sole and more aggressive tread for adventures that may take me over rougher terrain, not that the very minimal Bare Access shoe has any traction issues or lack of protection.

    The Merrel is built like a regular shoe that one can slip on and off and a regular sock can be worn if a little extra insulation is needed.

    I have chronic pain issues that stem from a back injury, some loss of use in my left foot and left leg due to nerve damage and neuropathy in both legs... wearing the Merrels has greatly improved and reduced the lower back pain and strengthened my ankles and helped a leg that is weaker than it's partner. Regular shoes with any heel contribute to increased back pain and find that even my most minimal and flexible shoes cannot compare the the barefoot shoes.

    I used to run barefoot and ran trails in minimal shoes and my gait and running style was always that of a barefoot runner and many years of martial arts conditioned me to never putting weight on my heels so the forced heel-toe walking in regular shoes has always felt wrong to me.

    My physiotherapist says the feedback I get from wearing the barefoot shoes is important and helps with my balance and some delayed reflexes which can make walking and quick directional changes difficult and even dangerous... I don't run anymore but am walking better now than I have in many years and am increasing the time I can spend walking and standing.

    If anything... my toes (the ones I can feel) get tired if I spend too much time walking.

    It does take time to adjust to these shoes as most normal people have trained their feet to function in what are often restrictive and stiffer shoes that prevent the feet from moving naturally... many of us have seen what happens to a small child when they get their first pair of shoes... they are most often crippled by them and their first desire is to get them off.

    Before switching shoes I had already been doing a lot of work to maintain as much motion and flexibility in my left foot as possible do a lot of ankle stretches as my right leg tends to be a lot tighter since it does more of the heavy lifting.

    It can take a long time to undo the habits of a lifetime spent in wearing normal shoes and think that if ones takes things slowly a barefoot shoe can provide many benefits for most people... my wife also wears these and finds they alleviate a lot of chronic back pain.

    I would not take them hiking unless I had already spent a lot of time wearing them in less stressful situations and was very comfortable with them and by then, the strength in your legs and ankles will have increased due to the extra work they have to do.

    Merrel Bare Access...



    Merrel Trail Glove...


  24. #24
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacificcyclist View Post
    As a run/walk coach, I had seen a fair share of walking and running injuries that is attributed to getting into barefoot too fast and too soon. Most people do not realize that it takes a period of time to walk barefeet ok, but we are taught to be instantly gratified and that's where the problem originates.
    +1 - when I got my first Five Fingers I wore them during the day on a road trip. As soon as my feet were uncomfortable I switch back to "normal" shoes. After a couple weeks I could wear them most of the time for casual use. I don't run in them. Mostly I use them for board sports in the ocean so my feet don't get cut.

    If you are new to them and they are your only off bike shoe on a tour I definitely would not plan anything adventurous in the walking/hiking department. I've owned mine for over 3 years and still wouldn't choose to hike with them.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  25. #25
    Velosopher
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacificcyclist View Post
    One of the most common injuries (walking and running) nowadays are not attributed to stiff overbuilt shoes that has pronation control, but rather it is caused by bare foot running and walking. The Vibram 5 fingers (VFF) and the likes are minimal shoes and since your feet aren't accustomed to walking or running bare, you'll likely end up with a multitude of injuries like ruptured Achilles Tendon, torn calve muscles etc as well as stress fractures which takes a long long time to heal.
    I don't have any statistical evidence but can say that this is exactly what happened to me. I began running in Vibrams to train for an upcoming race, and was building my mileage gradually, but still managed to tear a calf muscle. That put me out of commission for close to six months, since I reinjured it a couple of times thinking it was better.

    That's kind of what got me back into cycling, though, since I couldn't run for a while...

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