Out with the Vibram Five Fingers and in with the Soft Star RunAmoc

Let me just get this out of the way: Vibram Five Fingers shoes are...'Just OK' for me. Sure, I loved them, at first, but I later realized that was mostly the novelty of it. It wore off and pretty quickly. I still suspect they're destined for the fad dustbin.

See, I had long been into the mechanics of walking, having independently re-discovered and then trained myself how to walk -- even in common athletic shoes (I have a pair of Nike SPARQs that I often walk in and workout in). So the Vibram 5Fs made perfect sense in that regard, but only at first, for me. Minimalist, safe, et cetera. So frankly, I have a few issues with them (I have two pair, as in my interview at birthdayshoes.com).

  1. I don't care how good you get at getting your toes in, it's a pain in the ass. I don't see this changing.
  2. You don't need your toes individually free -- integral to the footwear itself -- for most activities. It suffices that they are free somewhere, like inside your footwear.
  3. They just aren't very socially "acceptable," by which I mean not having to explain that you're not as weird as you look. I like to live simple, so I like to basically wear the same thing all the time. Right now it's flip flops, mostly, and those are acceptable at all places casual. When going out more specially I'll don my Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers or my dress moccasins from Terra Plana (which specific model they no longer make).
  4. Whether you call it Morton's toe, Roman toe, or Greek toe, I've got one. My second toe is about 1/8 to 1/4" longer than the so-called "big" toe. Consequently, for relatively short walks or gym activity, they're fine. But a long hike really gets that long toe hurting, like when you jam a finger.

But I think that even if I were to sweep all of the foregoing aside I still wouldn't be very bullish on them. On the other hand I do have them to thank for motivating me to the next step, which is simply to go barefoot. It was shortly after I received mine when one night -- as I was donning them to take the dogs out for two blocks -- that I just tossed them aside and went barefoot. I've been doing it ever since, without ever so much as a scrape. You naturally train yourself to lighten your step when you encounter something sharp. Now, I will say that this is over asphalt & pavement. I also walk barefoot in the dirt sometimes but that's a far greater challenge -- though I'm getting better at it.

In the meantime I've found what I consider the ideal shoe for walking, hiking, jogging and...as casual wear. I've now worn them to two functions with khaki trousers and they looked perfectly fine. Moreover, you feel as though you're barefoot. I hate to abuse the word "literally" but it's pretty damn close. I suppose you can literally feel a certain way (barefoot), while not literally being barefoot. See, one thing about the V5Fs is that I could never wait to get them [the hell] off my feet. Functional? Yes, especially in strenuous athletic activity such as sprinting or crossfit, but then I want my SPARQs the hell off too. I've never understood some folk's desire to lounge around the house with them on; or are those just photo ops? But that's the cool thing about this find. Hey, I can't even stand to wear house shoes or slippers unless it's really damn cold. The only time ever was when I had a pair of moccasins without any lining. Just bare leather. These are even better.

So let me present the RunAmoc from Soft Star Shoes. Click to enlarge.

Soft Star RunAmok
Soft Star RunAmok

Pictured above is the one with the 5mm trail sole. I completely and without hesitation opted for the 2mm street sole. Here's the difference.

Trail or Street
Trail or Street

I've found the 2mm soles perfectly adequate, even for walking on dirt with pebbles. I would not even consider more than doubling the thickness. Oh, and by the way, guess who make the soles? Vibram does, and they make it out of that super hard & dense rubber that's used in rock climbing shoes and such.

The other big, huge thing is the perforated leather. You get all the support you need without the sweat factory. And this is why I can even lounge around in them at home -- though I'm typically barefoot anyway. It's just that if I come in from an outing I find that I have no burning desire to get them the hell off my feet. You can truly feel the breeze from all the holes. Big plus, for me. I'm going to get another pair so that I have a set that stays pristine for going out. I feel perfectly confident wearing them in all but the most formal of settings.

I'm not to the point where I'll be outright ditching my V5Fs and in fact I plan to take them along on my upcoming July excursion to MovNat in West Virginia. However, three days after I return from WV Beatrice & I are off to Monterosso al Mare in the Cinque Terre region of Italy for a week. I plan on taking my flip flops and my RunAmoks.

Update: I've now done a video comparison between the two and have addressed some of the objections to my post. Some of the objections were voiced in comments over at Mark Sisson's blog.

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Comments

  1. Christ says:

    I’ve been wearing the Vibrams for 2.5 years and feel the same way.
    Great for specific activity,not so great for everything else..and sweaty,and sometimes I don’t feel like being “the shoe guy”every where I go.
    looking at getting some Soft Stars here soon.
    It’s pretty cool that the Soft Stars are made in the USA from leather that comes from here, from a family owned solar powered shop.That counts for something in my book…handmade in the USA shoes!

  2. I’ll have to try those. They look great. My Vibrams are definitely great for some activities, but I don’t particularly enjoy wearing them otherwise. In NYC a big concern is dirt though. I have to wash my Vibrams ALL the time. I wonder how these Soft Stars would hold up.

  3. I very much appreciate this post! I have been considering Vibrams, but was honestly wondering about the individual toe thing! These look pretty comfy~! I will have to check them out!! Thanks!!

  4. I have a lovely pair of pink Vibrams … that I can’t wear. I have small wide feet with short stubby toes and even though I went through all the measuring and was sure the ones I ordered would fit me, they were uncomfortable as hell. I walk around barefoot in my house all the time so I’m definitely going to check the RunAmocs out.

  5. Zack F. says:

    Agreed. V5Fs may have some “Paleo” benefits but I wouldn’t want to wear them. Though this isn’t “paleo” dress, I just don’t want to give up my suits and sportcoats even if I could get away with wearing V5Fs everywhere. I paleo my diet but is about as far as I care to take it other than my libertarianism of which was there before I went paleo.

  6. samuel says:

    Excellent post.

    I’ve got a pair of VFFs, the KSO Treks, and I find them excellent for running around on trails and hiking. Being able to use your individual toes on terrain like on trails and such I think is really an advantage. But certainly for running on relatively flat land and walking and things like that, the individual toe pockets don’t add much compared to other minimal shoes, and having your toes in the pockets isn’t very comfortable.

    I’ve got Morton’s Toe too, but it hasn’t been a problem for me at all in the Treks. Don’t know why.

    I also got a pair of the Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers and I love them for walking around day-to-day. I think I’m going to get a pair of their fancy leather “Boardroom” model, to wear to weddings and the like.

    • Those Sanuks are my fall and spring favorites when not in flipflops. Funny thing is I bought them on total whim. It was last memorial day and we were camping up near Pt Reyes. My FFs were wearing out, there was a local surf shop and rest is history.

      Very minimal. Of course, they are to be worn without socks, ever.

    • Oh, one other thing Samuel is that I did not notice the toe pain until I did about an 8.5 mile hike. It must have been mile 5-6, but it came on strong and I had to endure it.

  7. Are you trying to claim you are not as weird as you look? ;-)

  8. Hmmm, interesting. Good find, Richard!

    • I’m tellin’ ya, Gabe. Let me put it this way: I began writing a post with just quick hits on new things, this was one. I quickly found I could not do a quick hit on it.

  9. Chris G says:

    My VFF’s fit me very well – and I like how the snug fit works on light trails. When I get into rockier trails, I still opt for standard hiking boots, guess I’m a wimp. But I don’t like the VFFs for ordinary street wear or casual wear – I definitely want to check out the RunAnmoks for that!

  10. Hi Richard,
    I have a pair of Soft Sole Ramblers that I pretty much wear most times. Funny thing about them is they keep me feet warm even in snow, and cool and dry in our humid weather. I saw the RunAmoc’s too and really liked them, but my Ramblers are far from needing to be replaced yet. I suppose I am cheap, and don’t want to buy something unless I really need it. I also am considering those Nike Minimal shoes (cannot remember the name). I am glad you wrote this article, as I have been caught up in the “hype” as well, and keep having to rethink my decision not to have them. I think, if I lived near the beach or water, I wouldn’t hesitate getting them. But here in PA, and I don’t do alot of hiking or running, I would be one of those people who always have to explain my shoes.

  11. Aaron Curl says:

    I have a pair of KSO’s and the new Bilikas. I usually run barefoot but will wear the Bilikas for longer runs. My KSO’s are for everyday wear. I guess I don’t mind being the ape feet guy. It gets people asking questions and then I go into a discussion about running form and probably bore them to death. The main thing I like about Vibrams is the individual toes. My feet feel better and healthier now that my toes aren’t being bent and smashed together due to the narrow toe boxes of normal shoes. Very rarely do I wear anything but Vibrams or sandles and my feet thank me.

  12. For you previous commenters, man has spam been a pain. Did you see the ballet comment a minute ago? Ostensibly a contribution, but no. Never commented before and the link goes to a place to sell ballet slippers.

    Fuck.

    I spend way too much time on fuckers.

    I never had to concern myself with spam before and now I pay more for service and have spam in my face every day.

  13. caphuff says:

    Ballet comment was not meant as spam. Apologies for link. It was just for a visual.

    • My appologies, then. Spammers are getting so clever with the Indian human spammers & such, now.

      • Heather says:

        Indian human spammers…(??)

      • Yea, Heather. Apparently a lot of companies are now employing folks in India to drop SPAM in comments manually, as it’s pretty easy to defeat the machines.

        Some of them are pretty good. One common technique is that they simply quote verbatim from a previous comment on the same post, but of course with their own link in the website address, or, if the previous commenter has left a link to something relevant, such as some study, the spammer will switch that out with his own.

      • Heather says:

        unfortunate indeed.

  14. Austin says:

    I really wanted to like the vibrams but they’re just way too expensive and don’t seem to have long lasting traction and durability. The average sports sandal still does it for me.

  15. Richard – I have a slightly different perspective. First, I love having my toes free. For me it feels like the the difference between hopping round in a sleeping bag or having a padded jump suit on. I like to wiggle my toes around when I am just sitting around. In shoes, however loose they are, the toes feel vaguely trapped. Second, I relish people thinking I am wierd. I even wear mine to the office and to corporate conferences. I tend to just think ‘f*ck ‘em’. Most people are interested, and the few who scoff or scorn are almost certainly assh*oles, so I don’t care.

    But that’s just me :-) Thanks for the tip on the other shoes though – it’s good to be able to give options to people I talk to who are not willing to wear Vibrams but are interested in following the principles.

    • I’m with Methuselah in that I just love my VFF flows. I haven’t had any issues with them and cannot wait for the return of warmer weather so I can wear them more often. That said, I respect Richard for sharing his opinion.

      One of the joys of ‘being Paleo’ is that for the most part, people like Richard are freethinkers & speakers. Saying that one doesn’t like VFF’s might be considered heresy as they do seem such an integral part of turning to the Paleo side! While I have a completely different experience with my VFF’s and disagree entirely with Richard’s review, I think it is great that Richard has shared his thoughts.

      It would be just as easy I guess to have said nothing on the subject just to keep in with the ‘cool kids’.

      • No sweat.

        Actually, I don’t dislike VFFs, I’m just a bit agnostic on them, now. And, I think they are excellent for some applications.

        While one part of the post was about speaking a bit of Paleo heresy :) the other part was to give a venue to let people off the hook who, for whatever reason, might think there’s something amiss if they don’t love ‘em.

    • I’m with @Methuselah & I really don’t give a flying f*ck what people think. Well, I guess I do, because sometimes I defend myself wearing them. I got a whole rash of crap yesterday. Whatever… they are the ones who are the real morons with the jacked up back.

      I’d run a pair of those Trails. Hadn’t seen that model before.

  16. I prefer walking barefoot. But this also looks weird under my tailor-made suits :-)

  17. Hi Richard,

    Nice perspective as always.

    I love my vff , my sanuk’s , flip flops, nike free’s and, bare feet. I switch up all the time, but go BF the most.

    Hope all is well, enjoy your upcoming trips.

    Marc

  18. Timely post Richard!

    I’ve been struggling my whole life as well with finding the “perfect” footwear. My wife is a physio and, as you know, I also work and studied in the health field. It has always been beyond me why the field of foot specialists, composed mainly of podiatrists and orthesists, has nothing good to propose but orthotics or getting you under the knife??? I remember a few years back discussing the issue of over-cushionned and over-supportive footwear with the podiatrist that works at my wife’s clinic. He just wouldn’t hear me on the subject of minimalist footwear and the benefits of barefoot walking. Kind of like trying to explain to any moder eye specialist that, in their field, they used to be trained in exercise modalities to retrain the eye… Haha. Obsolete you say!?!?!?

    Anyhoot. I’ve delved into the realm of Vivo barefoot and V5F. I got these (http://www.terraplana.com/oak-p-1553.html?colour=59) a while back, and took out the insoles to make them even thinner. They work for more formal outings. Also got these (http://www.comparestoreprices.co.uk/mens-shoes/vivobarefoot-vivo-barefoot-lion-shoe.asp) for a sportier look. V5Fs are more for training and stuff of that nature but, like you, I can’t stand the sweatiness for just lounging around all day. (Oh, and do check this out (http://birthdayshoes.com/got-morton-s-toe-lengthen-your-vibram-five-fingers-second-toe-with-this-mod) on lengthening the second toe on your V5F; I have the same problem as well, and this mod worked wonderfully)…

    My favourite “barefoot” option though is a pair of thin deer leather mocassins, built in the traditional way by a Native American friend of mine. Brain tanned and all! These breathe so well, it’s almost like being barefoot. Not so good on wet days however…

    As you mention, there is always the risk of appearing like a social outcast. I have enough lifestyle choices that do that already :) I also like to make my life simple, and that also entails not having to explain to everyone the “whys” of my footwear choices. So, I’ll definitely be checking out the RunAmocs; I’d already been considering their winter boot anyways, as it gets mighty cold and snowy in my neck of the woods for even the warmest V5F!!!!

    Have fun at MovNat (hope to be checking one of his seminars soon) and in Italy!

  19. Mike Sicuranza says:

    Love me VFF but I am still looking for a minimalist shoe for both golf and to go with my suits.
    Nothing minimalist looks dressy enough to me.

  20. I have enjoyed my vibrams for 1.5 months and love them. I am using them more and more as time progresses. If I am out with friends or family then I wear sandles for many reasons. One is I always prefer going true barefoot. If I have my sandles then I can easily be barefoot when I am sitting, driving in the car, golfing, etc.

    I use my vibrams for when I want to take a “brisk” walk, run and will use them when I go hiking.

    As far as looking weird goes… I like this because it says I am unique. I don’t want to look like everyone else. If I feel comfortable in my vibrams then I will wear them anywhere. If someone stares at me then I will ask them what they are looking at. That person could end up being your best friend and/or spouse!!

  21. Mr Sheppy says:

    I have some Vibram KSOs I bought a year ago odd. There was a definite novelty period with them at first, but even after that I still love them. I use them for sprinting and can’t imagine going back to badly fitting sports shoes again. As someone else mentioned, you really noticed the benefits of having toes and no extended heel when you’re going up or down hills.
    For me I feel like I have been transplanted with kangaroo tendons in my ankles when I run in them. I run the whole time on the ball of my foot and feel like i’m bouncing everywhere. I will fess up that they haven’t completely rid me of occasional knee tenderness after a session, but for the extra calve utilisation alone I still love em.

  22. Phocion Timon says:

    Exactly, Bubba. They are a pain in the ass on all counts. I quit using them 5 weeks ago and have been using RunAmocs and “water shoes” since. T’hell wit’ Vibram. Shoes are not supposed to have individual toe sockets.

  23. pieter d says:

    Richard,

    I have to agree. I have had experience with the VFF, but for everyday use I put on my Feelmax Pankas. They have served me well for over 1 year, and they definitely give more of a barefoot feel the VFF, probably because of a thinner sole. And if possible, I also prefer walking totally barefoot, even in the forest and on trails.

    The Soft Star mocs you recommend are probably similar to the Feelmax pankas, so I will have to try them.

    As a physical therapist, I always advice parents to check out the Bobux leather ‘mocs’ for their toddlers and kids (I won’t provide a link, I don’t want to be a spammer, just google it). But now I will have to check out the Soft star children moc too. They seem very similar.

  24. Nice meeting you Saturday at the Paleo meetup! People brought really good food!

    I agree that the VFFs look “funny” but some people really like that about them. David has found his to be very durable (though he’s pretty much worn out his first pair now), but they lasted easily 1500 miles (with minor repairs). I also envy the fact that he never gets blisters anymore when wearing the VFFs (he has Morton’s toe too). For longer distances, the toe separation keeps the toes from rubbing against each other. His feet come out of long runs (10+ miles) unscathed (maybe a little sore from rocks if running on rough trails) while mine might be blistered up wearing my conventional shoes. The only problem he’s had is that you can kick rocks pretty hard since there is little protection.

  25. Lorie Sjogren says:

    Although I’ve been wearing VFF for over 2 years, I still occasionally stub my toe if I do not pay attention consistently to the mechanics of walking in them (a very painful experience). Has any one else had this problem?

  26. These look interesting. A little pricey for what they are, but so were the Vibrams.

    I agree with the Vibrams as a novelty.
    I found them bothersome , uncomfortable, and very low quality causing them to fall apart easily.

    Thanks for the info Richard on the Soft Star Shoes.

    AJ

  27. Anyone tried the Vivo Barefoot shoes from Terra Plana? I’ve been thinking about getting a pair for a while but can’t yet seem to pull the trigger on the minimalist shoes.

    -Matt

    • LeonRover says:

      Yeah, I have a pair of Vivos and liked them well enough until the Winter.

      The frictional/adhesive quality of the sole is damn poor on on frozen footpath. Terra Plana refused to reply to my query abut when they might supply ‘em with a nubby sole like these RunAmocs.

      So I’m considering ‘em.

  28. Paul Verizzo says:

    As someone mentioned above, “water” or “aqua” shoes are great! I just discovered this a few weeks ago when I saw them on sale at Big Lots for $5. What the heck, big spender.

    I went back and bought several more pair. The soles are so thin it IS like walking barefoot except no pain from small items and such. I wear them for yard work, walking on the beach, etc. Dirty? Hose ‘em off.

    Living in Florida my foot life is 99% water shoes, sandals, or barefoot. Lucky me.

  29. JasonS says:

    I run/lift/crossfit in water socks. I think I paid $6 .

  30. Hey, Richard! I can’t recall if I came across your site through Mark’s Daily Apple or MovNat. Either way, I’m with you in that I believe my initial love affair with the Fivefingers was largely due to the novelty of such an item. After some time with them, I found that their lack of breathability makes feet sweat so much that not only do you end up with one rank pair of shoes, but feet have a tendency to slide around in them a bit. While the individual toe pockets are a nice idea, because the rubber of the sole extends through the toes uninterrupted, I find they actually impede toe movement to a degree, also. Anyhow, I recently ordered a pair of RunAmocs as well and think they are far and away a better shoe, all things considered. Fivefingers, like you said, are good for sprinting on uncertain surfaces, but I did a sprinting session the other day with my RunAmocs and found them to be quite comparable. Plus, can you beat the sustainability and customer service of a company like Soft Star?! My experience with them so far has been fantastic. Anyway, I’ll see you at the MovNat workshop in a few weeks! In the meantime, take care!

  31. Great shout out for the Soft Star shoes! They’re made right here in downtown Corvallis, Oregon. Funny thing is that tons of kids are wearing them, but virtually no adults. And I never thought of them for myself. (duh.) Excellent idea!

  32. Richard,

    Great post. I have a 10 1/2 size hoof. Would you recommend going up or down a size?

    Thank you.

  33. I’m using a pair of Feelmax Niesa with a very flexible 1 mm sole and I love them. They seem to be pretty similar to RunAmoc but, I have to say, better looking.

  34. For those of you further north, there’s a little company out of Ely, Minnesota called Steger Mukluks. They make native-inspired moosehide boots called mukluks that are super minimal, great at moderating temperature and not too hard on the eyes, either. But the best thing is that they feel like slippers and can be worn comfortably in the house if you go in and out a lot during the winter. They’re far more susceptible to salt and oil damage than some other boots, however. Still, they’re simply the best for unimpeded snow activity… many iditarodders swear by them and mine have held up well for ten years and are still going strong. As for the Vivo Barefoot Aquas… they were my first pair of minimalist shoes with super thin soles. While they are some truly comfy and socially agreeable footwear, there’s a lining between the pseudo-suede exterior and your toes which your toes will rip over time if you wear them without socks. Since it’s only logical to assume that people purchasing “barefoot” shoes will wear them at least occasionally without socks, I think this is an unfortunate failure in design on Terra Plana’s part. I also find the kevlar-infused soles to be quite slippery when wet (not surprisingly, really) and quite obnoxious when walking on cement because they make a slapping sound. And did I mention that they have just the slightest bit of toe lift? Anyhow, just like with the Five Fingers, I thought they were the most comfortable shoes on the planet until I, let’s say, developed my palate and expanded my criteria. In other words, I’m now a certified, ashamed shoe snob. I’m sorry! Seriously though. The RunAmoks are the only shoes I’ve ever had that offer both ample ventilation for sockless wear and soles that are thin, malleable and completely flat. It has been hot as hell this last week, but my RunAmoks still smell like fresh leather.

  35. I wanted to get VFFs. And these RunAmoks are great, I’m sure, but they look terrible. I was considering the VFFs. And these may be great, but you look like you traded shoes with a homeless man.

  36. Primal says:

    Those shoes are pretty ugly and I just showed them to my girlfriend and she said “those look like hippie shoes.” I have the same 2nd long toe issue as you but have nothing but good experiences with Five Fingers. I on the same page as you I wear Sanuks or Rainbow sandles when not using Five Fingers. I think I’ll stick to the Five Fingers which I actually think look more “normal” than those SoftStars

  37. Jennifer says:

    I admit. I bought my 5 yr old son a pair of the Soft Shoes because they were cheaper than the adult shoes and because I wanted to see quality of construction. He loves them! I’m thinking I might get myself a pair. Does anyone have any comparison of Tom’s shoes vs the Sanuks? I need a flat pair of something a little “normal” for work in an office.

  38. Yeah, the Runamoks look really comfy and really UGLY. I guess I’d rather wear weird shows than ugly shoes. I like my Vibrams for hiking. At first, my little toes really hurt when wearing them but now those toes have gotten used to being pulled more to the side and the Vibrams feel comfy to me. Yes, sometimes I step on a big sharp rock corner and it feels a bit ouchy. But other times, I especially enjoy feeling the powdered soil or the grass right through my shoes. Plus the traction on crumbly decomposing stones in Vibrams is excellent and makes steep inclines a lot easier to handle. They are also comfy for scrambling cliffs after wading through ocean waves. But lately, I have been looking for some kind of minimalist shoes that would be suitable for work which is semiformal. SInce I am female, wearing shoes that look like my mommy made them from an old piece of canvas is really not an option.

  39. I’m been wearing Vibram KSOs (all black) 90% of the time since October 2009. Sandals, sneakers and dress shoes for times I need to be more than casual. I love them and am perfectly at ease with friends, family, strangers, business associates. IMO they are not “destined to the fad dustbin” unlike Crocs.

    This is a fun read:

    “Vibram FiveFingers: The Perfect Wingman for Attracting the Opposite Sex”

    http://www.awesomebymystandards.com/2010/05/vibram-fivefingers-the-perfect-wingman-for-
    attracting-the-opposite-sex/

  40. I disagree with the Run Amocs being ugly. I have a pair of custom designed ones and I get nothing but positive comments. Not so for my Vibrams. I wear my VFF when it rains, but I much prefer my Run Amocs and have put roughly 50 running miles plus many more walking and hiking. They’re also far more comfortable to leave on after a run than the Five Fingers.

  41. I gave a try to V5F and I’m satisfied completely, even though I live in a very conservative country(in eastern Europe) and I have the “greek toe”. They helped me realign the long-tortured many little bones in my foot.

  42. Glad I saw this. I’ll give these a try definitely. They look comfy.

  43. Well it appears I touched a nerve.

    Excellent! I guess I’ll just have to keep touching, or stabbing.

    Hey, anyone see that this got linked in Mark’s Weekend Link Love yesterday? Mark has always been really good to me about featuring some of the things I put up.

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/weekend-link-love-102/

    William, the 6th commenter down really didn’t like my post. I guess it’s a bit too much for a blogger blogging about his own journey to be biased as to his own experiences.

    I guess I missed a memo, somewhere along the way.

  44. Heather says:

    Hey Richard. Love the info here. I’m about to go on a hike in NH over the 4th, and family is insisting on hiking boots for “ankle support”, I don’t really know what else to wear (as I don’t yet have these barefoot alternatives) and also don’t want to concern them or hold people up when I inevitably twist my pampered ankle. Feet aren’t quite used to the barefoot yet. Any tips for hiking and avoiding injury and awkward explanations?

    • Heather:

      I think the ankle support thing is and has been a load of crap. Even basketball players are starting to go back to regular low tops. About the only sport I can think of where ankle support is important is downhill skiing. And then, it’s only partially about the skiing (I’m an expert skier, myself) and partially about saving an ankle from a bad twist in a fall.

      The reason people injure themselves and twist their ankles, in my view, is because via thick soles and padding they have literally lost tough with what they are doing. When you’re barefoot or at least minimalist you can instantly feel and react to a problem, such as a hole or soft footing that’s going to allow for an ankle twist or the worst, where your foot goes to the inside and your leg to the outside.

      • Heather says:

        Thanks Richard. How about regular running shoes for the time being?…until I get some alternatives. Otherwise it’s the clunky boots.

      • I looked at both the Nike Free and SPARQ and went for the latter. Better fit for me. I hear Puma makes some good minimalist shoes.

        I’m just not a fan of hiking boots. Even climbing Half Dome in Yosemite a few years back I wore regular running shoes. I like the feel of agility and without elements like cold & snow, I just don’t see the need for boots at all.

    • I’ve never, ever, twisted an ankle barefoot. I’d recommend some RunAmocs for the hike – depending on temp and whether or not there’s sand on the trail, maybe the ones without perforation. But it would take a week or two to get your calves and ankles ready.

  45. Richard, please make sure you keep us posted on the MovNat experience. I missed it again this year. /cry

  46. Hey Richard,

    Great post. This is right on with how I feel. My small toe is too long for my VFF’s and I can’t wear them for more than a 2 or 3 mile run before they hurt like crazy. On a whim I picked up the Sanuk Hybrid. I ripped out the insole and love them. All that’s left is the upper and a thin sole. These things are crazy comfortable. I’d like to get a leather pair for work; but the boardroom has the think cushy sole.

    Thanks for sharing!

  47. Agreed – my biggest issue with the FiveFingers is the poor fit for my toes and the lack of ventilation. I’m loving my RunAmocs.

    Another option: huaraches. Con: rubber on your sole gets sweatier than leather. Pros: small rocks and sand don’t get stuck in them like in the RunAmocs, and they have even more ventilation.

  48. Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of my Soft Star suede grippy roo moccasins. They got me through work from home over the winter and I wear them to work every once in awhile (with jeans — we’re sorta casual in my office). The grippy roos are awesome b/c they are basically like the baby shoe moccasins but for adults. They have an extremely thin sole (comparable in thickness to the Moc/Performa kangaroo leather foot glove from Vibram, which is sold as being indoor-only) and the barefoot feel is unparalleled.

    So if you’re really not into VFFs and want to get the most barefoot feel possible I would skip the RunaMocs and get the Grippy Roos. Just note the sole on the Roos isn’t super beefy, so if you’ve not perfected “light walking” then you’re gonna wear through it quickly — mine still are holding up fine though after a year and I wore them daily in my house for about three months and have frequently worn them outside for walks, to work, etc.

    I got a pair of the thin-soled RunAmocs, too, and they are great — love the perforated leather (helps keep the feet cool compared to the aforementioned roos, which are a bit warm in the summer). That said, the sole on them is a lot stiffer than the Grippy Roos — I would actually say you get about the same ground feel in the RunAmocs as you get with the FiveFingers Bikilas, which are the thickest (At the forefoot) of the Vibram line-up (along with the KSO Treks).

    Also, like the Roos, the lack of toe-articulation means that you’re a lot less precise, which has a big impact on play in my experience. I’ve climbed a tree in my Roos, but it’s clumsier. Also, I’ve noticed a distinct loss of sense around the periphery of my foot with the the Moccasin-styling of the RunAmocs as well as the Roos. I think this is b/c the shoe necessarily extends past your toes (1) and your feet float within them (2) (Methusaleh’s sleeping bag analogy is spot-on). I disagree that the toe-articulation of VFFs is just some gimmick — case in point, when you walk in VFFs and flex your toes upward as with running or walking, the VFFs go upward with your toes. With the Soft Stars this also happens, but not as much — you’ve got dangling sole (this is a critique I’d also lay on the huaraches). Just to be fair, I’d also note that the downside to this is that the VFFs put downward pull on your toes when you’re wanting to upward flex — this is pretty minor, but every once in awhile I’ll notice fatigue in the muscles used to flex my toes up. No design is without flaws!

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of Soft Star — a great company run by super nice people and I love my Grippy Roos and dig my RunAmocs (still need to test them running more though before I can review them!).

    But I also wear my Classic Vibrams for everyday wear and think they are by far the most utilitarian and barefoot-styled shoe out in the market (this is my “professional” opinion!) — they are open and airy and just about as minimal as you imagine while still being incredibly functional in a pinch. They are the “flip flops” of the Vibram world and if they work for you, they work like a charm.

    But they won’t work for everyone and thankfully, there are other fantastic options out there — and Soft Stars certainly have a place in my footwear line-up.

    Richard — when winter rolls around, get some Grippy Roos. You won’t be disappointed!

  49. I walk around all day in a pair of Guinness sandals (complete with bottle opener on them)….and workout/run in some speedo water shoes….both I got for about $10 each.

  50. As another person with a fairly extreme Morton’s toe (1/4″ difference PLUS another 1/4″ difference between the length of my feet) I’m with you. I want to like the VFFs, they just plain won’t fit. I’ve got a couple pairs of Vivo Barefoots (some runners and a pair of girlie flats for work) and they’re not totally perfect, but they fit well and give my toes the room they need. I’m also tempted to try those “invisible shoes” sandals, as a woman, I could probably get away with them all summer with no odd questions.

  51. I have a pair of VFF KSOs and KSO treks. I wear the leather Treks to work (self-employed) and use the others for play. I love these shoes for function but agree that they don’t breathe well enough, especially true for the leather Treks. I continue to wear them because I love the feel of separated toes, but don’t like the hot sweaty feel they give my feet.

  52. Hey! I just found this, and found your blog review interesting!
    I have to say, I just bought a pair of VFF Sprints today, and I’ve been wearing them when I can :D I walked around the mall for about 40 minutes, and when I took them off in the car, my feet felt great! It was that feeling you get after you do a good run, your body is a bit hot and sore but not sore, anyway that’s how they felt.
    I do feel like the toe separators ( and I HATE toe socks, if that says anything), aren’t a novelty or fad, that they serve a purpose to new “barefoot” people whose toes are tucked together after 20 + years of bad shoes, if that makes sense.
    I did have some initial fit issues, I have long toes so had to get a size larger than the measurement, but now they are shockingly comfortable.
    I’m also in the boat that really hopes its not a fad, can you imagine how much better we would be if barefoot awareness continues? These “weird” 5fingers get people to ask questions and educate themselves on the benefits. I had NO idea prior to yesterday that being barefoot built muscles and that arch support really isn’t a good thing. Plus, I wouldn’t be caught dead in adult “Robeez”.
    Anyway, I’ve been enlightened, I’m so excited for this new “lifestyle” and hope it continues to improve my life and health, and I want to tell as many people as I can about it :)

  53. I actually love my VFF’s so much that I wear them everywhere, all day, everyday. Yes I take them off the second I get home but that’s because I love being barefoot even better. VFF’s aren’t for everyone but so long as the shoe follows the same mentality, I’m game.

  54. I thought you might find the following interesting, from http://www.stevenrobbinsmd.com/minimalist-shoes

    “Individual toe enclosures offer no advantage. Plantar flexion of the digits during barefoot locomotion is not used mainly to improve traction. It is a response to painful surface contact with the metatarsal-phalageal joints (balls of feet). It is an attempt to avoid contact to an area of he foot with a low pain threshold to deforming objects and subject to frequent injury. There will be no desire to plantar flex digits and to acquire the mechanics of barefoot running with any shoe, minimalist or typical – with individuals toe enclosures or more ordinary.”

  55. Richard Carlow says:

    Hi Richard,

    New to VFF and loving them. Bought mine in Hong Kong and the shopkeeper gave a great demonstration on how to put them on. Being stubborn I pretty much ignored him until I got tired of fighting individual toes.

    What he said and what has been working now is;

    leave the shoes on the floor
    focus on “inchworming” in the 2 biggest toes.

    That’s it, the rest just follow or need minor adjustments. Not sure if this is common advice or not but for me it seems to work

  56. Hey,
    I felt the exact same way and did the exact same thing. I am now thoroughly enjoying my black runamocs, although I sometimes wish they stood out as much as the VFF’s XD.
    The VFF’s always felt sweaty and restricting to me. With the runamocs, I sometimes actually go to put more shoes on when I’m heading out the door, only to see that I’m already wearing the runamocs.

    Great Shoes!!

  57. What an informative, thorough review. My second toe is also larger, plus two of my toes are somewhat webbed. VFFs weren’t an option for me. Nike Frees are too tight in the toe area & don’t feel raw enough. My money is tight, so I couldn’t shell out over $100 for Terra Planas or Newtons. Because money is tight, I need a running shoe that can occasionally front as a regular shoe. I believe RunAmocs are my perfect shoe. Thanks for the review.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Nikoley, Diana Hsieh. Diana Hsieh said: RT @rnikoley: Do I dare? Out with the Vibram Five Fingers and in with the Soft Star RunAmoc http://su.pr/42OARE #vff #softstarshoes [...]

  2. [...] Out with the vibram five fingers and in with the softstar runamoc – Free The Animal Jill setting a PR @ 135# x 3. She ended up at 145# x 3. Nice job Jill! Niel swinging the 2 pood like it ain't no thang [...]

  3. [...] Richard Nikoley doesn’t care too much for Vibrams. Before you shake your bare-toed foot-fist in anger, read Richard’s opinion of Vibram alternatives. [...]

  4. [...] Alright. Here's just the video. And here's Mark Sisson's Link Love mention that resulted in a few…uh…defensive comments here and there. That's cool. The video is intended to help. And here's the post that started it all: Out with the Vibram Five Fingers and in with the Soft Star RunAmoc. [...]

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  6. Saturday, July 3, 2010 « CrossFit Rx says:

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  13. [...] interesting to read two articles by Richard Nikoley who has other “non-shoe” preferences and hasn’t entirely got on with Vibrams.  This is the first set of comments I’ve seen that have dared to suggest that Vibrams aren’t [...]

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  15. [...] while back I blogged about my general preference for Soft Star RunAmoc over Vibram Five Fingers for all but what the VFFs are specifically designed for: sporting activity. Shortly thereafter I [...]

  16. [...] Richard Nikoley is real big on the SoftStar Runamocs, even preferring them in most instances over the Vibrams. They – surprise, surprise – feature outsoles made by Vibram: the 2 mm thick “Street” or the 5 mm thick “Trail.” I’ve tried these babies on myself, and to be completely honest I wasn’t a huge fan of the way they looked on me. But that’s just one guy’s opinion. If you like the way they look they’re a good barefoot option. They run $87, about the price of a pair of FiveFingers. [...]

  17. [...] Richard Nikoley is real big on the SoftStar Runamocs, even preferring them in most instances over the Vibrams. They – surprise, surprise – feature outsoles made by Vibram: the 2 mm thick “Street” or the 5 mm thick “Trail.” I’ve tried these babies on myself, and to be completely honest I wasn’t a huge fan of the way they looked on me. But that’s just one guy’s opinion. If you like the way they look they’re a good barefoot option. They run $87, about the price of a pair of FiveFingers. [...]