Minimalist Shoes Revisited: Showdown: Vibran Five Fingers vs. SoftStar Runamocs

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.

Minimalist Shoes Revisited from Richard Nikoley on Vimeo.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Tweets that mention Minimalist Shoes Revisited: Showdown: Vibran Five Fingers vs. SoftStar Runamocs | Free The Animal -- on June 29, 2010 at 09:25

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Nikoley, Michael Miles. Michael Miles said: RT @rnikoley: Minimalist Shoes Revisited: Showdown: Vibran Five Fingers vs. SoftStar Runamocs – #vff #softstar […]

  2. Neonomide on June 28, 2010 at 19:58

    Having extensively tried Feelmax and 5-fingers, I can say that they both have their uses. It’s nice to have more alternatives in minimalist shoes AS WELL as normal shoes. Thanks for your contribution.

  3. Laura on June 28, 2010 at 21:03

    I tried on a pair of Vibrams and apparently have a toe length issue: big toe hit the end of its pocket while the baby toe barely reached. I decided to go with an invisible shoe kit and injinji toe socks: happiness is.

  4. pfw on June 29, 2010 at 02:53

    I can’t believe the price on the runamocs. $100 for a size 13? When are minimalist shoes going to have minimal prices?

    For now, I’ll stick to $30 moccasins which provide the same features (very flexible, roomy) at less than half the price. Heck I can burn through two and a half pairs of shipped moccasins before I get to a single pair of runamocs. Or VFF for that matter.

    I think something might be getting lost in the search for a great minimal shoe: it’s supposed to be minimal. You just need a foot-wrap that doesn’t look too funky so that people at work or around town don’t freak out too much. Excessive engineering of something intended to be minimal to justify high prices seems to miss the point, at least in my humble opinion. You’re not looking for a space-age shoe here, you’re looking for something which allows you to get away with being barefoot socially.

    • Dave C. on June 29, 2010 at 08:11

      When they are mass produced in sweat shop south Asian factories, like every other “inexpensive” shoe.

      • pfw on June 29, 2010 at 09:13

        It’s a MINIMAL shoe. Simplicity in construction and material should follow by virtue of the design goal, and lower both labor and material costs regardless of who is making it.

        I think they’re shrewdly aware that most people interested in barefooting happen to make decent money and are willing to pay to support their lifestyle choices, and the capitalist in me congratulates their cajones with this pricing decision. But that same capitalist turns around and buys something else – something essentially equivalent and less than half the price.

      • Satya on November 15, 2010 at 15:10

        My point exactly buddy. The logic that minimalist shoes are not made in sweatshops is bogus. the same guys that make SUV shoes make these minimalist shoes as well. They are way overpriced. All power to those slobs who pay for them. But there are alternatives to those who are smart.

  5. Roadrunner on June 29, 2010 at 06:38

    Hey, I thought VFF were consecrated by God to be the official foot ware of the modern caveman? What’s all of this about another shoe trying to gain market share. Curse them!!

    I think I’ll try using some Superglue on the pads of my feet. Either that or some regular sand papering to build up some huge, protective calluses-now that’s natural! Until I get enough money to buy these shoes (probably made for 5 cents-parts and labor- in Thailand), anyway.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 29, 2010 at 08:20


      Actually, SoftStar is a model company.

      “As a company, Soft Star is family oriented. Our kids come with us to the shop where they play in our playroom. Our local customers love to stop by since our shop is a great place for the whole family to take a break.

      “We also believe our environment and community are important. That’s why Soft Star has earned the ‘We Conserve’ stamp of approval. We also fully support Cassidy’s efforts in helping the people of Sudan. It’s a wonderful cause and we feel honored to be a part of her project. Soft Star also gives to Waldorf and Montessori schools through our back-to-school discounts and promotions. We also donate thousands of dollars worth of Soft Star products to Le Leche League chapters around the country every year.

      “We hope you find our products to be of the highest quality and our company to be a place you would like to work. And if you’re in the neighborhood, please come by and visit our workshop nestled alongside the Willamette River in Corvallis, Oregon, or contact us with any questions.”

  6. […] 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 […]

  7. JUPITER on June 29, 2010 at 10:12

    Now that i have read the comments on all the shoe stuff i think people are missing a big point, it is about what you want to wear, no shoe is going to be right for everyone, i love the fact that there are options for all of use, if one does not work for somebody there is another that will, if a shoe is no good for you that dose not make it a bad shoe.
    we should all be thanking richard for taking the time to point out that there are lots of minimalist shoes to try out, not just VFF’s

  8. Primal Toad on June 29, 2010 at 13:10

    I own a pair of KSO’s and love them to death. I now prefer to walk in them over sandles. While I would rather be barefoot as much as possible, sometimes you just need protection under your feet. Some people may not like them, but they continue to be quite popular.

    I feel no freedom when I wear sandles but it much different with my KSO’s. I can’t say anything on the softstar shoes but I know the VFFS work great for me! But, everyone is different ;)

  9. Walter Norris on June 29, 2010 at 23:20

    My second toe curves a little, so I had to send my KSO’s back after I got them. As a result of your earlier post on this subject, I got some Softstar Ramblers to wear casually instead of the tennis shoes I was wearing which I decided had too much cushioning.

    Now, all I need is a comfortable dress shoe suitable for job interviews in a professional corporate environment. Any ideas?

  10. Christ on June 30, 2010 at 06:39

    If you cant get a precise fit with VFF,you will not experience the benefits.
    I have 1 foot 1/2 size larger and it’s fine in the winter with socks a size up but now in the summer I prefer sandals.

  11. Jonathan on June 30, 2010 at 08:34

    I’ve not had my VFF a week yet. I’m sure the “new” will wear off at some point.

    Found this though. The guy stretched his to fit his morton toe.

  12. Bryan Rankin on July 1, 2010 at 05:55

    Richard, you have revealed yourself to be suboptimal!

    I highly recommend that you take the time to learn how to tie your shoes properly. Ian’s Secure Knot is simply the best.

  13. Monica on July 2, 2010 at 16:08

    Yup. I’m reposting this comment from what I left on OEvolve….

    After mail ordering some Classic Vibram Five Fingers that were too small, I went to the local REI store to try on a pair. I noticed that there is a significant difference in fit between Classics and Sprints. Classics fit more snugly than Sprints in the same size. I opted for the Sprints, as my pinky toe was definitely squished in the Classics.

    I wore them several times on our recent trip to Ouray, CO. Ultimately, I’m fairly happy with them and will continue to wear them outside on hikes and treks where flip flops just aren’t enough. Here’s what I like. 1) They’re a great alternative that provides some protection in comparison to barefooting. 2) I absolutely love the grip that I get in these. I feel much more nimble jumping from rock to rock than with any footwear I’ve worn before, and that’s super. 3) I like the connection with the ground. If the ground is hot or cold, I can feel that, and I love being able to feel texture of pebbles and such without pain.

    However, I’m not completely happy with the fit or comfort of VFFs. For one thing, it’s just a bit awkward to have something between all of your toes. But mostly, I think that’s due to my foot and toe shape. My second toe is slightly longer than my third toe, and what’s stranger is that my third toe is slightly longer than my second! Also, my toes are thin, so the toe compartments are too wide for me. VFFs are made for people with fat toes. :)

    So, until there is a custom building option, I won’t be able to get a precise fit in VFFs. VFFs are definitely designed for people whose toes are successively shorter. So, I’ve had to settle with the situation that all the toe compartments in my VFF are slightly longer than they should be, and my pinky toe is slightly squished, leaving to that “stubbed” toe feeling after several hours of wear that you mention, Richard.

    Oh well.

    I might try RunAmocs for when I go out or need a “dress shoe”. Otherwise, flip flops will do in summertime and VFFs will do on short hikes.

  14. The Paleo Rodeo, #015 on July 12, 2010 at 02:45

    […] Nikoley presents Minimalist Shoes Revisited: Showdown: Vibran Five Fingers vs. SoftStar Runamocs posted at Free The Animal, saying, “A follow up to my critique of Vibram Five […]

  15. Patrick on July 28, 2010 at 10:54

    I like the points brought up in the video, but I think the points would hit home stronger with less filler material. Too much of the video is spent justifying your position and your opinions, when the demonstrations pretty much nailed what you were trying to say. The pants-wearing demonstration and the speed of getting the shoes on both were very effective at demonstrating the differences. I think one other thing people need to be aware of – you can’t actually bend your toes downward that easily with VFF, they won’t let you pick things up with your toes, which is a huge bummer. I spent several minutes trying to pick up a golf-ball sized plant pod with zero effective gripping ability. I could mash my toes over and around it, but the rubber is too thick and the toes just spring back. Very informative material overall, just suggestions for future videos to be much more demonstration oriented and to the point. Leave the theory and opinion in the text blocks (as I have here) because you can’t skim over video as easily as you can text.

  16. Drew Baye on August 1, 2010 at 13:34

    I own two pairs of VFF Sprints and one pair of KSO’s. I only wear the KSO’s if the others are in the wash because they are more of a pain in the ass to put on, but I LOVE my Sprints and have never felt the toe pockets were a hassle. They’re no more difficult to put on than a pair of snug gloves.

    The prices do seem a bit absurd, though. I’d love to hear opinions on other alternatives to vibrams that are lightweight, durable and affordable.

  17. Jay K. on August 1, 2010 at 17:22

    Have you tried some of the other minimalist type shoes, such as the Nike Free or Brooks Green? They are not as minimal as these or the Vibram, but they are comfortable.

    I run in the Brooks Green, and can attest they have good toe room and still provide quite a bit of feedback from the ground.

  18. Richard Nikoley on August 1, 2010 at 17:35

    I have a pair of Nike SPARQs, which are only slighty less minimal than the Frees, and which I tried on side-by-side, preferring the former. It was more a matter of fit & feel.

    Anyway, I use those fory workouts instead of the Vibs, and also for longer daily walks, but most walks are pure barefoot, or flip-flops.

  19. Scott M on August 10, 2010 at 13:29

    I desperately wanted to like the RunAmocs. I felt like Goldilocks: 1st pair was too small, the 2nd too wide and the third too long. (And, yes, I sent a foot tracing.) I also didn’t like how much “upper” fabric there was. My foot absolutely SWAM in them. Very discouraging.

    On the plus side, though, Tesla (yes, that’s her name!) was an absolute doll, and did everything she could to try and make my purchase work. I think SHE was disappointed, too!

  20. Amy on August 18, 2010 at 13:19

    I have 3 pairs of VFF’s (Classics, Sprints and Bikilas) and 3 pairs of SoftStar shoes (2 Adult Ramblers and 1pair of RunAMocs) and having worn and run in both extensively, the RunAMocs in my opinion are superior. I simply find the SoftStars to be more comfortable and YES more attractive when worn with pants. They also give my foot more room to expand and give a greater sense of freedom to my toes. Also, after almost having my pinkie to ripped off hiking rocky trails, I prefer the comfort of being able to tuck my small toes in- something I can do barefoot and in the SoftStars, but cannot do in the VFF’s. Lastly, SoftStar Shoes are made in America by Americans with environmentally friendly production materials and values and attention to detail. VFF’s are mass produced in China and have variable quality.

  21. Jeff from Michigan on September 27, 2010 at 19:42

    My big problem with the VFFs is that they don’t really allow for individual toe motion. The rubber actually restricts them more than enhances my toes’ ability to move independently. Vibram does have a men’s Moc which fits like an Isotoner glove and has seven individual pieces on the feet (the heel, forefoot and all five toes) connected by soft leather but Vibram makes it very clear that they are not to be worn outside.

    My second biggest beef with my VFFs (the KSO) is that the rubber rubs against the ball of my foot leaving a blister or red spot almost every time. I’ve got Injinji socks which help but then it takes away from the “barefoot running” aspect of the VFF. Also, in the crease of my big toe it rubs some too. My dream shoe is the Vibram Moc that can be worn outside as when I tried them on it was truly comfortable.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 27, 2010 at 20:05

      Don’t see why you can’t wear the Moc outside. What, is hell going to open up and swallow you? Heh. Worst that can happen is they wear quicker than indoors. But if they feel right, go for it.

  22. Vic on October 20, 2010 at 18:08

    Hi there. First off I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your review of the VFF vs. Softstar Runamocs. While I personally like wearing my KSOs whenever I go out, I think it’s important to acknowledge (as you have done in the video) that adopting the primal lifestyle involves finding what works FOR YOU as opposed to what others prefer. I’m still toying with the idea of purchasing a pair of Runamocs myself because they do appear to be a decent minimalist shoe. Have you ever considered trying huaraches such as the ones that Barefoot Ted sells They also seem like a valid alternative — I suspect I might end up purchasing a pair eventually to see how they are.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 21, 2010 at 07:16

      I saw BF Ted’s sandals in action at NovNat where he attended the same class I did. I’ll probably get a pair soon.

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