How to start running in Vibram FiveFingers: Q&A Part 2

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I hope you found yesterday’s Q&A about VFF helpful! Here are some more questions and answers!

So how do I get started? I started wearing them as much as possible, just walking around the grocery store or whatever. Also, I’m always barefoot in my house so I think that helped build the muscles in my feet…running in VFF using the muscles in your feet in a different way than traditional running shoes. When you want to start running in VFF, take it very gradually to avoid injury, particularly stress fractures in your feet and arches. I followed this schedule (approximately):

    • Week 1: run ½ mile, 3 times a week on non-consecutive days; I ran Monday, Wed. & Sat)
    • Week 2: increase each run to 1 mile, following same schedule
    • Week 3: increase each run to 2 miles
    • Week 4-6: mid-week runs are around 3-4 miles; I stayed at this distance for a while just to continue to strengthen my feet and calves
    • Week 7 and on: mid-week runs stay 3-4 miles, but I’ve started adding one mile to my long run of the week (on Saturdays)

In the beginning weeks, when I wanted to run longer, I switched to my Asics after the initial mileage in the Vibrams.

If you want to read about my first-ever run in Vibram FiveFingers, click here.


Do you wear them all winter? If so, how do you keep your feet warm, especially on long runs? How is the traction? I haven’t run in VFF through the winter, but my lovely friend Ashley from The Edible Perspective has and this was her feedback on the matter: “I ran in them through the winter when it was about 30* at the coldest.  I ran with them on packed snow but not fresh powdery snow.  If it’s really wet [melted snow] I don’t advise running at that time as the water will make your feet really cold.  During the winter I did wear the Injinji socks, which helped.  I never had a problem with my feet being cold.  It usually took them about 1 mile to feel warm.  Before going out to run a good idea is to jog in place for a minute, do 10 pushups, jog in place, do 10 pushups, like 3-5times.  It will get your blood pumping and your feet warmed.”

Also, there are other models of VFF that might help keep your feet warmer and help with traction, like the FiveFinger Treksports or Flow.

Some of you mentioned that you are crazy blister prone, get blisters at the base of your big toe, etc. Would Injinji socks to help with blisters? I haven’t run with Injinji, but again, Ashley has and here are her thoughts:They do help with rubbing and keeping your feet warmer.  Wearing the socks also help prevent the VFF’s from stinking as fast.  I was getting blisters at the top of my big toe as well and honestly I think it’s more of a form problem. There shouldn’t be much friction.  Since doing a lot of research and walking in them a lot and easing into + finding my stride, I have no blister problems.  I guess it could depend on your toe size, but a lot of times people haven’t changed their stride enough.  Keeping steps under your torso, not striding out, quick light steps, 3x the amount of steps compared to normal running stride, popping UP motion when your feet hit the ground instead of pushing off the ground w/your feet will all help.”

Do you think there is a maximum mileage for VFFs once you’ve gotten used to them? I have no idea. I would imagine as long as you built up slowly, used good form and listened to your body that there wouldn’t be a “maximum” mileage. But I would think everyone’s personal “max” would vary, regardless of shoe type. Some people will never run more than 5 miles at a time and some will run ultramarathons…so there’s probably never a set-in-stone max, ya know?

Which VFFs do you run in? I run in the Sprints.

What surface do you typically run: road or trails? I do most of my running on roads, but I have done some gentle trails and it felt fine in the Sprints. I don’t think the Sprints would be great for hard-core trail running, but you definitely could find another model for it.

So I was wondering–did YOU order your pair online? If so, I’m guessing you got the right size? No fitting problems? Nope, I got mine at a local retailer so I was able to try them on first. If you do order them online, I would suggest a company that has a good return/exchange policy, like REI.

I get nervous the first time doing the plate loaded leg press with them. And I am especially nervous about it this time with VFF. Have you used your VFFs for any kind of strength training? I was nervous about strength training in them too. I wore them for about a month before I did strength training in them since doing squats without a lot of support under my feet freaked me out. I now do all my strength training in them and actually feel that I have much better balance since I do all free weights. Almost all of my strength training is done in Body Pump, so I never use the leg press. (I rarely use machines for strength training but that’s a difference story.) So, to be specific, I’ve never tried it on the leg press, but I’ve done loads of squats and lunges in them and have been fine. I would wear them for a few weeks before loading up on weight though, just so your feet and arches can support you better.

Other tips/notes:

Your feet will be sore. It’s kind of weird. They don’t necessarily hurt, but they get sore after runs. If you experience pain, definitely take a few days off!

Try to land lightly. You naturally will anyway, but try to make it a conscience effort, especially in the beginning.

Have fun!

*Remember, I’m not a doctor or running coach, but am just sharing my experiences. Please check with your own health professional before making changes to your exercise routine and always consult a professional for injury diagnosis and treatment!

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    27 responses to “How to start running in Vibram FiveFingers: Q&A Part 2”

      • Um that picture is HIDEOUS! agh! But thanks about the hair! I’m so glad I went red!! Do you color your own? If so, can we chat color details sometime? 🙂

        Wish you were here in SF!

    1. I am planning to buy a pair of these next time I have $100 to spare on gym stuff. It’s going to be too cold to run in them here in Ottawa pretty soon, so my plan is to start out on the treadmill and try them outside in the summer. Have you tested your VFFs on the treadmill yet?

    2. Hi Teri, I just finished Born to Run this week.. I’m totally interested in try’n out the Vibrams.. Just for fun, I ran on a treadmill completely barefoot.. and actually really enjoyed it! I couldn’t believe how much my posture improved and my legs were more “underneath” me – ( also, anytime I have a reason to go barefoot I’m in!) Since it’s already getting cold here in Chicago.. I will probably start working them into my treadmill runs – and see how it goes from there. Thanks for the great info!

    3. Hi! I just found your blog and love it. Thanks for the Vibrams Q and A. I got my first part a few weeks ago so your posts are really helpful! I also love the color of your vibrams.

    4. It was good meeting you last night. We were very happy to be running with you this morning but somehow we turned the wrong way and ended up running to the Golden Gate Bridge.. Oh well it was fun.. Let us know if you are going tomorrow.

    5. thanks for the Q&A. i bought the treksports today! i don’t plan to try a run until after the half i’m running next weekend but i’ll be wearing them around the house and my office this week to help get my feet used to them.

      • I hope your half marathon went well! And I hope you enjoy the Vibrams once you start to run in them. That’s awesome you can wear them to your office! 🙂

        • well … i’m not quite right in the head. the night before the race i decided to do the full. so for not being fully trained and still having SI joint issues i’m pretty happy with a 4:41:46.

          i ended up taking the treksports back. i didn’t find them as comfortable as i’d hoped to. i went with the bikila and so far love them! i haven’t run in them yet but have gone out walking and love the way they feel. hoping for my first (short) run next week after i receover from the race.

    6. Love these last two Q&A posts! I’m a huge advocate of being barefoot. We have a gym in our garage, and I have been strength training barefoot for years! My feet were so sore at first, but they got stronger, and now I feel so much more “grounded” and my form feels much more natural without shoes on. I also run barefoot in the summertime (I haven’t tried it on snow…brr), but I love the way my strike changed. I’m glad you did this post – spread the barefoot (or nearly barefoot) love!!

      • Thanks for the answer regarding strength training. My pair arrived tonight and I’ll take your advice and ease into the heavy lifting with them. 🙂

    7. Funny about the hesitation in strength training. I started with that. 🙂 I used to have a lot of trouble with my toes of my back leg hurting in lunges, and one foot hurt in the big toe joint most of the time. Since I have changed to the VFFs, that foot only hurts when I wear bad shoes, and never during lunges. Hooray! I taught Body Pump for 6 years, and as an instructor, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for use in class.

      I have never liked them on the treadmill, though. I like to walk and run outside with them, but I don’t think I get the stride right on the treadmill and I get pounded.

      • That’s good to know that as a Body Pump instructor, you think they are ok! 🙂

        I hate them on the treadmill too. The stride just isn’t right!

    8. I got a pair of the VFF Sprint in May. So far, I’ve done some hiking in them (which is awesome — makes me feel much closer to nature) and a bit of running, but I’ve mostly limited the running to grass. I’m kind of scared of doing much running with them on concrete, but my grass options are pretty limited, so I might just need to start working up to it.

      • I LOVE hiking in them. I agree – I feel much closer to nature.

        I actually think they feel better running on pavement instead of grass. You are forced to land lighter on harder surfaces and grass prevents you from “learning” from your feet. Hard to explain, but give concrete a try!

    9. This is a great Q&A series! I’m so curious about the Vibrams… wish they weren’t so expensive so I could try and see if I like them without shelling out a ton of cash!

      • If you buy them at REI, they’ll likely let you return them if you don’t like them. They have an awesome return policy…I’ve returned an umbrella that broke after having it for a year. 🙂

    10. Hey, I am from South Africa and I have just bought a pair of VFF yesterday and plan to try them out tomorrow. I am really excited because I so believe in the concept of barefoot running. It would be possible if it were not for peeps who leave glass etc on the road.. well lets not go there.
      Thanks for all your comments, I am so keen I would of gone into it by running a full 5km straight away, but I hear you about allowing your body rythm to adapt and moulding them to your foot.
      I will keep u updated on the progress. 😀

    11. Oh yay!! I’m so glad I found your blog (got it from someone’s blog that was on the Oh She Glows recipe page…hehe a few clicks away!)

      Lately I’ve been adjusting my running form. Discovered I was heel striking pretty badly, which prevented me from increasing my mileage past a certain point. But since I’ve been running more on my forefoot, I’ve had some aches and pains in my calfs and ankles. I was thinking it was because of changing my form! 🙂 I’m glad to get some reassurance AND some structure to how I can increase my distance running that way.


    12. Just back from my first 1/2 mile in my new snazzy dinosaur foot lookalike vibrams and wow do my calves hurt! You are so right about doing this gradually… it’s such a different feeling from running in normal shoes! I actually have pretty strong calves, but this must be a part of them that I haven’t worked before… thanks for all your posts on vibrams! You definitely helped with my decision to buy a pair!

    13. I just bought the VFF sprints, and after wearing them for a day, my toes hurt. It hurts to flex them or bend them. I was wondering if it will get better, do you think it will?

      • Hi Blake, you know it’s been a while so it’s hard to remember (I’ve been in mine for two years) but I think I did experience some soreness in my toes. You’re using the muscles in your feet in ways that you never do in regular shoes. I would give it a rest and not wear the VFF for a couple days until the soreness goes away and then try again, just like if you got sore after lifting weights. 🙂

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