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Why I Stopped Running Vibram FiveFingers

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This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and after a few of you asked the question, “Why did you stop running in Vibrams?” it gave me an extra motivation to get it done. So thank you, readers, for letting me know what you’d like to see on the blog!

I’m going to cover this topic in a series of three posts so one post doesn’t get too painfully long.

  1. Why I started running in Vibrams FiveFingers in the first place
  2. Why I stopped running in Vibrams FiveFingers a little over a year ago
  3. How I transitioned out of Vibram FiveFingers into normal running shoes again

So, let’s jump into Part 1, shall we?

Why I started running in Vibrams FiveFingers

I start running in Vibrams in 2011 in a desperate attempt to combat persistant running injuries. I was dealing with almost constant IT band and SI joint issues. I’d been in physical therapy for 6 expensive months to even get me to race day in a 2009 marathon, had my gait analyzed over and over to get fitted for shoes, regularly stretched and did yoga and foam rolled. I was doing everything “right” and was still having issues.

Then, a friend (Ashley from Edible Perspective), suggested I try Vibram FiveFingers. I trusted her (still do, especially with anything food related 😉 ) and I started doing a lot of research. Once I started analyzing my running form (by having friends watch me run, looking at my shoe wear patterns, and looking at race pictures), I realized I was a heel striker. And a pretty intense one at that.

That aligned with what my PT had told me – that I was jarring my SI joint with the way I was hitting the ground. His solution was ongoing PT and extra cushion in my shoes, but I couldn’t afford life-long PT and extra cushion or running shoes with increased stability seemed to make things worse.

So, I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFinger sprints and began the slow transition to building up my mileage in them. I blogged about how I did that here – it was not a quick transition. And I credit my slow and deliberate transition into Vibram FiveFingers with the success I had with them. I didn’t jump right in, I let my body slowly adapt and build up the muscles necessary, and I avoided seriously injuring myself like so many others who jumped on VFF bandwagon.


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I ran successfully in VFF for 4.5 years. I trained for a marathon and did a 22 miler in them. (This is why I didn’t run that marathon – nothing to do with VFF! Warning – gross pictures are in that link.) I ran countless races – 5Ks, 10K, half marathons. I broke every PR I had prior to VFF. And, most importantly, I fixed my running gait and was no longer a severe heel striker as you simply can’t heel strike in VFF; it hurts like the dickens if you do.


I became a mid-foot runner and my injury rate decreased substantially. I blogged about other things that helped decrease my injury rate here. And decreasing my injury rate is one the most important factors that helped me significantly increase my running speed.


If you missed Part 1 of this series, which is where I wrote about why I started running in Vibram FiveFingers in the first place, you can start here.

Why I stopped running in Vibrams is a pretty simple answer:

They just stopped being comfortable.

About a year and a half ago, I suddenly starting experiencing crazy shin splints and my calves were really bothering me (super tight, bordering on pain), and my stride just didn’t feel fluid.

Why I think that happened is a longer answer.

I was pretty surprised to suddenly struggle with running since I had been running successfully in Vibrams for over four years, including running a 22 miler, countless halfs, setting PRs in every race distance, with minimal injuries. And any injuries I had during those four years were, like most runners, usually related to overuse, not enough rest and not enough stretching.

I had never experienced shin splints or any of the other issues I was suddenly having though, so I evaluated what changed and it was an easy answer: I had added in CrossFit. (You can read about my intro to CrossFit here.) While I had regularly lifted for years, CrossFit was a different ballgame. The intensity is much higher than what I had been doing on my own, there was much more rebounding, and the weight was much heavier.


As a result, my muscles were being challenged in new ways, and at first, I think this was a major shock to my body. Everything was sore, including places I didn’t know I could be sore. And the new injuries and discomfort was my body’s way of asking for additional additional support and more cushioning.


I had been doing the WODs in New Balance Minimus trainers, which I don’t think had enough support for heavy lifting, but they were okay for the metcon portion of the workout, including wall balls, burpees, running, etc. But running felt uncomfortable and my feet were aching after almost every CrossFit workout. I finally broke down and bought some “real” running shoes (Brooks PureConnects) and some “real” CrossFit shoes (Nano Sprints).


My running improved in the Brooks PureConnects almost immediately. My lifts improved with the Nano Sprints and my feel stopped aching.

Now that I’ve been running in “real” shoes for about a year, I’m still fine tuning some things and trying to figure out what’s the best shoe for me. I still don’t feel like I’m in as strong of running shape as I was when running in Vibrams. I haven’t been able to get my mileage up for various reasons, but I’m much stronger and fitter overall since adding in CrossFit, and that, to me, is worth the fine tuning it’s taken to figure out running again.

I’m currently in the market for new CrossFit shoes since I’ve definitely worn out my Nano Sprints, and my feet have started aching again. I’m leaning towards Nike Metcons since they should work well for heavy lifts and more cardio intensive workouts. (Update – I did buy Nike Metcons and love them!)

I’ve also recently added a new running shoe to my rotation, the Adidas Adizero Boston, and I LOVE THOSE SHOES.

Finding the right running shoes was really a difficult process and transitioning out of Vibram FiveFingers was much harder than expected.

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    4 responses to “Why I Stopped Running Vibram FiveFingers”

    1. Looking forward to part 2!

      Before SKORA was around, I used to exclusively run in Vibrams and even did my first marathon and ultra in them. It took me a while to realize that for some runs, cushioning isn’t a bad thing.

      Now, I wear our most thin soled shoe as my everyday and short/easy run option, but typically go up in cushioning for harder or longer workouts.

      But my flat and “over-pronating” feet till do quite well in neutral shoes.

      I think one of the biggest mistakes people make with shoes is only running in one pair, style, or type. I really feel regularly wearing both a minimal and a cushioned pair of shoes for running does a great deal for my injury resistance 🙂

    2. This is very interesting – can’t wait for parts 2 & 3! And thanks for the gross pic warning on the link; that was very sweet of you to remember. XO

    3. I’ve been meaning to ask you about this for a while! Need Parts 2/3 ASAP!! 😉

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