View Full Version : Is barefoot running via vibrams a scam?

Manuel Jericho
03-31-2011, 12:02 AM
according to this article (# 4) http://www.cracked.com/article_19130_6-fitness-tips-everyones-heard-that-dont-work-at-all.html

there hasn't been alot of research on barefoot running to be the only and safest way to run especially for a flat footed person such as myself.

Any truth to this?

Patrick Donnelly
03-31-2011, 01:10 PM
Vibrams - "practically barefoot" - $80
Barefoot - "actually barefoot" - $0

If for no other reason than that, it's a scam. I'll admit, they had me buying into it for about a year and a half, but now I just go barefoot essentially 24/7. It's better than Vibrams.

Derek Weaver
03-31-2011, 03:25 PM
Cracked isn't the first site to reference the flat foot issue. Flat feet can be problematic when it comes to barefoot stuff.

Vibrams are nice as a thin layer of protection. I've definitely stepped on a couple of things that hurt like hell, but would have hurt much more had I actually been barefoot.

Biggest issue with barefoot or vibramz or whatever is too much, too soon, especially on hard surfaces like a track or asphalt.

Garrett Smith
04-01-2011, 09:31 AM
I find the concept of wearing clothes, particularly when it is summertime in Arizona, to be a bigger scam than Vibrams.

Steven Low
04-01-2011, 10:01 AM
Read this and this


Shoes with lots of padding and shoes that are supposed to be fitted to your feet (supinated, pronated, etc) are the actual scam

Manuel Jericho
04-03-2011, 12:44 AM
Read this and this


Shoes with lots of padding and shoes that are supposed to be fitted to your feet (supinated, pronated, etc) are the actual scam

will read this and report back....

well, i've been seeing a physiotherapist who makes me custom made orthotics for my flat feet. Have had few problems from shin splits on both legs, bunion, knee pain ect. Since barefoot running is being advocated, does this discredit himself as a physiotherapist?

Daniel Dean
04-05-2011, 11:18 AM
for a flat footed person such as myself.

Are you flat-footed because of a physical injury or deformity like the guy in the DailyMail article, or are your feet simply weak and atrophied? There are tons of anecdotal stories out there of people dropping one or more shoe sizes after they got their feet strong again and the muscles pulled their arch back into shape.

I agree with Patrick that the only "scam" is the notion that you must have VFFs. I find any zero- or near zero-drop shoe with minimal cushion and a generous toe box to be fine (and more convenient to take on/off, and not attention-drawing).

Steven Low
04-06-2011, 08:34 PM
There is some variation in the population with people having lower arches than others.

But nowhere is the prevalence of flat feet in populations with shoes compared to the prevalence in cultures that use minimalist or no shoes.

Most people that use padded shoes have very atrophied muscles like said above.

Barefoot is preferable to VFFs obviously... but VFFs or any type of decent bendable flats work fairly well.

Joshua Williams
04-07-2011, 07:17 AM
Hey all, longtime lurker but this is the first time I thought I had something worth posting.

I started out in high school as a cross country runner using normal squishy shoes such as Nike Pegasus or Asics 2150, 2160, etc. and used those types of shoes for a long time. After I discovered crossfit a few years ago I started getting into the minimalist shoes and picked up some Onitsuka Tigers as my workout and running shoe (Do-wins for lifting days). The tigers were ok for running but it took a lot of getting used to the lack of padding so my gait had to change. As a side note I haven’t really done crossfit Per Se in a while. My training goes through cycles of Oly focus, running focus, rock climbing focus, and Mountain Bike focus...sometimes concurrently.

Then I read “Born to Run” and got psyched about barefoot running and went and picked up some VFF Sprints. For running only; didn’t really feel like they were suitable for anything else really. I built up some mileage in them then I started running in them all the time only on trails. Not really taking them on the road very often only one or two road races in the VFF. I really enjoyed how the VFF changed my gait but yeah I agree with a lot of people that they look kind of weird so I didn’t really wear them in public often, just trail running. The places I ran there were usually rock shards, short stubby roots, and other things that would really suck to run on while being barefoot for real. The VFF Sprints were really good at providing that “barefoot” feel while adding a layer of protection although there obviously wasn’t much tread so they were a little slippery turning corners on leaf cover trails. As a side note a friend let me try on his VFF Trek Sport and its sole was a lot thicker/stiffer and I didn’t like it as much. Anyway…I ended up “stubbing” my pinky toe while running in the VFF and it turned out to be a broken toe which took me out of lifting and running for a while.

After that incident healed I quit running in the VFF irrationally thinking I’d break another toe which would keep me away from the barbell again…however I really did like the way minimalist shoes felt for me. I also didn’t really like the way I had to run “carefully” in the VFF. “Real” shoes just let you run much more confidently in uneven twisty terrain. Now I run in New Balance Minimus trail shoes and they feel like wearing really hefty socks with awesome traction and a very flexible sole. It isn’t a “barefoot” feel but it is the next closest thing that I’ve ever felt after a VFF, but for a minimalist shoe it is better than any VFF or Tiger. Although the Minimus is expensive too I think it was worth it for _me_ for the conditions and they way that I run.

I may have gotten off track a little, but to directly address the topic I think that real barefoot running on grass like a golf course or soccer field is probably best. And if you build up your calluses then running on smooth asphalt is actually decent too because there usually aren’t random rocks or roots on a nice smooth road. Vibrams are good if you want to run _as if you’re barefoot_ but the conditions are poor i.e. many small rocks, hidden roots, stumps, etc. Good minimalist shoes are, IMO, the bees knees because you get good foot protection and they still let you run sort of like you’re barefoot. The extra $ for the protection provided by Vibrams or Minimalist shoes is worth it to me, even if overpriced, for my trail conditions. If you have optimal running conditions then go for barefoot, just ease into it if your feet aren’t used to it.


Grissim Connery
04-09-2011, 03:41 PM
yeah those are some good points. basically, you should gauge it based on where you are going to run.

i'd have to agree that stubbing your toe is the real danger while wearing VFF. i've stubbed mine once or twice and felt like i asked for it by wearing them.

i typically only run on tracks and on sidewalks in my neighborhood. both of which i feel are fine with VFF, and both i think would be a little rough if fully barefoot. i've tried running on trakcs barefoot a few times, and you really need to build those callouses if you want to go that route. a sidewalk will have glass every once in a while...

as for running in the woods, i tried that once in VFF because i friend wanted me to come. i wish i had brought regular shoes to that outing...

also, i jump rope a lot in them. when i miss, i generally always catch a toe, and the VFF is great for that. you don't feel any pain in them, but you can give yourself a nice whip if you are barefoot and catch your toe. if you use one of those really fast wire ropes, i would make sure that your VFF covers the top of your foot, or else just wear a shoe.

Daniel Dean
05-11-2011, 02:48 PM
Chris McDougall was on a local radio program last week discussing barefoot running. He made an interesting suggestion that maybe people getting into barefoot running should forgo VFFs, et al. and go fully barefoot when they start out. His reasoning was that minimalist shoes make it easy to do too much too soon. It's hard to overdo things fully barefoot because the soles of your feet are going to hurt long before you strain a calf or something. Once you can run 2-3 miles fully barefoot on pavement, then you can get some minimalist shoes and get after it.

Derek Weaver
05-11-2011, 03:12 PM
I would also throw in that people should go full barefoot on grass or something before their feet ever touch pavement at anything more than a brisk walk. There's a good strength coach podcast where Gray Cook talks about barefoot training and how he had some guy 'running' barefoot on grass only as fast as he could do so pain free. Over the course of a week or two, he was up to a jog and then was able to start from there.

Running full barefoot on pavement has more potential negatives than I can think to list right now.

His basic point makes sense though. Minimalist shoes like VFFs or even Frees or the new NB's make it easy to screw up and/or over do it.

Ben Moskowitz
05-11-2011, 04:38 PM
Any suggestions for building up atrophied arches? I know several people who wear orthotics because of flat feet. I am not sure atrophied arches are the actual cause, and thus want to suggest them a program/exercises that wouldn't aggravate their current condition.

Steven Low
05-11-2011, 05:15 PM
Any suggestions for building up atrophied arches? I know several people who wear orthotics because of flat feet. I am not sure atrophied arches are the actual cause, and thus want to suggest them a program/exercises that wouldn't aggravate their current condition.
Page 4 here:


Cyril Sack
05-12-2011, 06:58 AM
Something I've been curious about is that running barefoot style leads to an actual shrinkage of the footsize. Something to do with the muscles tightening from the additional work they do. But don't muscles usually experience hypertrophy when going through stimulus?

Steven Low
05-12-2011, 12:09 PM
No, most people's feet get bigger because of the hypertrophy

If your foot shrinks that because of other reason

Ben Moskowitz
05-15-2011, 11:52 AM
Page 4 here:


Thanks Steve, great protocol and suggestions.

George Mounce
07-31-2011, 12:06 PM
Unless you are running in a VFF specifically made for running (I use these: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/products/Five-Fingers-Bikila-Mens.htm) I don't suggest them for running other than short sprints.

James Evans
08-19-2011, 03:19 AM
Someone was asking me a about barefoot running and I sent her some of the stuff below. Thought it may be of interest.

I'm not a barefoot fan - I have a pair of Merrells and love them (save for the smell) but not convinced I would want to run anywhere in them.

I love Inov 8s. This does not make me a crossfitter.

Barefoot/minimalist navel gazing:

Inov 8:


Here is the Merrell lowdown on barefoot:


New Balance have also jumped into this:


and I expect the other major manufacturers to be considering their options.

Here is an article from Outside Magazine on barefoot running:


Something a bit more sciencey:


Lastly, this is well worth reading my Merrell's absolutely stink despite having some radical new odour guard to protect them and wearing socks:


In comments to that article someone suggested putting the shoes in the freezer overnight (in a sealed bag) to kill the bacteria then wash them. Haven't tried this yet. It's really important to dry them out of direct sunlight. One thing I've done and been please with after a suggestion from another manufacturer is to rub the insides with Tea Tree Oil.

Allen Yeh
08-19-2011, 10:00 AM

Eric Cressey's take on the Minimus

John P. Walsh
09-30-2011, 10:13 AM
LOL at Vibrams.