THE VIBRAM STORY
Vibram is an Italian company specialising high-quality rubber outsoles for a variety of footwear, including hiking boots, athletic shoes, and fashion footwear.
In 1935, entrepreneur Vitale Bramani had an experience that inspired him to create Vibram. While climbing in the Italian Alps, he witnessed the tragic deaths of six of his companions who all died as a result of wearing inadequate footwear.
Bramani concluded that the rubber soles used on mountaineering boots at the time were inadequate. He set out to create a new type of sole that would provide better traction and durability. In 1937, he founded Vibram, naming the company after himself (Vitale Bramani) and his invention.
Vibram's first success came in 1937, when the company developed and patented the Carrarmato sole. This sole was famously used in 1954 when a team of Italian mountain climbers conquered the K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. The Carrarmato sole was designed to provide maximum traction and stability on a range of surfaces, making it ideal for mountaineering and other outdoor activities.
Over the years, Vibram continued to innovate and develop new technologies for its outsoles, including the Megagrip and Arctic Grip soles, which provide excellent grip and stability on wet and icy surfaces, respectively. Vibram also worked with top footwear brands such as Nike, Merrell, and Red Wing to produce custom outsoles for their products.
Today, Vibram is recognized as the leading supplier of high-quality rubber outsoles in the world, with a reputation for innovation, quality, and performance. The company continues to develop new technologies and products to meet the evolving needs of the footwear industry and consumers.
Evolution of Vibram FiveFingers
In 2004, Vibram developed its line of minimalist footwear, Vibram FiveFingers, which was designed to mimic the feeling of being barefoot while still providing protection and grip.
Vibram FiveFingers were the brainchild of Robert Fliri, who was a lumberjack and entrepreneur. He liked to walk barefoot but could only do it for short distances due to the terrain. This led him to design his first prototype, the foot glove.
In a chance meeting with Marco Bramani (Vibram 3rd Generation Owner) Robert presented his concept. Marco, a keen sailor, saw that, as well as being quirky shoes, they would be great as deck shoes. This was the start of Vibram's fascination with the product. They undertook a massive task both creatively and financially to produce the tooling to create these shoes and find suitable fabrics to work with this unique and ground breaking invention.
Vibram FiveFingers were launched to the market globally in 2006 with the Classic. The shoe featured a thin, flexible sole with individual pockets for each toe. Two other early models, the Sprint and the KSO (Keep Stuff Out), were also introduced in 2006. Vibram never intended the FiveFingers to be serious shoes for athletes. It was the market that dictated their evolution and very quickly Vibram were receiving requests for different soles for different activities.
Vibram FiveFingers became popular for several reasons. One was the unique design, which was unlike anything else on the market at the time. The shoes also appealed to people who were interested in barefoot running and wanted a minimalist shoe that would allow them to feel more connected to the ground. In addition, Vibram FiveFingers were marketed as a way to improve foot health by promoting natural foot movement and better posture.
One key moment in the rise of Vibram FiveFingers came in 2009 with the publication of the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. The book chronicled the author's journey to the Copper Canyon in Mexico to learn from the Tarahumara, a tribe of runners known for their exceptional endurance and minimalist footwear.
One of the runners featured in the book was Barefoot Ted, who reportedly asked Tony Post, the CEO of Vibram, for a pair of FiveFingers to run in the Copper Canyon ultra-marathon. After a lengthy conversation where Ted reportedly educated Tony on barefoot running, he agreed to supply a pair to him. This in turn led Vibram to rethink their approach. From this one 'now famous and documented conversation' curiosity in the product was sparked, and Vibram FiveFingers became even more popular among runners, outdoor enthusiasts and A list celebrities.
Today, Vibram FiveFingers continues to produce a range of models for a variety of activities, including running, hiking, and water sports. The shoes have also gained a following among people who practice yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise that require a strong connection to the ground.
Vibram have also expanded their product line to include other minimalist footwear options, such as the Furoshiki shoe, which features a wraparound design that can be adjusted for a custom fit and their newest shoe the 'One Quarter' with it's minimalist and foldable sole. The company continues to promote the benefits of natural foot movement and encourages people to explore the world around them with a greater sense of connection to the ground.
Barefoot/ Minimalist broader topic
If you're interested in minimalist running we suggest you check out Professor Daniel Lieberman's case studies. He studied the differences between running with shoes on and running barefoot, and the results are pretty exciting. Of course, you'll need to read the research and draw your own conclusions, but there are definitely some strong arguments in favour of going barefoot.
Did you know that if you run barefoot and land on your forefoot, you could experience up to a third less gravitational force on your body? That's what Dr. Lieberman's research suggests! The counter to this however is, if you're wearing minimalist shoes and land on your heels, you could be putting up to seven times more load on your body. That's why it's so important to land forefoot/midfoot in barefoot shoes and with a good technique (more on this below
Have you ever lifted weights without shoes on? It might seem weird, but it can actually help you spread the load more evenly across your muscles. When you wear shoes with thick elevated soles, it moves a lot of force to your thighs, but when you lift barefoot, you activate more muscles evenly and bring in to play your hamstrings at the back of your legs and the muscles in your bum, commonly known as your gluteus maximus and minimus.
Our feet were made to be bare, not trapped in thick-soled shoes! Just like wearing mittens on your hands can dull your sense of touch, wearing shoes can limit your sensory perception too. But when you go barefoot, you can feel the ground beneath your feet and engage with your environment in a whole new way.
If you're looking to improve your speed and agility, going barefoot might be the way to go! When you're closer to the ground and not stuck on an elevated platform, you'll have a lower risk of ankle sprains and other injuries. Plus, you'll feel more connected to your movements and your surroundings.
Our toes are there for a reason! Each one plays a crucial role in helping us balance, control our posture, and distribute our weight. So why would we want to stuff them into shoes that don't let them move or work independently? Barefoot or minimalist shoes like FiveFingers can help you get the most out of your toes and improve your overall function.
Did you know that arches form some of the strongest structures in the world? From bridges to dams and buildings, they're used to support all kinds of heavy loads. So why do so many running shoes have arch support? It's a great question, and one that minimalist shoe advocates have been asking for years. By letting your arches work as nature intended, you can tap into a powerful natural energy system and run more efficiently. By blocking this essential part of the foot, and limiting its use can only be detrimental to its strength and function.
How to Choose Your Vibram FiveFingers
The key to choosing the right Vibram FiveFingers is to understand that "you are the technology." The shoes are designed to work with your feet and allow them to perform naturally. It's important to choose a style and sole that are best suited to your preferred activities.
When choosing your Vibram FiveFingers, it's important to consider the following:
- The activity you will be doing: If you plan to use the shoes for running, choose a style with a sole that provides enough grip and protection for the terrain you'll be running on. If you plan to use the shoes for hiking, choose a style that provides enough traction and support for the trails you'll be hiking.
- The fit: Vibram FiveFingers should fit snugly, but not be too tight. The shoes should allow your toes to splay naturally, but not be so loose that your foot slides around inside the shoe. You are looking for a good fit on your longest toe. A good fit is your toe as close to the end of the pocket as possible. Don't worry if all toes don't it into the pockets as fully. This will not affect performance in any way. Forn the correct size, please follow our sizing guide for each shoe.
- The material: Vibram FiveFingers are available in a range of materials, including mesh, wool and hemp materials. For more information on each style and characteristics, read the description to ascertain whether this shoe is suitable for your preferences and activities.
- Advice: For more advice, please contact our team who will be happy to assist you further.
Getting Started with Vibram FiveFingers
Getting your shoes on for the first time can be tricky, but with a little practice, it becomes second nature. The best practice is to put the shoes on the floor first with the back of the shoe down until the toes are all in each individual pocket.
Gently spread the toes and wiggle them forward towards the pockets while holding the back of the shoes. Once you have the shoes on, start by walking in them for the first couple of weeks to allow your feet to adapt to the unstructured shoe and the feel you get from walking on different surfaces and textures. Trust us, it's a eureka moment for sure and such a liberating experience at first.
Exercising with Vibram FiveFingers
All exercises are not created equal, and it's important to follow a structured program when transitioning to Vibram FiveFingers. For exercises that produce high impact, such as running, we recommend following a program that allows your feet to adapt to minimalist running as safely as possible.
Running in Vibram FiveFingers
A running programme (like a couch to 5k) is designed to take a complete beginner from a sedentary lifestyle to running a certain distance in a certain time.
Here's an outline of the first 3 of weeks of a typical couch to 5K program: This illustrates a good way to introduce yourself to running in FiveFingers. Short bursts of running with walking in between. If you feel your feet need more time to adjust, simply repeat a week.
- Day 1: Walk for five minutes, then alternate 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
- Day 2: Rest
- Day 3: Walk for five minutes, then alternate 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
- Day 1: Walk for five minutes, then alternate 90 seconds of running and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
- Day 2: Rest
- Day 3: Walk for five minutes, then alternate 90 seconds of running and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
- Day 1: Walk for five minutes, then alternate 90 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 25 minutes.
- Day 2: Rest
- Day 3: Walk for five minutes, then alternate three minutes of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 28 minutes.
Running Transitioning Tips
When running in Vibram FiveFingers, it's important to maintain good form to minimise the risk of injury. Here are some tips for running in Vibram FiveFingers:
- Land on your midfoot or forefoot under the hip rather than striding with your foot in front of your body: This helps to reduce the impact on your joints and allows for a smoother, more efficient stride.
- Keep your cadence quick and light: A quick cadence helps to reduce the impact on your joints and improves your efficiency. Aim for around 180 steps or beats per minute. A good way is to find a music track with a good tempo to help you run a step on each beat.
- Maintain good posture: Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest open. Avoid leaning forward or back and try to maintain a straight line from your head to your ankles.
- Think of the feet as part of a wheel that needs to touch the ground for the least amount of time possible to keep the fluidity of movement.
- Take it slow: When transitioning to Vibram FiveFingers, it's important to start slowly and gradually build up your distance and intensity. Your feet and legs will need time to adapt to the new style of running.
- It is advised to stretch the calf and hamstring muscles before and after running as they will be doing much of the work.
- When beginning to run barefoot, choose a smooth flat surface. Off road is a little to unpredictable to start with. Add trails once you are happy with your form and feel your feet can handle the rougher terrain.
- If any foot pain is experienced, stop running and listen to the body. It is advised to wait and try again another day.
- Retraining the body to run with a forefoot or midfoot strike may take months, but typically takes only a few weeks. Everyone is different so it is important to have patience in the process.
Other Uses for Vibram FiveFingers
Vibram FiveFingers can be used for a variety of activities, including hiking, water sports, and yoga. However, it's important to take the time to slowly transition to using the shoes for these activities. Here are some tips for using Vibram FiveFingers for other activities:
Start with shorter hikes on well-groomed trails and gradually build up to more challenging terrain. Be sure to choose a pair of Vibram FiveFingers with a sole that provides enough traction and support for the terrain you'll be hiking
Vibram FiveFingers are ideal for water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. Be sure to choose a pair with a sole that provides good grip on wet surfaces. When first starting out, practice in calm, shallow water to get used to the feel of the shoes.
Vibram FiveFingers can be a great choice for yoga, as they allow your feet to move and grip the mat naturally. However, it's important to choose a pair with a thin, flexible sole that won't interfere with your balance or stability.
Listen to Your Body
We've said it before but it's worth repeating. During the transition to Vibram FiveFingers, listen to your body and know when it's okay to carry on and when it's time to take a rest from the shoes. It's normal to experience some soreness and discomfort as your feet and legs adapt to the new style of movement. However, if you experience sharp pain or discomfort, it's important to take a break for a few days.
Get Out There and Enjoy Your Shoes
Vibram FiveFingers offer a unique and liberating experience for those looking to improve their natural movement and performance. With the right style and fit, Vibram FiveFingers are a great choice for running, hiking, water sports, and more. They offer a lightweight, flexible, and protective alternative to traditional athletic shoes. By following a structured program and listening to your body, you can safely and gradually transition to using Vibram FiveFingers for your preferred activities.
FiveFingers for me have become such a huge part of my life. From my very first pair, I have immersed my self into the world of minimalist running, walking and exercising.
At Barefoot Junkie we are passionate about Vibram Footwear and the minimalist approach. We are here to advise and help you to step into a new world of foot freedom so you too can experience the delights of moving in a more connected and natural way. We are here to help and assist you on your journey. We aim to keep you educated on all things barefoot and up to date with all the latest Vibram designs and innovations.
For independent advice, there are many Facebook groups and Instagram advocates of the barefoot/minimalist approach. We would suggest delving into some of these and read individual accounts their own personal experiences and preferences when it comes to designs, grips and activities they are used for.
To learn more about the benefits of barefoot running and minimalist footwear, check out the work of Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. His research which is widely available on the web has helped to inspire the growing popularity of Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist footwear options.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice or to be used as a substitute for a professional consultation with a qualified health care provider. Vibram FiveFingers shoes should only be used by individuals who are in good health and have consulted with their physician. Always use caution when transitioning to minimalist footwear and follow a structured program to avoid injury. Vibram does not endorse or sponsor this Blog, and the views and opinions expressed in this Blog are solely those of the author.