Helping Orangutans in Borneo wearing Vibram Five Fingers

Helping Orangutans in Vibram FiveFingers

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Another Barefoot Story! 

We were thrilled when we got the opportunity to chat with Jamie Wedderburn from Norfolk. Not only did he tell us about the amazing work being done for our fellow planet citizens, the Orangutan, but we also heard about Jamie’s love for Vibram FiveFingers and how they helped him during a trip to the rain forests of Borneo!

Jamie’s big summer adventure! . . . making a difference

Passionate about animal welfare Jamie and his wife Suzanne were already very conscious of the plight of the Orangutan in Borneo and keen to see if in any way, even a small way, they could help.

So, after some research they discovered a way they could do just that with an organisation that had glowing reviews and a clearly robust and ethical approach. The Great Projects is an organisation that runs unique wildlife conservation projects and tours to help endangered species around the world. They also work hand in hand with The BOS Foundation, Borneo Orangutan Survival, who help to re home and rehabilitate Orangutans in Borneo.

“Every little bit helps as they say, and we wanted to do our part. We decided to go out to Borneo and volunteer for 2 weeks”

Orangutans in Borneo

Orangutan mother and baby in BorneoIn recent years the plight of many animals across the world has been highlighted, including the Bornean Orangutan who are being displaced as their natural environment is being changed. This has led to a loss of their habitat which means the Orangutan have nowhere to go.

There are three species of Orangutans in the world, all can be found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra and all are critically endangered. A recent study estimated that over 100,000 Orangutans have been killed in just the past 17 years.

Charities like BOS take steps to rescue and rehabilitate these animals. They go as far as purchasing huge swathes of the forest so they can release the rehabilitated Orangutans back into the wild. They treat the Orangutans for illnesses and injuries, providing a future for these animals that might not be possible without intervention.

“The work is so fantastic and we wanted to contribute to that which is why we went out there”

You wore wellies though right?

“So I wore my Vibrams in Borneo, every day . . . well except for one day when we trekked through a rainforest renown for being overrun with leeches . . . I didn’t fall over once!”

Volunteering with Orangutans in Borneo in Vibrams

All the volunteers were very active and engaged in demanding physical work in hot, humid conditions and over rough terrain. Whilst Jamie was wearing his Vibrams his fellow volunteers where wearing the standard Wellies or thick chunky hiking boots. At the end of the day his fellow volunteers were desperate to get their hot and sweaty footwear off.

“I felt great. My Vibrams offered the protection I needed whilst working in the jungle. And even when they got wet, because of the way fit, they didn’t rub and didn’t cause issues”

Jamie’s journey into Vibram’s

Throughout his career Jamie had spent a lot of time wearing heavy restrictive leather boots. Firstly in the RAF and latterly in the Police Force. He would have to wear them for everything, every day, whether sitting in the office or hiking for 20 miles.

Jamie became increasingly aware of how uncomfortable these boots were; restrictive, heavy, inflexible, his toes were being squashed. Inevitably he found himself suffering associated pain. But there was no alternative.

“I couldn’t wait to get them off at the end of the day. I used to love taking these boots off and the release that I had and that feeling, that ‘ahhhh’ moment, these feet are finally free”

Barefoot shoes

As a result of this discomfort Jamie started to look for alternative footwear that would help his feet. He read about the benefits of going barefoot and barefoot footwear which lead him to Vibram Five Fingers, looking into the science and benefits behind a healthy posture and healthy footwear.

“I’d read the science and I liked the thought behind how it could benefit you. That your toes are free all the time and the benefits to posture and strength”

Of course, there are other shoes on the market with similar approaches. Although none have the toe pockets unique to Vibram FiveFingers which provide the ability for the toes to move independently providing all the balance and grip that’s essential to barefoot travel.

“I tried other footwear but was never as comfortable as I am wearing my Vibram FiveFingers because your foot can be itself and do what it was designed to do whilst in a shoe”

Do they take getting used to?

Volunteering to help Orangutans plight in Borneo Transitioning to the shoe wasn’t so much of a challenge as an adjustment for Jamie. Commonly you walk differently and run differently in Vibram shoes. You ‘heel strike’ less, instead landing towards the mid and fore foot. You are also using your muscles in a different way than you’ve been accustomed to.

“There is a transition period but the benefits once you have transitioned are fantastic”

Jamie soon noticed less knee pain and ankle pain. His strengthened joints and a more natural walking gait noticeably reduced stress on the body.

Jamie has now been wearing his Vibrams, when not at work, for about 7 years. With a number of different pairs, for training, for yoga, weight training in the gym and trail running. All offering the minimal natural feel, without restricting the natural movement of the foot and still offering the protection he needs.

“Once you get used to how they feel on your feet, its almost like they’re not there but you’re given protection from the elements, stones, surfaces etc”

So how to your work boots feel now?

“It’s a hateful relationship” says Jamie who is either barefoot or in Vibrams when not at work. The first half an hour of each day, when I’m putting my work boots on, I’m aware that I’m having to change the way I walk. I have to go back to moving the way the boots are designed for”

So what would you say about Vibrams?

Jamie’s journey with footwear, such as it is, means that not only is he an unintentional advocate for Vibram FiveFingers but that he has a wealth of experiences and reasons why looking at these shoes beyond the surface and grasping the benefits is really worth it.

• Strengthens your feet, there are so many muscles in your feet that go unused
• Strengthens your ankles
• Improves your gait
• Improves your posture
• The feeling of freedom

“I say to people, don’t knock them before you’ve tried them, whilst they might look unusual, once you’re wearing them and understand how they can benefit you in so many ways you won’t think of them in a negative way”

“Everyone likes to walk on the beach, or on their plush carpet at home barefoot. The beauty of Vibrams is that you can be barefoot all the time”

What’s your next adventure?

James and his wife are looking at a number of suitable locations for their next adventure. Maybe Costa Rica or perhaps Peru, taking in the Inca or the Salcantay trail and hiking up to Machu Picchu.

“We’ll hike up to Machu Picchu. We’d like to see that as one of the wonders of the world before it becomes inaccessible. I will wear my Vibrams to hike the Salcantay trail, they’ll be great for that; lightweight and comfortable on a long hike over 6 or 7 days”

The Great Project and the BOS foundation

The Great Projects Logo and BOS UK Logo

The Great Project is an organisation that run a volunteer program of award-winning wildlife conservation projects and signature tours designed to provide truly unique and life-changing experiences for wildlife lovers around the globe who wish to volunteer abroad and make a difference.

The BOS Foundation, Bornean Orangutan Survival, engage supporters and donors from around the world with the plight of the Bornean Orangutan. From acquiring protected forests into which rehabilitated Orangutans can be released, to aiding the team working to rescue Orangutans from human conflict or those sold into the illegal pet trade, from the dedicated babysitters nurturing the orphans through forest school, to the enrichment team and veterinary staff, for all of this and more, funds are desperately needed! The BOS foundation runs a great programme of intervention and works with the Great Project to coordinate volunteers eager to make a difference.

Take a look at some of our shoes ideal for trekking

Vibram Five Fingers V Trail 2.0The V-Trail 2.0 offers the latest and greatest features to conquer trails with ease, including both lamination around the toes to prevent seam splitting and improved extra resistant polyester fabric upper material which is more water repellent than the previous version. 



Vibram Five Fingers V TrekThe V-Trek is a great tool for walking, hiking and trekking, with a nice stylish urban flare as well. The Flexible outsole featuring Megagrip provides the premium outdoor formula for grip in both wet and dry conditions.

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