Vibram Five Fingers Not For Heel Strike Runners

The $3.75 million settlement claim against the Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) may only be a negative portrayal of improper training in the shoe. The VFFs do not cause injury, running with employing the wrong technique does.

A potential strategy for reducing collision force when running in the Vibram Five Fingers is to land on the forefoot instead of the heel.

Mounting evidence has found that wearing the VFFs when running improved biomechanics on many levels, starting at the feet.

  • the VFFs enable a runner to do a better job at reproducing the barefoot running style, which involves a forefoot strike landing pattern

However, runners might not benefit the potential advantages of the VFFs  if a forefoot strike is not clearly adopted.

Many runners heel strike in the VFFs which clearly indicates that the fundamental purpose of the unique shoe is poorly understood.

Essentially, running in the VFFs is intended to closely mimic barefoot running whereby barefoot runners are predominantly forefoot strikers, not heel strikers.

Since the VFFs have a super thin sole and no cushioning, the feet respond better to sensory feedback from the ground which is important in foot strike behavior modification.

However, given the absence of supportive elements, the feet are essentially on their own in the VFFs which may increase the level of sensitivity in the foot to a range that may influence injury, if proper adaptation periods are not fulfilled.  In other words, the VFFs may work for you if used sensibly.

The Take Home Message

Running in the VFFs are great for mimicking barefoot running and may help forefoot running learners.  But, heel striking in the VFF’s will most likely skyrocket your risk of leg injury.

Nevertheless, the VFFs do offer the possibilities of improving foot strike mechanics and foot strength with less hazardous implications when used in moderately.

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Chambon et al. (2013). The effect of shoe drop on running pattern. Footwear Sci, 5(1):97-8.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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