Vibram Sprint Shoes
July 27 2009
lb (89.40 kg)
in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have
backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed
time for 1-3 trips a year averaging 2-5 days, and as many day hikes as
I can. I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the
higher peaks in Washington, Oregon, and California. I prefer trips on
rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously
strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me.
My current pack is around 30 lbs (14 kg), not including consumables.
|| 5.6oz each (Men's size 42)
|| 5.7 oz (162 g)
courtesy of Vibram fivefingers
Description: (Per the manufacturer) SPRINT
IS BEST FOR: Light Trekking, Climbing, Canyoneering, Running, Fitness
Training, Martial Arts, Yoga, Pilates, Sailing, Boating, Kayaking,
Canoeing, Surfing, Flats Fishing, Travel
hikes (at least 3 averaging about 3 mi / 4 km each) , as well as ‘camp
shoes’ (on two backpacking trips totaling about 5 days and one
overnight car camp) where I wear them around camp and while exploring.
I have worn them for a 2 mile (3 km) hike with a full backpack (in
snow!) as well as around the house, neighborhood, and even to mow the
lawn. [NOTE: I don’t recommend wearing them for mowing the lawn or for
extended wear in snow for obvious reasons]
- Indoor workouts (Treadmill & Wii
Active) at least 3-4 times.
to day wear; various stores, around town, and while at a water park. I
wear them just about any place/time I think I can get away with it (and
can ignore the eye-roles and sighs I get from my wife).
- Sole [no pun intended] footwear on an overnight
backpack with my 6 year old daughter (her first backpacking trip)
- Canoeing (3-4 trips) ranging from 1-5 hrs. each
- 3 day family camping trip (including some
canoeing and fishing)
I have been trying to find just the right way to describe the
Vibram FiveFingers Sprint shoes. So far the most descriptive analogy I
came up with is “lingerie for your feet.” That is to say, they are like
being bare…but better!
I grew up in Hawaii, and throughout most
of my childhood, dressing up meant wearing a pair of shorts without
holes and my good flip-flops. I spent much of my time barefoot. After 6
years in the navy and many, many more living in the “states” (for those
who use that term, Hawaii is a state by the way) the rhino hide I had
developed on my feet has softened quite a bit. I can still walk
barefoot where most people I know can’t, but I am no longer impervious
to sharp rocks and hot pavement like I used to be.
When I first
learned about the FiveFingers line of footwear I was very interested,
but having very wide feet I have learned that it can be difficult
to find well fitting shoes, so I waited until I had the opportunity to
try some on. I tried on a few different sizes of the Classic model and
found they just did not fit me very well around the heel and instep. I
normally take a size US 9 ½ or sometimes 10 (43-44) but I found with
the Sprint my best fit was with a US 8 (41)!
these shoes (especially from the inside) I could not help but to
compare the construction and design of these to my rock climbing shoes
(however these are far more comfortable for my wide feet!).
a very different and original type of footwear, the Vibram fibefingers
site has a size conversion chart (see below) which converts the foot
length to the recommended size for each style they offer. When trying
them on the clerk told me that most people end up finding they go with
a smaller size than they normally would, and for me I found this to be
true as noted above.
When I first put them on I was concerned
about them rubbing in places I am not accustomed to, such as across the
top of the foot or just above the heal at the base of the tendon. I
have had issues in these areas with other tight fitting ‘aqua sock’
type shoes and sandals, but not with these. I wore the shoes for about
2hrs on the first day. Over the next 3 days, I wore them off and on
with no signs of rubbing or hot spots. Within a week I could wear them
all day with no problems.
I have read that some people have
difficulties in getting their toes to go into the individual sections
of the shoes. I experienced a slight learning curve during the first
few times I put them on, but have had little trouble since. Now I find
them as easy to put on as a pair of ski gloves.
avoid wearing shoes without socks. I have found that my feet tend to
stink, and after the first few days of wearing the Sprint’s I noticed
they were starting to smell a bit ripe. I washed them (tossed them in
the washer with my cloths) and they did not retain any odor. Since then
I have had intermittent issues with odor when wearing them for extended
times (more than a few hours). After I had owned them for a few weeks I
started taking them into the shower with me and rinse them. This seems
to work well. I noticed that the inner liner of the shoes under my feet
almost immediately became dirty, and they can get very dark after
extended wear. I have found a quick rinse while in the shower removes
most of this, but the stains are gradually getting darker (as they do
in any footwear). Also I have had a few occasions where sand and grit
would work its way into the insole and was difficult to remove (I had
to let them dry completely and then wash them out again). I have
started using an old trick I learned years ago, where I put
antiperspirant on my feet. So far this has completely prevented odors
during day hikes, and I plan to continue.
find being barefoot to be very comfortable, and prefer to be barefoot
whenever possible. As a testament to how comfortable I find these, I
have found myself wearing them around the house and in other situations
where I would otherwise have preferred to be barefoot. So far the only
discomfort I have experienced with these is due to an injury where I
caught my toe on an object (while barefoot) and pealed back part of the
nail of my little toe. Occasionally when I put the Sprint’s on it will
cause some pain and I need to pull the shoe away from that toe slightly
to relieve the pressure. However, prior to a recent trip I put a gash
in my foot just below my right pinky toe when I kicked the corner of a
piece of wood (again barefoot…maybe I should just wear the Sprint’s all
the time?) I needed to keep an adhesive bandage on the wound to stop
the bleeding and keep it clean. I was concerned that this would prevent
me from wearing the shoes, but I was surprised that I had no problem. I
experienced no discomfort at all. I received this injury 2 days prior
to my using the Sprint shoes for an overnight backpacking trip! The
only problem I had was when I stepped down on a rock right under my
On a side note, I have caught my little toe (the same
one with the above mentioned injury to the nail) a few times on objects
(rocks, branches, bedposts) and these shoes as far as I can tell do
nothing to prevent or lessen this type of injury (a real problem for
those as clumsy as me).
Prior to my daughter’s first backpacking
trip I wanted to scout out the intended trail and camp site. I decided
to go light and fast. I brought minimal gear and wore the Sprint shoes.
I was amazed at how quickly I traversed the trail. I was virtually
skipping, in fact I even ran part of the way back. The feeling of
removing most of the weight off of my feet was incredibly liberating.
On the trip with my daughter, I wore the
Vibram shoes exclusively. While the trip was short, the trail did
include a very steep decent in loose dirt and very sharp and loose
talus where I descended with our packs before returning to guide my
daughter down. Aside from having to remember that I did not have the
traction I would normally have had I been wearing my boots, the shoes
worked well (in spite of the foot injury mentioned above).
Can these be used for backpacking? ... YES!
At first, I felt the soles were a bit too slick and did not
provide much grip. However, after wearing them more, I found they
provide at least as much grip as bare feet (maybe more in some
conditions). The difference is that with bare feet I can feel my feet
slipping sooner than when I am wearing these shoes, hence the feeling
less traction. On one backpacking trip I wore the Sprint shoes most of
the weekend around camp and while exploring. I decided to try them out
for the 2 mile (3 km) hike out, wearing a 40 lb /18 kg pack. The route
was a dirt road partially covered with calf deep snow/ice. As expected
the shoes did not provide much traction in the snow and ice (about the
same as being barefoot) and my feet would get cold and wet when in the
snow but quickly warmed up when walking on the dirt. I would not
recommend the shoes for these conditions as extended wear in snow would
surely pose a risk of frostbite, but it was a fun experience and I got
some amusing looks and comments from the other hikers I ran into along
the way. I wore them once while mowing the lawn, primarily to see if
they would pick up grass stains (they did not). They did not provide
much traction in the freshly cut damp grass and they would provide
virtually no protection from the spinning mower blades should I slip.
While I gained experience in what the limits are for these shoes, it is
an experiment I do not intend to repeat and would not recommend.
that has taken getting used to is the feeling of things between my
toes. The first time I wore them I walked into an area of fine gravel
and sand, and I could feel the sand getting between my toes. At first I
wondered how it had gotten into the shoes, after looking, I realized
that the material between the toes is so thin, it just felt like the
sand was in the shoes, but in fact it was not. On another trip I was
walking through some grass and underbrush, I found I had to stop a few
times to clean the grass and flowers out from between my toes (it was
kind of funny to see flowers caught between my toes).
found these shoes to work well at protecting my feet from hot surfaces
(such as pavement) as well as small thorns and such. However, the thin
material between the toes and on the sides of my feet provide no
protection at all (aside from a bit of UV protection as I will mention
later). Larger objects such as rocks can be painful if I am not
careful. I find it is a good idea when wearing these to walk as I did
when I was a kid walking barefoot. That is that I don’t worry about hot
and rough surfaces and I can ignore small items like some broken glass
and thorns, but larger items I avoid (e.g. large thorns and pieces of
glass) while treading carefully on others (e.g. large rocks and
The shoes provide some UV protection, as evidenced
by my wife and daughters constant teasing about having tan lines on my
feet that make me look like I have been wearing “Mary Janes” (whatever
those are). Due to the amount of uncovered flesh when wearing these
shoes sunburn is a real concern. When I was a kid I remember how many
tourists I would see who had burned the tops of their feet because of
wearing flip-flops in the sun. So sunscreen on the tops of the feet
when wearing these is a good idea.
Comfy camp shoes
I really like wearing these for my indoor workouts. They
provide much of the versatility and sensitivity of being barefoot with
more traction (on the carpet, mat, & “Wii” balance board) and
comfort (especially on the treadmill). The only drawback is I find is
that due to using the shoes outdoors, they transfer more dirt to the
rubber cover on the “Wii” balance board, but since this is removable
and cleanable, it is not really a significant problem.
recently taken up canoeing, and found the Sprint shoes ideal for this.
The canoe I purchased has seats that I found difficult to get my feet
under (so I can paddle from a kneeling position) when wearing sandals.
The sandals tend to get caught on the edges of the seat. The Sprint
shoes do not have this problem and I am able to move from a seated
position to kneeling and back with no difficulties.
a family trip to the Oregon coast I decided to do something I have not
done since high school, run on the beach. I wore the Sprint shoes. The
shoes picked up quite a bit of sand when I crossed the soft part of the
beach so after getting to the packed damp sand I emptied them before
starting running. The feeling was like running barefoot, in that I had
no support and could feel my ankles and associated muscles getting
quite a workout. However I was glad I had them when I noticed that a
section of the beach I was running across had a few jellyfish washed
up. Stepping on one of them barefoot could have been unpleasant, but
since I was wearing these shoes I continued my run without pause. I
also climbed a very large sand dune on the beach in Pacific City Oregon
wearing the shoes, and while they did fill with quite a bit of sand, I
was surprised that it was not uncomfortable as it would have been had I
been wearing running shoes or similar. I was actually surprised by how
much sand I dumped out, since while I could feel it, it was not
Nothing like a cool stream on a hot day!
It is our
custom at BackpackGearTest.org to only report on our own personal
experiences and not the opinions of others. However I do think in this
case the comments (and looks) I receive while wearing these is relevant
to the report. I find most people I know who see me wearing them (some
of my co-workers asked me to wear them to the office one day so they
could see them) find them ‘interesting’ and a few have expressed an
interest in getting them for themselves. Most strangers seem to find
them very curious (often giving me double takes and sometimes
pointing), and many even approach me to ask about them. I have yet to
receive or overhear any negative comments about them (if you don’t
count the eye-roles from my wife, and my daughter absolutely refusing
to allow me to wear them on her 6th grade class hiking trip). In fact,
while at a water park a few of the lifeguards commented on how they
looked like they would be ideal for their work.
ascetic aspects of these, I personally believe the brighter colors are
better looking than the more subdued ones. When I purchased mine they
had a few choices for the Classic style, but only had the Sprint in
red. After trying them on and looking at the other colors available it
is my opinion that the more subdued colors suggest an attempt to
hide the shoes (almost apologizing for them), and in my option draw
even more attention to them. I feel the brighter colors show a level of
confidence and ‘I like these’ attitude that makes the overall look more
pleasing. Nevertheless, since this is a matter of taste (something I am
not known for…ask my wife) and very subjective “your mileage may vary”.
mentioned above, after finding them so comfortable, I have started
wearing them a lot, and as such the long term durability of these is
something I wonder about. My primary concern is how long it will take
me to wear through the soles. So far I have found little to no signs of
wear (aside from the above mentioned stains on the insole). These seem
to be holding up as well if not better than other shoes I have in the
same price range.
am so pleased with these that I am considering purchasing the “FLOW”
style (Tested by BackpackGearTest.org in 2008)
this fall (please don’t tell my wife!).