The science bit
If you run in shoes, then you likely land heel-first every time you take a step but heels aren't meant to absorb the impact of your stride and as a result the shock goes up the leg to the knees and hips. Barefoot running allows you to land on your forefoot, thereby allowing the body's natural shock absorbers to work -- the arches, Achilles tendons and lower legs ... resulting in a decrease in foot and ankle injuries.
WHAT OUR TESTERS SAY
Keen runners Diarmuid and Shirley O'Keeffe tested Vibram Five Fingers over a two-month period. Here's what they had to say:
Describe how different they feel to regular runners.
They feel very different, you feel very exposed, particularly with the classic model.
What was the adjustment period before it felt natural to run in them?
It still doesn't feel natural to be honest, we both prefer the security of an enclosed shoe. However, the Vibrams do facilitate (even force!) a more efficient running form.
Have they improved your performance?
Yes, it was a mind-set change though, they were the trigger as opposed to the medium.
Do you use them solely or mix it up with regular runners now?
We mix it up.
Do you recommend them to other runners?
Yes, they would be a good addition to your training regime in that they promote an optimal running style, but you have to discipline yourself to use them. It's much easier to go out for a run in your runners and not feel the punishment afterwards. You have to think of the long-term benefit, not the short-term discomfort.
Marks out of 10 for comfort, performance and durability?
Comfort: 8/10: They are reasonably comfortable though the classic model is not ideal for winter running.
Performance: Would we use them in a race? No way ... so 5/10 I suppose.
Durability: 7/10, they seem sturdy.
Cost: €95 for the popular KSO model.
Vibram Five Fingers are available nationwide, on barefoot.ie and from April 2013, Life Style Sports.