Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers is enjoyable, as long as you keep a few things in mind. As a hiking shoe, vibram five fingers are lightweight, well made and will give your feet adequate protection from the environment. There are a few things they wont do, however, and when hiking in vibram five fingers, you should keep a few things in mind....
Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers - Potential Problems
- Ankle Support - Vibram Five Finger, like any trail runner or backpacking shoe, don't provide you any ankle support. If you've got a 60 pound backpack on this is going to be a problem, but if you're practicing lightweight backpacking and have a lightweight gear list, then you don't have anything to worry about. When you overload your backpack you need that ankle support. With a lightweight backpack, however, you wont run in to that problem.
- Training Your Feet - There's nothing stopping you from throwing on a pair of vibram five fingers and going hiking, but it probably wouldn't be a good idea. If you grew up wearing shoes that's what your feet are used to, and it will take time to adapt to hiking in vibram five fingers. Most people's feet suffer from hiking in well padded hiking shoes, and vibram five fingers offer much less protection than those padded hiking shoes. Try training your feet before you go hiking in vibram five fingers by wearing them around town and going on a few short hikes with them, working your way up to longer, more intense hikes with more weight on your back.
- Traction - One thing that you'll quickly notice after a day on the trail with your five fingers is that they don't get the best traction, especially in muddy or otherwise slippery conditions. Some of the newer models come with traction on the bottom of the foot, which certainly helps, but if you prefer the original five finger models then you'll want to step lightly on slippery surfaces.
Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers - Benefits
- Walking Softy - Hiking in vibram five fingers isn't all about potential pitfalls, however. There are a number of benefits, including the fact that increased proprioception, which is the ability to sense, in this case, the ground beneath your feet, tends to also decrease the force with which you impact the ground, which reduces strain on joints. As hiking tends to be hard on joints and muscles, anything that reduces that strain, such as hiking in vibram fiver fingers, will help keep your joints from feeling sore at the end of a long hiking day.
- Water - River crossings, beach walks and puddles are all a lot easier when hiking in vibram five fingers. Though you don't want your feet to be wet all day, the vibram five fingers dry quickly, and there's nothing wrong with wading right in to a river crossing while everyone else in hiking boots has to try to find some other way across.
Transitioning to BarefootMaybe your ultimate goal is not to be able to go hiking barefoot, but hiking in vibram five fingers is an excellent way to work towards that goal if you are interested in barefoot hiking. It will help toughen the muscles in your feet and, if you're interested in hiking barefoot, will make your feet better able to withstand that more intimate interaction with the ground. If you just want to go hiking in vibram five fingers your feet will eventually toughen up, and if and when you put your hiking shoes back on, all that extra padding on your toughened feet will allow you to breeze through a full day of hiking.
Something else to keep in mind is that you need to allow your feet to adjust to life without shoes. You might not realize it, but shoes have a subtle offset between the heel and the toes, just like a pair of high heels, only more subtle. And your feet are conditioned to this extra bit of padding, so when you remove it, your feet have to adjust to a heel that's suddenly slightly lower than it was before. If you think about how many years and miles you've spent walking around in shoes, it's obvious that you wont adjust to this new way of walking overnight.