No Death by Feet: A Personal Review of the Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport, the Best Fitness Shoe Ever
Like any sensible person approaching aged 50 and death, I embarked on a quest for the Fountain of Youth. This including joining my local CrossFit facility and transforming myself from Jabba to gymstud. One of the main ingredients of the anti-aging regimen was weight training, so I signed up for the Olympic lifting class as soon as it was offered.
The human body in sneakers is incredibly unbalanced with a two-ton weightlifting bar propped on its front shoulders. Because such shoes lift the heels off the ground, the body wants to tumble forward to the floor and crash into the suddenly dropped metal. (Actually, the bar weighed only 15 pounds, but my then state of Jabbadom made it feel heavier. However, the crashing effect was the same.)
My trainer prevented this ungraceful fate for me by recommending that I remove my shoes and lift in my bare feet. After the class had recovered from the overwhelming stench, I discovered that I was indeed able to balance the bar better on my shoulders.
And then came the Waxman Jump, an essential part of many weightlifting moves. This involves lifting the body on the balls of the feet, and then coming down hard on the flat of the foot. (A squat then follows with elbow movements to propel the bar to the shoulders.)This jump launched a jolt that shook me from my bare soles to my teeth. In other words, it hurt.
My trainer said that I needed specialized weight lifting shoes that did not have a heel. I agreed, but was beginning to think that he and Waxman jointly owned a shoe factory.
After pouring through shoe reviews and observing others at the gym with the same shoes, I settled on the Vibram FiveFingers brand. With each of the toes separately gloved in individual slots, the apparel looked vaguely bionic, especially with its unusual patterns of rubber, nylon mesh, coconut fiber and polyurethane. Only two tiny logos in shining yellow interrupted the black and gray shades. A velcro strap secured the contraption to my feet.
The brand came in several versions but I picked a black/charcoal TrekSport. This option studded the outsole with ridges and crosses, making it grab the ground or a sheer stone face, should I lose my mind some day and try rock climbing. The bottom had no cushioning or heel. Instead, its hard rubber material conformed to the flat of the foot. The shoes weighed 13 ounces, which almost felt like I was in my bare feet.
Squatting with Vibram
After I wore these shoes, my weight training performance improved immediately. I no longer had to worry about compensating for the forward tilt of a raised heel. Instead, my body now traveled in a straight vertical line. And the hard outsole provided just enough support and cushioning to minimize the jolt from the Waxman Jump.
The shoes also worked well for general calisthenics such as situps, lunges and box jumps, because the sole ridges gripped the floor and prevent slips.
Avid marathoners and joggers who run with the balls of their feet or their heels, may find that the shoes a source of aching shins, requiring an adjustment in the gait. But this discomfort typically disappears after a few circuits. Since the last time I ran was away from a hungry German Shepherd when I was a child, I suffered no such ill effect and did not need to adjust my stride.
I recommend the Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport highly for any kind of fitness activity. However, those who do require cushioning, may want to reserve these Vibrams for weight training only, and switch to running shoes when needed.
One caution when ordering this footwear: you do not use normal sizes but have to use a special numbering system. For example, I wear size 9.5’s, but ended up with size 42 shoes. Most online stores carrying the line will have a size conversion chart. Otherwise, you’ll need to be personally measured at a fitness or running store to determine your correct measurements.
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