Thursday, March 15, 2012

Comparing Vibram Five Fingers and Fila Skeletoes

These shoes are very important to me.

The summer before last I was hiking in a very nice pair of Keene hiking boots.  My feet were in seventh heaven, but my knees were not.  I was wearing braces on both knees and using hiking sticks to take the weight off my knees.

During the following winter, I became persuaded, experimenting with winter boots, that excessive constraint of my feet and ankles was what was causing pain in my knees.

Therefore, last summer, I tried the Vibram Five Fingers for hiking.  These shoes had the desired effect, as far as my knees were concerned.  The knee braces and sticks stayed in my backpack & my knees felt fine.

One excellent thing about the Vibram Five Fingers was that, since I was able to point my toes while going downhill, I was much more sure-footed.  I tend to get very nervous going down, especially with confusing roots and rocks.  This nervousness is aggravated if I wear my Varilux glasses, which prevent me from seeing my feet clearly.  I found, though, that being able to feel my way toe first really helped.

In the past, when I've done long hikes, my thigh muscles have gotten very shaky on the way down, from the shock of going downhill.   I could stop and put my foot on a root and my leg would vibrate violently from the strain.  With the Vibram  Five Fingers, I had no such problems.  My thigh muscles were fine going downhill and did not get tired.

After hiking all my life -- and now being 55 -- I have to say I had more fun hiking in my Vibram Five Fingers than I have ever had.

The disadvantage, though, was that my toes were not happy.  The divider between my last two toes hit a tendon at the end of my foot between the toes.  Also, I had been forced to go a size up, because my big toe is very large compared with my other toes.  As a result, the toes in the shoes were too long for my other toes.  Since my toes ended in the middle of the toes of the shoes, they were bent in an unnatural way and were sometimes quite painful.

At one point, I tried putting on gators, to keep brambles off my lower legs.  I put the rubber bands of the gators inside the Vibram Five Fingers, because there did not seem to be enough of an indentation in front of the heel to protect them.  I found that the gators, configured this way, started to make my knees hurt again.  Even that small amount of stress of the elastic around my feet connected with the sleeve around my lower legs, was enough to hurt my knees.

This year I tried the Fila Skeletoes -- so far not for hiking, but just for walking around.   These shoes have the advantage of no divider between the last two toes, which is more comfortable for that tendon in there.  I went down to my normal, size, though, so especially in my left foot the big toe is too short, and my big toe hurts.

The Fila Skeletoes also have a more rigid sole and more arch support than the Vibram Five Fingers.  This is good for taking some pressure off my big toes, because I tend to pronate, BUT, this rigidity does put somewhat more stress on my knees.

On the whole, I think I prefer the greater flexibility of the Vibram Five Fingers, but the joined last two toes of the Fila Skeletoes.  Both manufacturers, though, need to address the issues of people with non-standard toe sizes and configurations.  Toes come in all sorts of different shapes.


Addendum: 8/24/12 

I was hiking in my Vibram 5 fingers on Tuesday.  They performed marvelously in river wading & climbing on slippery rocks. I was amazed at my surefootedness.

Sadly, though, on the way down, I snagged my little toe on a root & sprained or broke it .... disadvantage of 5 finger shoes ... Sigh. 


Addendum September 2013

This summer I hiked in my Vibram Five Fingers again.  They really increased my energy level on the way up and helped my knees on the way down.  And, fortunately, I did not re-break my little toe.

However, I found yet another disadvantage.  Since my big toes are longer than the toes in the sneakers, my toes slid forward & hit then ends.  This resulted in too much pressure on my toenails on the way down, which resulted in bruising under the nail.

I also met another hiker who had broken a toe in these sneakers.


Addendum May 2014

I just got through 17 sessions of chemotherapy for cancer & have neuropathy in my feet. I'm finding that having the toes separated, as in these shoes, is good for the neuropathy.

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