Vibram FiveFingers are a type of minimalist shoe manufactured by Vibram, originally marketed as a more natural alternative for different outdoors activities (sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and as a camp or after-hike shoe). The footwear is meant to replicate being barefoot and has thin, flexible soles that are contoured to the shape of the human foot, including visible individual sections for the toes.
Invented in 1999 by Robert Fliri, a design student from Vinschgau who wanted to "figure out a way to move around in nature better." Vibram FiveFingers were developed and introduced in 2005.
Vibram FiveFingers were originally targeted to yacht racers to maintain grip on slippery decks without compromising the barefoot experience. Their potential use as a minimalist running shoe was suggested to the Vibram CEO by Ted McDonald, a runner who earned the nickname "Barefoot Ted" for his unshod feet and successful career as a barefoot running coach. The purpose of these shoes as outlined by the manufacturers is to provide footwear to be mainly used for fitness, running, water sports, yoga, trekking and travelling, and other sports.
Vibram FiveFingers come in a variety of styles and sizes including FiveFingers KMD Sport, KMD Sport LS, Classic, Sprint, Flow, KSO (the most popular), TrekSport, KSO Trek, Bikila (named for Abebe Bikila), Bikila LS, Speed and also men's styles FiveFingers Spyridon, Trek LS and Bormio and women's styles FiveFingers Jaya and Jaya LR. Children's KSO, Sprint and Speed styles are available.
Unlike traditional footwear, Vibram FiveFingers do not follow the typical US or UK shoe-sizing scales. They require precise foot length measurement with accuracy down to 1/8" and conversion to the FiveFingers sizing chart. This ranges from 38-50 for men, 34-42 for women, and 29-36 for children. As a result, the shoe sizing more closely mirrors the EU system. However, minor discrepancies exist between the women's and men's sizing, so (for example) a 39 women's does not equal a 39 men's. 
Vibram FiveFingers comprise many different materials that vary depending on the style of shoe. The most common components are Vibram TC-1 performance rubber, which makes up the sole of these shoes, a thin stretch polyamide comprising the frame of the shoe that molds to the contours of the user's foot, and an antimicrobial microfiber footbed. Styles such as the KMD Sport, Sprint, Bikila, FLOW, KSO, and TrekSport all have a velcro strap over the arch of the foot that helps to secure the shoe in place. Other styles, such as the KMD Sport LS and the FiveFingers Bikila LS utilize a closed, quick lace or speed lace system to secure it to the foot. Styles such as the Classic are slip-on and have no other method of securing it to the foot, while others like the Trek LS and Speed use a casual tie lacing system.
In a report on an article in Nature, co-author Daniel E. Lieberman stated that "People who wear conventional running shoes tend to run with a significantly different strike than those who run in minimalist shoes or barefoot. By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision." Lieberman et al.'s study was an experiment that involved 5 groups of runners from Kenya and the United States. The two American groups were adult athletes who had run with shoes since childhood, and those who habitually ran barefoot or with minimal footwear such as Vibram FiveFingers (mentioned by name in the study). The three Kenyan groups were adults who had never run in shoes until late adolescence, as well as two teenage groups: Those that habitually wore shoes and those that always ran barefoot. The runners were instructed to run over a force plate that was embedded in a 25 meter track, and were recorded during the run using a three-dimensional infrared kinematic system. These measurements were used to assess the pattern with which the foot strikes the ground and how forcibly it does so.
If not conditioned slowly enough, the sole of the foot or plantar fascia can become inflamed or damaged with activity. Also due to over-training or incorrect form, runners may experience Achilles tendonitis or metatarsal inflammation and fractures. Over-striding in Vibram FiveFingers, that is, landing with the foot too far in front of one's hips, adds extra unnecessary stress to the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the arch of the foot, which can lead to serious health problems if not addressed.
- "The Living Barefoot Show episode #3: Interview to Michael Martin, National Sales Manager for Vibram FiveFingers". 2009-07-30. 47 minutes in. http://www.livingbarefoot.info/podcasts/LivingBarefoot_EP3.mp3.
- "Foot mechanics and health". Vibram FiveFingers. 2010-07-20. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- Although a similar concept had been presented earlier, in "Married with Children"'s 1991 episode "God's Shoes"
- "The story of the five fingers". Bodyconsciousdesign. 2006. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
- Dziernak, Lou (November 2009). "Barefoot your Soul". SGB. doi:1933424561. ISSN 15487407.
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- Vonhof, John (2011). Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes. Wilderness press. pp. 85-86. ISBN 978-0-89997-638-9.
- "Bare facts; Running fads". The Economist. September 16, 2011. doi:2458505431.
- "Protect your feet at the beach, in the boat or at the mall with shoes designed for water and land but with more support than a water sock.". Star Tribune. June 20, 2006. doi:1064219291.
- "Barefoot Sports." www.vibramfivefingers.com. Vibram, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/barefoot-sports>.
- "Men's Footwear." www.vibramfivefingers.com. Vibram, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/products/mens_footwear.htm>.
- "Women's Footwear." www.vibramfivefingers.com. Vibram, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/products/womens_footwear.htm>.
- "Kid's Footwear." www.vibramfivefingers.com. Vibram, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/products/kids_footwear.htm>.
- "Size Conversion Chart." www.vibramfivefingers.com. Vibram, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/size_fit/size_conversion_chart.htm>.
- "Barefoot running: How humans ran comfortably and safely before the invention of shoes". Sciencedaily.com. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- Lieberman, DE.; Venkadesan, M.; Werbel, WA.; Daoud, AI.; D'Andrea, S.; Davis, IS.; Mang'eni, RO.; Pitsiladis, Y. (Jan 2010). "Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners.". Nature 463 (7280): 531–5. Bibcode:2010Natur.463..531L. doi:10.1038/nature08723. PMID 20111000.
- Warburton, Michael. "Barefoot Running may help keep runners on their feet." Sportscience. (2001): n. page. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. <http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm>
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