Sunday, November 6, 2011

What the heck are VFFs, anyway?

I've had it pointed out to me that throwing out initials for things that people aren't familiar with is just confusing. :)  So, to rectify that issue, here's my take on VFFs, or "shloves", as my friend (and amazigly talented artist) Kevin calls them.

VFFs are a common shorthand that I've seen in a lot of barefoot blogs for Vibram FiveFingers.  They are a popular "barefoot" or "minimal" shoe, and I got my first pair last spring from REI.  I have a pair of these (named for this guy, not this guy, no matter how I mispronounce it!).  I'll give you my very informal take on them, from a newbie perspective.  If you want a really good, in depth review, go check out the Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, who does some really great shoe reviews.

The first question I get, is "are they comfortable?".  The short answer is, "Yes, extremely".  The longer, more involved answer is yes, once you get used to them.  Getting into them is probably the hardest part, it took me a bunch of tries at the store.  As your feet get stronger and you have more control over your toes, it gets a lot easier.  It can be a little weird having your toes separated at first, but I got used to it really quickly.

They are a minimalist shoe, so they have a zero heel-drop (which means the heel of the shoe is not raised higher than the toe).  Look at most of your shoes, almost all of them probably have at least a slightly raised heel.  This can be a little weird to get used to, but is the #1 feature of a barefoot shoe.  They also have zero padding.  To me, this means that most people are going to have sore feet the first few times they wear them.   It is also why they tell you to ease into them (don't go walking around the State Fair all day the first time you wear them).  After about 6 months of wearing nothing but minimalist shoes, I can pretty much walk around in mine all day with little to no foot soreness. 

Secondly, you are probably wondering how they are to run in.  I enjoy running in them.  They aren't as great as running really barefoot, but for days like today when the pavement was just too cold, or the fact that I live in NE Minneapolis and therefore frequently run through piles of broken glass, they are great.  I find them definitely a little stiffer than just going barefoot, but still pretty good ground feel.  They are a little hot in the summer for my taste, which is when I will be switching back to my huaraches for hot pavement.

Now, lets face it, they turn heads.  They are strange looking, and tend to be bright, obnoxious colors.  Wear them, and you are going to get noticed.  Strange people will stop you and ask you about your shoes.  It's something I'm learning to deal with, although I'm really shy.  Given their unique appearance, they can be a challenge to wear certain places.  So far my work is letting them slide, but I doubt I'll get away with wearing them to clinicals.  I have yet to figure out a really good way to wear them out and NOT get noticed.

This will be my first winter barefooting, and I'm hoping to wear them all winter.  We'll see how it goes.  I wore them to my husband's hockey game the other night, along with a pair of Injiji toe socks, and was pretty comfortable for about the first hour.  The last 30 minutes got pretty cold.  I have run all winter in my Brooks, so I don't think they will be appreciably colder for running on plowed or broken trails.

There used to be a pair of fuschia suede VFF mary jane's that if I ever see again I'm snatching off the shelf.  I think they've stopped making them though.

I like my VFFs.  For me, they are about the 3rd best thing to being truly barefoot. :)

Thoughts?  Questions?  Things you would like to me address, now or in the future?  Feel free to post a comment!

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