Monday, April 12, 2010

Vibram Fivefingers: Six Months Later

Most items on the cutting edge of technology will have a few problems that you have to adjust to and work around.  It turns out that my favorite shoes, a pair of black Vibram Fivefinger KSO's, are no exception.  If you get a pair, which I still recommend, there are a few things you should be aware of.

Before I list the problems, let me say that I am very rough on shoes in general, simply because I move around a lot more and a lot faster than most people.  I have worn these shoes a lot, I have washed them a lot, and I have probably abused them more than most people would. 

Still, they do fall apart faster than most shoes.  I will probably have to buy another pair in the next few months.

Despite the antimicrobial features they advertise, the shoes still smell when I take them off, no matter how much I wash them.  I wash mine every time I do laundry, at least once a week, which is typically every three times I wear them.  Whenever I take them off, I usually leave them in my window to air out.

The biggest problem is the fact that you need to wash them so much, but cannot dry them easily.  I tried drying them on the lowest heat setting with plenty of other clothes, but it still caused the glue to melt a little.  So I have to air-dry them.  If you have a clothesline and good weather, this is not a problem.  But I have no clothesline, and my window does not get enough sunlight, especially in the winter.  So I dry them by leaving them on the dashboard of my car after I take them out of the washer.  This works, but it probably exposes them to more heat than they were meant to handle.

They really need to figure out how to use a kind of glue that will not melt when you run them through a clothes dryer.

There is another design problem.  On the outside of the shoe, there is a plastic loop for the velcro strap.  This is attached to a cloth strap with a couple small seams.  However, the seams rub against the shoe, and will fray and split over time.  A friend fixed this for me, and then I wrapped some black electrical tape around the seams to prevent further wear.  I would recommend that you watch these seams closely for signs of wear, or just go ahead and tape them when you get them.

Speaking of the velcro strap, it can collect all kind of loose fibers in the wash.  Close the strap completely, covering the whole thing, before you wash it.

Recently, the skin on the inside of my feet started to get chafed when I wore them.  This was new, and odd, so I looked inside the shoes with a flashlight.  I saw that six months of accumulated dirt and grit had turned the formerly soft cloth into something like sandpaper.  So I took an old toothbrush I use for cleaning, and spent some time cleaning and scrubbing the fabric.  They are better now.  To prevent this problem, make sure your feet are clean before you put them on, and check occasionally to make sure the inside fabric is not getting dirt in it.  If they are, clean them manually to prevent friction burns on your feet.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour with a tube of superglue fixing up all of the places where the sole had started to separate from the rest of the shoe.  This seemed to bond them well, but I will have to see how well it holds up.

Even with these fixes, they will not last too much longer.  A couple of seams have started to come split, and it is not possible to repair a seam on these things once it starts to go.

But I still plan on getting another pair.  My knees feel better when I wear them, they improve my balance and posture, and I can tell that my leg muscles are stronger.  However, I will do a bit more research before I actually buy.  There may be another kind of minimalist shoe that feels like going barefoot but can be worn with socks.  If there is, I will try that thing.  If not, I'll stick with the Vibrams.


NotanEster said...

one thing to try might be to get two pairs and alternate wearing them. That way each pair has time to dry out between wears & may not need to be washed so often.

Also, why not get a piece of string and hang them outside where they can get more sun (but not fry in the heat)? Or is there some Apt. code against 'porch decor?'

Alleged Wisdom said...

Yep, when I get the second pair I will keep the first; they will still be functional even if the top fabric is coming apart.

Outside my porch is not really a secure area; it gets a lot of traffic and they could be knocked down or taken. Leaving the shoes on the seat of the car seems to be a good compromise.