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Two Thursdays ago (17 March), I busted out my Treksport Vibram Five Fingers for practice. I originally wanted to try them out at the “Huck All Night” tournament, but because it was roughly 8 hours of Ultimate I thought I should choose another opportunity to ease into them. Plus, the reading I have done about transitioning to “barefoot” running all cautioned easing into them (ex. How to Transition to Running in Vibram FiveFingers).

I had done a couple 20 minute jogs to break them in and see how they felt on my feet, so I thought it was time to give an Ultimate session a shot. It was nice most of the day, but, sadly, it did get cooler that evening, which meant I unwillingly tested out their warmth as well as their comfort and performance.

Model Choice – TrekSport

When it came time to purchase a pair (beginning of this month), I had narrowed it down to three models: KSO, TrekSport and KomodoSport. I was interested in the KSO because of its versatility (Fitness, Running, Trekking, Water, etc.), but was unsure about the lack of sole tread. Since the primary intended use was for Ultimate and running, I thought I should look into a model like the TrekSport or the KomodoSport whose soles weren’t smooth like the KSO.

Though it doesn’t have defined tread, the KSO’s sole is razor-siped, which means that when you flex, the rubber opens into wavy grooves to give the wearer added grip on wet surfaces. If I was using these for boating or kayaking, I may have chosen the KSO.

The KomodoSport was ruled out because the EMS I went to didn’t carry that model. I briefly thought about the Bikila LS, but liked how the TrekSport felt and looked bit more, so I went with them (as a side note, I was intrigued by the minimalist shoes by New Balance and Merrell).

Comfort – Comfortably Snug

TrekSport sole

On my first jog my feet felt pretty good. I ran mostly on paved roads and sidewalks, which even in running shoes I am not a huge fan (I grew up in NH, so give me a cross-country woods run any day). I definitely felt the ground even with the rugged 4mm sole, so there is a realistic barefoot feel to these. And my feet (arches and balls of my feet) and legs (Achilles and calves) still got a workout even during the short jog.

Practice/pick-up ran for about two and a half hours of constant play with no substitutions. We took two short breaks for water, but other than that I was in motion. The turf surface was a great testing ground because it was even and cushioned. At the end of practice I did notice a small blister on my arch, close to the ball of my foot, but it wasn’t as bad as I’ve had when breaking in a new pair of cleats. The blister did go away two days later, which was a relief. As I continue to test out my TrekSports, I will “let my skin be my guide” (Sandler and Lee), so as to not overdue it too early in awakening my feet.

As for the warmth, they were alright. The temperatures had dropped to the mid 40s and I could feel my little toes getting a bit chilly. However, when I was running and moving a lot my focus was elsewhere. If I was playing a lot more in the cold I would consider getting a pair of Injinji toe socks.

Traction – Fair to Good

Three things to think about: 1) I was matching up against players in cleats, so they could out-cut me when I was on defense, 2) we were playing on turf and 3) I also was holding back a bit, so I didn’t overdo it on the first extended outing.

I could move when I wanted to, and I didn’t loose my footing when making relatively sharp cuts. But when I did make my cuts, I tended to use a chop-step / juke rather than a hard cut.  I know that being a first run through, I’ll need to do some more practices to get a full appreciation for them. However, when it comes to serious practices, games and tournaments on natural surfaces (excluding beach sand), I will probably stick to my cleats. I know I’m not the only one thinking this way. I found another review of “FiveFingers and Ultimate” on the BirthdayShoes blog. The correspondent, Cody, reported the same issue with attempting to cover players on defense and responses to the post also mentioned difficulties keeping up with players and making sharp cuts.

Overall – Enjoyable

Yes, there is a bit of novelty to them, but I get enjoyment out of sliding them on and velcroing them up. Like many authors writing about the youthful freedom of barefoot running, I have to agree with the fun of it all. I think as long as I continue to ease into them they will be a great training tool. I have had issues with my ankles and knees in the past, so I am hoping that these will help to build flexibility and strength in those regions. I am running more on the balls and side of my foot rather than using the mechanics of the heel-strike method. This change in stride is said to be a healthier alternative, waking up our feet. We’ll see if it does.

A big thanks to J.R. Voce for taking photos of my TrekSports. She recently completed her light tent/box project post, so my FiveFingers were one of the first objects she shot. If you are interested in photography, check out her blog post about shooting with a light box; and, as always, thanks for reading!