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Photo by Guttorm Flatabø

MatadorTV’s Joshywashington wears his Fivefingers across Argentina and gets lots of funny looks.

“I am going to write a review about you today, probably over happy hour,” I say to my Vibram Fivefinger KSO Treks that sat in the dirty sunlight of my apartment floor.

I wiggle my slightly hairy toes into its supple kangaroo leather and plated rubber tread.

“Are you going to say nice things?”

The vanguard of minimalist footwear, the Fivefingers feel unlike anything I am used to wearing.

“Well, I am going to tell the truth, with no small degree of silliness I imagine.”

The day before I left for Argentina, I walked into an REI and bought a pair of Fivefingers; shoes that hug your foot like a driving glove; shoes that are not exactly shoes.

Upon seeing my Fivefingers, people usually ask one question: Are they comfortable?

Yes and no.

It feels great, like being barefoot…which is why after several hours, especially tromping on concrete, your feet hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

The cushion that is enjoyed in sneakers is shed in the Fivefingers, leaving a thin tread of rubber between your soles and the cement. I love the separation of the toes, the feeling of being right on the ground and not elevated and cushioned from it. I know hardcore barefoot runners dig these shoes and I see why.

But you really must be careful not to stub your toes. I accidentally smashed my exposed digits into curbs and rocks dozens of times, whimpering and moaning, cursing my inattentive ways. I noticed increased tension and pressure on my knees, which are not the best to begin with, and my lower back.

Also, although the Fivefingers are prime for trails, you must be hyper aware of where your foot is falling; a jutting root or kiwi-sized rock in the ball of your foot is painful and enough to bruise the bottom of your foot.

Ultimately, it was the sideways glances, the not-so-discreet pointing at my feet, and the timid questions which the Fivefingers prompted that I enjoyed the most.

In the US, the Fivefingers were regarded with mild interest, but in Argentina, my non-shoes were given the attention of a visiting dignitary. And that was my Fivefingers most valuable contribution to my journey, not as shoes, but as conversation starters.

Everywhere I went people stopped me and took pictures of my shoes. Out of the corner of my eye I would see woman elbowing each other and giggling, pointing at my toes.

My Fivefingers got more attention than a Sarah Palin book signing in the bible belt.

A couple from Italy approached me in Esquel and said that they didn’t recognize me, but they recognized my shoes from the bus station in El Bolson where I waited with my feet propped up on my backpack.

My Fivefingers got more attention than a vestigial tail in an Indian slum.

The shoes served me best while river walking up a box canyon with David Miller in the Patagonian Andes. They were light even when sodden, and gripped the slick river rock far better than any tennis shoes could.

I recommend Fivefingers, but they are not for everybody. That is evident by the amount of pairs returned to REI barely worn. They take some serious getting used to, and unless you are already an avid barefoot runner, your feet will initially be sore.

The best thing about the Fivefingers is the feeling of being barefoot, but that is also the most difficult.

The freedom of barefootedness sounds good in theory, but when did you really want to walk 25 city blocks barefoot anyway?

Community Connection

If you’re interested in barefoot running, check out this piece by Adam Roy – Could Barefoot Running Be Good For You?



About The Author


Joshywashington is a Travel Media Ninja from Seattle who enjoys writing, climbing trees and strong coffee.

  • David Miller

    so sweet to see this review.

    i was definitely jealous of your fivefingers when we were in arroyo raquel (especially when we got to the talus sections). they seemed almost designed for that kind of adventure.

    it was fun stopping and talking to ppl, also just seeing the reactions in the feria in el bolson.

    joshywashingtongearreview stoke.

  • Gladys

    Definitely thinking about getting a pair for some trail runs.

  • darmabum

    For an upcoming Grand Canyon river trip, I wanted a pair sooooooooo badly. So badly that I tried them on several times, on separate visits to the outdoor store, thinking that maybe this time, THIS time, some overnight-bipedal-biological-evolution may have occurred so they fit. But no. My big toe is simply too big. The Big Piggy fit, but the other four on each foot would not, could not, even reach their receptacles. So I returned to my Grand Canyon-stuff box, dug to the bottom, found my Keen’s, my elk skin moccasins, began to pack my river bag.

  • Turner

    “My Fivefingers got more attention than a Sarah Palin book signing in the bible belt.” LOL

  • Nathan

    Dude, I got 5fingers and i have to say they rock as well.

    Yeah, the outset was ultra tough on joints and I heartily agree on the “stubbage” of toes being a rotten experience, to say the least. But overall, it’s been a wonderful choice knowing my feet are in a more natural position on the ground which then, in turn, aligns the rest of my walking stance. My only major setback: Seattle winters vs unprotected feet=no bueno. Unless you have the “Flows” model which is thicker neoprene, YOU WILL HAVE COLD GRUMPY FEET. Accept this as a reality, those of you who live in wet and/or cold climates. Even with toe socks worn, my digits were like freakin’ ice cubes. I have the Bikila model which has more tread and is (supposedly) for the avid runner but i wear them as a daily show…err, shoe. The gawking, the constant interviews on public transit or walking about in public? Those are a take-it-or-leave-it facet of these shoes. Anyone who gets these shoes should already be aware and/or welcoming of such persistent social advances. Let your freak flag fly and get some 5fingers, folks!

  • gary

    So are you wearing them to get attention or wearing them because they protect the ole feet in uncomfortable and possible dangerous conditions? To me wearing Fivefingers in those conditions are akin to wearing a scarf around one’s neck when it is not cold enough for scarf. I see dudes here in Chicago wearing scarves when it is 50 degrees and they have them wrapped around their neck like a 10 feet long Boa constrictor ….and their wearing t-shirts. I guess it is supposedly cool and hip…but in reality sort of ridiculous.

    • gary

      …..or wearing wool caps when it is freaking 80 degrees outside …..just don’t get it.

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