Vibram FiveFingers EL-X review

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by devilnuts, Apr 19, 2013.

  1. devilnuts

    devilnuts
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    Let me start by saying that I am a total barefooter. Before trying these out, I hadn't run with something on my feet in who knows how long. I go to school barefoot. Hell, I go everywhere barefoot. So I really tried to give these a good long time to adjust to them. Also, I've owned several pairs of VFFs in the past (well, still have two other pairs that hardly get worn). My first pair was a pair of Sprints...still have them. The second pair was the Treksport (dog ended up eating them). Third pair was KSO (still have them). So I was interested to try these.

    I figured these were their replacement for the Sprints. One thing I didn't like about the Sprints was that they were open so running in sand, trails, grass, pretty much anything besides hard surfaces would get into them. The EL-X is very light. I think each shoe is just a few ounces and it mostly covers the foot. This was helpful in keeping stuff out of the shoe, but running on the beach still would get a lot of sand in them. But on trails, grass, etc. it kept most stuff out. There are no straps on these. This was one thing that I really liked. It also made washing easier because I didn't have to wash them separately to prevent the straps from attaching to other clothes in the washing machine. The sole on these is very thin...as was the sole on the Sprints. You get much more feedback this way and it didn't interfere with my gait too much. I tested these walking, running, and hiking. I tested them on different terrains, in different weather conditions, and for varying periods of time. There were a few things that I liked and a few that I didn't. Here are the results:

    First, things I liked about them:

    I have run some rough trails around here. For some reason, they seem to think making sidewalks and pedestrian pathways rougher than the road that cars drive on is cool. So it was nice to have a little bit of protection on my feet. I really like that they are one piece without any straps on them. You just slip them on and go. Four of my toes feel very comfortable in them and I could probably wear them all day. I also really liked the color (I know, not a performance thing, but if I'm being totally honest...hehe).

    These were really pretty good on hiking trails. They are light weight and give you just a little bit of protection so if you are admiring the view and stub your toe on a rock you can at least continue without a big cut on your foot. They are lightweight enough that they don't really cause any fatigue.

    Good for the water. Great at the beach as water shoes. Just don't walk around too much in the sand afterwards because some sand will still make its way into the shoes. And it seemed that I could never get all of the sand out until I had washed them.

    Great for the gym. Since I can't go to the gym barefoot, these are the next best thing. My feet are covered and the staff is happy. Obviously they aren't going to offer any protection if you drop a weight on your foot, but are running shoes or basketball shoes?

    Things that I don't like about them:

    This is a bit longer as I am going to explain each one a little. First, these do not do well in wet weather. They lose a great amount of traction on wet surfaces. When I was running in a light rain, I kept feeling like I was slipping and sliding. This was not too bad on flat surfaces, but I was coming down a large hill and had to really change my stride to try to slow myself down and not slip. This was on both concrete and asphalt. Also, I don't like running in wet shoes. It's just a pet peeve of mine and if there is ANY moisture on the ground it seemed to soak through these. They do dry fairly quickly so it wasn't too terrible, but just a minor annoyance.

    Sizing. I seem to always have trouble with sizing on these. I usually am a 43. But when I got my Sprints I had to go up to a 44 which always felt too large. My KSOs are 43 and feel pretty good. 43 on these was a tad snug. By their sizing rules, I am in between a 43 and 44 size, and they do say to go up if you are in between sizes. Based on my past experience I went with the lower one. Should've gone up probably. So if you are in between sizes, don't go off of past experience...go to the larger size. I also have an oddly shaped big toe and VFFs always seem to get painful to wear after a while. Even though these don't have as thick a sole and it doesn't completely come up the toe, it still bothered me and I could only wear these for a maximum of 4-5 hours at a time.

    Lastly, and this was the thing that I disliked the most. There is a small tab at the back of these. I guess it is to hide the seam, provide support when you pull them on, whatever. But it is only about a quarter of an inch wide and it would dig into my heel. It would actually be painful. After the first few days it rubbed some of the skin off and I gave them a rest for a couple of days. Sometimes I would just get used to it and not notice it too much, but sometimes I felt it the entire time I wore them. My solution was to turn the back of the shoe down so that was not rubbing against my heal. That works, but if you are running and it flips back up, it gets painful again. It was less noticeable when I was just walking around in them at the gym.

    Ground Feel - 5 stars
    Zero Drop - 5 stars
    Flexibility - 5 stars
    Toe Box - 3 stars
    Weight - 5 stars
    Comfort - 3 stars
    Fit - 3 stars
    Traction - 2 stars
    Durability - 4 stars
    Performance - 3 stars
    Cross Training - 4 stars
    Design - 4 stars
    Aesthetics - 5 stars

    So would I recommend these? That depends. What do you want to use them for? I used them to go to the gym and to go hiking or to the beach and they were pretty great for that. They make pretty good water shoes if you are going into the water and are worried about rocks and such in the water. They functioned pretty well on the hike, but watch out for mud. It will get inside and that was not comfortable. If you are looking for something to run in, I would not recommend them for that. Mostly because of the tab and the lack of traction on wet surfaces.

    I plan to continue to wear mine for the gym and possibly on hikes or beach trips, but I probably won't be using them for running or everyday use. I haven't tried them yet for surfing, but I might do that to see how they work on a surfboard. Just haven't had the time to do that lately.

    Thanks again to TJ for organizing the giveaway and allowing me to try these and give my thoughts on them. Hope this helps some of you thinking about getting a pair. ;-)
     
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    Hobbit and happysongbird like this.
  2. Hobbit

    Hobbit
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    Thank you devilnuts, your review contains lots of really useful information!! :)
    I own several pairs of VFF, but I'm quite sure now that the EL-X are probably not the ideal model for me with their traction problems in wet weather....
     
  3. devilnuts

    devilnuts
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    Glad that I could help, Hobbit ;-)
     
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