How to Maintain and Repair Vibram FiveFingers

Vibrams require a bit of care compared to regular shoes given their special nature.  Wearing shoes without socks can lead to very strange things such as blisters and really smelly shoes.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten an awesome system down to prevent those things so I could wear them every day with total confidence.  I’ve been wearing the same pair of Vibram Five Finger KSO’s daily since August 2010, so it’s been about 8 months already as I’m writing this.

If you are curious as to what these shoes are in the first place and what they are good for, read up on my previous post: Why Wear Vibrams? I get asked the same questions over and over when I go out and so I thought it would be informative if I shared my answers to the world in that article.

Ease into them for the first month.

 

For the first couple months that you start wearing them, my best advice would be to take your time if you want to run or jog in them.  Your calves and arches have probably been babied for decades!  Run for just a mile or two the first couple times and gradually increase the distance.  Really make a point of easing into them gradually if you want to run.

Listen to your feet. My calves got ridiculously sore the first dozen times I ran in them and the friction between the shoe and my bare skin caused a blister to develop around my big toe.   That felt like moons ago already because blisters don’t happen anymore but I remember that adjustment period.

I’ve personally never felt pain in my arches but I’ve had a couple friends tell me their arches were in pain for the few first weeks when they walked a lot in them.  So anything is possible during the transformation process.  If you feel strange pain while running, take those signals seriously, stop what you’re doing and don’t make matters worse.  Tomorrow is always another day.

Solve everything by using foot powder and wash them every 2-4 weeks.

Since we don’t wear socks with the Vibrams, moisture can build up easily inside them making it perfect for bacteria to grow and make your shoes smell awful when you take them off.  There have been a hundred potential solutions suggested for solving this issue.  I’ll admit I have tried a few absurd things myself, but luckily I have discovered that everything is easily solved with medicated foot powder.

About every other day or so, I put some medicated foot powder inside the shoe.  It helps absorbs moisture so my feet stay dry, reduces friction so blisters won’t occur and reduces odor-causing bacteria.  I just put some foot powder in the heel, then tip it down so it goes in the toe-section as well.  No need to put it directly on my feet.

I’ve tried several different brands and they all seem to achieve the same result.  My local 99¢ Only Store sells a generic brand and it seems to be identical to the $6 Gold Bond powder found in the supermarkets.

Next, I throw them in the washing machine once every 2-4 weeks and put them under direct sunlight to dry.  Sunlight naturally disinfects and kills bacteria due to the exposure of UV rays.  I try to angle it in such a way that the inside of the shoe gets as much direct sunlight as possible and it really works great!

Warning: If you have the KSO Trek, Performa, MOC, or any other model that is made of leather, the company recommends you refrain from drying them under direct sunlight as the leather may shrink.

Keep your feet clean like the rest of your body.

I believe it’s very important for us practice good foot hygiene.  I take good care of my feet in the shower.  I give my feet the attention they need and they love me for it.  I rub between my toes, the top of my foot and around my ankles to remove any build up of dirt or dead skin.  I also love using a pumice stone in the shower against the bottom of my feet to clean off the dead skin.  It not only feels really good but is important to maintain healthy feet.  Make sure you dry your feet and in between your toes after you get out of the shower as well.

In case something rips, use this magical product called Shoe-Goo.


Just in case you get a bit adventurous and tear the fabric or the thin rubber sole, there’s a fantastic product called Shoe-Goo that is perfect for repairing them.  You could find them in most supermarkets and one bottle will be good enough for several pairs.  It’s a bit messy to use and a little bit goes a long way so use something thin like a toothpick to apply it.  Then it’s important to let it cure for at least 8-12 hours.  I ripped a small part of the sole while climbing a chain-link fence and repaired them to be good as new! Hint: Don’t climb chain-link fences with these shoes. :p

Quick tip if it’s very cold outside: Put them in your gas oven. (DON’T turn on your oven!)

If you have a gas oven, chances are that it’s fairly warm in there (~80°F) cause the pilot is on 24/7.   If it’s very cold outside, I will throw my Vibrams in the oven and when I’m ready to leave, the shoes will feel nice and toasty, rather than cold and uncomfortable.  Note that I’m NOT turning on the oven, I’m just putting it in there with the gas off otherwise the rubber sole would start melting in a minute.

Well I hope that was helpful!  What did you think of it?  Are there some tips you would like to share as well?  Please do! And enjoy your shoes :)


Exploring nature with my Vibrams