Vibram FiveFingers: Barefoot Travel Road Test

Vibram FiveFingers

Vibram FiveFingers - Barefoot travelling

The easiest way to increase your bag’s weight is to take extra pairs of shoes on your vacation, so you travel with the just the shoes on your feet. The problem is that no pair of shoes fits every occasion.

A good pair of leather walking shoes provide a comfortable home for your feet on long walking tours, and look good for dinner at a classy restaurant. They do less well as beach wear or to attempt more athletic activities like rock climbing or kayaking.

Enter the Vibram FiveFingers, a lightweight shoe that is perfect for the beach, water sports and wide range of physical activities. I bought a pair in Hawaii, and road tested them in a variety of situations there and in Italy.

Although they feel a little strange when you first pull them on, I barely noticed the Vibram FiveFingers once I started walking around Honolulu. They are truly like walking barefoot while protecting your feet from sharp rocks, thorns or the hot pavement. A major step up from the ubiquitous flip flops–a footwear I loathe–worn by most beach goers, the FiveFingers are as comfortable in the surf as they are crossing the hot sand to your towel.

At the local shopping centres, I did not feel out of place wearing the Vibram FiveFingers and felt more comfortable and better protected than wearing sandals. For a beach holiday, they could easily be your one pair of shoes unless your plans include fine dining or exclusive clubs (a friend wore his too many nightclubs in Honolulu without any problems).

In Italy, I wore the Vibram FiveFingers on long walking tours and I found the hard uneven footpaths took a toll on the soles of my feet after three hours. The Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek is a more rugged version with a thicker sole and I suspect my problem would be solved with a pair of them.

Overall the Vibram FiveFingers provide plenty of grip and give you a much better feeling of the surfaces under foot, and I would use them for rock climbing, beach combing or any outdoor activity in a natural environment. For a long day sightseeing in a major city, I would leave these at the hotel and use my leather walking shoes. Should you buy a pair and take a barefoot vacation?

Yes, most people will find them more useful than sandals or flip flops, and certainly more comfortable. For a beach or nature vacation, they may be the only shoes you need but for most travel they will compliment your sturdier footwear and add little to your baggage weight.