Choosing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers toe shoes online can be a tricky business. Not only do you need to choose a style (right now we have 21 different models in stock) and color, you’ll need to figure out the correct size. What can be even trickier, however, is purchasing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers as a gift for someone else!
Vibram FiveFingers are one of the most popular gifts items this year, but we hear two questions all the time from potential gift-buyers:
First, ‘Which Vibram FiveFingers style is best for the person on my list?’ Second, and possibly most important. ‘How do I figure out what size to buy?’ That first question is much easier to answer, so let’s start there.
1. Choosing a style of Vibram FiveFingers Toe Shoes
If you’ve decided to purchase a pair of Vibram FiveFingers for a friend or loved one, start by asking yourself: what are they planning to use these barefoot shoes for? Each style of Vibram FiveFingers is best-suited for a particular use, and you’ll score major points if you pick the right one! All toe shoes may look the same to the casual observer, but the aspiring barefoot runner may not want the same style as a crossfit enthusiast… and the best style for hiking may not look the cutest with a skirt!
For what we’d call “general outdoor” use — wearing around town, hiking, short training runs, summer paddling — the all-around favorite (and runaway best-seller for me) is the Vibram FiveFingers KSO. The men’s Vibram FiveFingers KSO has been Vibram’s most popular style since its release, with a simple one-strap closure and a nylon mesh upper to “Keep Stuff Out” (get it?) of the shoe. The women’s Vibram FiveFingers KSO is available in a variety of fun colors, and is a great daily-wear toe shoe for ladies.
Guys looking to do some serious hiking will appreciate the men’s Vibram FiveFingers KSO TrekSport, with a burlier and more protective sole that features deeper lugs for better traction on the trail; this style exists for women as well, but is less popular.
If you’re shopping for a runner, you’re probably aware that Vibram FiveFingers have caused a barefoot running revolution. Running in FiveFingers toe shoes means discarding the heel-first gait required by traditional running shoes, lessening the shock on joints and strengthening the muscles of the foot and calf. While you can certainly run in any Vibram FiveFingers shoe, Vibram has a toe shoe built specifically for barefoot running: the Bikila. In fact, the men’s Vibram FiveFingers Bikila is our second-most popular style! It features a running-specific outsole and athletic, padded collar.
The women’s Vibram FiveFingers Bikila is the same shoe, sized and shaped appropriately for women.
Those with high-volume feet, especially high arches or apprehension about switching away from traditional running shoes will prefer the lace-up version of these shoes, the men’s Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS and women’s Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS.
For casual wear — hey, it’s okay to like the look and feel of Vibram FiveFingers without being a hardcore athlete — you can be somewhat minimal, foregoing a trail-worthy sole in favor of a barefoot feel. For women, we like to recommend the women’s Vibram FiveFingers Classic or the women’s Vibram FiveFingers Sprint. The latter is simply a pair of Classics with a top strap!
These are the original, classic Vibram toe shoes that started it all. They look like a pair of mary janes with toes, you can wear them with anything from corduroys to a dress, and they feel wonderful. If you’re shopping for a man, your best bet is still a pair of KSOs (see above); the men’s Sprint and men’s Classic do exist, but the men’s KSO is much more popular for everyday use.
For the fitness junkie or gym rat in your life, you can’t go wrong with a the men’s Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport or matching women’s version, the women’s Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport. These are also offered in a brand-new-for-2011 lace-up model (the men’s Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS & women’s Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS, of course). Compared to the KSO, the KomodoSport adds a new stitch-free, seamless footbed and an additional velctro strap across the heel. In fact, in many ways the KomodoSport represents the continued evolution of the KSO, and these are equally well-suited for all-purpose use.
2. Determining the proper size for Vibram FiveFingers
I’ll be as blunt as possible here: it’s very difficult to properly “guess” the appropriate Vibram FiveFingers size for someone else’s feet. Because FiveFingers toe shoes differ so greatly from traditional footwear, someone who normally wears a 40 (US size 9.5-10) might need a 41, or a 39, or even a 42, or… you get the idea.
Vibram FiveFingers sizes are based on foot length, and a number of factors — foot volume, arch shape, toe length — can impact the result. After all, we’re basically talking about a glove for your feet!
Without question, the best way to determine the proper size is to try them on. We recognize that this spoils the surprise, and that some shoppers aren’t close enough to a store that this is possible, but it’s absolutely the best way to get it right the first time.
In fact, it’s important to note here that Vibram has used at least two different lasts in manufacturing FiveFingers, so your size can be different between different styles! For example, someone who wears a size 41 Classic would actually wear a size 40 KSO.
Confused yet? See the chart below for sizing differences between various Vibram FiveFingers models.
If you’re not able to actually try the footwear on, the next best thing is to measure the person’s foot. Again, we recognize this might be difficult if you’re buying a gift for someone, but it’s the second-best option. Place your foot against a wall and use a ruler to measure the distance from your heel to the tip of your longest toe; this distance, in inches, will best determine the appropriate size for you.
Use this chart to determine your size from this measurement: Size chart for Vibram FiveFingers
For the KomodoSport models not listed on this chart, use the same sizing as the KSO and Bikila. If you’d like to see a video on how to measure your feet properly, browse to any Vibram FiveFingers product page on our site and click the video link below the product image.
What happens if you can’t do either of these? Well, you’re just going to have to guess… and that’s exactly what you’re doing, guessing. We will certainly help you with an exchange, should it become necessary, but choosing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers this way can be relatively hit-or-miss. That said, here is a conversion chart that shows how men’s and women’s US footwear sizes generally relate to the Euro footwear-sizing system used by Vibram.
Vibram FiveFingers sizing actually differs between genders (especially in width), so a men’s 42 and women’s 42 don’t correspond to foot length, further complicating the use of this kind of chart… but it’s a starting point, and of course our customer service staff is happy to help you make your gift purchase. If you’re having trouble choosing between two adjacent sizes, consider whether or not the wearer plans to wear Injinji toesocks with the FiveFingers, which can further affect sizing!
If you’ve read this far, we hope that we’ve been able to answer your questions about the different Vibram FiveFingers styles and appropriate sizing. At Rock/Creek, we carry a tremendous inventory of Vibram FiveFingers, and our staff has plenty of experience with selling these shoes over the last few years, so if we can help you with your decision please call us at 1-888-707-6708 or email [email protected] with your qustions.