Day 12 - Tendonitis Expert's Review of His New Vibram Five Fingers KSO Barefoot Running Shoes

by The Tendonitis Expert

Ok, so remember how I said I was warned to take it easy, and do a little more and a little more at a time?

How I suggested that you do the same?

Yeah, well, apparently a 1.5 hour walk across San Francisco in the barefoots, followed by another 1.5 back in my regular shoes, was too much.

On the way there, I started to feel some strain and burn in my right lower leg, one of the peroneal's and/or something responsible for the toes.

I walked about 20 minutes like that, testing it out, trying to adjust my stride, figuring it would work itself out.

Then I changed shoes and walked back, with no discomfort.

The next day a little bit, and today two days later a LOT more, it feels like I strained something.

A couple specific little muscles in the lower leg are super tight and hurt all the way down into the tendon.

My right calf muscle is a little sore and strained too.

So it's a learning experience, breaking yourself into Vibram Five Finger barefoot shoes.

So I haven't been in my KSO's for a couple days, and I'll take another day off too, massaging my structures and such.

For the record, I don't blame this on the Fivefinger KSO's. They're just a little bit of protection against the dirt.

The real experience here is shifting to a barefoot walking dynamic, and the feet and lower legs (at the very least) have to work VERY differently than in regular shoes.

It's a process.

Take your time and break into it slowly!

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Comments for Day 12 - Tendonitis Expert's Review of His New Vibram Five Fingers KSO Barefoot Running Shoes

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Jul 20, 2010
KSO's new for me too!
by: Dawn

I just got KSO's also. I have read a lot about these shoes and have seen many warnings to go slowly in using these. I love to be barefoot and I really like the idea of a little protection for say gardening and mowing yard and walking around town. I thought that I still went barefoot enough so that I could get into my Five Fingers kinda quick. Well, I now have a flare of tendonitis in my heels and I am suspicious that I may have pushed to hard. I guess barefoot is really different than wearing shoes. Shoes must really mess with the natural movement of all of the structures in your feet and legs kinda like using a crutch. Muscles get lazy when you use a crutch and then when you get rid of the crutch--look out!! I am of the mind though that one should just work your way thru the pain and allow your body to "remember" how to move correctly.
Really interesting post as I don't know anyone else with VFF shoes just yet!!


Joshua Comments:

Yeay, you got them! Good. I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan each day.

Yes, barefoot is ABSOLUTELY different than wearing shoes.

I wouldn't recommend working through/walking through the pain. I really would wear them a little, then a little more, then a little more, etc.

I haven't kept updating here (though I'm about to add some more) but I took a long walk across town, about an hour and fifteen minutes on concrete. And it was about 30 minutes too long. I had some tendon pain above my ankle. So I didn't wear them for four days, then got into them again and kept at it.

Now, I can wear them all day long.

So go slow. It's worth it. It's not that your body will remember, necessarily, but it will definitely re-learn and adapt.

Aug 22, 2010
more barefoot stuff from Dawn.
by: Dawn

Well, I am thinking that since I cannot get my plantar fasciitis to settle down that I may be muddying the waters a bit by insisting on going barefoot. I think I need to wear the tennies a little more until this settles down. I just don't like shoes all that much although I do like my ABF Crocs!!

Can you explain a bit more detail in how the feet and lower legs work differently barefoot vs shoes?

I am looking forward to being pain-free and able to be barefoot as much as I want to be.

I still really like my KSO's though. Get for mowing the yard almost barefoot!


Joshua Comments:

Hi Dawn.

I'm liking mine more and more.

SO, more on how it works.

Sometimes, when people ask about my shoes, they ask "Does it have an arch support?"

And my response is, "My foot is my arch support."

That's how it's supposed to be.....

When you wear shoes, they all have what I call a platform. This platform is either hard and flat, or has some padding and contour but is ultimately still a hard, flat platform that your entire foot rests upon.

The platform makes all the contact with the ground. When you step on a rock or branch or edge of a step, the platform for the most part doesn't bend around it.

When you walk barefoot (which is what I call it when I walk in my 'barefoot shoes' because as that's as close as I'm going to get to barefoot out in the wild), your foot folds/bends/grips around objects.

Speaking for my own situation, after a lifetime of my feet on platforms, they became dysfuntional. Over the years I needed more and more padding, support, arch support, etc.

Ever notice how arch supports don't help in the long run?

So when you go barefoot:

*Your toes work independently of each other on the terrain.

*Your toes actually work, which requires muscles in your foot and lower leg to fire, that don't so much when in a platform.

*These muscles are part of what 'support' the arch.

*When your foot moves/stretches/folds around objects, every little thing in your foot has to work/stretch/get exercised/communicate with the nervous system.

So, depending on the situation in your feet, you can 'rehab' your feet, making them overall stronger and more physiologically functional.

How's that?

Mar 05, 2011
Old dogs new tricks
by: Jerry

I am not sure what my next move is with the Vibrams. I bought my Vibrams last April when I was almost recovered from Achilles Tendinitis. Before the Achilles injury, I was running 16 to 20 miles per week on a cork track, treadmill, and occasionally on trails.

So I bought the Vibrams last April and slowly worked back up to my former levels of running by summer. Then, in June, I developed tendinitis of the left foot which stopped my running for three weeks and forced me to cut back to around 10 miles per week when I started back. Through the fall and thus far this winter, I have slowly worked back to a 5k five days per week plus a regime of hundred yard sprints in the mornings.

Then, wham, I thought I had a stress fracture. But $250 out of pocket for x-rays (why are x-rays so much cheaper at the dentist) got me a new diagnosis of tendinitis of the right foot!

Of course, I was certainly not immune to injuries with conventional running shoes either. I love the Vibrams but I need to be able to run at this level without getting knocked off my feet periodically and limping around for a couple of weeks.

Does anyone think that older peoples feet adapt to the Vibrams more slowly than those of you younger people?


Joshua Comments:

Well, it's probably a safe bet that 'older' feet take a bit more time to adapt to barefoot. I'm 38 right now, I'll now more about that in another 10 years.....

1. How fast did you switch from shoes the vibrams, mileage-wise?

2. What else are you doing for self care? Might not be an issue with your foot at all. Much of Plantar Fasciitis and Tendonitis (of the feet) comes from the lower leg.

My Reversing Achilles Tendonitis ebook and half of my 'The Plantar Fasciitis Treatment That Works' protocol focus on the back of the lower leg.

It's not about the spot where you feel pain. That's just where pain ends up, not where it starts.

Which brings us back to What are you doing self-care-wise?

3. I'm also curious how the xray got you a diagnosis of tendonitis? As that isn't going to show up on the xray.

Point being, often doctors will diagnose 'tendonitis' if there is no fracture just as a catchall diagnosis. It doesn't necessarily mean anything.

It's good to rule out a fracture though. Maybe you should go to a dentist next time... :)

Apr 08, 2011
I am in the same boat as Jerry...
by: Anonymous

Hello Joshua,

I am 37 and bought my first Bikila VFF last November. I have been running on them on the treadmill and some outside (not a lot since it was winter). Maybe 2-3 miles at a time, avg 8/mi week. Plus 4 hrs/week gym classes (dance/cardio) in addition to running. Ran a 10K in Nov with reg shoes with no problem. My hip and knee pain have gone away since Nov and I run farther and faster than ever before.

Ran another 10K this March in my bikilas. Ran 6 miles once the Wed before the 10K. Well, have had foot pain on the outside edge of my right foot, past the bone, ever since the race. took x-rays and the doc says there is no break or he says maybe tendonitis.

Could these shoes have caused the tendonitis (too far, too fast)? Or is it because I was not training far enough on outside pavement before the race? My husband tells me to get rid of the VFFs. But, I love them!?! Are they hurting me? thanks!


Joshua Comments In Next Comment

May 27, 2011
Joshua Responds to LovinVFFs
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Comments

Hi LovinVFF.

Just because xrays don't show anything, doesn't particularly mean anything.

It's good to know there's no fracture, but you can have microfractures, or bone bruises or joint bruises.

A couple months ago, right when I worked up to running a solid non-stop mile on pavement, the Crossfit class had us run 2 miles.

I did that no problem. Later that day, and then for sure the next day, I couldn't put any pressure down on the ball of my right foot.

Didn't get an xray, but I at least had a bone or joint bruise. That was a good couple weeks of self care no running. I had to wear tennis shoes, because barefoot and Vibram five fingers were painful.

So...while I'm a big fan of barefoot shoes, as you are....ya know....trial and error.

I think just the pure impact of foot against pavement took it's toll.

Sure, there's biomechanics and foot strike and stride etc, which I'm certainly not a master of.

I have, however, switched my mentality back to variety. Some barefoot shoes, some tennis shoes, etc.

You'll have to see what you can get away with, and learn what you learn.

And if you're -serious- about running pain free the rest of your life, you might want to check out an ARPwave through the The ARPwave System. That's not the best page to send you to, but it will start to give you an idea of what it can do/what the benefits are.

It's totally why my foot only hurt (walking and running) for 2 weeks and why I recovered so fast. (I kind of wish I had gotten an xray...)

And if I were really motivated to run (I'm not), you can use it to make your lower legs and hips work OPTIMALLY, meaning, running better/farther/stronger with less fatigue/inflammation/injury.

Interestingly enough, that's sort of what happened naturally for you from switching to the barefoots and why your knee pain went away.

And also, make sure to see Magnesium for Tendonitis, as magnesium is super important for muscle operation and bone and connective tissue strength.

Jun 17, 2011
VFFs have been lifesavers for me
by: Sparrow

I'm obese (although I have lost 78 pounds so far.) I was losing weight through walking, when I developed PF so bad I couldn't leave the house for weeks and had to crawl to the bathroom. When I finally got to a podiatrist, he did a bunch of stuff that made no difference and told me I could never walk barefoot again, not even just around the house. The first thing I do when I get home is take off my shoes, so I was devastated.

I did my research and found a medical journal article about treating PF with barefoot exercise. So I got some of Leslie Sansone's "walking" videos (basically marching in place) and started with ten minutes a day of barefoot "walking" in my living room (hard wood floors) slowly building up the amount of time per day.

It was like a miracle cure.

But the effects only lasted as long as I was having regular barefoot sessions at home. As soon as I'd stop, the PF would creep back. So when I learned about VFFs, I got a pair. Almost immediately, I quit wearing any other shoe - only the VFFs. That was two and a half years ago and the PF has not returned, despite long walks on pavement and still being obese.

The thing I'm trying to figure out at this point is what to do about winter. I've struggled through two of them now, only barely escaping frostbite. But when I tried wearing my winter boots, I felt like I had cinder blocks strapped to my feet! I walked 1/3 mile to the store and 1/3 mile home in the boots and the next day I couldn't walk at all and was in lots of pain. So back to the VFFs, even though I'm scared that one of these times I will damage my feet through exposure to cold. My plan for the coming winter is to try a pair of VFF Treks, since I hear they are warmer than the Flows (I currently wear KSO in dry weather and Flows on rainy days and in winter.)

I do sometimes get a touch of tendonitis if I push my exercise too hard. I'm pretty sure that's related to still being so heavy. But when I back off from the power walking and just walk slowly for a day, the pain goes away again. I never try to push through the pain because I don't want to make it worse and endup with ruptures or tendinosis or something crippling like that.

A side benefit of the VFFs that I wasn't expecting: I have mild dyspraxia and all my life I have randomly fallen down while walking. Not constantly, but usually at least once per day. It never happens with the VFFs! I can feel the ground and that keeps me in balance and I don't tumble. I realize now that even the lowest shoe is still like walking on a platform and for someone like me, there's no way to keep good balance while clomping around on a platform, disconnected from the ground.

Thanks for your site. It's got a lot of very useful info! And thanks for giving VFFs a try and reviewing them from the perspective of a tendonitis expert!

Jun 18, 2011
Wow, that's great results from your barefoot shoes!
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Hi Sparrow.

Wow, that's a GREAT story/testimonial. And it all makes a lot of sense, from a functional point of view.

Barefoot allows your leg muscles to fire (better, more optimally, actually fire), whereas they don't so much in platform shoes.

Which would also give your nervous system LOTS more information to help it determine balance etc.

Also, get your Vitamin D level checked. One of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency is falling down. In the elderly population that looks like falling down and breaking a hip.

I don't have an answer for wintertime, other than getting a pair of those 5 finger socks to go in the five finger shoes....

All that extra weight puts extra load on the foot, obviously. You need ALL your muscles firing to support your foot/body.

The better supported your body is by your own body, the less pain signal is going to be created.

Aug 09, 2011
Questions about barefoot shoes and chronic Achilles Tendonitis
by: curious

I am researching these shoes before I take the "plunge". I have chronic achilles tendonitis and cannot wear any of my sneakers, so I anytime I go out, it's with flip-flops on. Do you know if the barefoot shoes will help me to be able to start exercizing again?

Also, at the beginning of your experiment you mentioned a ruptured disc/back problems...did you find any relief? My husband had back surgery for L4/L5 disc and I am wondering if the barefoot shoes would help him during his workday. Thank you so much!


Joshua Comments:

My suggestion is to just take the plunge. We can talk about it and theorize about it all day long, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

Will it help you or your husband? I don't know for sure.

Having said that, LOTS of people are pleased with their results, and the adventure of the experience.

And it may be an adventure. Go slow and easy at first. Things might get irritated at first. Don't panic, don't quit.

Things also may get better fast. Or both. Just all depends.

There's a REASON you have chronic plantar fasciitis. Part of that reason is a lifetime of wearing shoes. It messes you up, slowly or quickly.

Can vibram barefoot shoes fix anything? Just all depends, and if it helps it may be partial or total. There's a host of factors at play.

I've got nothing but good things to say about the barefoot shoes, it's made a huge difference for my feet and how I walk/move. I can't say it's made a difference for my back, but I fixed that with The ARPwave System.

This is good too if you haven't seen it yet:

Let us know how it goes!

Aug 09, 2011
I do wear Injinji socks already
by: Sparrow

I do wear the socks with my shoes already. I got a pair of wool ones and they still didn't stop my feet from going numb in the winter.

My vitamin D is swell (it better be -- I take 10,000 IU a day!) my dyspraxia is because I am on the autistic spectrum. I have a lot of neurological "quirks" because of that.

I've been having problems with my VFFs the last month -- I've started developing constant bad tendonitis that doesn't go away with rest and even had to go to other shoes for exercise. I hate that because they're so clunky and uncomfortable and make my toes go numb, but I get to where I can't walk otherwise and I don't know why my VFFs are suddenly doing this to me after wearing them for years with no problems. :-(

I guess with the problems, I don't have to worry about what to wear in winter now. I'll be forced to break out the combat boots because of the problems the VFFs are giving me now.


Joshua Comments:

Hmmm, interesting.

I hear you. Things hurting where they were fine is a disappointment.

Is the foot pain now the same/different than it used to be? When you say 'tendonitis', what exactly, and where exactly, does that mean?

Have you continued to lose weight?

How's everything else going, body-wise?

Just throwing some things out:

On the topic of Vit D: Is your level between 50-80? If so, great.

10k/day is great (that's what I do, I take it once a month) but/and, as Vit D is fat soluble, and is stored in fat. Problem is, for, for instance, obese people, the fast can absorb all the Vit D and make it hard for the body to have any to use (basically).

If you're actively taking 10k/day, that's probably not an issue. But it does point to making sure the level is between 50-80 no matter how much you're taking.

Also, a thought on the autistic thing.

Have you ever gone gluten free? There's lots of research indication correlations between autism and gluten intolerance. Something about autistic people (chicken or the egg nobody knows which came first) has them do something extra weird with the gluten such that the result is extra problems.

I just bring that up because it's a very interesting topic.

Anyhoo, let me know what's up with your feet. And if you've done any work on the back of your lower legs (calves and Soleues muscles).

Oct 03, 2011
For Sparrow -- Vibram Five Fingers KSO Barefoot Running Shoes
by: Marigold

Just a thought Sparrow, I expect you've already tried them, but I love my UGG boots in the winter. Not the same as my VFFs, but there's still a sense of freedom and lightness as well as the wonderful warmth.

Have absolutely no idea of the physical pros and cons, but I've always gone barefoot wherever possible and disliked shoes, then I discovered UGGs and wore them constantly in cold weather, then the wonder of discovering VFFs (tho I did get the tendonitis when I started running in them - which my sports masseur told me was down to my calves being too tight, and she told me to keep with it - but I didn't, I just walk in them now). Wasn't overly keen on running .... tho perhaps should try again ...

Anyway, sheepskin sounds better to me than combat boots!

Dec 06, 2011
My experience with the Vibram Bikila LS
by: AudioJogh

Hello to all,
Part 1 of 2

I began "migrating" into the Vibram shoes in November of 2009. I had been running in a very light and comfortable pair of Nike's. These more comfortable shoes enabled me to run "heal-toe" or "mid-foot-forefoot"; though I never was mindful of running mid-foot-forefoot running. I ran in those shoes for about a year.

After having developed Plantar Fasciitis, and experienced a muscle tear in my lower back (from steep downhill running); I had to take about 3 weeks off from running. One other ailment: I had an "on-again-off-again" relationship with Morton's Neuroma... a pinched nerve in the foot due to dropping arches. So I wore an orthotic.

I then replaced running with swimming for the same duration of my run-time (1 hour). Swimming was truly a life saver. With the obvious benefit of "no-impact" exercise, coupled with a good feeling at the end of the day; I have to say it was tempting to change over completely.

Though I must say that after an hour of swimming, my upper body muscles were sore. I felt the "pain". (it would call to mind: 'no pain, no gain')

That gave me food for thought.
I realized that I had not been exercising those muscle groups at all. (will come back to this)
Then I did a lot of research on running.

Check out this (Pose running) < href="">Pose Running Video.

Pose method of running mid-foot-fore-foot was a revelation to me. I gradually began running again: walking at first and running, back and forth, gradually building up to 4 miles, then 6 miles every other day.

The Pose method was definitely working for me. However my running shoes felt a little "off" running mf-ff. Seems to me it was because they were designed for comfort; especially with a heal landing. So I chose to try the Vibram running shoe.

I looked at the KSOs and the newer Bikila LS. The Bikila was Vibrams latest made-for-running shoe. I got 'em. It was amazing how well they fit.
� follow their measuring system to get the best fitting shoe
� I always wear the five toe socks with these shoes.... not one blister!
� These shoes were not made for walking! The Bikilas are made for running. I also have KSOs but for me the Bikila LS rules the road!
� Following the Pose method, but running much slower (for the Vibram muscle-learning period) and then more gradually into a faster pace; I found that my feet muscles were aching just like my upper body muscles were aching after swimming but this was not after; it was during!
� Hmmmm. perhaps I was using "different" muscular groupings in my new running style, coupled with the fact that I had a lot less cushioning under my feet.
� I stayed with it noticing that progressively the aching I felt came on later and later. i.e. when reaching mile 2 it would come on; then the next run, not until mile 3, then 4 and so on. Finally no pain.

Part 2 to follow:

Dec 06, 2011
My experience with the Vibram Bikila LS - Part 2 of 2
by: AudioJogh

Now, following the program is this:

�� Run 6 miles every other day in my Vibram Bikila LS (I rotate a pair each time)
�� Stretch a lot, but for me only afterwards. These stretches include heel stretches and all leg groups plus upper body as well.
�� Swim lightly or floor exercise and stretch on the "off" days.
�� Have fluids while running (stay hydrated)
My results:
��� After two years of running this program: I have not had any Morton's Neuroma. I don't wear an orthotic any more.
��� Plantar Fasciitis is a thing of the past. Though I have to say that about 6 months ago I got a little lazy with the heel stretching and found that if I stretched all groups with attention to my heel and hips directly after my run; it was bye bye to PF; and that's the way it is today! No more Plantar Fasciitis.
��� Glad to be writing this to share... it also was a timely review of the proper way to run (Pose Method). For me, this is the way to run... no matter what shoe you wear (or don't)
��� For me, the Vibram Bikila LS is the running shoe of choice.
��� Happy Exercising!


Joshua Comments:

Thanks AudioJogh.


I'm not much of a runner, but I've been getting in shape again so walking and running to the gym. I'm making myself do the pose running method. It just feels....better.

Have to get used to it and train my body to feel comfortable with it.

Somewhere I heard the concept of picking up the feet as soon as they hit. It surprised me how well that worked for me..somehow lighter on my feet and cover a lot more ground with a lot more ease.

Dec 12, 2011
Reply to AudioJogh
by: Marigold

Really helpful to read your comments AudioJogh, and yours too Joshua.

Having hurt my tendons badly when trying to start back running with my Vibrams - even tho I walk barefoot most of the time - it put me off. But I still love the idea of it so you've inspired me to give it another go.

I checked out the Pose running and it looks interesting. I've got the Chi Running book but never properly read it. I will. And will start running very slowly and with care. Being 57 and very out of fitness - it was so easy to be 'easily fit' 20 years ago - I've never had to actually focus and take care.

I'd love to get fitter and fitter as I get older, but not through any intense scheme. Just keeping the focus on how the body is constructed and how it's meant to move - at any speed - is what attracts me.

Challenging when you've really let it go as I have. But not impossible of course ...


Joshua Comments:

Oh...getting older. I'm at that point now....

Regardless of that, with the barefoot shoes you have to break in your feet slowly. It's an entirely different requirement on your entire system.

And as much as I hate to say it, because I'm not a runner, there's just no better workout for getting into a certain kind of fitness that running. Because if you're not running, you're not moving. Whereas on a bike you're still rolling forward. And even on a treadmill, you just have to stay afloat, not actually push yourself forward.

So keep at it. Slow to start is GOOD!

Also, while your tendons may have hurt, I urge you to focus on the muscles etc that connect to the tendon that are doing all the work.

Get them soft and supple!

Dec 12, 2011
Consistent effort
by: AudioJogh

Glad to hear that you're giving it another go! I'm finding that a dedicated consistent routine of stretching after your run is big time important. Regardless of a demanding social schedule; get that stretching in. I say this because of the times I thought of cutting the stretching short in order to get to some scheduled event; even though you might feel great after accomplishing a good run; don't be tempted to skip the stretching part of the program. It's so important and it will keep those muscles, like Joshua said, soft and supple. He also said take it slow at first. Couldn't agree more; for you are re-training musculature. It takes time. From 63 to 57, it's worth it!!!

Feb 29, 2012
Vibram Five Finger shoes are amazing
by: Drew

I have had my KSO's for about 8 months now and they are awesome. I had club foot on my right foot and they have really changed the way I walk. I had a callus build up on my right foot from walking on the side for so many years, but that callus is almost gone! its crazy.

I use them for everything really, the gym, jet skiing, rock climbing - which is a little pain full because I think the reg KSO's are made for running and the KSO Trek are more for sharper rocks and rough edges. the Treks are a bit thicker. The shoes are great overall.

Only one issue, the fabric is separating from the top lining of the shoe and Vibram does not seem to have any warranty. I bought 2 pair to fit my feet so I would hope that they could compensate me somehow, or if the store I bought them from could give me a free or discounted shoe. I only need one haha.

BTW, if you live where there is cacti....don't go into the desert with them. The mesh will not protect your all haha.

I would suggest these over any running shoe or orthopedic shoe that is made.

Jul 31, 2015
Using Five Fingers to strenghten Achilies Tendon
by: Dave Cupo

I've been through a lot of your articles and am wondering if wearing 5 Fingers to walk, not run as part of a reconditioning program will help strengthen the Calf muscles, promote stretching the tendon and reduce/eliminate the pain so I can start running again?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Dave.

I would definitely start walking. Transition from padded shoes to barefoot....definitely wouldn't want to just start out with a five mile run.

Gotta build into it, there's a lot of adjustment that will need to happen, including stride and foot strike habits.

1. Do your calves need strengthening?

2. Your Achilles tendon does NOT need stretching. What needs stretching is the muscles and connective tissue attached to the tendon.

Interestingly enough, opening up the too tight muscle and connective tissue of the lower leg will allow more strength to be produced by the calves etc.

The 'weakness' I suspect you're referring to isn't actual weakness, it's reduced force potential due to the contractile tissue already being chronically contracted and fatigued.

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