Vibram Five Fingers Injury: The Blistering Pain

This post and images were sent in by one of my readers from Las Vegas Nevada about his first time wearing the Vibram Five Fingers Shoes and the injury he incurred because of them:

All I heard about was how the Vibram Five Fingers shoes would improve foot strength and reduce foot injuries such as knee, hip and foot problems related to running.  When I bought my first pair of the Sprints I didn’t have the greatest experience.  I wore the shoe and decided to go for a run on the neighborhood school track near my house.  The actual track was made of the soft rubbery material that the nice track programs these days have as opposed to regular dirt tracks.  This was a perfect testing ground for the Vibram Five fingers as it wasn’t too rough of a terrain for a beginner like me.

I started walking around the track and felt awesome! no pain, light on my feet!  Very light on my feet…

I then ran a mile, then 2, then 3 and decided to call it quits. I usually run much more than 3 miles on an average day.  I’ve heard that you must slowly work your way up to a normal running distance when you first start running barefoot or with the Vibram Five Fingers barefoot running shoes.

The next thing i noticed was pain under my foot.  Not directly under my foot but on my big toe.  I felt a blister.  A frickin toe blister.  One that I have never gotten from running.  Here’s some pictures:



Now the good news.  This blister was evident and was slightly painful on the first day.  But the next day it was nearly fully healed.  The day after was even better as the foot was practically 100%.  My calves were another story.  Those took about a full week to heal.  Now I understand that there would be a period my feet needed to adjust.  That’s fine.  My main concern was my joint paints in the knee and hips.  I noticed that I didn’t have any joint pains related to running.  I didn’t want to get too optimistic so I decided to try them out a couple more times before I got too excited.

After a few more runs a couple weeks later, my foot pretty much adapted to the shoes and i no longer get these blisters.  But I also no longer get the joint pains that I experienced in the past from running as well.  I STILL don’t want to get too overly excited as I haven’t ran more than 6 miles at a time yet.. but things are looking great so far.  Once I do some real distances on this baby I will write another post.

For more information on Vibram Five Fingers Shoes, click on the links below:

43 thoughts on “Vibram Five Fingers Injury: The Blistering Pain”

  1. How funny — I took my VFF sprints out for their first run today too, and got the exact same hotspot. But, it’s also the first time in a long time that my knee hasn’t hurt while running. My legs actually feel LOOSE, not tight and beat up! Anyway, glad that this reader’s hotspot went away after a day or two… hopefully I’ll have a similar experience.

  2. Did your “hotspot” end up going away after a couple days or did it end up turning into a bad blister? The first time I tried them I actually got a blister, I think the vibram five fingers was a bit tight.

  3. I just got a pair today and tried them for a mile and a half on the treadmill. I too got that same pain under my toe. I just attributed it to the fact that my right foot is severely overpronated, so my toes and foot actually point about 20 degrees off to the right. That ends up putting extra pressure on my big toe when I take a step. It’s always been a problem for me even with standard shoes. Hopefully my feet just get used to the Vibrams though, because this is the first time in a few years that I’ve been able to walk/run that distance without any ankle pain. All the shoes made for overpronation actually over correct my left foot, causing ankle pain. Turns out I think I’ve been going the wrong way with my shoes (i.e. more support, more stability, etc), I think just letting my feet do their thing is going to work a lot better.

  4. I got the same blister on both big toes after running 5 miles on a treadmill in the Vibram Sprints for the first time this last weekend. I’ve been running for 10 years and last year I’ve been running in the Nike Free 5.0’s and just ran the Sprints for the first time. I take this as the getting used to part, but am very excited to start running in these from now on.

  5. Yep, I got the same blister (on both toes) as well the first time wearing them. Also a little blister on the outside of the little toes (but I have weird little toes). the big toe blisters went away really fast. I’ve only worn them twice, but my calf, ankle, and all those little foot-stabilizing muscles are sore. I’m assuming this will go away after a while! But I had none of my usual back/sciatic nerve/knee pain so that was great. the second time I wore socks with them, as it is cold out, and that helped a lot with the blisters.

  6. I have run about 30 miles in my five fingers now and after about 3 days I developed a blister on the inside of the ball of each foot. there is a seam in the area on the inside of the shoe which is causing this issue. I have not had the big toe blister problem everyone else has talked about. I continued to run but attempted to use moleskin, blister pads, etc to reduce the friction but by the end of two weeks, the blister has become so bad it was very painful to walk and I had to take a couple days off. I am reluctant to wear my regular shoes again because of how good everything else (joints, muscles) feels running in the five fingers. I was hoping the area would toughen up….any suggestions/ ideas?

  7. Same blister after a two weeks in the VFFs, I started getting it when I was picking up the pace because my calves weren’t hurting as much.

  8. Same blister from the seam…that,s because they are a little loose in that area but I needed the larger size. used body glide – never got another blister again!!! Also try the socks, I use them for long runs 3+ miles as they provide just slightly more cushion and keep the feet dry from sweat. Been running 5 to 6 days a week in VFF KSOs from 1.5 to 10 miles at a time. going to run a marathon in october in them. I WILL NEVER OWN ANOTHER PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES!!! My legs and feet were sore as hell too for about week…just dealt with it because I knew from running on the beach in the sand it was just working muscles you don’t normally work when you run in shoes. I have noticed a huge increase in speed and endurance. Recovery time is less now too. Always remember to stretch before and after – it helps.

  9. I’ve worn mine hiking before and can’t go more than a few miles without getting the big toe blisters.

    I hadn’t worn them in a while and went for a run w/ them earlier this week and got huge blisters under each of my big toes after ~1.5 miles. They’ve healed, but the thick top layer of skin is still separate from underneath, so I don’t think I can wear the toe shoes again for a while.

    I’d really like them to work for barefoot-style running. On my list of stuff to try to make them work is:
    * Body glide
    * Tape
    * Toe socks.

    I think the sole of the VFFs could be improved under the big toe by making the rubber thinner between the ball of the foot and the pad of the big toe, and also contouring the sole there to match the shape of the toe. This way, the sole would flex w/ the toe instead of rubbing against it w/ each step.

  10. (BTW, haven’t tried these yet) I saw these in a magazine and was google-ing for some more insight. Seems like the only downfall is the blister to get used to the shoe… besides that this seems to be a great deal!
    Time to save money. 4/5 for the blister.

  11. I’m so happy that I found this. On my second run I pushed I little too much in my Vibrams and go the same thing. it made me so sad that I may nt be able to continue running in them, because it’s so much fun. But it’s so good to know that your feet get used to it.

  12. Thanks everyone for posting. That picture looks exactly like where I got the same toe blisters.

    I ran a half-marathon in padded Brooks shoes, then a week later ran 2.5 miles in VFFs and got the toe blisters.

    I’m looking forward to having my feet toughen up and am glad I’m not alone with the blisters.

  13. Sadly, I’m just back from the orthopedist with crutches, a boot, and a diagnosis of a fractured heel. I had been transitioning to running in Vibrams over the past month and thought all was going pretty well, but over the last week, the discomfort inherent in the transition turned to pain and now today’s bad news. I started running in Vibrams to prevent any future injuries although I had never had a running injury before. Maybe I shouldn’t have fixed what wasn’t broken…. I was trying to pay careful attention to my form (mid/forefoot strike), straight posture, kick the feet back, shorten my stride, etc… I don’t know what went wrong, but be careful!

  14. I have KSO’s and have been wearing them for all workouts 5 or so times a week for the past month and I barely got the blister/hotspot on the big toe yesterday. I’m trying to pinpoint what activity caused it.I had worn them on the treadmill, trail runs, biking, P90X, weights and the blister comes a month later… Since it hurts to put my big toe down, I have been walking on the outer sides of my feet for a day and only wearing sandals or bare-feet while they heal. I have been Pose Method running for the past year, so I am used to the calf pain, but the blister is more annoying. Hopefully it’s just a transition pain and the Hotspot goes away tomorrow.

  15. I’m 42 and a couple of months ago, I decided to make the transition to VFFs. I’ve read many reviews with interest (in particular, Sam’s story). I’m up to about 9 miles in them and some would say that I’m progressing too quickly. however, I am in a running club and love using the VFFs so much that building up only 10 percent would have left me running on my own so I’ve pushed myself have to try and give myself a head start.

    I also do a track session a sat morning and Something that I seem to have benefitted by is the ability to convert from a run to a sprint. The springiness of my running has allowed me to change my pace just when I need it! I’ve also started running barefoot to the horror of other runners and that seems to have further improved my pace. The only problem is that after a few thousand meters, I seem to get a small blister on each of my toes that I wouldn’t get in my VFFs.

    My aim would be to run the London Marathon again in 2011 in VFFs. however, I am 15 stone and most runners I have read about seem to be a lot lighter in weight. I ran the marathon in running trainers (before the conversion) in 4 hours 7 mins and I can’t imagine myself running in VFFs for that period.

    I’d be interested to hear of any opinions or of anyone with similar experiences as I am concerned about furthering my progression. Any thoughts?

  16. I just ran for the 1st time in my VFFs, and the EXACT same thing happened to MY big toes… on each foot. I only went about a 1.25 miles, because I started to notice that my feet were not feeling so great… mostly the “burning big toe” problems…. I love the way i felt SO LIGHT while running. Hoping that if I keep running these short distances, then the pain will go away and me feet will adapt.

  17. I had the same big-toe blisters at first. I think the problem was that I was rolling off of my toes instead of pulling my foot up quickly.

    I was coming off a 2-year plantar injury, and my KSOs finally fixed the problem by strengthening my soleus muscle. But I was so out of shape by that time that I was doing the “boxer” jog where they just basically roll from step to step, thus irritating and blistering my big toes badly.

    Then I started working on my form, and the problem is solved. I pick my feet up quickly, and act like there are ropes in front of my that are yanking my knees forward with each step.

    It’s a lot more challenging and I can’t do it as long as I could do my lazy jogging, but I can feel the increased shock absorption, and my toes aren’t blistering anymore.

    So the better running form was key, and that’s what I love about Vibram’s and/or barefoot running- if you have any laziness in your form at all, you’ll feel it. So it forces you to perfect your form, even if it’s just for 50 yards at first.

    Hope this helps!

  18. I don’t understand why but my experience has been really uncomfortable. My feet are blistered. The heel of my feet are also. Since yesterday I can barely walk and one blister opened. I am looking further into what went wrong. At least I can relate to some other peoples’ stories.

  19. Been running more than a year on VFF and earlier on water shoes. So my feet should be accustomed by now (1-3) workouts a week. Yesterday I ran my first 21k and my feet were destroyed. But since I’ve ran long distances I’ve had bloody blisters on the base of my toes, yesterday my right toe was destroyed but my left foot had pretty normal and evenly distributed blisters.
    That’s why today I’m researching this topic, because I can’t believe that after a year my foot aren’t used to
    Y next step is to try some toe taping and more Pose technique drill working

    • @Aaduarte, you sound like super hardcore runner! Enduring all the blisters, destroyed toes, etc… Sounds like the pain doesn’t get to you. I don’t think I’d be able to endure. I’m weak!

  20. comment for Julie and Susan,
    Julie, I’m having the same problem as you, no toe blisters, but rather blister in the ball of my foot from the rubbing of the material, I am hoping it will toughen out.
    Susan, you probably should have stopped way back and rest when your calves were sore, the achiles tendon that extends from the heel though the calve is a mucsle that has been dormant for a long time, anyone trying to run barefoot or with vibrams should have strengthen this tendon and the calves prior to running. I also highly recommend running barefoot rather than vibrams, I only use them after I learned properly with barefoot running and now I used them on very long distance running through mountain with lots of gravel.

  21. eveyone, you all need to learn by running barefoot very small distances and little time increasing gradually. once you can run confortably for at least a 5k, then you can transition to vibrams. you won’t learn the right tecnique by just running on vibrams. be wise and cautions. technique is everything here.

  22. i run 3 times a week at least 3-5 miles per run i ran in kso trek’s today for about 3.5 miles (mostly in grass) my feet are a little tender but Ill continue to run in them. “Pain is weakness leaving the body”

  23. Been running is KSO for about 1 month. Taking it easy just recovering from an injury. I am getting the hotspots/blisters on my big toes. I also got a blister on the inside of my right foot were the slit is cut that the strap runs thru on the side of the KSO. I hope that this blister is where I had the KSO velcro to tight. I will losen the velcro on the next run and see. So far I would never where another pair of shoes if I could get away with just wearing my KSO.

  24. I don’t have the vibram five fingers yet, but I run barefoot around my neighborhood a lot. I’ll get the blisters under my toes too, so it’s probably just the fact that your toes hit the ground more than in regular shoes rather than a problem with the vibrams 🙂

  25. I have the same blister problem happen in many situations involving the barefoot style of running. I haven’t yet ran in the Vibrams as I was unable to find a pair of the new Bikilas in my size. Finally tracked some down!

    I have been running competitively for a number of years and after an onset of injuries, decided to test the waters of barefoot running. First, I ran in the Nike Free 3.0s. Great shoes, the closest thing they make to fivefingers. I experienced the same blister on the big toe with these shoes. I took a break for a while and went back to Asics DS trainers. Then just recently, my form was off a little and I decided to try out the barefoot concept again. This time I wanted to try the fivefingers. But because the Bikilas were sold out everywhere I looked, I opted for the real thing: barefoot. Again, the something: blister on the underside of the big toe.

    So from what I have witnessed, this seems to be an issue with this style of running, and perhaps not the specific shoe.

  26. It is important to realize that, like many athletes who also receive blisters in these “hot spots”, you may have to tape your feet/toes to prevent these painful blisters. Any athletic tape will prevent these blisters from occurring. I run everyday 3mi + in vibram sprints.

  27. Julie I had the same blister in that area..Its right behind the big tow towards the outside of the foot..I run slowly at first..My calves were so sore took about a week to recover..Then today I ran over 5 miles in the vibram classics on my treadmill..I got that blister right on the seam of the five fingers..Kinda on the side of the ball behind the big tow..I ordered a pair of Injinji socks to try and will report back..But other than that my legs well great today..The shin splints and ankle problems I have sometimes, like yesterday after running in New Balance 993 shoes are non exisitent today…

  28. Most complaints among the respondants are due to poor running form.

    Minimalist running is inherently different from shod. You can’t propel from the big toe. You must mid-foot strike, with a mid-to-fore-foot release. Pick your feet up, don’t push yourself forward–you’re not ice skating.

    Run barefoot first. If you complain about blisters and attribute it to the lack of sneakers rather than your form, I suggest you contemplate how humanity made it 10,000+ years unshod.

    Focus on form. Go slowly. If you think because you run marathons in sneakers that you can transition better than a couch-potato, you’re wrong. All you’ve done while running shod is for naught–the muscles in your foot are atrophied, your ligaments are brittle and your tendons are shortened. Whether you run to the fridge or run forty miles a week, if you ran in sneakers, you must transition slowly to build the foot muscles and elongate/plasticize your ligaments and tendons and focus on form.

    It isn’t the shoes, or lack thereof, it is your form.

  29. I’ve been running in my VFF for a few months now, and I may have started running too far too quickly (training for a half marathon) but it’s not the blister issue that is bothering me. Instead, it’s the outer edge of my right foot that is so tender and sore when I’m done with my run that I can barely walk. For some reason, it doesn’t hurt too much when actually running, but it’s almost debilitating after the run.

    Anyone with a similar issue and a good solution?! Thanks!

  30. I have sifted back to running barefoot on the beach since the Vibram’s I bought over just 5 miles caused more damage to my feet than a 50 mile run in my cheepo Nikes.

    The Vibram’s have internal seams that rub, fast, though the arch of your foot, they press causing black toes and last and not least they seem to shrink when they get wet causing them to press even more. Truly the worst running shoes I have ever worn.

  31. Hey this happened to me. I suspect that there is a small rubber ‘barb’ sticking out from where the inner seams connect to the sole. When you run it causes friction and blisters etc.

    Not ideal design; i am sure Vibram is aware of this.

  32. From the post and comments, it sounds like most people here were too anxious to use their new Vibrams right away. When I was researching these shoes, I read many articles that warn not to slip them on and immediately go for a run or strenuous hike. First, you need to adapt your feet and leg muscles, and also break in the shoes. With a new pair, you should spend several days in the first week or two just walking a couple miles, then go for a couple, easy one mile runs. That’s what I did with my first pair (I bought the KSO) and I never had a problem.

  33. There are a couple of things you should know about running in VFF’s and Barefoot/Minimalist running. One thing is, if you’re running barefoot, you’re going to get blisters on your feet. and the same goes with barefoot/minimalist shoes in many cases.
    Here are a couple of tips:
    Vibram now has the Bikila, Bikila LS, and KomodoSport; these ones are all designed for running.. try these ones out. However, the ONLY VFF shoe that is seamless on the inside is the KomodoSport. Seams do cause blisters. BUT if you allow the blisters to form and go away, you’ll get good callouses, and they won’t come back, but if you don’t want them, try runner’s lube on your feet, or Ininji toe socks to go along with your VFFs

    • awesome tips, thanks bobby. When we first tested some of these shoes while running the Bikila’s weren’t even out yet.. im glad now there’s Vibrams that are design specifically for running!

  34. I seriously thought I was the only person who got blisters from these shoes. I ran a marathon a couple of years back in a pair of asics; no blisters, but my knee has been giving me problems since. I’ve read lots of reviews on the five finger shoes, thought I’d give them a try. Been running with them for about 2months now and my knee pain is GONE! so exciting…except for the darn blisters!! I let the last set of blisters heal, but the seams keep blistering my feet (no callouses). Bobby thanks for the advice on the toe socks, I’ll give them a try. Happy running everyone!

  35. Hi guys,
    I got my bikilas about 10 days ago and i did what any normal person does when a new toy/gadget. I trial and tested them out and went for a long 10 mile run. After my run i got i found out that i had two bloody blisters on the inside of my feet and they are sore as hell:(

    Reading everyone’s experience is great as i was worried that its my vibrams that could be the problem. I may now have to invest in injinji socks and moleskins to help prevent future blisters and chaffing.

    Thank you 🙂

  36. I’ve been running consistently with my ksos for about 6 months now. EVERY time i run ( at least 2x a week sometimes more) i get these blisters. I have blisters on top of blisters.

  37. To all you VFF rookies: When you first get your VFFs don’t go out and immediately run. Wear them around the house a couple hours @ a time, in the shower, hot tub, etc. It takes a a bit of time for them to mold to your feet. I purchased my 1st pair, size 43, in 2008. Soon I found out that they stretch and my 43s ended up being to large. I learned from that 1st pair that I have to purchase a pair that is tight and hurts a little bit and then over the first few months, I work them in, indoors and in water only (they will hurt). Once they have stretched out and molded to my foot, then I take them out for real exercise. Also I wear different sizes for different styles. 42-KSO and komodosport 41-treksport. Everybody will have different experiences. I highly recommend working them in, especially in water until they fit like a glove and then integrate them into your regular exercise regimine.

  38. Thanks for all the info folks. I have a pair of VFF Bikalas and have been wearing them for 6 months or so. I have been walking in them since buying them but just started running in them a couple of months ago. I started 1/4 mile at a time and then 1/2 mile and then a mile and then I was doing 3 miles at a time. I did not have any problems until last night when I ran 5 miles. I got a nasty blister on the ball of my foot, but I think it is likely the result of too big a jump in mileage. Anyway I am going to tough it through a 5 k race this weekend with moleskin and anything else I can find that works. Then I am going to increase mileage very slowly. Thanks again.

  39. I started to run with the FiveFingers in August 2008. After 4 years I can report following:
    Very sore muscles after first day running, but no joint or bone pain – this was a positive feedback from my body, so I kept on running barefoot. At that time, I ran 6 times the week and every Thursday I dedicated my exercise to the FiveFingers (like a barefoot unit).

    I increased gradually the distance and – I can`t remember when – I fixed a second day (the Tuesday) for the FiveFingers.

    My goal was always to finish the marathon in less than three hours. 2005 I came pretty close to it with a time of 3h and 02 min (New Balance NB900)
    No improvement in the following years. 2006 a good pace, but too weak in the final miles: 3h12min – 2007 not much different: 3h15
    For the next year (2008), I was thinking about a change in my running style, due to pain in my feet, knees and after long runs even up to the hips.. That`s why I started the barefoot thing.

    Now, that I`m becoming older – my goal is still to set a new PB in Marathon, but the other goal is, to stay healthy. Since 2008 I run more and more “barefoot” and without running a marathon 2008 (my girl was born and I focused on family things), 2009 injured (bike accident)
    2010 I had a comeback with the time of 3h 06min. The difference between this race and the races up to 2007: I could feel, that barefoot running is the major improvement.
    I inverted my workouts and ran in 2011 on 4 days with the FiveFingers and only 2 days with my shoes (Nike Air Rift).
    I had many long runs in the FiveFingers and decided to run a full marathon with them. Not focused on the time, but to finish the race. I did it in 3h 50min and of course more pain in my muscles than usually. This was the Cologne Marathon end of September 2011. One month later, I had the chance to run in Beijing and finished in the same time, with the same good-feeling-pain (sore muscles but no injuries on the joints).
    I recovered quickly and did the Hangzhou Marathon again just one month later – this time wearing the Nike Air Rift (final test before the Marathon in Shanghai).
    I was more relaxed then in the 2 barefoot races and finished in 3h 30min. The shoes did support me very well – thanks to the barefoot workouts, I can feel the difference and have more energy left, to run faster.
    Final Marathon of the year was – again just one month later – Shangai. This was the Marathon, I focused on the time and finished in 3h 11min. My legs were fine, but I was tired that day (maybe to many marathons before..)

    Now, in the year 2012 – I`m running completely with the FiveFingers! I will use the shoes just for fast races, as a kind of doping..

    Oh, I nearly forgot to write about the blisters:
    I have many blisters, too. I also thought it is because of the shape of my feet (not exactly matching the form of the FiveFingers).
    After researching a lot, I can tell you: Tape works best!
    Body glide and other creams are good, but if you run very long distance – only the tape is really helpful for me.
    With a longer distance, the blisters were more serious and I found out why:
    Not the running style is changing after some hours, but the amount of sweat!
    In my case, the sweat on my legs runs down inside the shoes and together with the sweat of the feet, I`m “swimming” in the FiveFingers and the feet loose the grip. The seams inside are chafing on the sweat-soaked skin – blisters are the result.
    If you are taping these areas (I use two layers), then there is no chafing any more and finally no blisters.

    keep on running and all the best,

    Hardi from China

  40. Almost *EVERYONE* gets that exact same big toe hotspot/blister on one or both toes when transitioning from standard running shoes to minimalist footwear. It is a symptom of pushing off too hard from your toes and/or trying to run too fast too soon without knowing what you’re doing. Your body will soon adjust, and teach you the best form through pain avoidance if nothing else.

    I highly recommend Chi Running technique for those new to minimalist footwear.


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