Vibram Five Fingers Toe Nail Problems?

I think my vibram five finger classic shoes are causing problems with my toe nails

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on my running with the Vibram Five Fingers Classic shoe.  Once I get the time, I’ll do an update on the long term progress with running in them.  For now, though I wanted to ask all of you whether or not you’ve had problems with FiveFingers causing issues with your toe nails?  What do I mean?  It’s kind of hard to describe, but i’ll try [warning if you don’t like looking at feet, let alone my feet, you probably shouldn’t read this post…you’ve been warned].

Anyway, so I’ve been running in the FiveFingers Classic for the past 6 or 7 months.  I love them and look forward to when I can wear them and feel like a ninja in the process.  I’ve worn them enough to get a nice Vibram FiveFingers Classic tan line.

i've worn my vibram five fingers classic shoes enough to develop a tan line

However, since I’ve had them I’ve had issues with my pinky toe being squished by the shoes.   I noted this when I attempted barefoot running shoe tennis, but since then I figured that the shoes probably just needed some time to stretch out.  The toe squished pain has gotten better over time, but it’s still kind of there, especially if I wear the VFF’s for hours on end.

Things were fine until my girlfriend pointed to my naked feet and asked “what’s wrong with your toe nails?”  My natural reaction as is a lot of times when she points stuff out to me (much to her dismay) was an incredulous “What are you talking about??” After all, my toe nails are perfect!

However, looking more closely I noticed that both of my pinky toe nails were all “jacked” up.  There was like an extra layer of nail growing in the middle, while the lower part of the nail was sunken in.

are my vibram five fingers classic shoes causeing my left pinky toe nail to become deformed

It would be one thing if it was just one pinky toe, but I found the same nail issues on both my right and left foot.  My only conclusion was that it probably had something to do with the Vibram FiveFingers.  Recently spent over 8 hours in them while at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego (cool place, by the way) and these shoes have been my primary running shoes for the past 6 months (I probably average about 4-6 miles a week).

Because of this, I’ve decided to take a break from the FiveFingers (as much as I don’t want to) and have gone back to my Nike Free 5.0 V4’s for the interim.  I want to see if the nail problem goes away.  Regardless, have any of you guys had issues like this?  Do you even know what they call this nail problem?  If so let me know in the comments.  Thanks!

22 thoughts on “Vibram Five Fingers Toe Nail Problems?”

  1. So I have 5 male clients that I give massages to that wear the five fingers. 3 that are runners, and 2 that are not. I have not yet noticed the toe nail problem yet with any of them. I will keep an eye to see if they have a similar problem. The non runners just got theirs, as an attempt to help with back problems. One is a waiter and wishes he could wear them at the resturant he works in.

    Don’t let your girlfriend beat me up when I say, that your toenails and feet r perfect. And I hope your pinky toe problem takes care of itself! (No I don’t have a foot fetish) not me!!!

    Toes -R- Us

    • @Toes-R-Us…thanks for sharing your experiences with regards to my toe problems, haha. Let me know if you do see any problems with their toes. I think it’s just because the shoes I ordered were a little on the small side for me. I’ll be sure to pass on the praise for my toes to my girlfriend…for some reason she has foot phobia or something.

    • @gem, haha thanks for boosting my ego about my nasty toes…I love my vibram tan-line…it’s like my fivefingers badge of honor. I’m old school and love my Classics…though one of these days I’m gonna have to try out the kso’s.

  2. I wear these ALL the time (proud fellow vff tan-lineee) and have never seen nails do that. You are right to think they are too small!
    Failing that, stick em in the wash, no softener, that helps bypass the inititail wear stage and takes you straight to uber comfort

  3. I’ve been having this same problem with both pinky toenails! I think the rubber that comes up over the pinky toe is banging against my nail and they are starting to turn black. I don’t want them to fall off, but I also don’t want to have to give up on these shoes because of my silly pinky toenails.

  4. Do you have any prior psoriasis? It can be aggravated by trauma, and if your pinky toe feels squished, that could cause a flare up which can cause the nails to look like that. Both my pinky toes have that look from being squished into shoes. I have been fooling with true barefootedness to see if that alleviates the problem for me. Don’t have my VFFs yet, but they’re on the way!

  5. Woohoo,

    I have just come upon this post, and am relieved! I have the exact same toe problem on my left foot, where the pinky toenail is jacked up. I have been running in VFF Sprints for about a year and can now do about 4-5 miles per run in them. I usually run twice a week or so and occasionally alternate with an old pair of Mizuno something or others. I think I will trade up to a bigger pair of VFFs for my next purchase, but I do think it’s weird that I am only experiencing pain on my left pinky. This probably means I am not running as symmetrically as I should…
    My other VFF related gripe is slight heel pain on my right heel, which I fear is plantar fascitis. It’s not so bad at the moment so I’ll stick to VFFs, alternating with something else. I just bought a pair of Saucony Kinvaras, and may splash out on Nike Frees. But Nike Frees have been very difficult to get over here in London. I went to Niketown in the summer and they said they had sold out and wouldn’t get any new ones in until Christmas!

  6. I’m having the same issue with one pinky toe. It got really beat up in the last 1/2 marathon and still looks bad a month later. I’m thinking I am going to try one size larger on the shoes.

  7. Both my pinky toenails turned black. Not bad enough to fall off but they developed a knarly ridge as they grew out. I too think its the rubber bumper over the top of the toe bumping the toenail. I’ve been able to continue by wrapping a small bandaid lengthwise over the end of those toes. Injinji toe socks keep them in place.
    What I’d REALLY like to do is cut a hole in the end of the toes where it hits the toenails. Anybody out there try that?

  8. Back in June, went backpacking with some sprints (which was great) but after the trip both pinky toes were hurting and the nails turned black. My schedule changed and I didn’t get to run as much as I wanted but put the sprints back on in December and it all came back almost instantly with one nail falling off. the other is still black but growing out deformed and normal colored. the other is almost fully grown out but deformed too.

  9. I am a proud owner of a both Sprints and Bikilas, both size 37. I did an 11 mile hike in Samaria Gorge in Crete last July and I think I hadn’t properly broken in my Sprints yet because my toes were pretty sore afterwards, especially b/c the Sprints run a bit smaller than the Bikilas. I have since been running 3x/wk for the past 5 months or so in the Bikilas and have noticed my left pinky toenail falling off, but not turning black. Not sure if this is residual growing out of an already damaged and falling-off nail from July, or if it’s due to the (semi?)-common problem runners have of toenails falling off… A missing nail is much better than the knee pain I had before buying my VFFs, but I’m hoping it grows back!

  10. i’m a big fat guy with big fat feet; when i bought my first pair of vffs i bought a size 42; but my foot had trouble squeezing into them and i experienced pain in my smaller toes (esp the pinky) as others have described here. however, and ignoring that i’m fat nowadays; i’ve run for many years and have some spectacular runners toes (not pretty) so nothing too new for me here…

    my solution with the vffs, as with running shoes in general, is to get a bigger size until there is no pressure or contact with the pinky toe, taking into account your foot travelling forward somewhat in the shoe. for me it meant getting a size 45 in the next several pairs of vffs i bought.

    with the extra space there is no pressure on my toes at all – no matter how much my feet slide forward. also, make sure you put the vibrams on properly; i.e. seat the heel of your foot into the heel of the fives and push all the way back so that your heel is firmly placed into the heel of the fives and then tighten straps with your foot pushed all the way back to minimize the amount of travel your feet experience

    this has worked for me and hope it does help

  11. Here’s the Solution!

    So my boyfriend had this problem, and I hope my post isn’t too late. But I’ve found the solution, I think, without needing to buy a bigger size. I told him to do this, and now he doesn’t have the problem anymore.

    Basically what happens with the vffs with the velcro, is that if you velcro it the full way it restricts your toe movement and therefore puts a lot of pressure specifically on your pinky toe. So what you need to do when you velcro your feet in:

    Put your toes flat on the floor and your heel up in the air as far as it goes. That way you know you have full movement. Then velcro it. When I where my vffs my velcro is holding on by less than a half inch.

  12. Hey!
    I agree, this has happened to me too. I went to a dermatologist who said its a trauma on the toe nails. I think it could be cuz it’s too tight in that area. Any suggestions? Bigger size maybe?

  13. I find that the ones with the “toe caps” like the KSO and Classic kill my toenails but I have had much better luck with the Jaya, Bilika and Speed. All 3 of those are much more comfortable. You might want to try one. You know there are certain stores that will let you return or exchange them even if it has been years. That whole 100% Satisfaction Guarantee has me buying all of mine at one store in particular. Hope you find this helpful 🙂

  14. YES, YES, YES! I have the same problem with my pinky toes in vibram fivefingers. I actually cannot run in them- only walk because they damage my pinky toe nails to the point where it literally felt like they were going to be torn & lifted off just like yours was. I’ve come to realize that the reason for this is because for a lot of us the pinky toe nail is different from the other toe-nails because it grows curving upwards rather than downwards or straight like the others do. If you observe your pinky toe nail it LOOKS like it’s straight like the others, but if you actually use your fingers and feel the shape of the toe nail it’s not growing straight out or over the toe like the others- it’s curving upwards. This causes the edge of the toenail to catch against the edge of the rubber part meeting the fabric on the vibrams. Cause enough friction and eventually it will catch hard enough to tear the darn nail off. I’m looking into a way to tape over and protect the edge of the pinky nail in some way so that I can run in them without tearing off a nail.

  15. Hey Anna, and others,
    Wrap a small flexible fabric bandaid over the end of your pinky. Wear Injinji socks to guarantee the bandaid stays put.

  16. I’ve had mine on for about 8 hours and have walked less then a block and a swear both my well trimmed big toe nails are being pulled off! Now I’m just sitting and my feet hurt like hell.

  17. Love my fingers.. woohooo feet feel so free.. until it got cold out.. 🙁
    But a big problem I found was how much my feet would sweat. With that is the chance of fungus. I see many clients with nail fungus and they don’t even know it. Sometimes the nail gets really thick and early stages the nail looks like it is falling off and splitting. It is easily treatable.
    I use powder in my shoes daily and wash them once a week.
    does anyone know where to get the Vibram Fivefingers Bormio.. have been searching the web but the only places selling is over seas.. ??

  18. Looks like fungus… which is how I found this blog post. I’ve been wearing Vibrams just about daily for running and for work (I’m a massage therapist) for the last 9 mos or so. My left pinky toenail is all effed up and sore… pretty sure it’s fungus from these damn shoes… which is the crappy part. Because I love these shoes!


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