Trends & Features

Getting a grip on the barefoot phenomenon

Do you want to run feeling the ground beneath your feet?

Do you want something to fit your foot like a glove?

Then, in that case, you probably know about Vibram FiveFingers and their range of footwear for those who want that barefoot feeling.

But new for 2017 are the V-Run, V-Trail and V-Train. Charles Birch Limited are the new distributors for Vibram FiveFingers, having, from 2012, previously been the distributors of Vibram shoe components and soles to manufacturers and repairers. Charles Birch have been supplying the shoe trade since 1965.

Chris Wilson, chairman and managing director, said: “People just love barefoot running, it is one of those things, the more regular trainers get corrective, rather than protective, the more people want to get back to nature – it’s a lifestyle choice really.

“The barefoot running phenomenon really took off in 2010 when Christopher McDougall wrote the best-selling book Born to Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.”

McDougall’s book, in part, charted his adventures with Mexico’s reclusive Tarahumara Indians and their ability to run hundreds of miles on thin homemade sandals. As his adventure continued he was able to train himself to do likewise without the aid of modern-technologypacked trainers.

Wilson added: “That book opened up the world of barefoot running to people who wanted to get back to nature and take on the barefoot way.”

Vibram FiveFingers has been on the market since 2004 and has a hard-core community of barefoot runners who love the product.

FiveFingers footwear was the brainchild of industrial designer and outdoor runner Robert Fliri, who as he put it “wanted to figure out a way to move around in nature better”.

He proposed the idea to Vibram chairman Marco Bramani, grandson of Vibram founder Vitale Bramani.

As an avid sailor, Marco Bramani was immediately intrigued by the idea of footwear that felt more like a glove and worked like a second skin.

FiveFingers protected Bramani’s feet from dangerous rigging and obstacles on board while delivering a surefooted grip on deck. Its patent-pending design provided greater dexterity, improving agility, balance and control.

Drawing on his experience as a sailor and veteran of the footwear industry, Bramani worked with Fliri to refine Five Fingers into what it is today, the first footwear to offer the sensation of going barefoot with the protection and security of a Vibram sole.

Wilson said: “ The basic KSO Evo, which was the original barefoot experience, hasn’t changed much over the years. It is still very much a minimalist product. It features a very thin 2mm sole with no mid sole, offering the true very hard core barefoot experience and is still the best seller.”

Alongside the KSO Evo there is now a whole range of new styles which have evolved over the years for different purposes.

For example the Trek Ascent is designed for hiking and that has a slightly thicker sole and a midsole to give it a little more protection and comfort.
Significantly, for this year Vibram are launching three new products the V-Run, V-Trail and the V-Train.
“The new V-train has just been developed for all aspects of fitness work both in and out of the gym, the new sole design particularly benefits cross-training.

“The V-Run is very much designed for road running, while the V-Trail is designed for off-road running including cross country, trail and mud running.

“Now if anyone wants the barefoot experience, in any situation, they can have it.”

Vibram went into business in 1937 and was named after Italian mountaineer and brand founder Vitale Bramani. The origins of the brand, however, are based in tragedy.

Two years earlier, Bramani was on an expedition in the Italian Alps where six of his friends died in a mountaineering accident.

Bramani believed much of the blame was due to poor footwear. At the time, mountaineers commonly wore smooth leather soles fitted with steel cleats or hobnails.

After working on the design following the tragedy, Bramani patented the first rubber lug sole. The first model was called the Carrarmato, meaning “tank tread” in Italian, due to its thick stamped footprint. Vibram also had the backing of another famous Italian – Leopoldo Pirelli of Pirelli tyres.

Vibram produced soles in the same manner as Pirelli’s tyres. Bramani’s rubber soles provided superb traction on a wide variety of surfaces, as well as being extremely durable.

Many different brands now utilise a Vibram sole and they can be found on all types of footwear used for everything from running and leisure, to motorbikes and cycling.

Wilson added: “Vibram’s legacy and history is from climbing in rubber soles that were hard-wearing and grippy. The sole of the FiveFingers is very much part of that legacy.

“Our aims, as newly-appointed UK distributors, are to carry large stocks to service all customers and increase the visibility and availability of Vibram FiveFingers on the high street.”

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