At this price, these are a steal, but they're not for everyone. I bought a pair of Vibrams a couple of months ago, and it was probably the best thing I'd ever done for my feet.
I'm personally not a fan of the butt-ugly color design that screams "HEY...LOOK AT ME", and prefer a more modest, subdued color (no matter what shoe design) but if this was a model that would work well for my feet, I'd jump (no pun intended) at this deal, crazy color or not. Compared to retail price, this is going for really cheap.
Here's my situation: I'm overweight, sedentary job, blown disc in lower back and long-term foot injuries. I started walking a few years ago, but after an incident involving a broken toe, I took a break, and broke the momentum.....stopped walking. But even then, I could only walk up to 2 miles at a time, before my feet became sore. Back then I had been wearing rocker soled shoes (had been for years) and found them to give great relief for my back. With a blown disc, I could only stand for short times in regular shoes, but with rocker soled shoes, I found I could stand for hours with not much effort. The benefit in this case is that it conditioned my leg muscles for better acclimation to the Vibrams later on. (I'll get to that shortly.)
After a couple years of not walking regularly for exercise, I finally made the decision in January to get back out there each day, and broken toe pain be damned, I started doing it, and doing it well. Over time I also felt I needed to start moving back into regular soled shoes and away from the rocker sole, and did a gradual transition while strengthening the corresponding muscle groups. I went from 2 miles each day to 4, and then to 6, and started using more legitimate walking shoes to accommodate more fully.
That's when I started running into trouble. The 6 miles each day was helping me feel better all over, and I felt I could go farther, but I quickly found I had hit my limit with the shoes I was using. My back pain had imposed gait problems, that compelled me to grip my toes when walking and I wasn't really paying attention to it. This eventually resulted in horrible swelling and blisters between the toes if I tried to walk as far as 6 miles each day - even if broken up into increments. But I kept doing it, until it got so bad, I had considered removing my shoes entirely and walking barefoot to relieve the swelling. That's when using the Vibrams dawned on me.
I followed the proper sizing chart, but felt I needed to try them in person first, and I also had some recommendations from friends who use them. I went down to a local REI, and tried on the pair I felt would be just right. They felt lousy. Then I tried on one of these featured pairs. Felt no better. I eventually tried the Speed LS, and 2 sizes up from what I was referenced to via the sizing chart. BINGO. Felt wonderful immediately. The attendant noted that I have extra wide feet and a high arch, and that although the bulk of Vibram models tend to favor users with normal feet, or otherwise without foot anomalies, he had noticed that users with feet like mine tended to not fit well in the velcro-based models. The lace-up models (such as what I selected) were a much better fit, seemingly because it allowed for more variation of space accommodation around the wide base and high arch.
I put them on the next day and immediately walked 7 miles. I've never felt better on a walk. It was amazing.
Yes, I read all the advise about being prepared to have your calves hurt like hell after initial wearing. But this seemed to be the same conditioning I experienced with the rocker soled shoes, and I did not have any type of transitional problems along those lines. Although there were other issues. I'll get to those.
They feel almost barefoot, yet keep my toes separated. So, no more monkey-feet gripping and no more chafing and blisters between my toes.
Next problem: Wearing these helped me quickly identify where my gait had been going wrong. A broken toe injury, badly healed foot fractures from my youth, and a bad back gave me an asymmetrical gait that at the end of a day, I could feel was wearing on each foot very differently. Much of my walking is on hard pavement with some rocky area (for which these are pretty unforgiving...you feel EVERYTHING) and I realized I probably need to pay more attention to correcting my gait to develop a better and more stable stride overall. These shoes have been helping me do that.
Then I upped my milage. When I can, and weather permits, I have been able to regularly get up to over 10 miles of walking per day. (warm weather has allowed for pre-dawn and late night outings, and I sleep very little - as evidenced by the length of my post)
I want to toughen my feet up to be better able to cope with the pavement and rocks. I feel this will be even more important as summer approaches, since the heat from the road will really transfer through the thin Vibrams to the soles of my feet. I was finding this a challenge recently, so when the Fila Skeletoes came up for sale on Woot, I bought a pair.
Let's be clear. There's no comparison. Skeletoes are NOT a Vibram knock-off. They have a thick and rigid sole, and don't feel anything remotely close to barefoot. But they do separate the toes and for the Woot price, I felt it couldn't hurt to try. 2nd best thing I've done for my feet.
I prefer the Vibrams overall as a much better experience, but I can now walk 10 or 11 miles each day with regularity, but am best able to sustain it by splitting my outings between my Vibrams and my Skeletoes. The Vibrams to increase my focus on a more disciplined gait, and then the Skeletoes to give the soles of my feet a break, and eventually toughen up my feet more gradually over time.
My feet feel better for it, and my body (and mind) have improved through my ability to get some good walking time in. I'm now feeling the best I've felt in years, and as by-product, it will help me lose a lot of the excess weight that exacerbates the blown-out disc in my back.
So far, I only wear them when I go out for my walks. I wear normal shoes for my regularly day-to-day outings. That may change, but I'm still at the point where I look down at my own feet and get distracted by how they look. I don't know why I even care, but that's just the way it is. When I see these on my feet, I feel like an extra on the set of Planet of the Apes. But their goofy look is quickly overshadowed by how beneficial they've been for my feet.
But again, consider your feet. They aren't for everyone. And if you can, try some on first before committing to a pair.
So that's my story.
I hope anyone looking for experiences with Vibrams will find this at least a little bit helpful.
(BTW: My Vibram Speed model cost me $127 at the time or purchase. If they ever come up on Woot at the deals they tend to offer, I'm all over that one. That model is serving me very, very well.)