I Never Thought I’d Work Out in Vibram’s Barefoot-Style Toe Shoes — Here’s How It Feels

Vibram Gold's Gym V-Train
Walking lunges in the Vibram x Gold's Gym V-Train.
Peter Verry

I’ll admit, I was weirded out the first time I saw sneakers with homes for each of your individual toes. And honestly, I never thought I’d try on a pair.

But when Vibram, the brand that popularized the articulated toe shoe look, teamed up with Gold’s Gym to make a training shoe, I was a bit intrigued. Gold’s Gym has a legendary reputation in the fitness space, and if it’s putting its seal of approval on a shoe, there has to be a benefit to wearing them.

To see how the shoe, dubbed the V-Train, performed in the gym, Vibram brand ambassador and fitness expert Sean Garner wrote a workout for me. Here’s what the trainer had planned:

  • Deadlift: 7 sets of 3 reps (rest approximately 90-120 seconds between sets)
  • Single-Leg Deadlifts: 3 sets or 8 reps on each leg. Superset with Goblet Squats: 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Walking Lunge: 3 sets of 8 reps on each leg
  • Slide Board Hamstring Curls: 3 sets of 15 reps

“My favorite thing to do in my FiveFingers are deadlifts,” Garner explained via email with the workout. “It allows me to feel the floor as I drive through my heels. [I also like] any unilateral lower-body exercises, as the minimalist shoe allows greater demand for increased stability.”

Vibram Gold's Gym V-Train Doing deadlifts using a hex trap bar in the Vibram x Gold’s Gym V-Train. Peter Verry

After doing deadlifts in the V-Train, I can see why Garner was fond of doing them in these shoes.

During a deadlift, you really feel your heels push into the ground, and your toes grip the floor in a way that you don’t feel nearly as much in regular training sneakers. It’s the closest I’ve felt to doing the exercise without shoes, in just socks.

That feeling of having your heels screwed into the floor was also present during Garner’s workout when performing goblet squats.

Aside from deadlifts, I also enjoyed doing lunges in the shoes. When going through the lunge motion, you really feel your toes flex naturally and grip the floor, as if you were barefoot. This is definitely and advantage the V-Train has over standard training sneakers. The lack of excess material and stripped-down composition of the shoe also allowed for walking with a normal stride; I had no instances of imbalance, and I was able to focus on my form.

Vibram Gold's Gym V-Train Goblet squats in the Vibram x Gold’s Gym V-Train. Peter Verry

If you plan to buy these shoes, it’s important to find your proper size. Given its minimal execution to provide a barefoot experience, a size too large will allow your foot to move around, which could throw off your form. I also would recommend taking a long walk in them ahead of your first workout. I’ve tried tons of training shoes, all offering different experiences, and the V-Train fit and feel is unlike anything I’ve worn before. They take some getting used to.

Gold's Gym x Vibram FiveFingers V-Train

Vibram x Gold’s Gym V-Train (Men’s), $120; zappos.com
Vibram x Gold’s Gym V-Train (Women’s), $120; zappos.com

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