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I've used 5 Fingers as lightweight hut-wear, and for fording rivers in Iceland. Quite honestly, I can't wear them at all on uneven ground, and stony ground is too painful for words. Fording rivers, they're better than going barefoot, though there is the bonus that feet are likely to get numb with cold part-way across!
(Technically, I shouldn't have used the same footwear for fording rivers AND going into huts. The Icelandic rule is that once footwear has been set onto the ground, it miraculously transforms from indoor to outdoor footwear, and is therefore banned from coming indoors! The 5 Fingers got washed in the rivers and dried before I reached each hut, so no-one was any wiser!)
I own both and used them regularly last year, mainly through summer.
I do prefer the Fivefingers (which I own the sprints), but it took me a good while to get use to the design (regularly wearing them around the house helped), which was the main reason I purchased the Merrell's (impatiences). The Fivefingers feel far more natural to me in terms of being lighter, better fitting, and as though you are actually barefoot, but with just enough protection from the ground. The Merrel's on the other hand just feel like flat plimsolls too me.
I don't struggle using them on any type of terrain really and haven't experienced any injuries, just sore calves initially, which I expected, and soon resides.
I've a pair of Merrell bare-foot shoes and though I like them I think the whole barefoot shoes thing is ridiculous. If you want lightweight shoes that feel like barefoot then just buy a pair of plimsoles, the sort that you once did PE in. The Merrell shoes provide no better grip or durability and cost £70 more. If I hadn't won them there's no way I'd own a pair!
If you're happy with normal road shoes for your running then I'd say to stick with them. Also, despite what the brands say, road shoes are absolutely fine for most off-road stuff. I ran the Yorkshire 3 Peaks at the weekend in normal road shoes and only on the soggy steep bog off Pen-y-Gent did I feel my Innov-8s would have been better.
Regarding barefoot technique, it is something that came fairly naturally to me when I used them. You shorten your stride and this reduces impact by changing where you land on your feet. You might experience tight calves because of the fore-foot landing but nothing some stretching won't sort out.
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Vibram Fivefingers do provide a more natural experience IMO (if you can get use to the design), far more so than plimsolls and the Merell trail gloves I own. As for the issue of grip, I find the Speeds I own (not Sprints!) great off road, which was the main reason I purchased them, as the grip on all the other designs at the time didn't look great to me, but I've no personal experience of using the other designs.
I'd certainly buy another pair of Fivefingers, if I could get another decent deal, but wouldn't buy the Merrell's again. Whilst Plimsolls often fall to bits in no time, they provide the same experience as the Merrell's, and can be picked up for next to nowt. Plus, as they seem to be fashionable at the moment, there seems to be some variation on the design and grip, rather than them all being smooth soled.
Cool. Will have to try a Primark pair then, as I've never owned a pair that's lasted very long at all. I basically gave up on em when my last pair fell to bits on the 2nd day of a 3 day hike!
I use to get my walking underwear and all my work t-shirts from Primark up until about 2 years ago when they suddenly stopped stocking the underwear (which were brill), and the t-shirts became ruined after just one wash (when they last ages before)! Will defo try the plimsoles out though.
It’s not all hill walking and Kendal mint cake
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