2

votes

Playing Sports Barefoot and/or in Minimalist Footwear

Answered on May 14, 2018
Created February 10, 2011 at 2:03 AM

I started running barefoot and in my vibrams last summer. I didn't play sports much - just tennis a few times. It was very weird playing barefoot and in my vibrams although If i did it over and over again I may have gotten used to it.

What do you guys recommend for barefoot runners who wish to play a pick up game of basketball or play tennis for about an hour? Should one wear vibrams or wear regular shoes?

B6400137b7a50279de74a24a2e08ae7f

(225)

on November 21, 2012
at 07:09 AM

this was exactly the n=1 experiment & analysis I was looking for Nathaniel. I was thinking of getting the vibram komodosport (on sale for $70) but after someone landed on my KSOs I started panicking a bit about the toes. The comments are also an unnecessary subconscious bother.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on July 25, 2011
at 01:59 AM

Im incline to agree with Erik too, I'm also a competitive tennis player and have been going back and forth between my proper tennis shoes and some chuck taylor low tops. I'm thinking I like the chucks better.

D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

(1170)

on February 11, 2011
at 07:48 PM

Ankle injuries are most likely due to supportive shoes. Shoes reduce proprioceptive feedback from foot to brain that normally facilitates quick instinctive autocorrections, and they increase the leverage arm (you're essentially balancing on an inch or two of rubber).

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on February 10, 2011
at 06:39 PM

I beg to differ, I do it multiple times a week in ultimate.. You shift your body and push off a different plane instead of trying to redirect your body using the ankles/knees alone. Better balance, stability and less injury.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on February 10, 2011
at 06:29 PM

Grass is slippery, have you ever played on it? There is no way you could turn quickly enough without shoes. I agree, tennis should not be played barefoot.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on February 10, 2011
at 05:10 PM

I play ultimate barefoot or KSOs multiple times a week.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on February 10, 2011
at 01:48 PM

Perhaps on a grass court maybe, hard court no way.

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11 Answers

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2
03281912f1cb9e4e771a8a83af302e3a

(1204)

on February 10, 2011
at 04:51 AM

Kids all over the world play team sport barefoot. I think the field is even though when you factor in everyone playing is barefoot as well.

I nearly broke a toe playing ultimate frisbee when I was younger because I was barefoot, but the guy who I accidently kicked was not. Would I do it again? Hell yeah!

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on February 10, 2011
at 05:10 PM

I play ultimate barefoot or KSOs multiple times a week.

3
D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

on February 10, 2011
at 07:05 AM

I did well and felt good playing basketball in my Vibram KSOs, but they really take a beating. Now the things are practically falling apart (seams busting, toes exposed) after just six or seven hours of full court basketball. It was an expensive habit.

I've moved onto a pair of old wrestling shoes I found in my garage - totally flat, no heel, no artificial ankle support (none needed) unless you lace 'em up all the way. Mine look like this:

playing-sports-barefoot-and/or-in-minimalist-footwear

I only lace up the bottom part and let the ankle portion flap around loose. It works well.

If you can't find wrestling shoes, I'd recommend a barefoot alternative running shoe with no heel drop. Both Merrell and New Balance are coming out with new lines of minimalist trail runners that should work well. You'll be low to the ground and stable, and the shoe will stand up to the lateral movement better than Vibrams.

2
Cb51d45e03a6ab6b78f89c2bdf466fd0

on July 06, 2012
at 07:06 PM

Sorry this is long, but I have a lot to say and I think it will be worth the read for those really looking into a minimalist basketball shoe.

I played basketball twice a week in VFF for a year and a half. I struggled with blisters on the ball of my foot and big toe the entire time even when using toe socks with the VFFs. You'd think that would have stopped me, but I loved the liberating feeling and using them has cured my chronically bad ankle. My ankle was so bad in fact that even with an ankle brace and high top shoes I would actually dislocate it and have to pop it back into place at least once a month while playing. Doctors all suggested surgery. No way. After switching to vibrams and using Dick Hartzell "Don't ice that Ankle Sprain" approach to preventing sprained ankles, I haven't rolled my ankle since. Needless to say, I firmly believe now that the modern basketball shoe and the R.I.C.E. treatment cause and worsen ankle injuries.

Anyway, when you walk onto a court wearing vibrams, everyone feels a need to comment and give you advice not to wear them. The most common comments are that: 1) you'll roll your ankle. 2) you'll destroy your arches. 3) you'll break your toes if someone lands on your foot. 4) you'll get stress fractures on you heel and shins due to the pounding.

I've already spoken to the first comment about ankles. The second comment is disproved by all the barefoot marathon runners. The third is partially a real concern. I've had my foot landed on many times and it does hurt more than if you were wearing a traditional shoe and I did get a bruise on my foot once, but I never had anything broken. The bigger issue is that you instinctively pull your foot out from under the other person's foot which yanks all your toes out of their places and making it very hard to continue playing without having to sit down and reposition your toes. This of course gives everyone plenty of opportunity to make smart remarks about your shoes. The final comment is also partially a real concern. You'll need to build up your foot strength and learn to run and land cat quiet. I did happen to have a couple bad landings and come down hard on my heel a couple times. It hurts, but you learn quickly how to land like a cat.

VFFs don't stand up to basketball very well so, eventually the VFF shoes lost all grip and fell apart and so I went on an extensive search for a replacement. I found the Merrell Bare Access shoe. They are much better than the VFF shoe for basketball and here's why:

-The bottom of the shoe has a basketball shoe like tread giving it much more traction than the VFF.

-It doesn't have the individual toes, which makes you look less ridiculous on the court and eliciting fewer comments. It also prevents the toe repositioning mentioned earlier. At the same time the toe box is very wide and provides ample room for the toes to splay.

-The traditional shoe laces allow a much better fit and have prevented the blisters.

-The shoe has a slight bit more cushion which saves the foot if you land wrong from a jump.

So for anyone looking for a minimalist basketball shoe, I'd suggest the Merrell Bare Access as the way to go.

B6400137b7a50279de74a24a2e08ae7f

(225)

on November 21, 2012
at 07:09 AM

this was exactly the n=1 experiment & analysis I was looking for Nathaniel. I was thinking of getting the vibram komodosport (on sale for $70) but after someone landed on my KSOs I started panicking a bit about the toes. The comments are also an unnecessary subconscious bother.

2
4650b9a0b48f74789e6dc5733a18aafd

on February 10, 2011
at 06:51 AM

If your ultimate goal is to become a better athlete then by all means you can wear the vibrams when playing basketball or tennis. By performing activities out of the normal sagittal plane (forward and backward) and incorporate lateral frontal plane movement you will begin to stress the lower extremity musculature in a different way. This stress will then cause optimal adaptations. By crosstraining and participating in sports other than just running, you will also aid in the acquisition of your "pose" ball of foot strike. Good luck

0
6c6f4e127cea8bf7d684df5c93881b28

on May 14, 2018
at 05:02 PM

I made a video about my experience:

The video does NOT have clips of me playing basketball wearing VFF, because as a *spectator*, there's ZERO noticeable difference in play.

youtu.be/fNZeYnUat7U

Here's the video's description:

My experience playing basketball in Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) barefoot minimalist shoes... model: Men's KSO Evo Cross Training Shoe

❗️Quick Summary❗️

With maximum perception and feather-lite grip, I'd never go back to normal basketball shoes, yet VFFs *durability* fails because as they're cross-trainers, and not constructed for lateral moves, foot jabs & sharp cuts of outdoor basketball courts

I plan to get the Vivo Barefoot Motus Mesh, because the rubber sole wraps above the toe for that durability... this shoe is made for sports courts.

👤Barefoot Basketball Player Profile 👤

I've been using VFF for over 2 years, and Vivo Barefoot for 11 months, helping transform my feet from a completely flat footprint to having a minimal arch

At 6'1-180 lbs, I'm a lean slasher, and aggressive on defense. I normally defend the opponent's best scorer. Currently 31 years of age and still play the same aggressive style when I started as an 18-year-old.

Injuries

Yes, I was also a bit Concernicus the first time playing. But as I eased into my aggressivenes over a few minutes, I realized the VFFs are amazeballs.

Ankle support? ⬌ With regular heavy & bulky basketball shoes, I'd tweak my ankle about once every 10 hours of playing time... not a sprain... just enough of a twist where I'd favor it for about 10 seconds until my body adapted. With the light and tight Vibrams I don't need ankle support. The muscles, tendons, and nerves in my feet to ankles have adapted, strengthened, and become more resilient & flexible where I can perceive and feel for the necessary micro-adjustments. After VFF, regular shoes feel clumsy.

Toe sprains ⬌ What happens for me, because I'm slashing and aggressive, sometimes only the big toe will get caught and bend down a bit too far. I'm assuming this movement could cause an ankle sprain with regular shoes. But because my toes, feet, and ankles have adapted, my body gets itself out of the danger before a serious injury occurs. I'm able to continue playing without a mis-step or the wary caution compared to a twisted ankle from regular shoes.

People Stepping on feet? ⬌ If it's happened, the event wasn't significant enough to register in my memory, so it's a non-factor.

Blisters? ⬌ after playing for an hour on a textured outdoor court, or non-wood indoor court (haven't tried wood yet), I experience rawness underneath the inner part of my big toe. No blisters. Lasts for a day or 2. My legs are far more sore. Low-factor.

👟Shoes 👟

Durability is a major downside. Seams are tearing. Wear-and-tear near the toes...

I've had the shoes for over 2 years of weight-lifting, city-walking, and light hiking, with minimal signs of damage. In the last 4 weeks, 7 days, and 10-15 hours of basketball, they could probably survive 1 more court session.

Watch the video to see the damage: youtu.be/fNZeYnUat7U

🗣Other People 👥

Yes, other players ask me about playing in them.

They mostly ask about the injury topics above. (Thanks for your concerns;)

↗️What's next? ↗️

I plan to get the Vivo Barefoot Motus Mesh, because the rubber sole wraps above the toe for that durability... this shoe is made for sports courts.

0
F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on May 02, 2012
at 09:50 PM

I don't think I would wear them at all, but I definitely wouldn't play basketball in vibrams unless everyone else was wearing them, too.

Not so much a philosophical position as an inordinate fondness for my toes.

0
5df132e68a050f4048162678b9ffb95a

on May 02, 2012
at 09:21 PM

I think Vibrams would fine for tennis...IF they would make one with strategically placed rubber to cover the toes and sides better. Lots of people (including me) drag when serving and groundstroking and the current offering of vibram shoes would have holes in the fabric after one game! I played D1 college tennis and I personally think I would LOVE playing tennis in vibrams. I think I would be MUCH quicker and agile. But at $100 a pair, there is NO WAY I'm gonna test mine out on the court!

0
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on February 10, 2011
at 01:47 PM

I'm cautious with any sport where you cut and spin often. Tennis and basketball are prime examples. A hard surface will destroy your foot barefoot, even with callouses.

I wear a wide toebox zero heel shoe, whether it's Keen or Earth or Vibrams, my feet aren't rocks yet, and we didn't evolve for tennis despite how fun it is.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on February 10, 2011
at 06:39 PM

I beg to differ, I do it multiple times a week in ultimate.. You shift your body and push off a different plane instead of trying to redirect your body using the ankles/knees alone. Better balance, stability and less injury.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on February 10, 2011
at 01:48 PM

Perhaps on a grass court maybe, hard court no way.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on February 10, 2011
at 06:29 PM

Grass is slippery, have you ever played on it? There is no way you could turn quickly enough without shoes. I agree, tennis should not be played barefoot.

-1
6f4c65e04334baff10161a588a0ac851

(-10)

on April 29, 2013
at 10:33 PM

no one has addressed one of the LARGEST causes of ankle sprains in basketball and that is landing on people's feet. It does not always happen, but it does occur and when it does theres nothing to correct it, no matter how well your brain communicates to your foot. Supportive basketball shoes are necessary for basketball.

-1
65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

on May 02, 2012
at 11:32 PM

Playing tennis and basketball barefoot or in minimalist footwear is a terrible idea. I've tried it, and it tore my feet up. The side to side movement, and quick stopping on hard surfaces is pretty rough on the feet, I had terrible blisters.

-1
Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on February 10, 2011
at 06:35 PM

As a competitive tennis player, I would not recommend playing either barefoot or in vibrams. I would be very concerned about injuries. Ankle injuries are very common even when wearing supportive shoes. Also, you can't move quickly and change direction as well. Of course, if you're just playing for fun then that won't be so much of a problem, but injuries would still be a real threat.

D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

(1170)

on February 11, 2011
at 07:48 PM

Ankle injuries are most likely due to supportive shoes. Shoes reduce proprioceptive feedback from foot to brain that normally facilitates quick instinctive autocorrections, and they increase the leverage arm (you're essentially balancing on an inch or two of rubber).

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on July 25, 2011
at 01:59 AM

Im incline to agree with Erik too, I'm also a competitive tennis player and have been going back and forth between my proper tennis shoes and some chuck taylor low tops. I'm thinking I like the chucks better.

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