Review – Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon v’s Tough Guy 2013

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon

This is not the full review on my my newly tested Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon. That is to come once the mileage is up.

Meanwhile Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon takes on Tough Guy 2013.

Are they going to stand up to the mark, the mud and the obstacles?

Mike Wiltshire of Primal Lifestyle, Official UK Distributor for Vibram FiveFingers was kind enough to give me a pair of  Spyridon to do a review on them a few days before my Tough Guy 2013 on Sunday 27 January 2013.

Boy, I was so relieved of Mike’s offer. Up to this point I was using the Vibram Fivefinger KSO’s which are just great (see review), but they were not going to be tough enough for Tough Guy. The KSO’s have no tread or lugs to grip with in the thick mud. I would have spent my entire time on my back or eating mud! My backup option was my Vivobarefoot Neo Trails.

So why did I choose the Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon. Having spoken with Mike and tried on a pair at the Outdoor Show in London, this model’s sole was the one that was going to be the closest to being minimalistic yet it had a good tread that was multi directional. The other model they had was the KSO Trek Sport, but this model’s lugs on the sole were too bulky and I was concerned that I was not going to get the minimalistic feel.

Because I had been regularly training with my Vibram Five Finger KSO’s I was not concerned about moving over to the Spyridon at such short notice. My feet just slipped into them like a glove. Just slightly tighter, but I knew they would give a bit. Boy, I was excited.

The pre-race test

I did test out the Vivram’s the next morning. It took them out to the muddiest trails nearby.  I was generally satisfied. Could feel that I had a better grip, but not 100%. Afterwards, the question marks came up. I new I had to make the right decision. Not only to complete the course but more importantly to reduce my risk of injury.

I  started to question if the tread had enough depth in comparison to my New Balance trail shoes. A bit of umming and I was decided. The Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon were my choice. This was the finishing touches to me being race ready!!!

Race day

tough guy logoTough Guys Original 2013 in Perton, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.

3 hour drive and now stuck in traffic and I was concerned that I was going to miss registration. So changed into my kit, and my new Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon whilst driving along in stop n’ start traffic. Having parked in the muddy field I took a short jog in the mud to registration. I felt really confident in the FiveFingers. It was time to say goodbye to the vibrant orange pattern as they began to be camouflaged in lovely clay.

On the start line I was on the lower footing of the hill start. It was muddy and mucky and the race hadn’t even started. I was wondering if I was going to manage it up this first incline or would I end up crawling from lack of grip. Everyone else was in their road or trail trainers except me. Did I care, Absolutely not. I had made the commitment and I was going to see it through.

The quicksand mud

And we are off. Up and over the top and everyone has to slide down the other side and then I am back on my feet and on the trail. Feeling good and ready to get into the thick of it. Feeling really good under feet. I was so confident that I just ploughed through the mud. I felt so secure.  This was a really good starting point. Our first obstacle was leaping over wooden horizontal jumps low and high. Every time I launched, straddled, got a footing it felt that I had good contact. Everytime I hit the ground I was solid.

Everytime I pulled my leg out of the mud. Yes I mean leg, sometimes I was sunken down to my knees my foot came up without any problem. My Vibram’s felt like another layer of skin. The great thing was that my feet felt light. There was no heaviness as the mud slid off. I knew that I wasn’t not going to be one of those contenders digging down to try and find my shoe, that had been taken hostage by quicksand mud. Every time my foot came clean out of the mud.

The plunging waters

Then it was time for the mud water trenches. They were from waist height to chest. Minus 10 degrees and frigid. Filled with mud, water, roots, branches and rubble. Steep mud banks that you just had to slide down. In the water, wade across, and out up another steep bank, and then round the bend, and into the next trench. About 10 in all. I was so confident, that I just passed by the next and then the next competitor. The trenches didn’t take me hostage and neither my shoes!

Once again my feet still felt light. Water immediately drained off as if I hadn’t even got them wet. I was able to whizz by others who were struggling to find their kidnapped shoe or trying to get it back on.

The Curious

I was getting a lot of interest in my Vibrams by other competitors  “I’ve been following your shoes” one said. Others just curious to know what they are like. With all the other competitors that I chased down I in fact only saw one other wearing Vibram FiveFingers. All I thought was that they don’t know what they are missing!

Spartan Race Obstacle

This photo isn’t  me. Didn’t have my official photographer with me so no photo of me in action 🙂

The Almighty Obstacles

In the final 2 miles onto the big obstacles. Every step the way, up, down, over, under, crawl and pull I felt in control. Even on the wet wooden cross beams, balance boards and the scramble nets I had no problems. In particular it is worth noting that with the frigid minus 10 degree waters and hailing wind every movement had to be meticulous. Every step had to be precise. There was no room for bad judgement or error. The risks of injury were high. You had to be 100% committed and confident. Mentally I was, and so was I under foot!

Even the final water obstacle at the end of the race cleaned off my legs and of course the Vibram Fivefinger’s. Even the orange pattern was peaking back through as my feet were were rescued from the mud pits.

The clean up

Back home it took 3 washes in the washing machine in hand wash mode to get my shoes and kit clean using Method Washing Detergent. Normally I handwash my shoes using Ecover Delicate Washing Liquid, but I knew that I had to do a bit more to get the impregnated mud out of my kit. And once again they were beaming orange. No damage at all to the uppers and barely a wear mark to the soles. No tears, no chunks missing.

The Result

Tough Guy 0 Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon 1

Quality 10/10

Comfort 10/10

Fit 10/10 – just like a glove

Durability 10/10 so far.

To be continued…

I will follow this review up in due course with a fuller version once I have done some really proper mileage.

Do let me know how you have been getting on with your Vibram’s!

Product Specification

Vibram’s  first trail running–specific models, the Spyridon and Spyridon LS provide the perfect balance of “foot feel” and protection on rugged surfaces. A minimalist Vibram® rubber sole with an aggressive tread design provides sure-footed grip in all directions and impact protection from stones and debris, while better allowing proper minimalism dynamics. Naturally breathable upper with an adjustable hook-and-loop closure ensures a secure fit.

  • 3.55mm Vibram TC1 Performance Rubber Outsole – offers excellent grip, traction and protection for all cross training activities
  • Coconut Active Carbon Upper – Superbly breathable upper, allows also for great reflexivity, offering a complete barefoot experience.
  • Moulded Mesh Midsole – Provides a protective element to your minimalist shoe, essential for the tough terrain.

To buy click here.

2016 Update

That was then this is now and I now wear Inov-8 3mm heal to toe drop clawed shoes which are second to none for grip and control.  Ground awareness is not quite the same but with minimal soles very good considering. I only now wear Five Finger KSO’s when I want to do barefoot work and I can’t be barefoot i.e. cold weather.

13 thoughts on “Review – Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon v’s Tough Guy 2013

  1. I just picked up a pair of the Spyridon LS. Have you tried these? I’m torn between the LS or the regular. Also, I have been reading reviews that the tops of shoes start to wear pretty quickly and the “cool” pain designs don’t hold up. Any feedback on that? Thanks for the blog post. It was very helpful!

    • I haven’t tested the Spyridon LS. The reason why I chose the regular was that there are no laces. Therefore the top is elasticated and snug and I do not have to worry about loosening of laces. I use them for obstacle race training so can’t afford for them to come undone or get sucked off in the mud.

      The soles look the same. They are awesome. I have noticed that a small patch of the pattern of the ‘cool’ pain design is starting to deteriorate. But to be honest that is nothing to worry about as the performance out weighs the look. I reacon that washing them in the machine even at 30 degrees is responsible for the deterioration. So I recommend going with hand washing using ecover

  2. I have been running in Spyridons since January and it has changed my running life forever in my view. My ankles, calves and achilles are stronger, my peroneal muscles/tendons (which caused constant problems from scar tissue) have become more defined and the pain has disappeared.

    My only one problem is blisters caused by the seam that runs across the bottom of the big toe inside the shoe. Defies logic as to why it was designed that way. Poor manufacturing.

    In my experiance the grip is good to go on all surfaces. I have also found my feet occasionally slip inside the shoe once sweat forms when on sharp turns or when running around cones.

    Despite this I highly recommend the spyridon!

    • Hi Tristan

      My feet similarly have never bean so strong, flexible and developed.

      I have to say I haven’t noticed any rubbing on seams or inside slip. Are they good size fitting overall?

  3. Cheers for your comment michael,

    The vibrams fit very well, and I should of mentioned that my feet only slip inside the should when running on a concrete surface weaving through cones, which they aren’t exactly designed for, as the grip is for trail surfaces which have a bit more give under the foot.

    As for the blisters, I just ran 15kms in them and found that putting a bit of tape on the feet negates this problem.

  4. Hey Michael,

    I’m trying to decide between the KSO’s and the Spyridons at the moment. You confirmed my concerns about the KSO’s not having enough grip in the mud. I tried the 42’s and they felt really snug then the 43’s and those also felt snug. I tried the 44’s, but those were definitely too big. I’m not sure how much they give once they’ve broken in.

    I get my question is how tight should i be looking to have these shoes before and after the break in?

    Thanks again Mike,


    • For correct fitting visit Vibram Fivefingers.

      Just to say that in my experience both hold their shape and sizing. There is a little more give with the upper material of the KSO’s whereas the Spyridon is a more sturdier material. But even in the case of KSO’s the material’s memory is good so they do not loose they sock like/snug feel.

  5. Michael – I currently run in KSOs. I did the Eliminator Marathon in them last year and they were fantastic except they were rubbish on rocky ground. There were sections of the course that were on 30 -40mm sharp stones and it was pretty painful. I’m booked in for the Tough Nuts 28k and apparently the streams are filled with fist sized rocks. Do you think the Spyridon would be able to cope with that? Do they have a bit more protection from the sharp and jagged stuff?

    • Hi Tom

      I did Tough Guy winter in them and they were good. But I have to say that I was not aware of OCR shoes then. Now I wear Inov-8 Xtalon 200 3mm drop and I wouldn’t race in anything else if you want great contact and speed. With Spyridons you will always be looking out for grip and contact issues so it depends on what time of experience you are after.

  6. Hi Michael – I just wanted to write to say thanks. I did the Tough Nuts 28k on Sunday (4th Sept). I was umming and arring about wearing the vibrams and had been thinking about buying some inov 8s. Then two days before the race I remembered posting the question to you above, but had not yet read the reply. Your reply sort of made my mind up for me and I went out and bought some X talon 212s. They are 6mm drop, but I couldn’t find any 200s in the rush I was in on Saturday. I’m so glad I got them though – the grip was amazing – if I’d have gone in the vibrams I would have spent the whole day on my arse, and probably not finished the 4 laps. They are such a nice compromise between feeling really minimal, but also you can jump 4ft straight down onto a rocky stream bed without any worry of your feet getting smashed. If anyone else out there is a bare footer and thinking of doing the Tough Nuts in Vibrams, don’t! Keep the Vibrams for training but buy some Inov 8s for the day!. Thanks again!

  7. I’m mightily pleased to have come across this article. I’ve been running in Five Fingers for most of this year, but still resorting to my good ol’ Salomon trail shoes for obstacle racing….until the dog ate them on Sunday! I have a Tough Mudder in 3 weeks and have just bitten the bullet and ordered myself some Spyridon but I won’t have much time to try them out before race day. Thank you! You’ve given me confidence that it will all be ok 🙂

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