Running on a Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

Have you ever packed your bag and arrived at the gym only to be missing something? I have found myself in this situation a few times. Usually it’s been a forgotten water bottle, or a lock for a gym locker. However, one time the item I forgot was pretty important – my shoes. That day I ended up running on a treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers.

This experienced lended an interesting result. I could share first hand what it’s like to run on a treadmill with barefoot running shoes. I also learned how the shoes were impacted including photos I will share below and the best shoes for treadmill.

Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

The Backstory

I had planned on running that day on the treadmill. I had my street shoes but ever since I started running I’ve become pretty particular about footwear. I have running shoes and I only run in them – I don’t take long walks in them or use them while I lift weights.

Let’s rewind to the backstory on I forgot my running shoes. My husband and I had planned on attending a group run that evening after work. It turned out to be a high of only 60 degrees and it was raining all day. We agreed an outdoor run w was not going to be in the cards. I’ve run in the rain before but usually not by choice.

For the outdoor run I had packed a Nike singlet to run in and my Vibram FiveFingers as shoes. At this time I had been running barefoot in the shoes for several months and was used to running outside in Vibram shoes. Because of the rain we ended up at the gym. Before that day, I had never tried running on a treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers.

Related blog posts:
• Is Barefoot Running Dangerous?
• 10-Miler Training Plan for Running a Race
• Vibram FiveFingers Sprint Review Barefoot
• 8K Training Plan Using Hal Higdon 8K

Treadmill Shoes

Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

Vibram FiveFingers Running Shoes

Vibram FiveFingers are barefoot running shoes, also known as 5 toe shoes. They were very popular when they first came out a few years ago. Today they are mostly popular among runners and natural living enthusiasts. The barefoot running obsession has run its course for many.

I haven’t worn my shoes in sometime but I refuse to get rid of them. For a full review on barefoot running shoes, check out my Vibram FiveFingers Sprint Review. The other popular question about these shoes is can you run in them? Yes! I documented my entire barefoot running journey on this blog.

I started running short distances in the shoes and built my way up to running three to four miles at a time. I ran several 5K races in the barefoot shoes including the Lakewood Summer Meltdown 5K and the Anthony Wayne Rotary 5K. For more information on barefoot running check out my dangers of barefoot running post.

Best Treadmill Running Shoes

This brings me back to what happened that day at the gym with treadmill shoes. I ran on a treadmill in VibramFiveFingers. I wasn’t sure if I should run in the toe shoes on a treadmill or what would happen. The conclusion? I think it’s OK to do. I ran three miles around a 12:00/mile pace.

Then during the last mile I picked it up big time, increasing my speed until I was running the last 1/4 mile around 8:30/mile, which is fast for me as I’ve always been a slower runner. Overall, it was the best run I could remember in recent weeks. When I got off the treadmill I immediately looked at my shoes. While they didn’t feel any different, I was concerned about the sole.

Vibram Running Shoes

Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

How Long do Vibram FiveFingers Last?

My concern was over the shoes having a rubber sole and the treadmill having a rubber belt. Would that be a bad combination for treadmill shoes? I noticed right away the tread is worn down on my Five Fingers Vibram. But here’s the catch. I think they were already worn down.

Just like any pair of running shoes, it’s typical to put 300 to 500 miles on a pair of running shoes before they require replacement. It’s normal for the shoe to wear out and the tread to wear down, and they will surely wear down faster with more long runs or frequent running. The Vibram FiveFingers are no different, whether you are running in them outdoors or indoors on a treadmill.

Because the shoes were wet on the bottom when I started running it looked like the treadmill basically cleaned the shoes off. Long-term running on a treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers could wear down the shoes but I don’t think the wear would be any harder than running on pavement.

If you are wondering how to clean Vibrams I have done so by putting them in a bucket of cold water with a mild laundry detergent. Wash by hand if you want to know how to clean Vibrams and then let them air dry completely.

Five Finger Shoes

Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

Barefoot Running

If you don’t have barefoot running shoes, should you run barefoot on a treadmill? Personally, I would advise not to unless it’s your own personal treadmill in your home. When it comes to gym treadmills people are walking in wearing street shoes and you never know what kind of dirt, grime or bacteria could be brought in.

Most good gyms do clean their equipment and treadmill belts periodically but I would not risk it. Running on a treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers is a great alternative for anyone who enjoys barefoot running but wants to protect their feet indoors.

Treadmill Running Shoes

Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers

In Summary

The price of the shoes varies based on which model you select. I’ve paid upwards of $120 for a pair of running shoes before but it’s important for me to take care of my feet, joints and overall health through proper footwear.

Runners have to buy new shoes regularly – minimalist shoes or not. To learn more about barefoot running check out the books Born to Run and Chi Running.

What item have you forgotten to pack for the gym? 

20 thoughts on “Running on a Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers”

  1. Hi, I have been running in five fingers for about 2 1/2 years. I have had the same pair of Treksports FFs for about 1 1/2 to 2 years. Not sure about the mileage on them, probably about 400. I wear them on road and trails. I usually don’t wear in the colder/wetter winter months, as my toes get cold. I rarely ever work out on the treadmill but have noticed when I do that I get more abrasion on feet and calf soreness. I ran yesterday, 4 miles at 7:30 pace and immediately afterward I had calf soreness, some hot spots, and a real sore pinky toe. I never get this unless I am running long >10 miles. I think the action of the treadmill moving, instead of you, causes this increases friction and is actually pulling the shoe back. The shoe must be getting pulled back and hitting my pinky toe, not sure if it has less clearance than other toes or if it is because it is first to make contact during stide.
    Either way, just my two cents. Probably more than two, sorry for rambling.

  2. I have been running in my VFF’s for the past week and a half or so..due to weather, these run’s have all been on the treadmill. I am a beginning runner at best…I played high school sports and have remained relatively active, however I have not focused a workout regime around running. I have set a goal to run in my first 5k this summer. I am hooked for sure!

    But I have a question for all of you…I know that my technique needs work. My process is “if you keep at it, you’ll find a technique that works”…however…during my runs, I have noticed some strain on my achillies.. Could you point me to some technique articles or websites to help?


    • Hi Ben, I have heard to strive for a mid-foot strike to avoid too much pressure on the heel or balls of feet. I pronate so when I run in the VFFs I am especially conscious to turn my legs inward. That’s just me. A good book on barefoot running is “Born to Run.” Enjoy!

  3. I run regularly in my VFFs, about 150 miles this past year (I think?), and the treads are definitely wearing on them a little. I have heard they can last over 1000 miles, basically you can wear them until there’s a hole in them (literally, wear them until you can’t).

    Anyway, I tried a 12:00 mile in my VFFs on the treadmill last night (first time) and what I noticed were that the soles of my feet (big toes, especially) got really HOT. After a mile, I needed a break because my feet were burning. I gave up after that and went on to yoga.

  4. I have been running in my Bikila’s on treadmills for about a little under a month and I love it! I haven’t noticed the treads worn off but mine were smooth when I bought them new. I find that I run better in five toes than regular shoes.

  5. Hey, I never thought twice about using them on treadmills! if i was a barefoot runner then i would run on treadmills barefoot, and like you said, the treads gonna wear one way or another so may as well use them for what you want!

    also, i find it helps me practice my fore foot tecnique and i can work not to push of my toes when on treadmills!

  6. Hey Holly,

    I was wondering if you had any long term update on this matter, and I would also like to know which VFF’s you got.


    • I have not had any trouble using these on a treadmill. They do not sell a “treadmill” pair so my understanding is any of the shoes would work similar on one. Best!

  7. I actually just got a pair because I have knee pain that could possibly be alleviated through changing the way that I run. I’m a treadmill runner because of my knee pain…plus it’s easier to zone out when you don’t have to worry about being hit by a car or pedestrian signals. I’ll keep ya posted as I figure it out for myself 😀

  8. I’m pretty much in the same boat as Lisa. I have VFF, but I’m afraid to run in them (I don’t know what my problem is). Anyways, I read somewhere that a guy claimed his VFF had lasted over 1000 miles. I wonder if you just don’t notice the wear as much as with regular shoes? I also never really thought about using them on a treadmill. I’m sure people do it, though. It seems like they’d be more likely to mention it if something went wrong, so maybe it went well?

  9. let’s see, i don’t like running on treadmills (done it only twice so far this year) and I don’t run in my VFFs, so you aren’t going to get any help from me. heeheheheh

  10. I’ve been dying to try those vibrams for a while, but I have really weak ankles. I rolled them twice a year ago and I’m afraid that there wouldn’t be enough ankle support in them. Beyond that, they look like such a cool shoe!

    • My guess is you would need to incorporate some ankle strength exercises in addition to wearing the shoes to avoid any injury.

      My PT actually said I have really tight ankles and taught me how to stretch better. I think that has helped me as well 🙂


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