Vibram Five Fingers Ultra Repair

13 06 2012

They are not supposed to do that!

So far Vibram Five Fingers are the best kiteboarding footwear I have found. They protect my feet well and give me decent board feel so I can enjoy my time on the water.Trouble is the fabric between the toes is weak and gets abraded by rocks when you walk down the beach. It doesn’t take long to put a hole in this critical area of the slipper and once you get rocks inside them they hurt like hell. I’ve sewn them closed a few times, but it seems to happen again pretty quickly and I was running out of material to try and sew back together. I was ready to give up on this pair and simply buy another, but my low cash flow situation motivated me to try one last effort at a longer term repair. Since the rest of the slipper still has years of life left in them it seemed worth another shot.

Step one sew the holes shut as best I can…

With all the previous repairs there is not much fabric left between the toes that is still attached to the rubber sole. I find just enough to sew the holes shut, but I know this will tear again in a few hours if not reinforced.

Shoe Goo to the rescue!

I then coated the whole inner toe area with Shoe Goo. This will reinforce the fabric and the stitching. I made sure it overlapped the rubber sole to give it maximum strength.

Drying one toe at a time…

Then I let each toe I repaired dry before tackling the next one. This prevented the Shoe Goo from gluing them all into one unit.

My Vibram Five Finger KSO’s back in action…

Here is the finished product ready to ride. It’s not pretty, but my toes say inside and the rocks stay outside. I’m not sure how long the repair will hold. It seem pretty solid so far. Since I was about ready to discard these slippers if I get another summer or another year of use out of them that’s great.

Not pretty, but the repair is holding – so far!

If this works reasonably well I may even proactively coat the fabric between the toes with some Shoe Goo [perhaps a thinner layer] to protect them from getting damaged in the first place.

Sharon loving her Five Fingers…

I may be sounding like a broken record on this front, but if anyone from Vibram reads this here is what we need for a perfect watersports version of the Five Finger:

  • thinner sole [most of our time is spent standing on a board so feeling where our feet are is more important than a thick sole for durability]
  • area between toes needs to be more durable [ this is the weak spot] currently the sole of a KSO will last 4yrs+ of kiteboarding use, but the fabric between the toes will only last a few months. Not good.
  • a tall version of the Five Fingers made out of neoprene for cold water riding would be sweet. At the present I have to switch to surf booties in the winter when my Five Fingers are not longer warm enough
  • Neoprene Flow slippers have a problem. The fabric is thick, but the exterior dimensions of the slipper are the same as the thinner KSO fabric. That means the space inside the toe box is less on the Flow. Since the rubber part of the slipper doesn’t give the big toe is forced to bulge out along fabric the seam. As the skin softens from hours in the water you get hurt/cut from the inside of the booties which makes them unsuitable for a lot of people like me! The space in the toe box needs to be the same across the model range and account for the Flow’s thicker fabric. If we buy a bigger size the slipper is too long to fit properly so that’s not a useful approach. Besides we don’t need a low cut insulated slipper anyways since if it’s cold we need to connect with a wetsuit leg to stay warm.

Here is a reminder of why I bother with booties kiteboarding…


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2 responses

13 06 2012
John White

After the last post you made about the VFF’s, I emailed one of their customer service people about your suggestions and a link here. She was friendly and helpful, but said they didn’t think there was enough of a market to have a water-proof, neoprene, or water-sport specific shoe. Oh well.

I think you’re doing an amazing job of keeping those KSO’s together!

13 06 2012
thelazyrando

@John – she may well be right. I don’t have any marketing numbers, but there are quite a few companies making surf booties that seem to be selling well.

I don’t really have much choice on the KSO front. I gotta get at least 2 years of service from them to make them worth buying.

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