For anybody that owns a pair of VFF’s, discovering that you have inadvertently damaged these expensive but wonderful pieces of footwear is a frustrating and excruciating experience. I honestly believe they are well crafted shoes, but I think our enthusiasm for wearing them and the inevitable desire to roam about the countryside in them sets up an eventual date with disaster.

For me, it happened sometime during a weekend of hiking, batting practice, and a 5k race. I wasn’t immediately sure what caused the tear, but after finishing my 5k I looked down and was shocked to see one of my Vibram Five Fingers had a tear in it.

vff-tear

Small tear in my Vibram Five Fingers.

I felt like a pet owner who accidentally stepped on their pet cat’s or dog’s tail. The rush of guilt and distress was immediate. I didn’t mean to cause this damage, and I hoped it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

But, I was resolved to figure out the best way to repair my VFF KSO’s and restore them to their former glory. My options were to try and get them replaced via warranty from the manufacturer or repair them on my own.

Vibram has a pretty forgiving warranty policy, but considering I have been banging these shoes around for almost six months it was my responsibility to fix this.

I contacted one of the best experts on Vibram Five Fingers that I know, Justin fromBirthdayShoes.com, and asked him what he thought my options were. They came down to applying a patch, sewing it up, or using Shoe Goo, depending on the location and type of tear in the shoe. If the tear was in the middle of the fabric or along a seam, sewing or patching would be the optimal solution. The fabric on mine tore away from the rubber toe guard on my big toe, so Shoe Goo was the path I would take.

(I later determined that the cause of the fabric tear/separation was from the longer toe nails on my big toe. Because I suffer from in-grown toe nails, I usually let them grow out somewhat so they are easier to trim down deep.)

vff-repair-shoe-goo

Black Shoe Goo matches the color of my VFF’s

Shoe Goo is a kind of glue and sealing agent that is commonly used to repair the soles or fabric on shoes. I bought some black Shoe Goo from a local sports equipment store for about six dollars.

This isn’t too bad of a price, but I didn’t use very much so if you can borrow some from a friend I’d go for it. Other than that, the only other tools I needed were some paper towels or tissue, and some tooth picks.

Vibram Five Fingers Repair

First, make sure there isn’t any loose dirt or debris near the repair site. After ensuring that the fabric is dry, next you will probably want to stuff some tissue or paper towels into the toe slot. This will help make sure the fabric is lined up with the rubber in the right spot. Finally, bust open that Shoe Goo and use a tooth pick to extrude some of the glue out onto the repair site.

The Goo is pretty viscous, so you don’t have to worry about it dripping or running. It holds its shape well enough so that you can pull some of the Goo out on to the tear and position it appropriately. After you have applied enough Shoe Goo to ensure coverage over the tear and the rubber, use a tooth pick to smear the Goo and and make sure it fills in completely.

vff-repair-tear

Shoe Goo applied evenly over the tear and surrounding fabric.

You will want to wait a few days for the Shoe Goo to completely bond and seal before taking your Vibram Five Fingers out for some action.

With this kind of damage, it’s hard to say how permanent the fix will be. But, if the Shoe Goo keeps the tear from getting bigger, you can always apply more in the future to keep the rip in check.

Good luck with all of your own repair attempts. Just be patient and examine all of your options before trying anything.

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17 Responses to Repairing a Tear in Vibram Five Fingers

  1. @tarynrom says:

    First off, losing a loved one is hard, obviously. I feel your pain bro, that was my day yesterday, except unfixable. :[

    But let it be known, the lesson learned is to trim your nails! :] lol.

    Good post though, good to know for future reference just incase my new loves are damaged somehow.

    And you’re right, you said some very true things:

    “but I think our enthusiasm for wearing them and the inevitable desire to roam about the countryside in them sets up an eventual date with disaster.”

    - such enthusiasm, very true. You and I wouldn’t have written posts like this if it wasn’t for said enthusiasm :)

    and

    “my otherwise immaculate Vibram Five Fingers.”

    - immaculate, great word to describe them.

    Hope the invisible stitches on your little VFF heal well! Get better little VFF! It’s like he has a limp now. He’ll be 100% soon enough!
    .-= @tarynrom´s last blog ..Losing A Loved One – A #VFF Story =-.

  2. David Csonka says:

    Yeah, I’ve been putting off getting the permanent procedure for my in-grown toe nails, and now I’m kicking myself for not taking care of it sooner. Oh well, perhaps sharing our pain can help other people avoid disfiguring their VFF’s? Small comfort – heheh :D

    On the plus side, I discovered I really like running in huaraches, so I might be able to spare my VFF’s the extra wear and tear from doing 5k’s in them.

  3. Justin says:

    If you can write an article on removing the smell I’m all ears. I’ve tried laundry detergent (in the washer and with a tooth brush), Febreeze, the freezer (supposed to kill the bacteria), and today I tried a soak in the pool (chlorine is supposed to kill the bacteria). The smell continues to persist. I’ve taken to scrubbing my feet before and after wearing them, but nothing seems to be working. The good thing is that the smell doesn’t bother my fiancée until I take them off, so I only have to scrub my feet if I’m done wearing them.

  4. David Csonka says:

    Hey Justin, here are some links to the Minimalist Google Group with some solutions people have shared. I think one of the most interesting ones is to use denture cleaning tablets, lol.

    Miracle Solution
    http://groups.google.com/group/huaraches/browse_thread/thread/199ba507883166d6/789ff6f7e77d1629

    How to de-stink VFFs
    http://groups.google.com/group/huaraches/browse_thread/thread/c2da05534a51b58c/f768df74f2a79573

    smelly VFF
    http://groups.google.com/group/huaraches/browse_thread/thread/164b6adebc648008/8072b58a6a69b90b

  5. Justin says:

    Thanks, man. I haven’t thought to use baking soda yet.

  6. ilja says:

    Good to know mate, I fixed a pair of Classics by knitting the seam and a hole in the tissue of my Kso’s big toe, they still last.

  7. Raychel says:

    To Justin,
    I have tried just about everything with my VFF’s. Denture cleaners worked for the smell but the left over residue ate my foot. I was determined to find away to make it work and eventually decided to put them in the wash with detergent on the hottest water (not recommended) but my shoes came out just fine and the smell is fully gone. I have washed them about 15 times in the same way and they seem to be holding up. Hope this helps you.
    Raychel

  8. David Csonka says:

    I’ve been recently just spraying them down with Lysol after my workouts. It seems to do a good job of killing the bacteria, as I can keep them in the house now.

  9. scape says:

    I think this is an actual flaw in the shoe’s design. I have KSO’s and I received a tear in the exact same place, the exception to you is that I barely wore mine in (maybe a month?). I personally think the bigtoe-guard should go further up the toe, this would prevent the tear I believe. This may also be due to the slightly awkward sizing of our feet, I had a 43, 42 was just too small an scrunched my toes but 43 is like a hair too big; all it takes is for the big toe to get snagged along the ground while the foot is coming back up during a walk/run.
    Either way, I’m getting mine replaced via warranty, I miss wearing them and didn’t want them to tear further! I’m tempted to go a size smaller (42) just to see if they will loosen up and fit more snugly.

  10. David Csonka says:

    @Scape – The tear on mine actually reopened recently, and I had to apply even more Shoe Goo to close it back up. I agree, an expanded toe guard area for the big toe would probably help.

  11. Jason says:

    I dread the day where my precious Vibrams get a tear. I know this is going to come in handy. Thanks for taking the time out to do the demo.

  12. Deutschland says:

    Nice shoes
    I bought these shoes for my wife and I for running and other outdoor activities because I naturally run up on my forefoot and I hate wearing shoes with all the extra padding that only adds bulk. We have had them for several months now and I no longer get shin splints when I run and find that I like walking around barefoot (real barefoot) much more now.

  13. John T. says:

    I got a tear along the inside of the big toe on my left shoe. Far from the rubber area. I think a rock must’ve gotten in there and did a good job of weakening the material, then just using them did the rest of the job. I plan on repairing the tear using black silk thread. About the same cost per spool as your tube of goo, but I’ll likely get lots more eventual uses from the thread than the goo. I will let you know how durable it winds up being.

  14. John T. says:

    Finished the repair. Turns out there were two holes and an oncoming separation from the rubber about to start. You WILL need a really good thimble, like an open topped tailor’s thimble to work with the heavy fabric, unless you like damaged fingers. I also used the thread to sew the fabric back onto the rubber! It’s on the inside and not going to see much wear and tear from the road so it ought to last a good while. Trying to use the needle through the rubber without a thimble is insane, but with one, it’s as easy as pie!

    • David Csonka says:

      Pretty cool, John. I’m glad your repair worked out, it can be tricky. Another thing you could try is using a spare bit of fabric and use fabric glue to seal the entire area with a patch. I did this on both big toe pockets for my KSO’s, and I’ve found it has an additional benefit of providing protection for the tops of my toes.

  15. John T. says:

    As to smell, washing does the trick, but between washings I use odor eaters foot powder. Works instantly! and without heavy perfume. Wait for the shoes to completely dry before putting in powder as it will get paste-like otherwise. A little goes a long way, but the canister puts out a LOT if you give it any chance at all. If overdone and then exposed to lots of moisture it will crust up, but toss in the wash and all’s well again. One canister lasts months and is about six bucks, but worth every penny!

  16. Sally says:

    baking soda! it cuts the five-finger stink like no other!! just shake a bit before wearing them each time and there is absolutely no smell. I have sweaty feet, and without socks, these shoes took the brunt of it and ended up smelling like moldy cheese after a week, even with weekly washes.