By the dealnews staff Barefoot running is currently one of the most talked-about fitness trends, at the forefront of which is Vibram and its ubiquitous FiveFingers shoes. Known for their unique design of cutouts for each toe, the shoes purportedly promote a more natural style of running as they re-teach athletes to land on their forefoot rather than their heel. We say "re-teach" because many of today's sneakers have cushioned heels that encourage runners to strike with their heel, which increases the chances of injury. There are currently 13 styles of Vibram shoes designed for everyone from hikers to runners. We've posted various deals on Vibram shoes with prices on select styles starting as low $30 — an all-time low that we saw three weeks ago for women's styles. With the holidays fast approaching, we wanted to see whether these shoes lived up to their hype and if they make for an ideal gift for your fitness-oriented friends and family. So we had Vibram send us four different pairs of its shoes to test out. Below is a summary of what we found. Tyler Thacker Mileage: Walking and Hiking Shoe: Vibram Men's FiveFingers Sprint Current Low Price: $49.96 with free shipping Lowest We've Seen: Current lowest price I love my Vibrams. They are by far the goofiest-looking shoes I've ever had, but also one of my favorites. Since I started wearing them, I've noticed that I walk and run differently. I spend more time on the balls of my feet rather than my heels, so my legs are rediscovering new muscles they had forgotten about. It took a few weeks of wearing them before I even wanted to attempt some running/jogging, as I had heard horror stories about rushing it, so I didn't want to try. I love being barefoot so these shoes have allowed me to keep that feeling all the time, which is pretty cool. I've actually started to prefer wearing them to being barefoot because of the snug feeling in my toes. If you like being barefoot I can't recommend them enough. The biggest downside: the smell. For the first couple of weeks my Vibrams didn't smell ... until I started wearing them regularly. Fortunately, the Vibrams can be cleaned with a simple wash in a standard washing machine. On average, I can wear them about three times before washing them. Pros: Look totally goofy and drive my wife crazy, snug comfortable feeling that's better than being barefoot, machine washable, very durable, improved walking posture Cons: Start to stink after a few weeks, putting them on the first time takes 20 minutes because your pinky toe doesn't want to cooperate Mark LoCastro Mileage: 2-3 miles per week Shoe: Vibram Men's FiveFingers KSO Current Low Price: $57.99 with free shipping Lowest We've Seen: Current lowest price I was excited to try Vibram's FiveFingers shoes for quite some time. After my first trial run, I was impressed. Some muscles in my legs, presumably that I've never used before, were sore the next day. This was a good sign to me. However, the Vibrams require some breaking in and as a result, I got a few blisters, but overall not bad. I never enjoyed running in the past because I would get painful shin splints. I feel that the Vibrams have eradicated that issue for me. I now run outside and on a treadmill at the gym, pain-free. The Vibrams certainly help me avoid heel-to-toe running, making for a better workout. Also for weight-training, I've noticed that the Vibrams provide me with a lower center of gravity (I'm 6'1"). Next, I plan on using my Vibrams for beach-related activities. Pros: Lightweight, helps me run on my toes, provides a low center of gravity, eliminates shin splints Cons: Blistered toes after first use, shoes need to be broken in Chuck Phillips Milage: 3 miles per week Shoe: Vibram Men's FiveFingers KSO Current Low Price: $57.99 with free shipping Lowest We've Seen: Current lowest price I'll start off by saying I really like these shoes, but not for running. It might be because I don't have great running fundamentals to begin with, but the shoes rubbed blisters on my feet. I'd try them for a few short runs once a week, then I'd have to swap back to regular running shoes the next. However, I could really notice the difference in the muscle groups used while running in the Vibrams. The fact that there's little to no padding in the shoes forces you to take smaller strides and cushion your steps by bending your knees more, thus working your quads. Believe me, I paid for it after the first test run. Overall, I think that with a little more padding in the soles, coupled with a pair of thin socks, I'd use Vibrams as a change of pace from running in my normal shoes. For me, the shoes really stood out while at the beach. They were so versatile! Since the condo where I tested them was about 100 yards of straight asphalt to the beach, it made the walk over easy — no burning feet! Plus, I didn't have to take them off when I got there. They were equally impressive in the sand. These are definitely a must in the vacation department. Pros: Snug fit, lightweight, versatile, breathable, awesome in sand Cons: Caused blisters while running, not enough padding in the soles, could use thinner material between the pinky toes for a more comfortable fit. Louis Ramirez Mileage: 10 miles per week Shoe: Vibram Men's FiveFingers Bikila Current Low Price: $69.95 with free shipping Lowest We've Seen: $39.99 with $6 s&h I decided to break in my Vibrams with a 30-minute indoor run on the treadmill. The first five minutes were odd in that it really felt like I was barefoot. I also became self conscious about how loud I was running. Every time my foot hit the treadmill (I'm a flat-footed heel striker) it sounded like someone was punching the treadmill. There was no soreness or bruising after my initial run, so the following week I took my Vibrams out into the streets of New York for a 6-miler along the West Side Highway, which runs the gamut from pavement, to boardwalk, to dirt road, and cobblestone. The boardwalk was the softest on my feet. Everything else was, to be brutally honest, painful. Without the cushioning of my New Balance 940s, it felt like my naked heel was grinding the pavement with every step I made, and I could feel each heel-strike course through my body. (I wouldn't recommend running on cobblestones, by the way, as it's easy for a toe to catch on one of the cracks between stones.) By the time I finished, the strap had chaffed my right foot pretty badly, to the point where I bled through the upper mesh of the shoe. I also had three blisters on my right foot — one forming above my heel, one on the side of my pinky toe, and one below my big toe. My left foot fared better, but it wasn't completely unscathed as I had a few light bruises and redness on the part of my foot below the strap. The next few days my legs were noticeably sore, in particular my calves and quads. Subsequent runs were still painful, but after a month of gradual training, I noticed my stride had changed. I became more aware of my posture and without really trying, I started landing on my forefoot instead of my heel. The Vibrams encourage you to run with proper form, and for that reason, I'd recommend them in a heartbeat — if you're a frequent runner whose willing to patiently break them in, that is. Pros: Extremely lightweight, machine washable, trains you to run correctly Cons: Not good on all surfaces, strap can cause skin/foot irritation, shoes can cause blisters Survey Says... Give 'em a try! But here are a few things to keep in mind before making your purchase. First, make sure to measure each foot correctly at the end of the day and buy your Vibrams using the larger of your two measurements. (Vibram's website has a sizing chart you can use.) If the shoes feel the slightest bit tight, exchange them. Your chances of getting a cracked/bruised toe nail are very high since your toes will be rubbing up against the shoes. For that reason, you should also consider getting a pair of toe socks. Louis Ramirez said that running with the Injinji Lightweight Mini Crew Toesocks ($10 with in-store pickup, a low by $9) prevented the strap from digging into his foot on subsequent runs. The socks can be difficult to put on and will probably add another minute or two to your prep time, but they're worth it in the end. Also make sure your first runs with the Vibrams are short (under 3 miles), and you give your legs and feet enough time to recover. Remember, you're learning how to run from scratch and that will tax leg muscles that you probably hadn't used before. Note that all price information is in reference to men's styles, unless otherwise noted.