It turns out the best shop in Luxembourg does not sell luxury goods, artisanal chocolates or contemporary art. Rather, it sells Vibram FiveFingers (although I suppose it’s not a stretch to consider these an art form!) – a dizzying, enticing, overwhelming array of FiveFingers in almost every style and color.
This is the first FiveFingers-only store I’ve encountered. What a treat to see so many lined up! Usually the shoes are sold in running stores and sporting good stores, which can only stock a few models.
Owner Gilles Franck opened Fivers three years ago and is doing a knock-out business. It helps that he is VERY enthusiastic about FiveFingers. In fact, those are the only shoes he wears. His mother wears them, his wife wears them – he’s such an evangelist that I’m sure he converts people everywhere he goes! This breadth of experience allows him to provide invaluable feedback; he speaks anecdotally about his and his clients’ opinions of various models and trends in preferences. Additionally, he know the shoes’ specs cold. He knows more about the products and the company than any running store salesperson. In fact, the only person I’ve encountered who was more knowledgable was a Vibram representative straight from the Italian HQ whom I heard at a barefoot running expo in New York.
In addition to being extremely knowledgable about each model, Gilles gives top-notch customer service. He listened carefully to my history (I have worn two different models for three years), intended usage (I’ve mostly used them to run about 40 miles/week on various terrain) and problems (one of my old pairs was wearing out and giving me a blood blister). He even fearlessly reached inside two of my old, weathered pairs to investigate their structural integrity.
When I bought my first pair of Vibrams three years ago, I only had two options. Now there are many more models. In the shop, Gilles had me try on four different models, pointed out all the differences and had me walk on a surface of sand and shells to get a better sense of feel. When he found out I only used the shoes for running, he asked, “why?” Well, why indeed! It hadn’t occurred to me. I love running in them; why not wear them off the track? So I bought two pair to wear as street shoes (Jaya, a low-cut slip-on model and Speed, a sneaker-looking model) and enjoyed them all weekend while going to lunch, visiting museums and running errands.
Why do people wear these odd-looking shoes? I won’t get into detail here since there’s a ton of information online, mostly on running sites, but basically the thin soles (think millimieters rather than the inch-plus heel drop of an amped-up running shoe) provide a more natural, near-barefoot experience, thereby allowing the foot to flex and absorb shock, strengthening foot and leg muscles and improving balance, speed and agility.
I started running in FiveFingers as a way to overcome injuries. A tight IT band had given me consistent problems for about six years. I’d seen many sports medicine doctors, running doctors, podiatrists and chiropractors. I finally found a podiatrist who successfully fitted me with orthotics (or so I thought), but the orthotics broke down every few months and I suffered tendonitis, runner’s knee and a bone edema that landed me on crutches for a month. After I healed, my personal trainer changed my footfall by having me run in socks around the track (I thought he was completely nuts!) and my Feldenkrais trainer stressed mid-foot strike and recommended Christopher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run”, to explain why I needed to adjust my gait. After I bought my first pair of FiveFingers, I have not looked back. I’ve also not sustained any injuries. Having undergone so much frustration and discomfort, I consider being able to run injury-free a miracle.
Fivers is about 15 minutes south of Luxembourg Ville, heading toward the French border. It is not a ground-floor storefront, so just email or call to arrange a visit. If you’re pressed for time, you can order on-line, though I strongly advise going in person so you can try different models.
203 Rue du Parc, Dudelange, Luxembourg L-3542
Gilles also has another store in Cape d’Adge, in the South of France.
Fivers, Gilles Franck, FiveFingers, Vibram, Luxembourg, running