Sunday, March 07, 2010

Shoe Review: Vibram Five Fingers KSO

It's been a few weeks since my sweetie gave me a pair of these babies for Valentine's Day, so I thought I'd let you know how they've checked out. I've been running in the regular Vibram Five Fingers since 2007, so you know I'm already a fan. About a year before I got my original pair, I found the book Chi Running and started following the techniques in that book for a more natural running style with no heel strike, so the Five Fingers fit right in to how I wanted to be running. Since then, I've really enjoyed using these shoes, but my one complaint with them was that since I do a lot of running on our beautiful bark running trails, I was always getting little bark chips and splinters in the shoes, which would necessitate taking them off, shaking them out, and putting them back on again. The Five Fingers aren't the easiest shoes to get on or off, especially while standing on one foot on a running trail, so this was a more or less constant hassle on my trail runs.

The Five Fingers KSO (which stands for "Keeps Stuff Out") neatly solve this very problem, and I am so happy with my new shoes! Today I ran about 10 miles, including 4 miles on concrete sidewalks, 3.5 miles on bark trail, and the remainder on graveled hiking trails occasionally punctuated by big mud bogs. The shoes performed admirably, and my legs and feet are now so accustomed to running with no cushy padding underfoot and my foot strike is relatively flat, so that I can run 4 - 6 miles on concrete with no foot or leg discomfort.

One of the things I like the most about the Five Fingers is that even when they're wet or muddy, they're not uncomfortable like you would be if you ran through a mud bog in regular running shoes and socks. Even after several miles in my mud-encrusted shoes, I had no hot spots or blisters at all. This makes them terrific for trail running. The only down side to these shoes for me is that on the graveled trails, you have to be constantly vigilant to avoid big chunks of gravel, because the shoes do not have enough thickness or stiffness of sole to prevent a big bruising to the foot from stepping on a rock. This makes trail runs a little less fun for me since I find my attention has to be glued to the ground. The bark trails and dirt trails are a breeze though, so it entirely depends on the surface that you're on.

Bottom line: Da Bomb for natural barefoot-style running, even better than the originals!


janasmama said...

I tried these on at REI the other day. I could not get my foot in the KSO. Eventually I did but I have a high instep that makes it really difficult. The Sprint style shoe that has the maryjane strap was super easy to get on but the idea of bark in my feet is a major turn off. Apparently the KSO do have a bit more cushion than the other styles. I'm thinking on these......

Robin said...

I found that the women's KSO was difficult to get on too. As it turned out, the men's one fit me better. I actually think it has more room between the heel and the start of the material in front or something, because the same-sized men's shoe was SO much easier to get on.

Justin said...

Nice review! I'm going to pick it up this Sunday (3/14) in my weekly round-up of Vibram Five Fingers reviews.

Interesting that you found the men's KSO more comfortable. As great as the KSO is, it definitely can be a problem for people with high insteps. In particular, it seems that the all black KSO models fit tighter than other color combinations (see my definitive guide to KSO Vibrams). As for the difference between M and W VFFs, men's are a bit wider overall than the women's.

@janasmama, I know at least one guy who swears the Sprints do great for trail running and he rarely gets stuff in them. My experience though is that they do invite a bit of debris. Maybe you should just try out some different color combos and see if you can't find one that fits better with your high instep. There is a decent bit of variance between pairs of the same model so it'd be worth a shot.

Justin @ birthday shoes (the unofficial fan site for Vibrams)

David Masterson... said...

I started with the classic and have moved to the Trek KSO. It has a 4mm EVA midsole offering plating protection from stone bruising. Here is a bit from the sales page: The Men's KSO Trek is a more rugged version of our popular KSO. The Kangaroo leather upper and sock liner are soft against the foot, yet strong and tear resistant, with outstanding breathability. A 4mm EVA midsole offers plating protection from stone bruising, and a lightly cleated 4mm Vibram performance rubber outsole delivers improved traction on trails and over more rugged terrain.

Robin said...

David, I'm curious how the KSO Treks feel compared to the classics in terms of "barefootability". Does the increased midsole thickness make you feel as if you're in more of a shoe, or do you still have the toe and foot flexibility that you get from the originals?