07 May 2009

Vibram Five-Fingers KSO Review

So I purchased a shiny (err.. matte black) new pair of Vibram Five-finger KSOs (Keep Stuff Out) last Wednesday. I tried on the Sprint as well, which pinched my right Achilles tendon.

Note that if your feet lie in the overlap region of men's and women's shoes you can fit the shoes in 1/4" rather than 1/2" intervals, with the women's being effectively 1.5 sizes smaller than a men's. I think that fit-wise, you should gage it by pulling back on the grab-loop on the back tense. Aim for 1/2" seperation between your heel and that of the slipper.

Compared to the Sprint, the KSO has a mesh upper which is supposed to keep debris from getting in and underneath the feet. The only debris I got in mine was stuff that was already stuck to my foot when I put them on. The suspension of the KSO is sort of a pulley system that attaches at the heel, comes forward and turn to pass over the top of the foot, where it attaches with velcro. The KSO (and Flow) appears to be built on a slightly wider rand than the Sprint or Classics.

The soles are remarkably sticky. There is a waffle pattern cut into the ball and heel that probably increases the friction, particularly on pavement or other flat surfaces. Running in them is not quite the same as barefoot but the degree of protection is very good. You feel everything you're running on, and sometimes things hurt a bit but only for a second and there's no lasting pain. Like barefoot, you have to watch where you place your feet, but you have considerably more insurance whenever you make a mistake, so you can run briskly. Running on a gravel track wasn't possible for me, but trails and grass were both very enjoyable experiences. I think the most dangerous thing to avoid running on would be thorns, which could conceivably slip through the toe pads and into the side of your toes.

These things appear to be very popular, and I can immediately see why. I bought my slippers on Wednesday, the saleswoman said that they got their shipment in on Monday and had already sold 1/3rd of their stock. They are sort of on the level of things like Gore-tex, Marmot's DriClime base layers, or kernmantle rope in terms of game-changing the technology and utility of outdoor gear.

Initially there was some shelf in the big-toe of my right slipper that was irritating the nail. However, with time to work in the slipper (and some work with a nail clipper) I don't notice this anymore. Pro-tip: cut your toe nails before you go to fit these. I've found the best way to set the toes is to sit with your feet flat on the floor and then raise your heels while planting your toes.

The shoes are a little sweaty, although I think this may be a feature rather than a bug: when wet the Five-fingers suction onto your foot better.

With regards to the other models, the Classic, at least to my eyes, looked to be the ultimate camp shoe for backpacking and mountaineering. Want to get your feet out of those plastic boats? Do a technical scramble? Ford a stream? The Classic model is only slightly lighter than the Sprint or KSO, however. All Five-finger models are considerably lighter than my Chaco sandles, for example, and very compact. I also think the Flow model would make a good watershoe for kayaking.


Unknown said...

great comparison of the KSO's and sprints, I to definitely agree that the KSO's fit much better. Here's a detailed review of both the KSO's in comparison to the Sprints:


Eric said...

very cool shoe. what about the nike free shoes though? they look a bit cooler and they MIGHT imitate barefoot running too no?

there's actually a comparison on that same site you're talking about between the nike frees and the vff ksos

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info.. i think im leaning toward the nike frees after the reviews.. birthdayshoes.com also has good info on the vibrams though.