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Tag: Vibram

Gear Review: Vibram’s FiveFingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out)

by JP on Jul.02, 2009, under Gear Review

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Rating:  A+

I have recently purchased a new pair of “hiking” shoes that I can definitively say are not like anything I was aware existed before this summer.

If you are like me, and spend enough time around “outdoorsy” people, you may have noticed these strange new “toed” shoes popping up on the trails, beaches, rivers and lakes. Vibram, the maker of a very durable boot soles has recently started gaining a lot of attention for its making of the FiveFingers shoes. These shoes are branded as “a barefoot alternative,” and I for one agree with that slogan, but think that it does not go far enough.

First Impressions – Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover 

After first seeing these shoes, I immediately assumed they were just another outdoor, hippie gimmick and fad, but the shoes, I admit, did capture my interest. As such, I began doing a little research, and found that a number of reputable health & outdoor companies recommended these shoes for their health benefits and comfort. One more article by Tim Ferris discussing these “gecko feet” in comparison with bare foot cultures (found here), and I decided I’d at least try them on next time I was at my local outfitters.

FIRST FITTING

The first issue I came across with these shoes was sizing them. I can’t recommend anyone buy them online without first trying them on at a retail shop as the sizes of the shoes are listed in European sizes (that’s the 40 something number for most men in your shoes’ tongue), but I have found that I wear a much smaller Vibram FiveFinger than I do tennis shoes (46 sneaker, 43 Vibram). Luckily, Vibram makes it easy by providing a foot fitting mechanism to their retailers. Let a retailer help you find the right size, they got it right on their first shot with me.

The next issue to deal with these shoes is trying to get them on. Admittedly the  first fitting is a bit awkward, as learning to separate your toes into each of their compartments is not something that happens naturally. Despite this fact, once these shoes were on, I knew immediately that I was buying them.

I am not one for exaggeration, or to buy impulsively, so please trust me when I say this.  These shoes were simply the most comfortable pair of shoes I had ever put on my feet. The elastic, mesh material was not pinching or tight, and the sole of the shoe did not cause any discomfort like most new shoes.

Leaving the Store-”the shock effect”

I had gotten pretty excited about the way these shoes felt, and so I decided that i would wear them out of the store.

It wasn’t 10 minutes later at a local eatery where I was immediately questioned about my new shoes by the waiter. This will not likely be a one time occurrence if you buy these shoes. Since owning these shoes I have probably answered questions about them from over 50 people (that’s only after wearing them for around two weeks). If you decide to go with these shoes, you can probably expect the same results, so if you embarrass easily or are very shy, you have been warned.

Functionality

The Vibram FingerFingers KSO have a number of functional features that appealed to me prior to purchasing, and these functions have not let me down. First, the “KSO” part of these shoes is a thin mesh-like elastic covering over the top of the foot. I was concerned this material would rip easily, and not “Keep Stuff Out” as its name implies. I can say that this has not been the case yet, nor does it seem to be weakening yet. This material has proved to be extremely comfortable around the top of my foot to the point that I forget it is there. It is a cool material that allows the foot to breathe while effectively keeping dirt and rocks out.

Additionally, the shoe’s sole is extremely durable and functional, as one would expect from Vibram. The sole of the shoe is made up of a semi-rigid rubber similar to that of a car tire, but thinner. This sole allows the foot to move comfortably while also feeling the ground as if bare foot. While it does not keep all rocks from hurting one’s foot while hiking, it does keep those sharp stabbing rocks from poking the foot, which is typically the major problem with walking around bare foot.

The sole of the shoe is also lined with jagged micro-treads that provide better grip on wet and smooth surfaces than I have ever found on any other hiking boots. These shoes excel in wet conditions. I have been amazed at how well these shoes gripped the side of boulders I was hopping along in the desert this past week, and how well they grip stones at the bottom of creek beds in the Georgia Mountains.

Wearing

When first wearing these shoes, the retailer recommended that I not wear them for more than an hour for the first day or so. He claimed that the muscles and tendons used when walking in these shoes were not normally stretched as much in other types of shoes, and that my feet and legs would be very sore if I didn’t get used to them.  Being stubborn, I wore them for 3 hours the first day, and found that while a little sore the next day it was nothing significant. Also, the difficulty in getting the toes into their compartments soon goes away. By the third time I put the shoes on, my feet were sliding right into them.

What I did find is that my feet get a little more tired walking on very hard surfaces with these shoes. But that each time I hike in them that seems to be diminishing. I suspect that this is because my feet are getting stronger as I wear them.

Three Weeks Later

Since I have bought these shoes, I have put them through some pretty serious testing.

In the first three weeks of having these shoes, they have been worn in the snow of Yellowstone, the desert in Arches, in the swimming pool in Georgia, during a soccer game I was playing/coaching in, at the grocery store, the beach in Florida, and along creek beds in the Georgia Mountains. With the exception of the grocery store and in the snow, these shoes have not only been comfortable, they have been exceptionally functional in all of those situations. At the grocery store, they were simply a pair of shoes on a hard tile surface, and really no more or less comfortable than a pair of tennis shoes. The shoes do not keep water out, but drain and dry quickly, and so while they were great walking shoes in Yellowstone they do not provide, nor are intended to provide sufficient insulation from the cold snow in the higher elevations.

I have noticed that over these two weeks, my feet are noticeably wider. Normally, I can’t say that is something I would have noticed, but I have two broken little toes from my  not so illustrious soccer career which has caused them to turn and bend slightly under the toes beside them. Since wearing these shoes, there is a definitive space between the little toes and their neighbors.

Must Recommend

I am not one to rave about shoes, but in this case I feel that I must. Vibram has made a product that must be worn to be understood. These shoes, while a little weird looking at first, are more comfortable and functional than any boot or sandal I have worn. I must recommend these shoes to any outdoorsman.

Has anyone else had other experiences, positive or negative with FiveFingers? I’m interested to hear what the other styles offer and feel like? Let me know what you think about these shoes.

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