Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vibram KSO Gear Review

My family surprised me with a pair of Vibram's KSO (Keep Stuff Out) shoes for my birthday. These "shoes" are designed to simulate barefoot running while protecting your foot in the most minimal way possible. Time. TIME awarded Vibram with it's 2007 best inventions seal! I must admit I have always been a bare footer at heart. I often do yard work, play with the kids, walk the dog, etc barefoot. Up until now I have never purposefully worked it into my running.

I elected to go with the KSO version because it is designed to keep debris out of the shoe on the trail. Sand & twigs can quickly turn your feet into hamburger meat once they are in your shoes grinding around for mile after mile. The shoes are ready to test right out of the box! They are sized in centimeters not inches. 48 CMs for me....

I loosened the Velcro strap that spans the top of the shoe and runs down the outside of it.

My big size 12 foot slides easily into the shoe. I liked the pull strap on the heel to make it a little easier to get on. They were easy to slide on.
Once they were on I wiggled my toes around to fit them into the five grooves at the end. This felt weird, but in a good way. Once the piggies were in their caves I tightened the Velcro strap. Snug, but not tight....

Then I put my foot flat on the ground and made some minor adjustments. I noticed that pulling the fabric up toward your ankle on top of the shoe helped to seat your toes perfectly.

They felt like a good fit so I headed right into some rocks. I could feel the rocks through the shoe, but my feet felt protected.

Time to break out into a run. It was a beautiful fall day and the trail was somewhat rooty & rocky. I was a little concerned about the leaves hiding both of them underneath the cover. As soon as I started running I noticed that heel striking was not an option. At first I was cautiously landing on the balls of my forefoot, but relaxed and worked into some nice mid-striking. The few times I struck my heel first it jarred my entire body - WOW!

I was surprised how comfortable they were. It was a nice sensation to feel the cool ground under my feet. I occasionally landed on a rock or root without much trouble. I definitely felt it, but it did not hurt at all.

To be fair this trail is fairly flat without a lot of debris and rocks on it. I will have to take the Vibrams out on a gnarly trail for another review after I get some easy miles on them. It was a beautiful day for a run! I wanted to just keep going, but had to get back to the office.

I was only planning on running a mile, but ended up running two. Wanted to run 10 :]
I headed back to the car to inspect my feet:

Everything looked & felt great!

I enjoyed running in the Vibrams! They were comfortable and gave my feet just enough protection while still letting me "feel" the terrain underneath. My plan is to slowly build up some miles on them with gentle terrain and see what happens. I think they are great aids in helping you mid strike & stay off of those heels.


  1. Thanks for the review. I ordered the classics and will probably stick to either easy trails or paved park paths. I may have already told you this but I have always preferred LESS support in any shoe. I loved running on the beach barefoot when I was at Destin this past summer and didn't see the point in using shoes. In fact, I found it somewhat humorous to see people running on the soft beach in running shoes!!! LOL! I'll let you know how mine go when I try them. Beth M.

  2. Oh cool!! Happy Birthday! I just may have to try a pair!

  3. Happy birthday! Mine's next week, and I'm getting the new KSO Treks, which are suitable for trail running. I got a pair or regular KSOs at Christmas and have worn a hole in the bottom of my left one, as I wear them at most races.

    My advice is to go slowly and don't be surprised if your calves are sore for the first few months of wear. That's because you're making the transition from heel strike to midfoot strike. Trust me, it eventually feels better.

  4. Be careful. I recently talk to a friend of mine who's run ultras for 10 years. He never had foot problems & after 2 months with the 5 Fingers, he had stress fractures in both feet.

    I've always been a forefoot striker. I've had some foot issues (plantar fasciitis + semi-related pain I guess) lately. I've been running 5 minutes on the football field a couple of times a week. Seems to make it feel better. I have the kids I coach do the same thing. Just walking around on the field and letting the foot spread out feels good.

  5. I’d rethink these If I were you! I have run for about a year and a half now with sneakers and had no issues. I bought the Vibrams with the hope to increase my times and gain better form. Well in one month I did get faster and improved my time and pace, however I broke my foot from a stress fracture! These damned things offer no shock absorption and thus caused a stress fracture. Now I’m screwed. I can’t run for 6 to 8 weeks. I’m miserable, Thanks Vibram! Thanks for nothing but pain.

    Now I’m fielding questions from every runner that I meet asking WTF was I thinking running with these. I don’t even have an answer…. friggin’ shoes. I'm really bummed about them. I wanted to like them soo much.


  6. Thanks for the post & information Tom.

    Sorry to hear about your stress fracture. Owwww! That sounds painful & I can feel your pain. Not much worse than being sidelined with a nagging injury like that. Hopefully you will bounce back quickly.

    I'm taking it very slow & easy in the Vibrams. After my first two mile run in them I quickly realized that I had over did it. My upper calves were screaming for the next three days & I had some soreness in my feet. I'm not sure if it was a direct cause from the Vibrams, but I had IT band problems on my next long training run.

    For now, I am only wearing the Vibrams for short hikes or playing around in the yard with the kids. I may do some light grass running for 5-10 minutes here and there too.

    They feel so good to run in when you first put them on & it is hard to hold back. It could be years before I'm ready to do a two mile run in them again.

    I did hike six miles in them very slow on a mountain trail without any problems. I think a lot of walking may be the way for me to transition into them for run training.

    Take care of that foot Tom & hope to see you back out soon...


  7. I've worked my mileage up to a half marathon in about a month. I haven't had any problems what so ever. I am a triathlete and have been training non-stop for over 3 years. I picked these VFF's up a while back and haven't worn regular shoes since. I have been running mostly pavement. I wish I would have bought my KSO's sooner. I could be wrong, but maybe Tom had an underlying problem to begin with and went out way too hard too fast. I'm not saying that to be negative in anyway. I'm just saying, you should be able to run without any shoes at all and not have broken feet. I run off my bike at 18mph barefoot all the time. That's how I train and that's how I race. I hope your foot does get better soon, if not already.


  8. When I first choose running on vibram five fingers shoes I feel I will not regret it and yes. I'm not, it is a very good shoes I ever had. It is so comfortable and flexible.