Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review

Will heavier mid and outer soles plus durable leather uppers make for backpacking bliss, or will the Treks leave our feet wrecks?

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

Recommended rating based on the usability of the Treks as hiking footwear (where conditions warrant), a camp shoe, and - best of all - a water crossing shoe. They have proven to be very durable and the comfort is something to be felt to understand.

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by Ray Estrella |

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review


Introduction

Vibram has made an entire line of footwear, the FiveFingers, built around the concept of barefoot walking. The benefits of barefoot walking and running are explained in great detail on Vibram's website.

While it makes a lot of sense to me, it is also quite a touchy subject with adherents in both camps. I wanted to know how their KSO Treks would work for backpackers, and as an added bonus, my kids thought the “gorilla feet” looked cool.

Specifications

Manufacturer Vibram (www.vibramfivefingers.com)
Year/Model 2010 FiveFingers KSO Trek
Weight Manufacturer specification 11.4 oz/pair (323 g) size 42
Measured weight 13.7 oz/pair (388 g) size 44
Size reviewed Men’s 44, size range runs from 40 to 47 (US 10.25 to 12)
Materials Uppers and footbed: kangaroo leather,
Sole: 4mm EVA midsole & Vibram TC-1 rubber outsole
Suggested Use Light trekking, trail running, and travel
MSRP US $125.00

Design and Features

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review - 1
Top: The Treks have lugs! The 4mm outsole is a boon to backpackers. Center: The sole rolls up at key spots to add protection. Bottom: The Treks are secured with a Velcro adjustable wrap-around strap.

As this is the first Backpacking Light review of a FiveFinger product, I suppose a bit of explanation is in order. The Vibram FiveFinger line of footwear all has a common feature in the way each toe is wrapped separately. This lets your toes move naturally just as you would when walking barefoot, instead of them being forced to move all together as they are in a typical shoe.

The KSO Treks are the burlier ruggedized version of the regular KSO (Keep Stuff Out), so named due to the wrap-around design. The Treks add a lot to the regular version that also seems to be right up the lightweight backpacker’s alley. Vibram recommends the Treks for “light trekking, trail running, and travel.” The Treks add kangaroo leather at the upper and sock liner for durability and breathability. The leather is soft enough to wear against bare skin. While it is offered in black, I chose brown to help hide the dirt and mud I expected to be in.

Vibram doubled the thickness of the EVA midsole in the KSO to 4 mm in the Treks to offer more protection from stone bruising. The biggest difference between the two are the cleated 4 mm Vibram TC-1 rubber outsoles. Besides providing more traction, the small lugs help keep rocks at bay. The rubber outsole comes up high enough to protect the front of the toes and a small section comes up to protect the heel also. A leather and nylon strap runs over and around the foot to provide a snug fit by pulling it tight and securing with the generous Velcro section.

The sides of the toes (where they touch other toes) is made with highly breathable nylon that is close to being a mesh. Water freely flows into (and out of) these spots. According to Vibram, the Treks are machine washable. They say to use a gentle, warm water cycle with liquid or powdered detergent, and hang to air dry. They warn to keep the KSO Treks away from direct sunlight or heat source while drying.

Performance

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review - 2
The Treks worked well on packed dirt trails like the PCT shown here, but once the rocks grew to scree or fist-sized, the wimpy author felt them far too keenly! :)

I have been using the Treks since April 2010. At writing time, I have put in 54 miles (87 km) of backpacking on them, including 31 miles (50 km) in the Sespe Wilderness in California and 19 miles (31 km) in Itasca State Park in Minnesota. The remainder was on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as seen in the picture above. These trips have ranged in temperature from 50 to 97 F (10 to 36 C). Elevations ranged from 400 to 6,000 feet (122 to 1830 m) in conditions ranging from rain and wind to hot sunny days. The loads carried ranged from 17 to 25 pounds (7.7 to 11.3 kg) although I once schlepped a painful 52 pounds in them.

I have also carried the Treks in my pack for almost 400 miles (644 km) just to use them for river and stream crossings and as camp shoes at the end of the day. Much of this took place in the Sierra Nevada in Yosemite and Kings Canyon Sequoia National Parks, with the remainder in the mountains of southern California.

I even used them for travel. You should see the looks they get at airports. I wore them for twelve straight hours walking around Lake Morena County Park campground at the 2010 Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff. I was stopped all day long by people asking if they were the Trek model and asking to see the soles. I was on one foot a lot that day...

Assessment

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review - 3
The gentle packed dirt trails of Minnesota, like this one in Itasca State Park, were great for using the Treks. Emma and Raymond liked the gorilla footprints I left whenever I stepped in the mud.

I have been intrigued by Vibram FiveFingers since I saw them back in 2005 at the Outdoor Retailer Show. I immediately thought they would be great for crossing fast moving water, but the lack of a “real” sole kept me from trying them. Then I saw the introduction of the new Trek model and said “it’s time!” I wore them for a couple days of just running around and at work. I really liked the way that they felt, and I quickly made the transition to walking without a hard heel strike.

I started out using them for four miles of a 22-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. They were great on packed dirt and sand, but as the terrain became rockier I had problems. The Treks grip very well on exposed rock and are OK walking on smooth or rounded rocks strewn in the trail, but triangular profile rocks hurt the bottom of my foot as the profile would telegraph through. And the telegraph message was dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot (SOS or Save Our Soles!)... I had to stop and put my trail runners back on.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review - 4
Pickin' daisies.

Now a lot of this is on me. Having spent much of my life barefoot, I was told after my second set of plantar wart laser surgery to stop, as I was picking up the spores in the dirt. Since 2003 I have worn shoes at all times outside, except at the beach. This means my footsies are far from being “tough.” While I had problems with rocks, I met a couple of our members that were doing the same section of PCT that I was on. One was using the thinner regular KSO and was having no problems at all.

Large rock and slick rock were not a problem for me. The soles grip very well and traction was good for all use I had with the Treks. Backpacking in Minnesota was another story altogether. The trails in Minnesota are mostly packed dirt with grass growing on them. Indeed, much trail maintenance is done with a riding mower, I kid you not. The Treks worked very well on these trails.

One thing I discovered right away is that off-trail hiking (bushwhacking) is difficult because of the separate toes. Sticks and twigs like to slide between my toes. So do flowers! One of our BPL members told me that walking through spring flowers near Big Bear California he looked like he was picking mini-bouquets. I thought of his apt description as the same thing happened to me one wet day on the North Country Trail as seen to the right.

While the Treks have been so-so for my backpacking needs, they have worked wonderfully as a river crossing shoe. This was a high snow year in both states I reside in, so the rivers were really cranking during the start of the hiking season. I usually carry Solomon Tech Amphibian water shoes for this reason. The weight of the Treks is the same, but the Treks are much more sure-footed while crossing tricky stretches of water. Being able to have my toes conform to the rocks adds a level of confidence to the chore.

On a trip along the swollen Sespe Creek I had to cross it so many times that I just left the Treks on to save time. I was OK until a person in the group ran out of steam and could not go on. Rather than leave her (or stop) I carried two packs for the last 3 miles (5 km) which put 52 pounds (23.6 kg) on my back and feet. That was completely too much weight to use on the rocks we encountered. The next day my feet were so bruised that I had to wear my trail runners all the way back to the trailhead. Three months later I was back on the same hike, as a group wanted to go to the hot springs they had heard us talk about (Hello, L!). This time (with normal weight) I used them for the entire trip with no problems.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review - 5
The Treks make great camp shoes for lounging around in while waiting for dinner. At least I think I have them on... yeah, there's the yellow Vibram logo.

The last way I use the Treks are as camp shoes. Once my camp is set up for the evening I like to go jump in a lake. Literally. Or a creek, river, or other water source. Wearing the Treks ensures I am not going to injure my feet if I step on a fishing hook or piece of glass (many areas in Minnesota can be reached by boat, and hooks/glass can be a real problem). Water drains from the nylon between the toes quickly, and they are comfortable to wear around camp until sack-time.

While I have not put a lot of distance on them, they have spent a lot of time getting soaked and drying back out. I have only washed them one time so far. They are still in great shape and have never developed any foot funk. I often wore Injinji socks or short liners with the Treks, though you can skip a sock in this footwear. My purpose was primarily to keep ticks off my feet as I used permetherin treated socks. I really like the Treks and plan to keep taking them on most of my three-season trips. I will leave you with a shot of me tiptoeing through the tulips. Well, packing through the poison oak.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review - 6

What’s Good

  • Comfortable
  • Good for backpacking in areas that are not too rocky
  • Excellent for crossing fast moving water
  • Drain water quickly

What’s Not so Good

  • Can get bruised feet on some terrain
  • Toes are foreign matter collection devices

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Editor's Suggested Related Reading

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010: Minimalist Footwear - Is It Ready for Backpackers? by Damien Tougas. Depending on how tuned-in you are to current running trends, you may have noticed that there is a new movement starting to gain traction among runners: barefoot running and minimalist footwear.


Citation

"Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review," by Ray Estrella. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/vibram_fivefingers_kso_treks_review.html, 2011-01-11 00:00:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review on 01/11/2011 14:26:39 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Vibram FiveFingers on 01/11/2011 18:29:12 MST Print View

I have the regular version of the KSOs. These things area actually a lot more durable than they seem. Last labor day weekend I did 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smoky Mountains. The shoes actually held up well after all the abuse of the rocky terrain I encountered. Although, most of the tread on them is now gone. I will say that my feet were bruised and very swollen by the end of the trip due to repeated hard contact with the rocks. However, they did do a fine job of preventing any serious injury to my feet. For terrain as rocky as I encountered in the Smokies, I suspect the KSO Treks might have provided just the right amount of extra cushion and tread I needed to keep my feet from bruising and swelling.

-Sid

Michael Oppegaard
(mike_o) - F

Locale: Coastal NC
treks on 01/12/2011 08:02:06 MST Print View

I broke my 5th metatarsal last summer and had to wear a boot for about 8 weeks. After I was out of the boot I still had some ligament damage in the adjoning toes. Doctor friend suggested that I try wearing them that by letting the toes move seperately I could stetch out the ligaments giving me problems.

I can't believe how comfortable these things are, I wear them all the time now. You have talked about using them for stream crossings I wonder how they would work for fishing?

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
VFF on 01/12/2011 09:16:07 MST Print View

I did a lot of hiking and overnights in VFF Sprints at YNP last year. They did great through obsidian grit, rocks, stream crossings and machine washings. I'll have to try some KSO Treks. A little extra tread would be nice.C:\Users\Steven\Pictures\2010-08-22\Trail hazard.JPG

Chris Randall
(cfrandall) - MLife
Nice review - I use 'em too. on 01/12/2011 14:11:58 MST Print View

Last summer, I spent a few weekend overnights backpacking into Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park - I brought my VFF Treks as camp shoes, but wound up doing my day hikes and fishing in them. I also run in other models, completing 3 half marathons last year in VFFs.

Jeremy Platt
(jeremy089786) - F

Locale: Sydney
Toe Cover on 01/12/2011 15:59:04 MST Print View

Does anyone make a toe cover for these things, like some sort of material strip that could go over the toes? This may be able to stop the build up of sticks and things between the toes when off track (may also tone down the image for those not into the toe shoe look).

Chris Hanson
(ChrisHanson) - F

Locale: Eastern Wyoming
Too Good To Be True? on 01/12/2011 19:54:10 MST Print View

I Googled the KSO Treks to see what the best price I could find and came up with a place called: J23sneakers.com and they have them for $39.95! They are a foreign website so I'm guessing fakes or a scam. Anyone ever bought anything from them?

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
Too good to be true? on 01/12/2011 20:20:19 MST Print View

The color schemes and treads don't look quite right. I'm thinking VFF-Fakes.

Praveen M
(prav66) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Fake VFF on 01/12/2011 20:26:48 MST Print View

There are a lot of fake VFF floating around, many with nearly similar looks vibram soles until you examine the stitching. Don't expect to get a small niche product like this at deep discount, anything outside the mainstream websites at reduced prices is automatically suspect. If you want to get them cheap, wait for REI to have 30% sale. Unlike trail shoes, the thread on the KSO lasts a LONG time so you get what you pay for.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Suggested reading on 01/13/2011 10:56:51 MST Print View

Added a backlink to an ORSM2010 article on Barefoot/Minimalist Footwear.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
5Fingers on 01/13/2011 15:11:30 MST Print View

I've got a pair of the KSO's and I don't really like them. I imagine this varies a lot depending on the shape of your feet, but mine are a huge pain to get on. It takes several minutes to wiggle all of my (apparently fat) toes into their places. Not good at all for sneaking out for a late night pee.

Once they are on, they work well for what they are. On technical trails I stub my pinky toe regularly, so I only use mine on day hikes on easy trails.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: 5Fingers on 01/13/2011 15:28:23 MST Print View

Dan, that supposedly gets better with time. If you've worn non-anatomical (or traditional) footwear your entire life, the problem is more likely that you lack the toe spread necessary for the Five Fingers to slip on easily.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: 5Fingers on 01/13/2011 16:42:18 MST Print View

+1 on toe spread.

excellent on pita bread.

JASON CUZZETTO
(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review" on 01/13/2011 17:32:45 MST Print View

I have had these for about three months now. I love them. I had the same problem sliding them on originally. But after a few weeks they slipped on easily. My fit isn't 100% because of the shape of my foot. But over all these are great.

I just hiked in the French Guiana jungle over the holidays and they were great. My footing was good. I just had to be careful where I stepped. But that is a good idea anyway.

I have used them in wet weather here in California and just for general walking around. My knee felt better and so did my hip. It is a much more natural feeling.

I get some funny looks in the airports because they are my favorite go to shoe (yes I where the sox). But I have never been more comfortable on a plane. My feet don't feel all sweaty and nasty even after several days traveling. The french were laughing at my shoes when I went through customs. But who cares. I just smile and not worry about it.

Jason

Frank Deland
(rambler) - M

Locale: On the AT in VA
break in time? on 01/13/2011 20:58:01 MST Print View

To those of you that like them, was there a breaking in time to get used to wearing them? Were they painful at first, or were they comfortable right from the first few steps? How are they when you step on a small stone or pebble. Don't they get really hot?

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
Had VFF's for a couple of years. on 01/13/2011 22:56:46 MST Print View

I was always a barefoot person, putting shoes on last and taking them off first. Getting my little toes in place is still a struggle, much easier with socks as the toes just slip right in. Some folks have a week or so of adjustment while the tendons get used to the difference in movement and slight change in gait.
The biggest adjustment was with my office manager's attitude. She took one look at my Sprints and said that I could not wear them to our casually dressed office. She reminded us of the policy that we could only wear sandals or closed toe shoes. Everyone laughed and she stormed off. I suppose that I could buy some black leather KSO Treks to wear with black dress slacks for those shirt and tie days.
I was very careful walking for the first month or so, but not any more. You just adapt to rocks, rain, mud and snow. The oddest thing is that my feet feel cool, no longer warm and clammy or cold and damp from being closed inside of shoes.
It's not a cult; just walking, running and hiking the real way.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Had VFF's for a couple of years. on 01/14/2011 01:20:36 MST Print View

I've had a pair of KSOs for about 18 months. They are a struggle to get on at first, the problem is getting each toe into its proper toe condom. But with a little practice is gets pretty quick.

It does take a while for your legs to get into shape, as most people are used to a heel strike, this is especially true if you run in them. Your brain is going to force a front of the foot strike, without your permission. If you want to run in them, go slow, unless you have been running barefooted.

I no longer hike off-trail in them or in rocky areas, as my little toe kicks the occasional rock or out-cropping. I like to do short runs in them. It is almost barefoot running, without the need to toughen up the bottom of your feet. You will feel most little things like pebbles and such. I can run/hike on fine gravel roads without discomfort, but it is a funny feeling that takes a while to get used to.

If you do not like to stop to talk every hiker you meet on the trail or stop and talk to strangers around town, then these are not for you! Everyone wants to ask questions.

They do get stinky after a fairly short time. They have to be washed periodically. For really light shoes, I prefer XC racing flats, which are generally lighter than these. I am using flats less and less, because they do not last long in the terrain I frequent. For most hiking I always go back to my Salomon trail runners. I am pretty much done experimenting with shoes, overall the Salomon's do everything I need. The KSO's are nice for running (not on asphalt).

William Cefalu
(wcefalu) - M

Locale: Louisiana
What is the weight? did I miss this in the article? on 01/15/2011 16:20:59 MST Print View

NM

Frank Deland
(rambler) - M

Locale: On the AT in VA
not convinced on 01/16/2011 21:28:31 MST Print View

Sanad notes above: "I will say that my feet were bruised and very swollen by the end of the trip due to repeated hard contact with the rocks. However, they did do a fine job of preventing any serious injury."

My feet might be swollen after a long hike, but bruised? That does not sound good to me!

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Training and Time on 01/16/2011 21:41:12 MST Print View

How well minimalist footwear will work for you largely depends on the amount of training and time you spend in them on a regular basis. If you are used to wearing structured footwear with significant cushioning, it will take time for your body to adapt. When you get used to shoes deadening the rough edges of the environment, you tend to be less aware of how you are stepping and hence walk a lot rougher than you would with less on your feet. Having worn minimalist footwear for many years now, it has changed the way I walk, I am much more aware of each step I take and I rarely get any kind of bruising.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Training and Time on 01/17/2011 01:03:40 MST Print View

I've commented on these in the past but I suppose I'll sound off again. My 2 cents:

Coming from a background of barefoot running, I'm just not sure what niche VFFs occupy for me. They seem to be an unnecessary in-between in my footwear (or lack thereof).
I love running barefoot. I like the feeling, the form, the simplicity, having tough feet, all of it. I run some fairly rough trail that has taken a good deal of time to get used to...scree, stream crossings, etc. I often do 50% of a run barefoot (typically climbing) and put on shoes for the downhill. This is a nice balance for me, as well as safe- it's hard to push too fast/reckless uphill, it lends itself to barefoot well.

That said, I've had some VFF Sprints for about 8 months. I still run in them from time to time. I'd like to like them, but I just can't figure out what purpose they serve.

If I'm running 7 miles or less and I'm in the mood, I can go barefoot. 7 miles is about my barefoot trail running threshold right now.
If I'm running more than 7 miles, I need a shoe with a rock plate and a little padding (albeit a fairly minimal shoe like the MT101 or some XC racing flats like Shay XCs).

The VFFs just don't fit in. I find them an unnecessary medium between barefoot and wearing shoes. One or the other seems to work better for me. They allow more protection than barefoot, but not enough to run as fast and worry-free as in trail racers like the MT101. Granted, VFFs are faster than barefoot, but perhaps in a bad way: I feel lured to run too fast in them- not good given they have no rock plate. Sort of a false sense of security as it's still real easy to bruise your feet on sharps or stub toes in them. I don't have this problem running barefoot as I'm slower and much more focused on foot placement.

I believe that most people would be far safer learning a barefoot style mid/forefoot strike in a neutral racing flat with a little protection than in VFFs.

I find it interesting, I've heard many people comment that VFFs would be great if only they had just a tiny bit more protection and/or some sort of cover to protect the toes and keep stuff from getting between them....
...something...a lot like...shoes?

For running on mellow surfaces like grass, sand, or nicely groomed trail, they're great...but so are bare feet.
For backpacking, I thought they sucked after only a 12 mile trip, especially in hot weather: too glove-like, the tight rubber on skin feels awful. Flip-flops, moccasins, or huaraches are far more comfortable for backpacking/walking in my opinion- at least your soles can breathe. Some say to add socks...and now we're right back to something just like a regular shoe.

I'd take a pair of homemade huaraches or cheap flip-flops over VFFs for backpacking any day.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Training and Time on 01/17/2011 01:51:53 MST Print View

Well Craig, this is kinda what I said, but you stated it much more eloquently.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: Training and Time on 01/17/2011 07:20:59 MST Print View

I have been wearing FiveFingers for all sorts of activity since 2006. I suppose if you come from a barefoot runners perspective, then you might not have much use for them. FiveFingers fulfill the niche for people who want to get the benefit of maximum foot strengthening without being completely barefoot. For myself, I like the foot strength benefits I get from the near barefoot conditioning, but I am not interested in conditioning the skin of my feet to handle the rough ground. In fact, the rough ground against my skin is usually the limiting factor for me when going barefoot, FiveFingers take care of this problem for me. I don't mind wearing socks in them either, in my mind it is just like layering any other type of clothing for performance/comfort reasons.

FiveFingers also have the benefit of being both secure on the foot but giving ample room in the toebox. With many light weight runners, the foot is held securely in place at the expense of the toes.

The main downside to FiveFingers for me is their limited temperature range.

I have tried huaraches for backpacking. Two issues I had with them were that they really don't handle wet conditions well at all, and secondly the strap between the toes becomes painful (especially on the downhills) when wearing a pack. I got some good blisters.

So, while completely barefoot running might be your baseline, for others it may be VFF.

Brandon Sanchez
(dharmabumpkin) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Mtns
vff on 01/17/2011 12:54:55 MST Print View

people like craig who dont like vibram five fingers but like minimalist shoes might like these:

http://www.adventureinprogress.com/first-impressions-altra-adam

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: vff on 01/17/2011 15:24:27 MST Print View

Thanks for the plug Brandon ;-)

There are those, as well as several other models coming out in 2011 from companies like Merrell and Altra. Lots of interesting stuff in the near future.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: not convinced on 01/18/2011 18:10:03 MST Print View

Frank,

It was mostly just swelling for me. When my feet were bruised I was actually referring to one or two bruises where I lost my balance and smacked the side of my foot on a rock trying to regain my footing. I've gotten my feet bruised when wearing normal shoes as well.

-Sid

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Altra on 01/18/2011 21:05:56 MST Print View

Brandon and Damien:
Those Altras look good to me (thanks for the review Damien)- just like a KSO without the gimmick of separate toes.
The inserts are a good idea...not just for padding, but for insulation when needed.
At the moment I'm waiting on the NB Minumus to come out...wish I had more $$$ to try more shoes. Until then it's barefoot and MT101s with the KSOs for the occasional run. I was using the KSOs to run on the track at my work...but running the wet grass on the inside barefoot feels too good!


Too bad that minimal shoes are so maximally priced :(
...especially given they're all getting suspiciously close to $10 WalMart water socks.
I actually remember reading an article on Krupicka running/hiking/camping for an season in water socks.

Those I can afford, review soon to come :)

Edited by xnomanx on 01/18/2011 21:12:06 MST.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review" on 01/18/2011 21:14:05 MST Print View

I don't know if this was posted or not on here recently, but Terra Plana is having a sale on theclymb.com if anyone is interested. Yesterday they had all sizes and models at 50% off or so. Terra Plana shoes typically are astronomically priced. If you want a minimalist zero drop shoe without the Five Fingers look those might be a good alternative.



Terra Plana Evo mesh

This model has been heavily reviewed on the minimalist running websites and blogosphere, you can check out the EVO at: Running and Rambling Evo mesh Review

Edited by Eugeneius on 01/18/2011 21:19:27 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Wal Mart Water Socks on 01/18/2011 21:23:01 MST Print View

Here's some reviews:

http://www.barefootrunner.com/2009/03/review-wateraqua-shoes/

http://barefootjason.blogspot.com/2010/03/walmart-aqua-socks-do-they-live-up-to.html

Now, how much do the price paid, preconceived notions and expectations, and brand name influence the reviews of footwear designed to...well...not really be footwear?
We certainly can't rule out the cult coolness factor of "barefoot" specialty companies.

Or another way to look at it:
If those Wal Mart water socks had Altra or New Balance or Vibram sewn on them, a bit better styling, and a $75 dollar price tag, would the reviews read simply "great ground feel but durability and fit could be better"?

Edited by xnomanx on 01/18/2011 21:24:50 MST.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks Review" on 01/18/2011 21:54:07 MST Print View

Now, how much do the price paid, preconceived notions and expectations, and brand name influence the reviews of footwear designed to...well...not really be footwear?
We certainly can't rule out the cult coolness factor of "barefoot" specialty companies.


Very much so Craig. Would VFF be flying off shelves at the rate they are now if it wasn't for the 'cult coolness' of the phenomenon? I don't think they would.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Cost on 01/19/2011 05:43:28 MST Print View

I was involved in this cost discussion on a different forum. One of the forum members who has been involved in developing shoes had this to say:

The price of shoes has little to do with the manufacturing cost. Marketing, advertising, shipping, and the profits of all the middlemen are the reason shoes cost what they do. The actual cost between a minimalist shoe and the most advance non-minimalist shoe is virtually zero.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Cost on 01/19/2011 09:07:03 MST Print View

Damien,

I think this is partially correct. As you move towards boots, then probably not true. A Limmer boot is expensive because it is custom built with superior materials and workmanship. Limmer has almost zero advertising expense and no middle men. Also a boot like the top of the line Lowa is going to be much better constructed and expensive to build than most other brands. The cost of labor, government regulations, and taxes in Europe or the USA is going to be significantly higher than something made in China.

Javan Dempsey
(jdempsey)

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Re: Training and Time on 01/19/2011 21:44:52 MST Print View

Gotta disagree with Craig and Nick on this one.


I think your points are valid, but it's more a matter of what you're looking for. I'm looking for the absolute closest thing I can find to barefoot (and no type of sandal counts in my book, you walk differently, sorry), without being completely barefoot.


Craig said:"The VFFs just don't fit in. I find them an unnecessary medium between barefoot and wearing shoes."

I agree with your placement, but disagree with the conclusion. I find them the necessary closest thing to being barefoot, which is much better than wearing shoes.


I find the amount of protection the VFF KSO's offers to be the upper limit of what I think is acceptable, the *only* reason I'll look at beefier foot coverings are due to insulation concerns, and maybe winter traction. If the VFF's could grip snow, and keep my feet warm, I'd wear them (or something like the Altra Adam) any time I wasn't barefoot.

Personally, I won't ever be completely comfortable barefoot 24/7, and I don't think it's a realistic ideal, probably just due to all the injuries I've suffered barefoot. It may be fine for running on well maintained tracks or trails(as you say), but it's entirely too dangerous in any sort of un-anticipated situation. However, I've bushwhacked miles in my KSO's, in nasty terrain, chased my dog down a completely wildly overgrown mountain, etc.


So like I said, I think your points make sense depending on your goals, but for me, if barefoot is "1", VFF's are "2", and things like the MT101's are "3"s on the scale, I'd remove the 3 instead of the 2.

Yes they've become a fad, and if anything, I think that's the core of the polarization about them. Yes they have limitations, believe me, I'm hating every day that I have to wear something else when I'm out and about.

Maybe I'd feel differently if someone made something like the MT101 with zero heel rise, minimal sole, no toe lift, and a toe box that had some vague resemblance to the shape of my forefoot, instead of looking like a blunt arrow, etc, but afaik, it doesn't yet exist.


Anyway, just my rant'ish take. I wish VFF's were still obscure.

Edit: Just wanted to clarify that other than the insulation issue, I find the protection of the KSO's to be more than adequate for me.

Edited by jdempsey on 01/19/2011 21:48:46 MST.

Paul Vertrees
(Sawtooth) - M

Locale: Southern Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Had VFF's for a couple of years. on 02/22/2011 10:15:52 MST Print View

Nick,

What Salomon trail runners are you using for hiking? I run trails in XA Pro 3D Ultras (non GTX model), and I wondered about using them for hiking. I have some concerns about how they grip wet rock though. I would value your input. Thanks.

Clint Hewitt
(WalkSoftly33) - F

Locale: New England
1,600 miles in VFF KSO Trek on 03/03/2011 10:09:56 MST Print View

This was a great article and a great review. It was nice to see VFF being discussed on my favorite sight.

Last year I thru hiked the AT and for about 1600+ miles I wore KSO Treks. I thought I would give some additional thoughts.

I went through two pairs, the durability averaged out to 800 miles a pair. the first pair being completely destroyed after about 750 miles (It went through worse conditions, could have been replaced at 600miles), and the second pair that is still in descent enough condition to wear after about 850miles (Mostly dry thru the summer months)

To start I want to talk about the problems that I had with the VFF shoe design. In order of occurrence.

CONS

1.The VIBRAM LOGO TAG located under the heel was the first thing to cause an issue on both pairs. It bunched up and caused rubbing and discomfort. Had to be torn out before they caused blisters. The fact that it was there is senseless, it serves no purpose.

2. Similarly, The LEATHER BOTTOM INSOLE wears and bunches, due to water, pressure and movement. This like the tag caused a deal of discomfort. I found my self with both pairs sitting in the middle of the trail at some point scratching with my nails and snipping with my Leatherman at the bits of leather bottom, till all but the leather up in the toes and around the sewn edges was gone and the EVA foam underneath was exposed. Knowing what the problem was with the second pair this event came more preemptively.

3. The STICHING AND FABRIC failure between the toes is what made the first pair unusable and it began to happen on the second. Holes either rubbed or stitches tore. it was not a big deal on the small toes but, the big toe was wear I had the most problems with the fabric and it is directly related to number 4 below. Towards the very end of the first pair the rubber was starting to delaminate from the tips of the toes as well. And the left big toe had completely ripped away from the rubber. It kinda of flopped around but was not a huge problem.

4. The BIG TOE RUBBER looks like it needs another 1/4 of rubber added on to the inside, heading towards the second toe. Once the fabric wore out completely my big toe would pop half way out and I would be walking directly on my toe. (also wore a hole through my socks in half a day).
*Caveat - this may not be an issue for every one. This only happened on my right side and I believe it is because of my body and walking gait. At my hip I measured 5mm shorter on my left then on my right. Watching my feet walk, even with all intention towards good form, my Left foot/ Big toe would roll inward onto the extra rubber of the VFF and be cupped in rubber that is on the outside of the big toe. My right foot/ big toe would push outward to the side, causing my big toe to "want to slide off" the rubber, once the fabric wore away, it did. This was a very subtle movement of my unique walking gait but it did play a role in the performance of the shoes. The last 50 miles before Waynseboro VA I was walking directly on the ground with half my right big toe. IT held up pretty well, toughened up.

6. Over time the VFF will BECOME LOOSER on your feet as stitches and fabric stretch and/ or break. When I received my second pair in Waynsboro, VA. The new VFF felt very tight on my feet. While some of this may be attributed to foot swelling, mostly it was because I had gotten so used to the first pair which by that point were in disrepair and falling of my feet.

5. In a related note, the adjustable strap adjust pressure down as well as forward. This became a problem. It was never more evident then when going down the "Priest" (4miles continuous down) With the fabric of the shoe becoming loose, It was important to tightten the strap down. For Three reasons
1.in order to hold the sole of the shoe onto my feet
2.keep my feet from sliding forward causing the fabric in between my toes to cause discomforting pressure
3. keep my feet from sliding forward causing the tips of my toes to jam in to the tips of the VFF, (Think turf toe)

The design of the strap only compounded the problems of 2 and 3. The tighter I strapped my foot down and in, the more the strap would push my toes forward. The Priest was the first time that the trail and my choice to wear VFF caused my feet "irregular pain" that lasted for about a week. I.e. not the regular swelling, but structural in my toes. Normally even when the shoes were loose it was not a problem because you alternate up, down and flat. It was the continuous 4miles straight down that put me over the edge.

OTHER PROBLEMS (in order of importance)

1. MAN MADE SURFACES SUCK!!! Regrettably for most of the time I did not have camp shoes, they were stubbornly deemed not worth there weight. In hind sight I wont hike in VFF again with out some other foot wear. I could not walk more then a hundred feet on any man made surface before my feet would be screaming at me in pain. Through all the rocks of PA and all of the other terrain I crossed nothing compared to the pain that man made surfaces inflict. It is not even close. There is something about a hard flat surface that does not agree with bare feet. I can not emphasize this enough. This was by far the worst aspect of only having VFF as shoes. Even when trying to walk with the best form and placing my feet as gently as I could it still was a problem. Town became a get to the hotel and don't move experience. In one episode while blue blazing on a rode with two fellow hikers I just layed down on someones front lawn, because my feet told me no more road. The solution to that situation was stubbornly wearing my hiking partners hot pink crocs, the desire to be self sufficient and the embarrassment of hot pink crocs was outweighed by the thought of a tasty meal in town.

2. STUBBING TOES - it happens, not that big of a problem, only one stubbed right pinky toe hurt for longer than 30 seconds. But I looked at the ground and my feet a lot!

3. I found the TEMPERATURE MINIMUM for these to be 40* when wet. As for dry im not really sure I would not recommend going below freezing.


PROS - In order of importance

1. NO HEEL LIFT allows the heel to go all the way to the ground, converting from regular hiking shoes the biggest benefit was while going down hill, since your heel was allowed to go down further your knee is not pushed out in front over and past your feet as much. Instead you stay over your feet more putting less strain on your the front of your knees.

(Edit) Additional anecdote: Topic Plantar Fasciitis, I believe that this no heel lift or lowering of a your heel compared to traditional shoes, prevents or helps to alleviate Plantar Fasciitis. With no heel lift your tendon fully stretches. Lifting the heel makes the tendons used, shorter. Previous to the trail I never suffered from this, during the trail this was not a problem. But after the trail when the weather became colder I started to wear Big clunky winter boots with a huge heel lift and Super Feet insoles. after about a week of wearing them one morning getting out of bed as my feet hit the floor and I had a shooting pain in my heal. Little bit of reading online, and I realized what had happened, my tendons had contracted causing minor PF. A little bit of stretching, removing the insoles and limiting the boot usage, I was fine. Ironically on the trail I had tried to convince a fellow hiker suffering significantly from PF of this hypothetical theory (I had read it somewhere at some point prepping for my hike). It was not until it happened to me did I fully believe this to be true.

2. NO ANKLE SUPPORT allows free rotation of ankle, coupled with only a 4mm sole, allows for a greater margin of "error" when taking awkward steps. In a traditional high top or mid top, your ankle is locked in place. Which transfers the torque of a bad step up to your knees and hips. Also you are standing on about an inch of rubber. When you take a bad step, ie, a misstep or a unseen rock, your foot has that much further to go till it catches itself. The VFF allow your ankle to rotate free and to roll on to inside slightly if necessary, it does not have an inch to fall off of the platform of the shoe.

(Not sure if I am being clear about this point, but it is a huge benefit)

3. BALANCE, coupled with point number 2, the VFF give you a better sense of balance. It is that process of placing the onus onto your feet, ankles and calves, that strengthens your entire lower body. I fell only twice during my entire thru hike, and only once was it in VFF. (In VT I came to the crest of a small hump one step heading downward I put my feet together to break... it was pure mud... I plopped right onto my butt as my feet slipped forward.)

4. Increased feel for the ground

5. As stated above and before by others it strengthens the foot and lower leg. When I switched to Adidas Adi-zero shoes (Love them) at the base of the White Mountains after about a week my feet felt better than ever. I think the conditioning of the VFF on my feet made regular shoes, even minimal ones feel like a cushy palace!

6. Conversation starter, boy is it, I do not know how many people stopped and asked about the shoes, I never minded answering the questions, sometimes I would go into more detail than others depending on peoples interest level and my energy level. But my Hiking partner defiantly started getting sick of it, later she said partly because people were stopping to talk to me and not her. :)

7. Did not have a single blister the entire trail. Not sure if that is because of the shoes or just my feet and the conditions. I always wore socks I found Injinji Merino Wool Outdoor Blend worked the best. The synthetic Micro socks I did not like, the looked and smelled awful.

8. I liked the leather upper, it protected my feet well enough from sticks and things and the smooth inside feel was nice. Also the leather upper was durable, fabric failure at the toes was at the seems and the mesh between the toes.

9. The bottom of the shoe really held up well. I found that the rubber did not wear away that quickly and only towards then end of both pairs did it start to de-laminate in spots. I thought that it provided good enough traction for the conditions



Summary

I enjoyed my thru hike, and the VFF Treks were a good part of it. They forced me to slow down and pay attention to my walking, how and where I placed my foot almost every single step. This I think played a part in only falling one time wearing them. So they provided a level of safety. But at times they limited my movements, like when in town on man made surfaces. Not unlike alot of thru hikers, my feet had some pain and swelling almost always.

I had reasons before the trail on why I wanted to wear them, I was looking for balance in my life physically and spiritually. Just like the trail the VFF had its ups and downs. Would I wear them again on a thru hike? I don't think I would. I experienced it and now like the AT its time to experience new shoes and new trails. I have my eyes on NB Minimus and the PCT!

RECOMMENDATIONS

For the shoe
1. Eliminate Tag under heal
2. Eliminate leather sole, the EVA foam was fine on its own.
3. Independent strap system for Heel and forefoot which allow for maximum control over fit (this system is used in other VFF models)
4. Additional rubber for the big toes (ie wider)

For the user
5. Wear with socks, Injinji Outdoor
6. Be in tune with how you walk, though these almost force you to.
7. If out on the trail for a while have secondary shoes, ie camp/town shoes
8. Hiking poles help take the weight off a misstep, which you feel sooner because of the sensitivity VFF provides. Also I recommend on nicely groomed trail to just carry them in your hand as to not become dependent on them for balance over time.(ie train your muscles). In summary to maintain muscle balance I would have poles but only use when necessary over extended periods of time.
9. Like others have said ease into it with miles and weight
10. Walk Softly and carry a big spirit

To end my comments on VFF I would like to share a comment a friend and fellow thru hiker said to me on the trail near Slatington PA.

"You know Herro, there are parts of the trail where I think you could wear those...I don't this is one of them!"



I hope this was helpful. Once again great original article. I wanted to add pictures to this post to show the wear and tear but I am currently in Maine and my VFF are at my uncles in NY and I have yet to go back. I will update when I can.

Edited by WalkSoftly33 on 03/03/2011 14:27:08 MST.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: 1,600 miles in VFF KSO Trek on 03/03/2011 10:44:06 MST Print View

Hey Clint, is there any way I can contact you off-list to ask you some questions? You can PM me if you like...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Had VFF's for a couple of years. on 03/03/2011 11:17:37 MST Print View

Paul,

I have been very happy with them. I don't do a lot of wet hiking in California, but have not had any "slippery" problems. But again, foot placement is more important than hoping your shoes will not slip on terrain that might not be the ideal path. I will say that a traditional Vibram lug sole is going to grip better than a flatish running shoe of any brand. But the lighter shoes provide quick feed back to your brain that your last foot plant might not have been ideal and you may have enough time to adjust :)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: 1,600 miles in VFF KSO Trek on 03/03/2011 11:23:44 MST Print View

Clint,

Excellent review! A lot of miles in them to actually point out the real pros and cons. I think you have presented enough valuable information to help anyone make an intelligent decision whether or not these will work for them.

Clint Hewitt
(WalkSoftly33) - F

Locale: New England
Thanks on 03/04/2011 07:36:59 MST Print View

Thanks Nick, I appreciate your comments. I have been wanting to post a review for quite sometime, I guess I just needed some distance from the experience to gain some perspective.

Prior to the trail some friends of mine had a reaction to my decision like "Your going to do what...wearing what!?!?"

Sometimes now I have a similar thought "I did what, wearing what!?!?"

Sometimes the miles where pleasant, others excruciating, I am thankful for the experience.

Thanks again.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: ff trek review on 04/07/2011 09:27:03 MDT Print View

Good review and valuable comments.

We are one herd of really crazy footpeople here : )