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Vibram FiveFingers KSO Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Barefoot Shoes - Men's

  • Currently 4.7/5
Overall avg rating 4.7 of 5 based on 12 reviews. Most recent review: August 24, 2011
Street Price:   Varies from $50 - $90 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  A real barefoot shoe. Light, comfortable, dry fast, feel great on the trail.
Cons:  Not ideal for cold conditions or sharp talus and rocky trails.
Best Uses:  Running, water-sports, hiking, working out or just hanging around the house
User Rating:     
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 (4.6 of 5) based on 11 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (7/7) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Vibram
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ October 7, 2010  
Overview
This won our barefoot running shoe Editors' Choice award because it is so versatile. It works for running, water-sports, hiking, working out or just hanging around the house. It tied with the Classic for giving the most barefoot feel but offers a more robust closure and tightening system. That said, we rated all the FiveFingers models highly, and view some as more ideal for specific situations. The Vibram FiveFingers Classic has the same barefoot feel on the bottom as the KSO, but gives are a more free feel on top with its simple open design. If you are running on pavement, check out the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, which gives much more protection to your toes and forefoot. If you are doing serious trail and off-trail travel, consider the Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport. It has better traction than the KSO and much better protection against rugged trail terrain (but you loose some of the barefoot sensitivity of the KSO).

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
These and the Classic give the most barefoot feeling of all the minimal shoes we tested. They are tied for thinnest rubber on the soles (4mm) and have thin mesh material on the top of the foot. There are no plates or extra treads like the Bikila or TrekSport. This mean you feel every little pebble and generally get a great barefoot feel. When we took them climbing, we were surprised how well they did. We could really get our toes to feel each little dimple in the rock. FiveFingers models with more rubber like the TrekSport did not climb as well. The same went for stand-up paddle boarding; these gave you almost as much balance as being barefoot while other barefoot shoes with more tread performed noticeably poorer.

The closure system is very secure. We would not recommend the Classics for rafting because they can come off. The KSO is bomber and won't come off even in fast-moving water.

KSO stands for "keep stuff out" and this shoe lives up to its name, at least for any objects bigger than dirt or sand. At the same time, the mesh is highly breathable, which keeps your feet from getting too swampy, even when it's hot. If you run through a river they dry out reasonably quickly compared to the Bikila or other barefoot shoes with thicker lining up top.

While there is not really any tread on this shoe, they are surprisingly slip resistant on steep dirt. This is because unlike normal shoes, you can dig your toes down (imagine a bird grasping a branch). It was the best at crossing streams. We stayed more balanced on loose rocks because your foot really wraps around the rock. And they dry fast.

While all FiveFingers look weird, the KSO and TrekSport both come in greys and blacks that attract a little less attention. The Bikila only comes with bright primary colors and reflective material and the Classic gets more stares because of the open top of the foot.

Dislikes
While these keep out pebbles, they let sand and dirt in through the mesh. If you run on the beach or through a dusty trail, the fine particles get in and are trapped. Once dirt or sand is in, it is harder to get our than with a normal shoe. Weeks after I took mine surfing, I am still seeing little bits of sand come out. The Bikila did a better job of keeping sand and dirt out.

These are not warm and you can only make them warmer by wearing special Injinji socks. They are not ideal in cold or moderately cold temps. These take a little while to put on. It's not a big gripe, but you can't just slip them on. You have to work your small toes into their individual sleeves.

As with all FiveFingers, a big downside is the look. The only people who like this look are people who like getting stares or being quizzed by strangers – "What is on your foot?" In a year or two, maybe these will be popular enough that people will stop thinking they're dorky. I used to think the Toyota Prius was the ugliest car out there… until everyone around me (plus myself) started driving one. Now it just seems like a normal car.

Other Versions
This model also comes in leather uppers for a more urban and less athletic look. The Classic is the original FiveFinger model and has an even more breathable and barefoot feel. The Bikila is a version of the KSO designed specifically for running. There is also a Five Fingers TrekSport which has a similar upper to the KSO but a much burlier sole.

Here is a Vibram Video on How to Size the FiveFingers

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 24, 2011
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.6)

100% of 7 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
9 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (6)
4 star: 33%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 11 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jan 27, 2011 - 10:56am
donini · Climber · Ouray, Colorado
I use the 5 Fingers for multi-pitch climbs that have a long approach or descent where I need to bring them with me on the climb. They sure are a pleasure to carry on my harness instead of my size 12 approach shoes. They're great for the Black Canyon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Feb 3, 2010 - 09:04pm
Morgan McN · Climber · Tokyo, JP
I was initially a little skeptical of how these would feel, but given the large amount of buzz around barefoot running I decided to give them a shot.
I've only used them for a few days, but I am amazed at the comfort level. These give you a true tactile feel unlike any other shoe you've worn.

If you wear them out in the civilized world, be prepared for some looks!
Also, there's a certain amount time required to adjust your natural walking gait. Anyone who has stomped around in some climbing shoes shouldn't have a problem.

Here is a blog post (video; bad audio, but transcribed) of Born to Run author Christoper McDougall talking about them:
http://birthdayshoes.com/index.php/christopher-mcdougall-talks-about-his-vibram-five-fingers

While I haven't used them long enough on a large variety of surfaces to give a comprehensive opinion, my first impression is "I love 'em!"

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Aug 24, 2011 - 07:07am
 
Damn this looks high · Climber · Temecula, CA
My 16 year old daughter said, "You are NOT wearing those into the grocery store." Worth the price just for that.
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   May 8, 2011 - 12:55pm
Peter Haan · Climber · San Francisco, CA
I love these. I have had them for a year. They were difficult for my feet and toes to get all properly installed at first. Toes would try to go together into a single toe hole, kinda like drunks at 1:30 am. With some use your feet spread a little, the toes find their respective holes easier and the shoe also wears into you. They aren’t for technical climbing as they can’t even start to edge. Toe-jamming would be excrutiating and heel-and-toeing would not even be possible to start. They are hiking shoes and all-around wear. And as Jay-Do says above, they are insanely light and compact---good descent shoes in most cases.

As the toes are not in a box like most other shoes but are virtually exposed similarly to sandals, if you bash the front of the shoe into something, you may really hurt a toe! There is a period too of insecurity with them where you figure out how to protect yourself while wearing them. I never wear sandals, you see.

I noticed my whole suspensory system adjust to the lack of a heel and the wide posture of the spread toes. They have no insulation whatsoever so your feet may get quite cold in some situations. I need to wear them more often. That some people find them ugly is incomprehensible to me; I find them fascinating and friendly to look at on others. Climbers can be so utterly conservative…. Just amazing.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 6, 2011 - 08:36am
Josh Nash · Climber · riverbank ca
these shoes are a: ugly as sin and b:ugly as sin. that being said they are the best shoes I have ever gotten. They are just so comfortable to walk around in. They were going to be my approach shoe but have been moved up to everyday wear. It's just like walking around barefoot. Simply put, amazing.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 13, 2011 - 02:23pm
karodrinker · Climber · San Jose, CA
I traded my 5.10 guides in for the KSO Trek version. I really like them, spent 3 days in Joshua Tree scrambling around and hiking in them. It feels like I have more agility with my toes free, and hopping from rock to rock in these was super fun. Some short runs have taught me to land on the balls of my feet instead of my heels and my feet and legs are stronger because of it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Jan 27, 2011 - 12:33pm
 
Ron Anderson · Climber · USA Carson city Nev.
and the BIGFOOT evidence sightings continue to soar LMAO!!
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   Jan 27, 2011 - 12:25pm
Friedo · Climber · South Lake Tahoe
I have always used my Chaco flips for walking off Lovers Leap climbs. The downfall was always battling the dirt and rocks that squeeze between your foot and you flips, and there is no protection from veg. Now I don't have to worry about any of that… This winter I picked up a pair of Five Fingers for trail running and hiking and I quickly decided they would be a perfect replacement for my flips. They are small, weigh almost nothing, and can squeeze into a small, multi-pitch pack or just clip 'em to your harness. I'm really looking forward to using them on the slabs, through the woods and on the trails…

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 4, 2010 - 10:03am
xtrmecat · Climber · Kalispell, Montanagonia
I purchased a pair of these wonderful shoes at the start of last spring. Our seasons overlap a lot here so I did not hike in them right away, but I spent considerable amount of time in them walking around town. They were the most comfortable shoe I have walked around in, including many different sandles, or flip flops.

They do get odd stares and comments, but me being me, do not let things like this sway my opinion. I don't care if it is odd, it is very comfortable. I did spend some early rafting season in them, and although they seemed nice for the part, they did not perform as well as my normal water shoes. They accumulated sand very easily, and with the tight fitting nature became bothersome very quickly and neede to be cleaned out several times a day. On hot days, the black shoes I have are hot. Hot enough that my feet do sweat more than any other footwear that I have worn.

When the hiking started at around July, I had only considered them as a stream crossing shoe, and lightweight alternative to camp shoe. Boy was I wrong in that. On short jaunts around the lakes and areas where we spent our evenings, I found them the most comfortable thing I had ever had the pleasure of wearing in the backcountry. I finished the last of the Tetons in 09, and they were not my hikers, but if not putting in the mileage, these were on my feet. I even sent a couple harder, highball, backcountry boulder problems in them. They were not as positive as climbing shoes, which I did not have along, but other than turning slightly on my foot, gave me the feel that I never get in a more cumbersome approach shoe, which is normally my around camp shoe.

I must also state I have always been a tenderfoot, and my feet have many miles on them with very heavy loads. These shoes offer just enough buffer between me and all the sharp things, to remain comfortable in almost all terrain. I wouldn't consider them the replacement for my hikers, as most of the time I am in terrain that requires lots of ankle support and stiff soles. But when the pack comes off, nothing else compares, even in the rocks and choss of the Teton's scrambles. The soles have no appreciable wear in a whole season in them, and I believe I will walk many more miles in them, as they pretty much are my "other than an approach" shoe.

Bob

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 4, 2010 - 08:00am
JoeSimo · Climber · Bay Area, CA
I picked up a pair of these last summer for a few reasons, a few of which relate to climbing. For starters I will say they are the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever worn. This may have to do with the fact that I prefer walking barefoot in most situations. When you think about it people have been walking around barefoot for the past few million years. Running and approach shoes have existed for only a few decades.

I normally wear these on day trips to the crag and hiking around in general. It is actually a step up in my case as I used to just walk around barefoot. These shoes give me the feel of walking barefoot while also protecting my feet from unseen sharp things. When wearing them I usually get one of 2 reactions:

A) "Those are the most amazing shoes I have ever seen where can I get them? In fact here is a blank check write down any number and I will take yours."

B) "Those are the stupidest shoes I have ever seen in my life and I now think less of you as a person for wearing them in my presence."

It is usually group "B" that tells me I am going to hurt myself wearing them because of extra strain on my joints or something. They argue to be healthy I need a nice stiff extra padded hiking boot. You know the way nature intended. Yet, they are usually the ones with knee issues, ankle issues, back issues, or have trouble navigating even the smallest of rock piles.

Bottom line is they take some getting used to, but I think you are better for it in the end.

The major downside is how pricey they are.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Oct 7, 2010 - 10:34am
 
Mighty Hiker · Climber · Vancouver, B.C.
I don't have any, but Bullwinkle has a pair which he seems to wear everywhere. Maybe he can comment on how they've worked for him?
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Vibram FiveFingers KSO - color black
Credit: VibramFiveFingers.com
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