Hands-on Gear Review
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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
We love this shoe 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
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.
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.
This model also comes in leather uppers for a more urban and less athletic look. The Vibram FiveFingers Classic, $130, is the original FiveFinger model and has an even more breathable and barefoot feel. The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS or Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO - Women's, $120, is a version of the KSO designed specifically for running. There is also a Five Fingers TrekSport, or Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport - Women's, $90, which has a similar upper to the KSO but a much burlier sole. The Vibram Spyridon LS - Women's, $120, received our Top Pick award because we were impressed with the way this shoe performed.
— Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: August 24, 2011
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