The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Review

These are great for wonks who size themselves perfectly and want a barefoot lifestyle shoe as well as a great gym shoe.
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Price:  $85 List | Check Price at Amazon
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Pros:  Inexpensive, multi-purpose, rugged and durable
Cons:  Wonky, sizing is tough and take a long time to break-in
Manufacturer:   Vibram
By Thomas King ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 23, 2018
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 8
  • Platform Performance - 15% 8
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Traction - 20% 5
  • Durability - 20% 7

The Skinny

Vibram made their name off their wonky FiveFingers and excellent outsoles which are even appropriated by the military for heavy-duty combat boots. However, we feel that in their 10th Anniversary, the FiveFinger model still has some of the same defects as it did at launch with not enough improvements to merit an award. The addition of a few features to prevent sand and rocks getting in these on hikes and minimize blisters helped the shoe, but still did not manage to put it above its competitors.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

At 6.8oz per shoe in Men's US size 11.5, these are the lightest shoes in our review, and with the FiveFinger design and minimal outsole padding and zero drop ratio, these are among the highest scorers for Barefoot Accuracy in our review. The FiveFinger KSO is perfect for the minimalist seeking out a lightweight shoe for short hikes or the workout junkies seeking a true barefoot experience.

Performance Comparison


The fit of these shoes is always very specific  so make sure you get the right feel so your toes fit correctly.
The fit of these shoes is always very specific, so make sure you get the right feel so your toes fit correctly.

Platform Performance


You'd be correct in thinking that this shoe does very well on short hikes and as a flat shoe for gym-rats and squatters seeking to break the trends in the gym for flat-bottom shoes. None of the other shoes in our review do as well for wearing around the gym, but we only find truly confident people braving the looks you get for wearing the FiveFinger design. However, if you can get over their unique look, these are the best in this review for someone looking for a barefoot squat shoe with a bit more multi-purpose than gym-rat uni-tasker shoes. If the look has got you down, try the Stealth 2, which rock as a gym shoe and road trainer or the Trail Glove 4, which despite its trail design is a nearly perfect all-around shoe.

Wet rocks on the river is not the KSOs wheelhouse  the slip quite a bit on flat  wet surfaces.
Wet rocks on the river is not the KSOs wheelhouse, the slip quite a bit on flat, wet surfaces.

Barefoot Accuracy


Nothing is more accurate at giving a barefoot experience than a glove for your foot that provides some padding. The abrasion-resistant stretch polyamide stands by its name of minimizing hot spots and blister areas, which is necessary because we found most FiveFinger users do not wear socks with their shoes. The accuracy that Vibram brings to the KSO even outshined the accuracy of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite, whose outsole just couldn't touch it. They also stepped ahead of the Vivobarefoot Stealth 2, which had a great outsole, but it ranked just behind them.

Comfort


For a shoe to give the option of running without socks, it better have superior design to prevent hot spots and blisters. If you want a hot-spot free shoe, try the Trail Glove 4. Vibram has been doing this foot-glove for a while, and they show it here. This reinforced heel patch shown in the photo above made of a thicker supple material eliminates the abrasive heel hotspots runners have complained about when going sockless in other FiveFinger designs. However, the persistent issue of making a glove-like foot mold still has not been solved with this latest iteration. The Vapor Glove is much more comfortable and still a true-to-form barefoot shoe. Users have complained that some models in the past ran too small, but we found these KSOs ran large and left far too much room on each toe while fitting perfectly everywhere else.

This velvet-like material on the heel at the base of the Achilles tendon works great at preventing hotspots and abrasion.
This velvet-like material on the heel at the base of the Achilles tendon works great at preventing hotspots and abrasion.

Traction


The "Keep Stuff Out" moniker works here, and it almost feels like cheating because no shoe has as glove-like a fit as this. But with an essentially smooth bottom, it slips and slides on cobbles outside my gym, let alone on a short hike. We noticed the other smooth bottom shoes, like the Primus Lite and Xero Prio experienced similar slippage. If you are looking for a versatile shoe in and out of the gym, we recommend the Stealth 2. We found that the hikes you ought to do in these shoes should stick to relatively flat terrain with lots of gravel and grass to break up the ground because you will slip and slide on smooth rocks, especially if it's even just a little damp out.

Here  our reviewer is quickly running off the rocks to more uneven terrain where the KSO can grip the ground better.
Here, our reviewer is quickly running off the rocks to more uneven terrain where the KSO can grip the ground better.

Durability


Many users have complained about their durability, but after dozens of miles of runs and hikes, we noticed no depreciation in their quality or performance. In fact, we stand by the report of many other FiveFinger users, that you should expect to have these shoes around for years and years with only maybe an occasional need to give them a light wash. We only found some weird potential durability issues with the Primus Lite and the Merrell Vapor Glove.

Getting a workout with the Vibram FiveFinger KSO
Getting a workout with the Vibram FiveFinger KSO

Best Applications


Seasoned barefoot runners and minimalists who have perfected the forefoot strike will find these a warm companion around the gym or on a short hike. This is the ideal shoe for a cross-trainer that wants a shoe flexible enough to wear on the trail, short runs and at the gym.

Value


At $85 these are a fair price for what you get: a shoe that can deliver on runs, hikes and at the gym. These are the cheapest pair of shoes in our review and offer some of the most flexibility in where the shoe shines.

Conclusions


If you are looking for the ultra-barefoot experience and have the confidence to stand up to a few sideways glances at the gym, you will find, as many others have, that you know a secret they don't: this shoe can perform and will outlast anything else on the market. After such a long time on the market, these shoes are still pretty great, but other companies have come forward in a big way since the first FiveFinger models and are starting to outpace them.


Thomas King