My 2 Week Review of Vibram Five Fingers KSO

Ever since Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run came out in 2009, barefoot and minimal running have become quite the topic of conversation in the running community. I have been interested for a while in trying the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF), a minimal running shoe that is little more than a glove for your feet. The idea is that it gives you nearly all the benefit of running barefoot, while giving your foot a bit more protection. Besides, it seems like everyone and their sister is running in them these days – I had to try them for myself!

I kept putting off the purchase because it seemed like not so long ago that I had bought my last pair of running shoes, but my wife and I decided that it would be a little congratulatory gift for me after finishing my first 1/2 marathon. That actually worked out really well, because in our goodie bag for the race, there was a 15% off coupon at REI, and guess what I used it on??? I ended up going with the KSO’s (keep stuff out) because they seemed like the best all-around general use model, and I figured that at some point, I’d likely want to do more than just running in them.

I took a little bit of a chance because I just ordered them from REI’s website without actually trying some on at the store. But they actually have a very detailed sizing guide, so I measured out my feet, and according to their guide, I’m a 46 (they use European sizing). Lucky for me, they fit perfectly! When I first got them in the mail, I was very interested to try them on and see how they felt on my feet, especially the individual toe holes. Five Fingers are meant to be very form-fitting to your foot, and they took me a few minutes to get on the first try. Now that I’ve had a bit more experience with them, I can get them on rather quickly. What I’ve found that seems to work pretty well (for me anyways) is starting with my big toe, and sliding one toe into position at a time, instead of trying to just ram them all in at once.

Vibram Five Fingers
Because I just couldn't bring myself to order them in plain black.

My First Run in Five Fingers

Everything that I’ve ever read about getting started with running in Five Fingers is to start slow. You are exercising different muscles in your legs, because being nearly-barefoot forces you into a different (but more natural) stride. As I’ve talked about before, my wife is current doing Couch to 5K, so I used one of those runs together as my first in Five Fingers.

Vibram Five Fingers

My first impressions:

  • It definitely was a lot different than running in “normal” shoes.
  • You feel a lot more of the ground (for better or for worse), so you have to watch your step a little closer.
  • I absolutely love how light my feet feel.
  • I also love how silently I run without big clunky shoes on. I did my first couple of runs in VFF’s without headphones so I could pay close attention to what I was doing. The most striking part of it was that I hardly made any noise as I ran.

Many people warned me about having horribly sore and cramped calves when I first started running in VFF’s, but I really didn’t have much trouble with that. I mostly credit that to the fact that I’ve already been running with a mid-foot strike for quite some time, so it wasn’t as quite as big of a change in running form for me as it was for others.

In 2 weeks, I’ve gone for 4 runs in my new VFF’s, and I’m extremely happy with them. I enjoy wearing them so much, I often just wear them around the house. I haven’t gotten a chance to yet, but I’d really like to try some hiking in them. I’m trying to ease into this as much as I can at this point and not overdo it. But I definitely plan on working up the distance I can run in the VFF’s. What I would really like to do is run the Las Vegas 1/2 marathon in them, but we’ll see how that goes.

Have you tried running barefoot or in a minimal shoe like the Vibram Five Fingers? If so, how do you like it? If not, what’s keeping you from trying it?

15 thoughts on “My 2 Week Review of Vibram Five Fingers KSO

  1. I love running in my VFFs…In face, that’s really all I ever wear most og the time now a days. I got my first pair back in October of 09, and barely looked back. In fact, I just tossed my old gym shoes and now use my first pair as daily workout shoes. They’re pretty awesome. BUT, I dont’ think everyone would like them. And that’s okay.

  2. Totally agreed, they’re definitely NOT for everyone, and that’s more than ok – more fun for the rest of us 🙂

  3. I have the exact same color of VFFs, but I have the Bikilas instead of the KSOs. I have been really happy with mine, but unlike you, I have had some soreness problems. I was only sore from running for a few weeks, but I kept wearing them to a high intensity cardio class at my gym (they pack so nicely into a gym bag) where there is alot of jumping and quick direction changes. That would knock my calves and the top of my feet out for a few weeks each time I did it.

    I’ll be running my first 5k next month and I’ll be rockin the VFFs!

  4. That’s awesome that you’ll be doing your first 5k in VFF’s! I’m doing a 10k in 2 weekends, but I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to run that far in them by then, but i’d certainly like to.

    The past day or two I actually have been having a bit of pain on the pad of my right foot, like I bruised it or something. Hopefully that will subside quickly…

  5. Brandon,

    My friend, swears by these things. He even took them rafting with us so I’ve seen them hold up well.

    My question is for myself – I have a collapsed arch and rely on a support to make walking / running / lifting bearable. Have you come across anything about how they work out with arch supports? Woudl they even fit in?

  6. They are very form fitting, so I doubt arch supports would fit in them. I think the purists would probably tell you that you don’t actually need the arch supports, that modern footwear has just made your feet weak – and that wearing these and/or going barefoot will strengthen your feet and eventually cure your foot pain. Not sure if I’m that much of a believer yet 🙂

  7. I love my VFF Sprints and I want to try the KSOs next. If any commenters to follow have both, I’d love to know your take on the differences between them.

    I really like the color you got! Glad you didn’t experience too much soreness – I felt the same way and I think having somewhat of a midfoot strike naturally really helped me with that. Just wait until you first run hills in them, though! lol

  8. I really like the color too, wasn’t quite sure when I ordered them though. I actually have done 1 set of hill sprints in them, which I quite enjoyed 🙂

  9. Tina loves hers; I’m going to wait until closer to goal weight before I get a pair, maybe even as a reward then, who knows? But she likes hers especially because she can pull double duty with them in the pool.

  10. I have incredibly sensitive feet so I’m pretty leery of trying them anytime soon, but I can definitely see the appeal. What scares the hell out of me is the numerous MASSIVE blisters I’ve seen them give some folks – yikes!

  11. I’ve heard some blister horror stories myself, but at least so far have been lucky enough to avoid them.

  12. […] had one other thought on Vibram Five Fingers that I realized I forgot to include in yesterday’s post. Now, I don’t have any personal experience in this area, but it seems to me that they would […]

  13. Ok, so in between the toes? How weird does that feel? I’m such a food nudist that I just can’t imagine.

  14. I just can’t do it. I do however go barefoot for all my other workouts, DVDs, weights, etc, but running, I still like my Pumas.

  15. I walk into my local outdoor enthusiast store about twice a month. Every time I’m in there, I have an internal debate about VFF, Should I buy them or not? For now, the not buy wins.

    I wonder if the VFF a fad or is it for real? Is barefoot running just a fad or is it for real?

    For now, obviously, my purchasing power has been on the side of VFF is a fad like a pet rock or hula hoop.

    It doesn’t mean I’m not envious. (I sure am.) It also doesn’t mean I’m right. (Based on your post, I’m wrong.) I’m still on the fence. I look forward to your future updates.

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