Vibram Fivefinger KSO's Review

I got sent a pair of Vibram KSO's from Fitness Footwear to help me train running in.

I was running regularly during October and most of November, perhaps 30 miles or so a week so nothing crazy. Basically just been trying to prep for the Libyan Challenge still. Been only running in a ball to heel fashion, in some fairly thin soled trainers because I have just gotten more used to it and prefer the technique to the 'normal' heel to ball action, which now feels very heavy and stressful in terms of impact upon my legs.
However, I have managed to pick up an ankle injury which has stopped me from running at the moment. Its right at the point of the tendon insertion at the inner ankle bone, so tendonitis or sprain is what I am thinking, so currently rehab-ing that.

I did get to do about 10k or so in the KSO's though, and got a good feeling from them in general. Basically, they are very, very similar to running barefoot, except your skin is protected. I know it kind of defeats the point in terms of developing the sensitivity of the sole of the foot, but the shoes enable you to keep running beyond when your soles are torn to shreds, which I have experienced already on some of the nastier pavements here in Sheffield.

The ball to heel technique is a serious challenge for the calfs in the beginning of training it, but after experiencing no muscle soreness after 25k runs using this way of running, it was suprising and refreshing to get some soreness the day after running 10k in the KSO's. Obviously they really enable you to work the entire foot and leg. About a year ago, about 1 mile would have been fairly punishing on my calfs and legs in these, but I feel a lot stronger in that area now.

The shoes themselves are pretty simple, with some very resistant rubber on the bottom, and stretchy synthetic on top. This means you have to get the sizing pretty much exact. I have pretty small feet and squeeze into size 7 kalenjis snuggly, and the size 40 (6.5) KSO's are a decent fit for me. Too much room will mean blisters are likely to develop when moving in them. The velcro strap enables a tight fit, and once on they really feel very comfortable and almost part of your body.

In terms of parkour and that kind of thing, I havent actually tested them for that. I think they would get shredded apart fairly fast, especially around the top of the toe where the rubber meets the upper mesh material, so basically I am not going to use them for movement like that. Plus I don't think they offer much above barefoot training in parkour, and the high price tag (around 80 quid) means that they aren't the kind of shoes you can wreck and replace cheaply.

For running, chilling, climbing and other things, I think they are pretty appropriate. I do however, think that running in them could seriously ruin somebody's legs if they are not prepared for it. I would thoroughly recommend looking at barefoot running techniques and easing into it very slowly, because as I have found out, ankle injuries and the such are pretty easy to pick up from this kind of running.

Check out Barefoot Ted for an ultramarathoner who uses Vibrams frequently for long distance events.
The official Vibram Finger website.
For UK suppliers, Fitness Footwear.