I got good news from Andrew Rademacher, founder of upstart minimalist/barefoot shoe manufacturer Lems Shoes* ("Light. Easy. Minimal.") — the first batch of the much-anticipated Lems Shoes Boulder Boot are now available for order! I say "first batch" because it's only the first few hundred pairs of production (more to come, of course, within a few weeks).
The release of the Boulder boot marks the first of a new line of Lems hitting the market in 2013! What's so exciting about the Boulder? Aside from it being a "barefoot shoe boot" that is super lightweight, zero drop, minimally and flexibly soled, and a boot, well, what else is there to say? If you've had a pair of Andrew's barefoot shoes, you're expectations are likely through the roof for these boots. We've reviewed the first offering from Lems that hit back in 2011 — the Primal (see reviews here and here) and had nothing but good things to say.
Andrew has a pair of Boulders coming my way, so I hope to share more about it soon, but if you're eager to snatch up a pair without further adieu and want to know the scoop, read on!
UPDATE: I got the boots! If you want to jump straight to my full review of the Lems Boulder boot, go here!
The review covers the KSO Trek's design (sole attributes and thickness), aesthetic, performance, fit, and more. You can read it by going here.
VFF KSO Trek trail run — First impressions
I did about a 30 minute run through a local natural park (a lot of doubling back and just messing around) in the fivefingers KSO Trek last night (Sans socks). Overall conclusion: the KSO Treks performed well thanks to a sturdier, more rugged and grippy Vibram sole, which conquered mud, gravel, and varied trail terrain. They are more water resistant than the KSO and seem to clean pretty easily (and dry over a reasonable timeframe). Further testing will, of course, be required!
Note: Vibram fivefingers "KSO Treks" below are referred to as "Treks;" standard KSOs just "KSOs." This is to avoid confusion as below I make a number of comparisons are made between the two.
Specific tests and observations
Creekbed, gravel, water: I ran back and forth through a creekbed a number of times to get a feel for various gravel sizes and water absorption. Water got in fairly readily at the toes; however, water didn't get in at all through the top. The kangaroo leather seems to do an excellent job keeping water out (KWO?). Overall, less water got in with the Treks than with the KSOs. More on this later.
As for gravel, the slightly stiffer and more aggressive sole seemed to glom together gravel a bit more: rolling gravel beneath your feet didn't "pinch" as much. However, and I'm not a regular runner or a trail runner nor have I done a full barefoot run, it seems to me the trick in conquering gravel is less about the shoe and more about relaxing your feet and not tensing up your ankle, which goes for KSO and Trek alike.
Trail debris: I hopped up large fallen trees and over logs. Grip seemed a bit improved though this is too close to really say. Roots and one-off ground protrusions were a bit more forgiving though still felt.
Ascents and descents: I ran up a couple steep ascents. Here is where I noticed a big difference: the KSO Treks got me up one ascent (50% grade? Maybe more) that I'm pretty sure would have owned the regular KSOs. It was muddy and soft, but the Treks dug in and got me up without me falling flat on my face and sliding down the muddy slope.
As for descents, both low grade, fast descents were confidence inspiring. High-grade descents that I took slower (angling steps downward) also felt stronger than with KSOs.
Mud: In both cases, there was definitely mud uptake from the lugged soles; nothing too bad and it seemed to clear fairly well on its own accord.
Asphalt: I also ran on asphalt (streets) for about a quarter mile at the beginning and end (gotta get to the park!); Treks handled the asphalt fine.
Cleaning and more on water resistance: After, I went ahead and washed them with water in a sink. I ran water from the sink straight into the top of the Treks with my hand inside to feel for permeation. Water was not getting through though the kangaroo suede was turning darker. Next test: I just started filling the Trek up with water to see what would happen. Sure enough, water started blowing up the Trek like a balloon (Reminded me of a bota bag) with points of seepage at the seams and then a sort of bubbling out of water through the synthetic side material (on the left and right of each toe).
This waterproofing made removing the little debris from the inside of the Treks very easy to remove: just fill up the Treks with a little bit of water and then pour it out like rinsing a glass. Big difference here as compared with the KSOs. They seemed pretty easy to clean (though I didn't bother getting too "granular" on getting all dirt out of the tread).
Finally, after the drenching I gave them at around 6pm last night, I hung them to dry in the laundry room. As of 9am this morning, they were dry.
Initial test conclusion: Initial testing of the KSO Treks was positive and I think anyone who wants to use them for trail running or hiking will be pleased.
Long-term use and long-distance use will, of course, require a good deal of further testing and feedback!
The review covers the KSO Trek's design (sole attributes and thickness), aesthetic, performance, fit, and more. You can read it by going here.
Updated 9/10/09: See added photos below!
The fivefingers fairy surprised me today with a sneak peak at the brand new Vibram Five Fingers KSO Trek barefoot trail shoes! Here is my unboxing and first look:
Apologies for any video clunkiness (as in, the little section where you can't see my KSO Trek-clad feet and the abrupt ending). 16:9 HD video plus wanting to get this to you guys as soon as possible meant taking the video as it was!
The kangaroo leather is smooth and buttery and looks so fancy I hardly want to get them dirty (though I must!). The leather is quite thin but feels strong. As for breathable-ness, after having worn them for a short walk here in Atlanta (Around 80 degrees Fahrenheit), my feet feel cool and dry. My toes feel very nice and cool, in particular. The sole of my foot against the smooth leather inner is particularly nice.
For a slew of information about the leather used in the KSO Trek, check this info-page from PackerLeather on their K-100 high performance leather. In brief, and there's a tag that came with the KSO Treks that talk about this, the K-100 kangaroo leather is billed as providing extreme strength, perspiration resistance, high water vapour permeability, high color fastness, and has an "microblok" anti-microbial treatment. Regarding water resistance, tag notes that the K-100 "leather dries faster" and has only 28% water uptake after 60 minutes (as compared to 235% water uptake for "non water resistant leather").
Aside from the use of leather, the Trek also employs the standard, thin synthetic material to line the sides (not the top) of the Trek, which I imagine reinforces the leather somewhat at the ankle. Additionally, as some had asked, the sides of each toe slot are the synthetic material.
The aggressively lugged KSO Trek sole maintains flexibility while still looking sufficiently "beefy." One open concern among VFFers regarding the Trek revolved around the added thickness and aggressiveness of the Trek's tread—would it impeded the minimalist design of VFFs? The proof will be in the pudding—that is, extensive field-testing by you guys—based on an initial inspection, the Trek is very flexible, similar to what you already expect across the fivefingers line. Toes can still easily bend, particularly upwards, which is pivotal for functionality. This is even as the toes employ a thick-ridged design.
As for the addition of EVA, on light use if I didn't know it was there, I would assume it wasn't. In other words, I don't notice the EVA. I still feel the variations in the ground outside. Interestingly, what I don't feel through the sole is the variations of the Trek tread, itself. I've no idea how they pulled off this feat of VFF design, but it works.
Overall, my initial impression is that the ">KSO Trek will make a strong addition to the Vibram fivefingers line-up as a rugged barefoot alternative for trail running or hiking! And I can't wait to take them out for a spin in a nearby natural park! Even still, dressed in silky smooth kangaroo leather, they are the fanciest looking VFFs yet, so no doubt plenty of people will want to use them for dressier occasions.
The above photos were sent in from a (well-named) new VFFer named Justin.
Here are some pics from a 10 mile hike I did on the Fiery Gizzard Trail (South Cumberland State Park) in Monteagle, Tennessee back on August 15th.
I had just received my Five Finger Sprints the day before in the mail, so this was my first adventure in them :)
Absolutely loved it!
They definitely came in handy when we were jumping off waterfalls and had to climb back up.
Some of the rocks and roots along the trail weren't too friendly, but it was worth it!
Not only was Justin jumping off waterfalls in his VFF Sprints, he also was "jumping right in" to the VFF lifestyle — a 10 mile hike after just receiving your fivefingers could really put your not-yet-adapted feet to the test! Glad you are already getting such great use out of your new Sprints (and I hope you didn't have too much soreness after your VFF trial-by-fire)!
The Vibram FiveFingers shoes are ingenious, well built and a phenomenal personal ergonomic enhancement. They improve your body mechanics at the starting point, your feet. And everything benefits because of that.
Balance, agility and body control are all enhanced. Your hips and spine have better alignment and your heel strike (a major cause of back pain) is better.
"Barefoot Ted" McDonald recently ran the Leadville 100, an ultramarathon race held out in Leadville, Colorado (You might have read about this race in Born to Run).
And since Ted is effectively both the patron saint of barefooting and Vibram fivefingers, he ran the Leadville 100 in the new Vibram fivefinger KSO Treks (You can see them in the above photo from the race!).
I asked "BFT" if I could share with birthdayshoes.com a bit from his account of the race and he kindly obliged. So below, you'll find a snippet from his post for your reading pleasure. For the rest, you'll have to head over to barefootted.com:
What an amazing experience...running 100 miles in 25 hours and 54 minutes up in the Colorado Rockies in the town of Leadville, Colorado, 10,000 feet above sea level.
From my point of view, this year's race was blessed from the beginning...sporting my new Vibram FiveFinger KSO Treks...and some sponsorship money to pay for the race and some travel...thank you Vibram...I was also blessed with a fantastic crew and pacers...a luxury I did not have last year...made all the difference being part of a team! Thanks! ...
[Later, describing a section of the race ...]
Got into Twin Lakes inbound feeling ready to run 40 more miles. Picked up my pacer Scott who was sporting red VFF Sprints...and off we went. Just before we took off, I downed a Chili Chocolate Mocha from Proven Grounds in Leadville...it was delicious...but it didn't mix well with the other stuff I crammed down my throat, so Scott's first taste of ultra nastiness was me upchucking the coffee just after climbing out of Twin Peaks. Vomiting while walking-running is a ultramarathon skill. Scott was a bit taken aback, but we soon got in stride making our way to the finish.
Scott ended up staying with me all the way to Powerline...25 plus miles on his first pacing adventure. What an amazing job. Excellent company the whole way. ...
It must be quite a feeling to run for a solid 25+ hours — 100 miles. Congratulations on your finish, Ted!
Additionally, I wanted to pass on a post Ted made to his barefooting/minimalist footwear Google group about how to run barefoot:
So, you wanna start running barefoot or minimally? Before you do,
realize you are most likely in the process of rehabilitating
yourself...either from little or no movement or from a running style
that is significantly different from what you will experience starting
My basic points are to start slowly...avoid over-exuberance!
The 3 main things I emphasize in my coaching workshops are:
Gentle ball-heel-ball landings - feet and arms moving in same
Quick cadence - leg speed
Stable upright posture and engaged core...no bending at waist.
You can use this same style to practice at a walking pace too.
Barefooting itself is all about mindfulness and presence. Running
like a Monkey, not like a Robot. Aware of your body and your
environment AT ALL TIMES. Listen to your body...learn to hear what it
is telling you. Adjust accordingly. Advance accordingly.
birthdayshoes [about] is dedicated to feet, which is to say barefeet, or feet as they were designed to be—unshod and free! As a way to foster foot freedom, birthday shoes is spreading the word about toe shoes — Vibram Five Fingers — the ground-breaking "barefoot shoes" or "foot gloves" that allow wearers to roam the earth as [Your Belief System] intended. Free your feet!
Note: This site is not owned, operated, or otherwise affiliated with Vibram or Vibram FiveFingers. The site is intended for entertainment purposes only. Per FTC regulation, it should be assumed that products reviewed on BirthdayShoes were provided to the blogger(s) for free or at discounted cost. Though this is certainly not always the case, we'd rather be in compliance with FTC rules & regulations governing bloggers and product reviews under the assumed "most biased" letter of the law. That said, if it's not immediately obvious, this site is a fan site for minimalist footwear such as Vibram Five Fingers, which is to say that there is a stated bias in favor of these products. Despite our stated bias, between the hundreds of user-submitted stories, the thousands of forum posts (both positive and negative, warts and all!), and the in-depth resources and guides, we do our best to provide in depth information on all products reviewed. In the end, though we strive to be a helpful resource and believe in integrity and honesty, we expect you to do your part — reading the research and making educated decisions (Read: take responsibility for your actions!). We have also passed on reviewing products (not VFFs per se) that were provided to us for free but did not "cut the mustard." If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact us!