Guest Post by Rachel
The women's aqua Vibram Five Fingers KSOs a hit? ...
... or a case of "fit" or miss?
I never thought I would own a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSOs. I started out with the Sprints, planned to get a pair of KSO Treks eventually, and contemplated the Classic for dressier use. The KSOs struck me as redundant and I worried about getting my feet into them. I have high arches and tall, muscular feet, and I rarely can find closed-top shoes like clogs that fit. I also don’t like bright colors on my feet; indeed most of my wardrobe overall is earthtoned with a few spots of color.
Yet here I am, happily wearing a pair of bright aqua KSO Vibram Five Fingers - with the camouflage pattern on the soles no less.
Getting the KSOs on
I was correct to be concerned about the difficulty of getting my feet in these things. The toes go easily into their pockets (half a year of wearing the Sprints probably helps) but getting the opening of the shoe up and around my heel remains an effort. I’ve gotten it down to a fairly quick movement, but it requires force. I even attempted to use a shoehorn at one point before deciding that it was more trouble than it was worth. Now I stick a finger in each side, bend the heel down, and yank back and up.
The state of the Velcro straps on top when I am wearing them is comical. They barely stretch across just half of the top, and that’s when I’m not wearing socks. So far I haven’t experienced the pants-grabbing that the Sprints, with less exposed Velcro, were prone to. However, it’s also spring, and I haven’t been wearing long, fuzzy pants either.
Here's a video demonstration (no sound) of putting on my KSO Vibram Five Fingers:
Almost Perfect! Sizing and fit for different sized feet:
The good news is, after getting them on, and despite the woefully inadequate strap, they fit nearly perfectly. In addition to tall feet, I have a half size (US) difference between my feet. My left is a 9, the right an 8 1/2. In most conventional shoes I don’t notice this; in VFFs it’s much more apparent. In the Sprints I sized for the larger foot and took advantage of the baggy Sprint heel in dealing with the shorter foot. The KSO heel is not baggy - which is actually rather nice - so there’s no room for a sloppy fit. My larger foot fits perfectly - toes comfortable, heel seated well in its cup - while the smaller one fits acceptably. I notice the extra room in the heel, not the toes, which is good because my small toe is short and would pop out if given the opportunity.
Tip on Avoiding Blisters
Initially the extra room led to hot spots developing on the sides of my heel, just below the ankle, but I’ve found that rubbing a Band-Aid blister stick over those areas eliminates the problem entirely. It also helped with the outer edge of my big toes (which are wide and fill the toe pocket completely) and it makes the inside of the VFFs smell pleasantly citrus-y.
Not that I’ve noticed any problem with stinky feet wearing the KSOs. I never had any problems with the Sprints though, so maybe it’s my feet, or something about how I wear these shoes. (I do tend to take them off when I’m not outside, rather than wearing them all day.) I have washed them a couple of times in the washing machine, on cold, with ordinary detergent, but that was more to clean the outside after it got muddy than to remove smells. The white toes of the KSOs encourage me to wash them a lot more than the dull putty color of the Sprints! One word of advice when washing them: close the Velcro all the way, or put them inside a mesh bag. Otherwise they will reach out and grab the first piece of clothing they can find, and separating the two at the end will be a royal pain.
Vibram KSOs as Walking Shoes
Part of the reason I was reluctant to buy a pair of KSOs was that they seemed redundant to me. I already had a pair of running shoes (the Sprints) and I was planning to get the Treks for winter wear and hiking — why would I need a pair of KSOs? Well, it turns out that what the KSOs are great for—at least for me—is walking. I am a vicious heel-striker when I walk in conventional shoes. All of my shoes older than five years have new heels because I wore out the old ones. I take long strides, both because I am impatient and because I have long legs, and both contribute to the heel-striking. Learning to walk more than short distances in the Sprints was quite difficult; it was probably harder both mentally and physically than learning to run in them. If calves and feet are the muscles most affected in transitioning to running in VFFs, it’s the thighs and glutes that complain the most when transitioning to walking in them.
Anyway, the KSOs. They have a very small amount of extra padding compared to the Sprint. Very small (2mm midsole) — from what I’ve heard, the people who start out with the KSO don’t notice it at all. But it does make the KSO slightly stiffer than the Sprint, and that tiny bit of padding makes it possible for me to walk fast, heel-first. I can’t strike as decisively as I do in my regular shoes, but I can walk with what is, for me, a familiar and normal gait. (Running heel first in them is still out of the question.)
I’ve even gotten used to the color, which is much more striking than it appears in the official pictures. (Really, Vibram needs to speak to someone about their color profiles.) In the official photos, the Agate colorway looks like soft pastel blues, when in reality it is a cheerful aqua, and the contrast with the white toe sides makes it really “pop.” As a result, a lot more people notice them. I get particular attention from women wearing them (their number one question is, “Are they comfortable?”) which almost never happened with the Sprints. They are happy-looking shoes, so I shouldn't be surprised that people find them appealing!
The KSOs have become my go-to Vibram Five Fingers for everything except running, though now that I've got some Treks we'll see what happens! I wear them hiking on trails (wonderful - and so nice not to have to worry about sand or grit getting in), I wear them on my regular long walks, and I wear them when I walk to the post office, co-op, library, and so on. This summer I took them to Spain and walked part of the Camino de Santiago in them. I was a little nervous about doing so, since I’d never hiked with a pack while wearing Five Fingers, but it went okay. They proved to be great on hills, and superb on stream crossings. Most of the streams were bridged with stepping stones, and the grippy Vibram soles made jumping from one to the next easy. Unfortunately, by the end of the day, my feet and legs felt tired and sore, but I think that had more to do with the weight of the pack and my lack of training than the VFFs. The next day I played it safe by wearing my regular hiking shoes ... and my legs and feet were just as sore after the same number of kilometers as they were in the KSOs! So even though my VFF Camino walk didn’t go as planned, I can confidently say that were I in better shape, the KSOs would have been perfectly up to the task. (It’s probably worth noting that I’m the only one of our party who didn’t get blisters — for which I credit both the FiveFingers and my Injinji toe socks.)
So here I am, wearing the one style of VFF I thought I’d never own, and loving it!
Get the women's KSO Five Fingers
Rachel got her KSOs compliments of Travel Country (read store reviews) on behalf of Birthday Shoes. If you'd like to grab a pair of women's KSO Five Fingers, Travel Country offers free shipping on orders over $100 and is one of the country's largest online retailers of Vibram Five Fingers, so they tend to have an excellent selection of inventory, so check them out!
Photos of the Women's Agate/Grey/Camo KSO Five Fingers (move mouse over pics for comments by Rachel and click to zoom):
Note: I received the Vibram Five Fingers KSOs for the purpose of reviewing them, but no conditions were placed on my me with regards to the review’s content. No other compensation was offered or received.
About the author —
When Rachel isn't running in her Sprints or walking in her KSOs, you can find her taking some amazing photographs or writing columns for the community environmental blog The Clade. Rachel has been a Vibram Five Fingers fan for some time now and has actually been a real help to Birthday Shoes "behind the scenes." Thanks, Rachel, for your review and your contributions toward this community!
See our post on "Barefoot Running Shoes" to see where KSOs fall on our Barefoot Running Shoes Continuum.