Barefoot Shoes

Women’s Vibram Five Fingers KSO Review

Review of Women’s FiveFingers KSOsI never thought I would own a pair of KSOs. I started out with the Sprints, planned to get a pair of Treks eventually, and contemplated the Classic for dressier use. The KSOs struck me as redundant and I worried abou…

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.)

Fashion Statement

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):

Here’s the box, fresh from You can see the big toe here through the peephole - notice how bright the color is! What’s entertaining about this message - aside from the multiple languages - is that there are, in fact, no instructions included on how to walk “barefoot” in VFFs. The KSOs, nicely wrapped in tissue paper. The lid contains a nice explanation of how to put on the KSOs.  It’s worth noting that the illustrations don’t address the initial toe-pocket and heel fitting part of the process.
The first reveal. My first reaction: Whoa, those are bright! Fresh out of the box - you can see the colors, but not the shape.  An attached tag notes that the sole fights bacteria (and, presumably, The Funk). Side view. The first struggle to get them on.  Normally I do this with a finger on each side of my foot, but I was holding the camera. Here they are.  As you can see, the strap only goes half-way across my feet.  Note, though, that the rest of the shoe fits normally, with a bit of space.  This is probably the more typical fit for most people.
Again, the area around the top of my foot where it meets the leg is a bit snug, but not uncomfortably so. Here’s a close-up of the heel, showing strap and proper fit.  I’m struck by the presence of the KSO mesh here; the Sprint heel fabric is the same as the rest of the Sprint. Vibram seems to be getting a better grip on quality control, but it’s not a bad idea to check the thickness of the soles to ensure you don’t have a pair with soles thinner than usual.  Here you can see that the color and pattern go clear through the sole, and are not just on the surface. My big toe and second toe reach the end of the pockets; my shorter remaining does do not.  (I would like them to fill the pockets more, but they are stubby and it’s probably inevitable that they won’t.)  The toe pockets on the KSOs do seem a bit roomier than the ones on the Sprints; it may be a result of the snug top keeping my feet farther back in the shoes.  (Both are size W39.)

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.

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BdayShoes is the "guest blogger" everyman (or woman!) of Periodically, we feature original posts from non-regular writers on the blog here. Those posts get published under this user! If you're interested in contributing a one-off post to BirthdayShoes, contact us!

7 replies on “Women’s Vibram Five Fingers KSO Review”

Nice review, Rachel. I have the Sprints as my only pair and have run one road marathon in them. They are wearing thin so I am debating my next purcahse. The Bikilas make the most sense because I primarily run on pavement and would like the extra sole for longevity. But the KSOs have the adjustable strap for better fit if I am on trails. I guess when i have the $$ to buy them I will get whatever is in stock since all the Vibrams are so popular.

The strap on my KSOs is far more comical. I’m a guy wearing womens sizes (39) because I have such small feet, and my strap only *just* touches the start of the velcro. I have about half a centimeter of strap grip, but this hasn’t caused a problem yet.

My feet look very much like yours, Rachel, down to the half-size difference (9.5 left, 9 right). The strap on my KSOs annoyed me so much I cut it off entirely. I think I got mine (size 40, I think) a tad small, so cutting off the strap actually made them more comfortable.

I was so glad to read some of your comments as I know no one else who wears VFF. I too began in the Sprints, which have a saggy heel (I thought I had just measured wrong-they are 39’s) Then I bought a pair of KSO’s so I could be warmer in the winter. I have Parkinson’s Disease and have some trouble leaning over to put my shoes on. Needless to say, the KSO’s were a disaster. I could not get them on without a huge struggle. Eventually I ended up cutting the mesh upper part away and hemming the rest of the shoe, turning them into Mary JAnes. They are actually more comfortable than the Sprints and don’t have a saggy heel (is it because you buy a size smaller,38, in this model)I agree about the strap…what were they thinking? Does anyone know of a closed-in model for women that is easier to put on? I wear mine for everything but I don’t run anymore! Thanks.

i love your revew since it brings up some difficulty in the fitting area which i am having costantly with VFF.
I wish to know if anyone else experienced difficulty with sizing KSO( but any VFF for this matter) having a wide foot( 40men) but also shorter than the lengh VFF 40M comes in .
40and 39 women are too narrow ( the KSO strap doesn’t even close ), so i was wondering why Vibram doesn’t make all models also in size 39MEN? Am i the only one with this issue ?

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