Barefoot Shoes

Vibram FiveFingers El-X First Look

Vibram just released the most minimalist pair of FiveFingers since the (discontinued and limited-use/indoor-only) Moc. It’s called the FiveFingers El-X. It’s a men’s model that rivals (beats?) the original Classic FiveFingers in terms of ground feel,…

The most minimalist pair of Vibram FiveFingers since the (discontinued and limited-use/indoor-only) Moc just became available for purchase in the U.S. — this is a surprise as, well, the El-X is a “Spring/Summer 2013” model and it’s only mid-December 2012! I guess Vibram wanted it out before the end of the world. The El-X is a men’s model that rivals and may even surpass the original Classic FiveFingers in terms of ground feel, flexibility (adherence to the dynamic nature of the foot), overall fit, and comfort. While the end of the world is unlikely to happen any time soon, Vibram has released a model that is true to the original FiveFingers in it’s simplicity and “barefoot feel.” My initial take (some 48 hours into having a pair!) is that the El-X is a 10, even if that’s not “El-X” means. More on the meaning, photos, and even video, after the jump!


What is the El-X? Below is the official product description straight from Vibram (slightly modified from what was first seen on our 2013 preview!):
Built to be simple, comfortable and easy to put on, the ELX is the perfect introduction to FiveFingers. With an ultra thin sole, this shoe connects you to your environment while packing easily and showing you what FiveFingers are all about. Offered for Men Only. Materials: WEIGHT: M43 = 4.23oz MAX SOLE THICKNESS: 2.7mm COMPOUND: TC-1 Performance Rubber INSOLE: 2MM EVA + Anti Microbial Drilex Sockliner UPPER MATERIAL: Polyester Mesh Machine Wash Cold/Air Dry
You gotta love how Vibram put a second decimal place in for the weight — the El-X is slightly more than 10% lighter than a pair of SeeYa FiveFingers (same size). This past year Vibram has effectively discontinued the Sprint and Classic FiveFingers. Of all Vibram FiveFingers models, the Classic is probably the most loved and ignored model. What you say? Yeah, people who have Classics (and fit the Classic build well) absolutely love them. I am personally a huge fan of Classics — the easy-on, barely there FiveFingers. So I was concerned Vibram was killing them off. Meanwhile, the KSO FiveFingers vaulted Vibram to superstar status, so Vibram is still keeping a small offering of KSOs on tap going forward (in all black). But it’s more a minor concession (my take). Anyway, all this product offering rearrangement left a void in the Vibram line-up — specifically, Classics were not only the most minimally soled Vibrams (only a 3.5mm rubber outsole with no EVA midsole) but they also priced at $75. Now, you’d have to fork over at least $85 to put a rubber-shod toe in the water, so to speak. Enter the El-X. What does the El-X mean? Though you might mistakenly assume it has something to do with Spanish for “The Ten,” perhaps paying homage to 2*5=10 toes. Or some Varsity Blue reference about the El-X being … a 10!; the truth is much less obvious. EL-X stands for “Entry Level – Crosstrainer.” Duh! I’ll stick to calling it the ten. In short, what you get with the 10 is a super thin Vibram rubber outsole, a little EVA midsole, and a mesh upper. It has no strapping mechanism and gets it’s adherence to your foot via the stretch mesh upper and a paint-on stretchy and ultra rubber that wraps the foot. And that’s it. Take a look:


The El-X is all sole — mostly because the sole comprises most of the weight and lends the primary characteristics to the toe shoes. If you’re familiar with the original FiveFingers sole, you’ll recall that it was razor-siped, meaning it took rubber and had zig-zagging slices throughout the sole. That sole was 3.5mm thick rubber, by the way. Well, the El-X takes the original sole to the next level. First off, it reduces the total thickness of the rubber by over 20% going from 3.5 mm to 2.7 mm of “max thickness.” What’s up with the “max thickness” specification? It means that it’s most thick at the little parallelogram protrusions that pervade the El-X sole. These little guys, themselves vary in thickness and density. To my eye, they parallelograms seem to be about a millimeter thick. That leaves 1.7mm of Vibram rubber as the “foundation” of the El-X outsole. Of course, the El-X also has 2mm of EVA midsole. Add it up and you’ve got a “max thickness” of 4.7mm but a “foundational thickness” of 3.7mm. That is crazy thin. Comparing thickness of the El-X sole to the other super-minimalist Vibrams (the Classic and the SeeYa), the El-X is about 4.5mm thick by caliper measurement at the heel (easiest point of measurement) — that’s closer to 5mm for the Classics (for whatever reason). These are some thin and flat VFFs:
In the case of the El-X, the sole is so thin that it’s floppy. The front hangs down when held at the heel in your hand. You can roll up the El-X any which way you want. You can even stuff a rolled up El-X inside the non-rolled up one. Reviewers and bloggers in the “barefoot shoe” community like to roll up shoes to (attempt to) show how flexible they are. The truth is that this can be deceiving—how much effort did it take to roll up the shoes in question? Use enough force and you can roll up tons of shoes, but it’s still hard to go from that to figuring out just how flexible a sole really is. Regardless, here are some rolled up shots of the El-X. Note I took a little bit of a different approach:
I had my black^ El-X rolled up and stuffed inside it’s other half for this photo and when I took it out, it didn’t just spring back into shape. It sorta unrolled slowly, which gave me the time to grab the camera for a candid shot:
The El-X really springs back into shape, right? (I jest) Also, like the original FiveFingers line-up, you can get downward toe flex in the El-X, which is something that I (frustratingly) have a hard time doing in the SeeYa by comparison. Flex those toes!
This super thin and flexible sole translates into incredible ground feel. It’s on par if not slightly superior to the Classics. The EVA midsole takes a little edge off of every step, I guess, but not much. Indeed, as EVA tends to compress and break down over time, a pair of El-Xs should “break in” (or down however you want to put it) into an even more ground-feeling pair of toe shoes. What does incredible ground feel mean? It means you feel the springiness of stepping on the silicone nipple of a pacifier (Random experience, true sensation). It means you’re going to feel the gradations of worn asphalt. Textures of surfaces shine through these soles. Also, the El-X seem to be quite grippy. I’ve not had the chance to do much in the El-X more than walking, but the tread seems obviously better than the razor-siped original Vibram sole (Bonus: the millimeter-thick parallelograms don’t detract from the ground experience). Here are some more photos of the sole in action: ^ Black isn’t yet available for purchase, but you’ll see some more photos of them below.


The upper of the El-X has almost zero structure to it. This made it a little hard to photo from the side without manually expanding the upper as seen in the photo above (by comparison, the upper tends to just flatten out when left alone as seen here). What keeps the El-X on your foot? Two things: the fabric of the upper is a stretchy mesh. It provides a snug feel to keep the toe shoes on your feet. The second thing is this layered on thin rubber that wraps the upper of the El-X. In the case of the grey, orange, and black pair, this makes the shoes look striped. A minimalist solution to having straps, I’m happy to say it the mesh + paint-on rubber combination seems to work very well. It felt a little over-snug on my instep at first, but seems to adjust comfortable in short order. Meanwhile, the entire system feels almost like a second skin. I’m finding I really appreciate they didn’t outfit the El-X with a KSO-like strap (or a bungee cord). All in all, the fit of the El-X is one of the best in the Vibram line-up. It feels locked on to my foot, but not so tight as to be uncomfortable. You won’t have a problem wearing these all day, I don’t think, though it’ll be good to hear from any of you with higher insteps as far as how stretchy the mush + rubber can be. Size-wise these seem the same as the SeeYa to me though I size 43 across all VFFs. A note to the Classics fans: I always took the bungee out of my Classics because they stayed on fine without it. That said, right-sized Classics still felt a little bulbous in the heel. Not so with the El-X! And this is a huge win for the model: I think most people will be able to fit them right, which is as it should be for an entry level model of FiveFingers. As far as the insides go, the El-X has gotten the upgrade to Dri-lex and a seam-reduced experience. The insides are definitely improved over Classics/Sprints/KSOs, in other words, and similar to the SeeYa (but with fewer seams!). You can see inside the El-X in this photo. Finally, Vibram has included a little bit of toe protection to help prevent a snagged toe rip (pretty much a standard offering on Vibrams, these days):


I shot a seven minute video overview of the El-X if motion is your thing. I also talk about the Classic and SeeYa and compare them a little side-by-side. Take a watch and then I’ll wrap this initial review up:

Initial Review is Initial.

What you’ll note is that I’ve not gone in depth on how these work for running, fitness, sprinting, climbing, river forging, or tree climbing. Frankly, I just haven’t had them long enough to put them through the paces; however, in the interest of sharing some information, I’m putting this initial review up now. I’ll update it as I use the El-X more and more (feel free to ask questions in the comments!).

The El-X may be the Entry-Level, Only-level FiveFingers you need.

With the El-X priced at $75 (still time to order for Xmas, believe it or not) and having — okay I’ll say it — the best ground feel, foot flexibility, and fit (no straps to futz with!), these things have the potential to be blockbuster toe shoe hits. I could see them being great “barefoot running shoes” (as oxymoronic as that is) — better than SeeYas or Bikilas. Want them for CrossFit? Sure why not? Casual, everyday toe shoes — sure if you can rock’em, do it. The only places they’re not going to really work is running trails — yes, you could wear them for running or hiking trails, but that’d be more an advanced experience (you’d have to have a honed light impact hiking or running gait). Also, the mesh might not hold up over time to that kind of wear. Note: I can’t officially sign-off on them as “BEST EVAR!!1!yet—just haven’t had enough time in them. But I’m encouraged by not seeing any glaring problems with them out the gate while seeing pretty obvious improvements. These toe shoes are barely there and just work. I’m going to stop here. I’ve said enough already (maybe too much). Suffice to say I’m very excited about the El-X. What do you think? Is “the ten” the one toe shoe to rule them all? Maybe so!

More photos

Back in black. Wear’em casually with jeans. * My first pair of VFFs were Classics, which I reviewed , I’ve written an extensive follow-on review of them, and I’ve even forked over serious cash to have Europe-only colorways sent my way. I still wear Classics all the time in the summer as my go-to all day footwear.

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

85 replies on “Vibram FiveFingers El-X First Look”

I’m super excited about The Ten – I’m waiting on the black ones though as I could wear them to work everyday and not draw too much attention to them 🙂

Drat, I bought a lot of Classics when they were discontinued because I was afraid VFF would not release anything that would come close. Otherwise I would grab a pair.

Still love Classics though, but the heel issue sometimes bugs me, too.

As an early adopter of VFFs–I’ve been wearing minimalist shoes since about 2006–I’m really excited about these.

This is what the initial sensation was all about when the first models came out. Not about lugged soles, fancy straps, laces, etc., but about a foot glove that approached the experience of barefoot walking and running.

Mine are on order and should arrive in a day or two.

Justin, thanks for yet another fantastic review, I love this web site. I am a high mileage runner with all of my running done on groomed or mild/soft trails. The KSO and Bikila have been outstanding for me with the Treksport having more protection than I need. I have thought of trying the classic for a less shoe experience but stayed away out of concern about getting a lot of sand, gravel, pebbles in the shoe. The KSO, Bikila and Treksport have done a great job at “keeping stuff out” which I find an important characteristic for the surfaces I run on. What excites me about the EL X is that it has a full upper that appears to fit snug around the opening and looks like it will do a great job at keeping your feet free of debris.

I find it interesting that the name EL is to designate “Entry Level”, maybe from a price point but as far as running, I see these shoes appealing to runners who are more advanced with respect to wearing toe shoes.

Thanks again for the great review. I see a black/black pair in my future.

These look great! Love tne grey/orange. I just bought another pair of Bikilas for running, darn. I really would like to know how these hold up for running.

Can’t wait for the women’s version! And for some reason, I was not aware of the Classics elimination! That is a bummer. They are my favorite, go-to shoes.

I really wish this came in women’s sizes, or at least the smaller men’s sizes. I know there’s similar models coming out for women, but those models are either strappy or open-topped. Not that I mind strappy or open, but for toeshoes – since I don’t want to buy five different pairs – I just want something simple, practical, and functional. These look like they would’ve been great.

Coming from someone with a pair of grey & green KSOs that have been relegated to mowing duty, unless you really like the orange & grey, you should wait to get what you want. It won’t be *that* long, and you’ll be that much happier for it. Now if only I can find someone to buy my NIB Classic Smartwools. 😉

Personally, I hope they *never* make these in Women’s sizes.

Women already have the Jaya, Jaya LR, Performa Jane, and soon, Entrada, and Alitza, among others;
Heaven forbid us guys get something cool just for us!

I’m very excited. I was hoping they would come out with something a little less than the SeeYa’s, I just wish I had known about these before I bought a new pair of Bikila’s and Komodo’s on Vibram’s black Friday sale. The free shipping from REI means I can get them on Friday. I don’t think they’ll keep my feet very warm up here in New York though! If they are all they live up to, it might be my new road racing set of VFFs!

It’s great to see a VFF go back to the Classics feel without the cord. I hated the cord. It always picked on my achilles tendon. The cord always won. Until I cut it off. Now I can’t wait to buy a pair of ELKS. er…EL-X…

Zack, I know they’re scarce in the US, now. But, FWIW, I have been wearing the Bormio straight through WNY winters. With a generous amount of Sno-Seal applied and set with a hairdryer, the inside remains protected from slush and salt. The thicker sole is enough to keep me warm, even on ice. They key, however, is that I have to stay moving. I found that standing on concrete for 5 minutes made me cold, but when I walk for 15+ on ice-covered sidewalks, my feet stay warm. I suspect that’s because the micro-fleece is only on the side. However, I don’t think I would change it, because they get pretty warm indoors (or when the temps go above freezing). Perhaps if I used them with wool socks, they’d be even warmer yet.

Harrison, there are photos of actual black versions of the EL-X (see above), but no one is selling them yet. If history is any guide, they likely will in (relatively) short order.

John, Elks… I like that better than El ex or Elten. 🙂

It’s kind of funny… when I bought my first pair of VFFs (grey/green KSOs) nearly three years ago, I was pretty concerned about how thin they were, and that they would wear out in no time.

Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t been using only one pair of VFFs, but in the summer, I wear my black KSOs exclusively (unless I’m doing yard work, when I switch to the grey/green). Also, I don’t run. But, this spring is going to mark my second year of wearing the black KSOs, and they don’t feel like they’re going to wear out anytime soon!

I’m normally a very practical consumer, and I used to poke fun at my wife because she buys shoes before the ones she has have worn out. Before VFFs, I did’t buy clothes unless they were replacements for things that have already worn out, or they were on a significant sale. Yet (and especially after reading that Justin finds the ground feel to be improved over the siped soles, which I love — thanks Justin!), I now find myself wanting to buy a pair of the black EL-X as soon as they go on sale! I have so many VFFs now (most still new, in the box), that I’m starting to feel guilty about that. 😉

Dan, 99% sure that they are 44 (the Bormios I have on now are 43, and I vaguely recall classics being +1). I forgot to check last night, but I will check and repost ASAP to eliminate that 1% doubt. 🙂

For $75 this seems to be my next pair (provided they ever make them in size 38).
Also it’s great to see Vibram making more minimalist shoes again, they just need more unisex models as a lot of current models are either too big for me or look too girly.


M, I will be completely honest and say that I’m sceptical of how secure the El-X will be for rigorous sporting activities. I am a competitive runner, amateur boxer and amateur triathlete. I currently rotate between the KSO Treksport, Komodosport Ls, Bikila LS and Seeya. I don’t want to have to rely on a stretch material that may lose a certain degree of tightness after a few months of activity. Having a hook and loop velcro system like the kso and kso treksport would make this the ultimate secure and FLAT soled vibram. It’s really just a piece of mind thing. I am happy that they are going for the completely flat sole look. Each foot will be able to adapt a lot easier to these shoes in the future. It just keeps the bio-mechanic side simple.

Jonathon, fair enough. Regarding your triathlons, if I were in cold water, I think I’d want neoprene VFFs. That said, isn’t switching clothing part of a triathlon (or are you looking to skip that part to gain time)? I’ve cut the velcro strap off entirely on my KSOs, because I was tired of the velcro catching the upper. The only time I’ve had issues with them slipping is with use in deep water, but that goes back to my want of a neoprene pair. I’d suggest, maybe, finding a used pair of KSOs and either cut off or completely unfasten the strap and test them out, unless there’s another activity where you can use the EL-X, if you’re not happy with them in competition, FWIW. 🙂

I wore my El-X all day yesterday. It was a cold day (below freezing, anyway) with a dusting (around an inch) of snow on the ground, which is expressly the opposite conditions to which the El-X really seems suited, but I was wearing them around the office, and didn’t feel like changing when I went outside.

They perform in those conditions about like one would expect. 🙂 On the upside, though, they do seem to have great grip, even on slick, icy terrain.

I did just a few quick little test-runs, and they seemed quite nice provided one isn’t dealing with goathead thorns (long, rigid thorns endemic to some areas). I am a little concerned that the tread may not stand up well to significant amounts of road running, but time will tell.

They do seem like they will be superb for gym/treadmill use, though.

So far as fit goes, I normally opt for a 42 in my VFFs because I have a very high instep, and it’s impossible to fit a VFF to my foot sized by length, according to their sizing chart. I typically end up with a bit of slack in the toe pockets, though. It’s not really a problem, but on this pair, with the stretchy, relatively open upper, I opted for a 41.

The toe pockets do fit more like what a VFF toe pocket is supposed to with the 41, but my foot width and high instep pulls the material enough in other directions that heel fit suffers. They never came close to falling off, but I have a hunch that had I conceded that I’ll just have to live with a little extra toe space even in these, and had I gone with a 42, heel fit might be better. Over all, though, I’m pleased with these.

They will be completely useless for me when running around my home, as the tread will be useless against the aforementioned goathead thorns, but in milder situations, I may end up wearing them a lot.

Got my pair today! 😀

I haven’t had much time, but I’m already in love!
These put KSOs to shame-
They’re pretty much the ultimate realization of an outdoor-friendly, ultra-minimalist foot glove.

We may have lost some beloved SKU’s (Classic, Sprint, Moc),
but these fill their shoes (har har) very adequately.

They almost remind me of my beloved, lost Moc,
except they are fit for outdoor wear.

I agree with Justin here- a perfect 10.
Great work, Vibram!

Got mine on Friday and wore them playing basketball in a parents vs. middle school team game. Other than the fact that some of the parents were concerned about my feet getting stepped on and all the pounding on the floor–neither of which I have any concern about having worn VFFs for sports activities for years–it went quite well. The EL-X, of course, is not designed for basketball, and you would want a more secure heel for higher level play. But they felt great in general. The parents won, btw. Yesterday and today I walked all over Manhattan in them.

Any thoughts on the usage/need for Injini socks with these? I’ve been +1000 miles in vibrams for each of the past 3 years and although I’ve tried other models am pretty well settled on the standard KSOs with Injinis and the standard Bikilas without socks but 1 size smaller than the KSO. Had a lot of success with this approach but on two Marathons one hot and sweaty and the other rainy I had hotspots on the tops of my feet from a seam on the Bikilas that led to a scar in one case. In 2012 I introduced a lot more miles of true BF running and am excited about the concept of such a minimal version and would hate to add a layer of Injinis unless the upper was an issue here too.


Now for the black color to come out from REI and other official retailers, orange just won’t do.

Women have the Entrada, right?

Nice, been waiting fr these puppies since my old KSO has passed to the afterlife of my house’s attic. Anyways i noticed that on the vibram website, the EL-X are classified as casual and fitness shoe. In terms of durability and multiuse like KSO, are the EL-X good enough to replace my old KSO?

I think I’m a bit less impressed than Justin is with the El-X. In particular, I don’t like the feel of the heel cup. I’ve been running in VFFs for three years now, and have a dozen pairs. My favorites continue to be the KSOs, followed closely by KomodoSport, which I find the most versatile. What these have in common: the velcro strap. I don’t know about you, but I like having the strap to customize the fit just a bit. With these “strapless” VFFs, I find myself thinking a bit too much about how they are sitting on my feet. The heel of the El-X feels similar to the Seeya to me (though the Seeya do indeed have the strap). So, while I love the concept of this shoe, it’s not immediately clear to me how the El-X will fit into my repertoire.

Seriously you received a pair of all blacks you can’t tell me you have no clue about when they will be available.

I cannot wait to purchase a pair of these. Does anyone know if these are going to be available in a size M39? I can fit into a M40 but a M39 is a better fit.

Just for everyone’s information, I e-mailed Vibram about what sizes the EL-X will be available in and they responded that the model will come in sizes from 38 to 50. So for those with smaller feet like me, fret not!

Great review Justin. Mine just came in the mail today, and they are fantastic. These will now replace my KSOs as my running shoes for track and cross country. I am confident that they will stay snug and secure, the fit is perfect. The interior is far better than the KSOs, and there is no where for blisters to rub.

I hope that the women’s model is released soon and is functionally identical to this. I am male but my feet are smaller that the smallest male sizes so I’ll just have to wait… and keep my fingers crossed that Vibram do the right thing with the women’s equivalent

I have a pair of KSO size 43 – love them. I just got a pair of El-X size 43, but they seem a little too snug… my toes are comfortable in my KSO’s, but they are cramped in the El-X. Does anyone else have this problem? Do these run smaller – should I replace these with a larger size, the 44’s?

Yes, Ben, I definitely think that the El-X are among the smallest Vibrams per size. The Classics are a bit smaller yet, but El-X are surely smaller than my KSOs, Treks, KomodoSport, Bikila — probably even smaller than Seeya (but pretty darn close to Seeya in many ways). This isn’t a big deal to me, since I wear all of my other VFFs with Injinji socks. My El-X are now my “barefoot barefoot” shoes — good for putting on for playing with my kids in the backyard, primarily.

Thanks G-Ville. I went to REI today and exchanged my EL-X’s. The 44’s fit perfectly. Wore them around the house some to get a better feel for them. I think they will be excellent once they are properly broken in

Hey Justin, I just noticed something about my pair. The heel cup is slightly different than yours. Where the suede strip runs straight down the back of yours, on mine it also wraps around the heel. Sorta hard to explain, but there is definitely much more suede on mine. Do you know why this would be? I got them off rei.

How are these sized? I’m size 42 in the KSO classics/KSO Treks. From what other people are saying, i’d need 43’s?

Barefoot shoes just do not get any better than this. EL-X is my most comfortable pair yet. I wish I had 2 pair (home and away).
Ever since I retired 3 years ago all my “ties” and regular shoes went into storage. These EL-X’s are my 25th pair (I’m a devotee and VFF connoisseur). I still love and wear all of my Five Finger shoes, even the duck-taped ones I use to work around the house.
When you find something that works you stick with it. Why so many? ->
Borneo WORK and winter/wet boots (black and brown); then there’s HIKING/biking, RUNNING, CASUAL around the house, and of course you need multiple colors to go with different outfits (women instinctively understand this).
My next pair will be EL-X’s again (hopefully in another color???)

Kyhwana – I’m a 44 in KSO and had to get 43’s in EX-L’s. So, I guess if you’re 42 in KSO, look at 41’s. However, the best idea is to go somewhere that sells them and try them on.

Hi Justin.
Just for your opinion, i used to use my KSO’s for running on concrete and on the beach. I loved the feel . How good are these as running shoes for may be 21 Km Half Marathon distance. Thanks a ton .

Thanks Ben, though I doubt anywhere here in New Zealand has them 🙁 (And if they did, they’d be at least twice the price of buying them online+shipping!)

Justin, Kirk:

I tried on VFFs for the first time today. I tried on Bikilas, KSOs, and Spyridon LSes.

VFF’s size guide says I’m a 41, but I needed a 42 for all. I have a high instep. The Spyridon’s fit the best. The strap ones tended to be overly tight across the top of my foot.

That being said, what size would you recommend for the El-Xes? I’m probably getting the Spyridon LSes and a cooler more breathable pair.

Also, I never had a chance to try the Komodosport LSes either….

@Simon H

I’d probably go with a 42. A high instep tends to increase the size you need when it comes to VFFs — as you experienced based on trying them on.

BLACK EL-X just arrived. Minutes after posting above comment I went to City Sports and saw if I registered with them I could get an additional discount. Paid $71.20 delivered. They wrap your foot like a glove.
For me sizing depends on whether I’m going to wear toe socks or not. So my winter waterproof shoes are 44 and the rest 43… especially the EL-X… they stretch nicely.
PS. I’ve been wearing VFF’s exclusively for the past 3 years since I retired and my health and agility have improved markedly (I’m on my toes all the time). All previous back, hip, knee/leg pains have been totally gone for years.

I was comparing my El-X and KSOs yesterday. I put one on each foot. I’ll tell you where the KSOs win hands-down against the El-X: toe flexion. It is much easier to curl my toes downward in the KSOs than in the El-X. Toe flexion is one of my favorite things about barefoot shoes, especially KSOs and most VivoBarefoot with a big toe box.


Are these brand new KSOs or broken in KSOs? The break-in of the EVA would make a big difference. ALSO, are these “thin-toed” KSOs (this can be discerned by looking at the thickness in profile of the rubber at the toes of your KSOs — some KSOs this rubber is incredibly thin; others its thick — makes a huge difference).

Wow Greenville Gent… I can’t imagine a defect but perhaps you should exchange your EL-Xs or try another pair. I’ve 3 pr KSO and both my EL-Xs have way more toe flexibility.. I can wiggle them almost like I’m barefoot. Did you see Justin’s pics above? Also be sure to watch the EL-X video for the standard.

Don’t get me wrong — they’re flexible, indeed. Probably toe abduction, adduction, and extension are better in the El-X. It’s the flexion — curling toes — that is easier in my KSOs and VBs than in the El-X. Frankly, I’m just trying to be a bit critical of the El-X to offer some commentary balance against Justin’s unbridled enthusiasm. I’m happy to have the El-X as part of my barefoot repertoire. Cool shoes, but not among my top three favorite pairs of VFFs (KSO, KomodoSport, Bikila, then these — followed by Trek, then Seeya bringing up the rear).


I had completely forgotten to consider my own thin toed KSOs (the Remixes) in making the comparison, but then again, I think this is widely considered to be a non-standard or atypical implementation of the original FiveFingers sole, which was intended to be 3.5mm thick (even at the toes). I’ve never measured the thickness of the thin toed KSOs I’ve got but I’d guess (purely on memory as I don’t have my pair in front of me) that it’s a single mm or so thick, which would explain the additional flexibility. Funny thing about the thin toed KSOs (and a few Classics, but none I own) is that some loved this “feature” (I did!) while others hated it as a flaw, which is what it really was.

Anyway, it’s a great observation.

That said, can you really compare any toe flexibility in FiveFingers to Vivo Barefoots where you aren’t bending the sole in step with your toe movement (save for upward flex, perhaps)? This strikes me as a little apples and oranges. There are plenty of regular shoes where I can crunch my toes down (or up) inside the toe box but aren’t minimalist. Or maybe I’m just misunderstanding and you are actually bending the VB sole in keeping with the downward flex of your toes (almost making a crease, as with VFFs) (?).

I like your ordering of your favorites. It’s hard to do that for me. I wear Speeds probably more than any other VFF followed by Sorrentos. But for working out, I am wearing El-X (was wearing SeeYa). For running … tough one but probably SeeYa or Bikila. Trails? Spyridon LS (or KSO Trek). Spring/Summer casual wear or wear with shorts? Classics make a frequent appearance.

Hard to order because so many different applications.

Justin: You’re right, it’s not a perfect comparison — but I’d say more like grapefruits and oranges. It was the VFFs that got me into barefoot shoes. Through your website & other recommendation by fellow VFF-loving friends, I gave VivoBarefoot a try. Now I wear VivoBarefoot most of the time. Still only wear VFFs for running, though. Anyway, I had on a pair of traditional “foot coffin” Allen Edmonds last week for a few hours & I thought that I was gonna cry ;->

So, indeed — the toe flexion in KSOs is quite different from VivoBarefoot. But they are allies in the war against toe prisons, so there is at least some common ground for comparison.

With all this flexibility and thinness of the shoe, how does it fare in terms of durability? Will it last long if i wear them almost every day?

I bought the black El-X, but returned them. I found out that I prefer VFF’s that wrap the foot at a higher point like the KSO’s or my black/green Spyridons.

I also did not like the heel cup at all. The KSO and Spyridon have the sole come up around the heel and it feels supportive.

The El-X has a thicker material that circles the back of the heel from the sole and when you set your heel in it, it causes the heel area to wrinkle and buckle. It is awkward.

I can feel tiny screws on the ground when I step on them, in these things! (Even more so than the KSO’s I have)

(Handy when you’re wondering where that small screw you lost went to!)

@ Rob C

“wrinkle and buckle”

The exact words I would use to describe the EL-X sloppy heel. I even tried to size down from my normal, and the heel was better but the rest of my foot/toes were way too cramped.

So now; do I return both pairs and move on? or do I give the 40’s a shot and just hope I can learn to live with the heel?

Having just bought a pair of the Merrell Vapor Glove, I’m not sure I will be buying any more VFFs. Though I’ve worn them since before they were popular, in the end I’m not sure I get much benefit from the separated toes. Give me thin, flexible soles, light uppers, no arch support and zero drop, and I’m pretty happy.

Hey Justin, Great review but are us GIRLS going to be able to wear these anytime soon??
I run barefooted or w/ fivefingers or Vivo and I would LOVE these!!! Are they going to make them for us girlies!! And I hope if they do, they do make them in goofy bright so-called girly colors 🙂 Not ALL of us girls like those bright colors 🙂
Thank you for your time!!

Justin… why couldn’t a woman find a men’s size that fits her… especially with EL-X or Komodo Sport that wrap the feet so well.

I wear a size 39M, since I have short, fat feet; and my feet are too wide for any women’s models.

The only shoes Vibram has recently offered to guys who are size 38 or 39 are the KSO (black only) and Bikila LS.

If this is replacing the KSO, I hope they at least make this one is a 38 and 39!

Hank:I went with 42,which is the same size I am for the KSOs etc.

They mostly fit, though they “feel” loose around my heel, though I don’t think they’re actually loose..

When I checked Vibram’s website, I was glad to see the size boxes for 38 and 39 listed for the EL-X.

I was able to track down a dealer who had the 39M in Gray and am now wearing them. 🙂

Hi Justin (and any others who have a view on this)
I have a pair of Soft Star Moc3 which I love except that I find them a little too snug around the toe area so my toes don’t spread as they would barefoot (unless a wear a bigger size which is too big around the rest of my foot). Consequently I’ve always thought my dream shoe would have the flexibility and ground feel of a Moc3 but with fivefingers style toes. Do you think the El-x would fit the bill? Thanks, Alan

Hi Justin,

Really interesting article ! I would like buy my first vibrams.
I think I will use it for walking and running but I would like to be able to use it for climbing sometime or just walking on small paths. What do you think is the most convenient ELX or KSO ?

Thanks for your answer,

have a good day


Just bought a pair of this model 2 months ago and had ran less than 25 miles on it. Today i found out that the paint-on rubber that connects the upper fabric to the sole are starting to rip. Anyone else experienced the same thing?

I wonder how long the relatively soft rubber sole will last when used for running 5 to 16 miles / 6 days per week?

For exactly two months, I have really enjoyed the Vibram FiveFingers EL-X shoes for casual wear around home and the office as well as for fitness classes (Boot Camp and Tabata) 2-4 times per week. My heel slips out of the shoe during extreme backward movements like mountain climbers, especially when wearing socks; otherwise, fit and function has been near perfect. I usually wear Injinji toe socks. I have washed the EL-Xs once — this past weekend.

Today, I notice that the soles are delaminating from the uppers on the insides of both big toes. I plan to return the EL-Xs to REI, but I’m bummed because I really liked these shoes for fitness activity and casual inactivity.

I’ve had the EL-X’s for a while. I’ve really enjoyed the light, sheer feel of them. They’re good for summer time. They are super easy to slip on. However only on flat, clear surfaces where there is no debris to step on as they their flexibility is very permeable to anything that might make your feet hurt like rocks or other rough surfaces (as to be expected).

They are not very durable at all. The fabric is fine, it has stayed together for the time I’ve had them. But the rubber soles become unglued from the edges along the inside of the arch and the other side all the way to the heel almost, as well as the toe pockets separating from the toe rubber as well. I’ve even had holes form on the sole rubber. I guess it is to be expected since they are so thin and I’ve worn them for so long. Another complaint is that they can be a bit tight. I tend to be lazy sometimes and sleep in my VFF’s, these ones always make my feet ache tremendously if I leave them on for too long, even while sitting, as though it is trapping bloodflow, particularly around the heel, there is that seam on the heel that is a little thick and makes that nerve in the achilles area a bit achy.
Overall, good relaxed walking shoes for indoors, outdoors not so much. I find myself kicking off the heel a lot if I’m not walking much, I just wish the heel was made like the seeyas where there’s no seam on the very back.

I have a problem, and is that i am too tall, and there’s only 4 types of vibram shoes with my size, this is one of them, but i want them to do parkour and running, and i think they are the thinnest, so i don’t think they’re good, or am i wrong? So, if they are bad for using like i want, what would you recommend me?

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