Sprinting, Cutting, Weight Lifting and How the KomodoSport Stacks Up Against Other FiveFingers (KomodoSport vs. KSO, Bikila, TrekSport)

BirthdayShoes first reported on the Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport (say that five times fast!) in Fall of 2010 with our sneak preview Komodo review. Everything I wrote in that review still stands today. But now that the production, final KomodoSport has been out for a couple months, I wanted to do an updated review and video, as well as compare the KomodoSport to specific other models of Vibram FiveFingers — plus a healthy dose of photos!

More after the jump!

What is the FiveFingers KomodoSport?

The FiveFingers KomodoSport, or “Komodo” for short (rhyme!), features a brand new Vibram outsole and footbed. Here’s an official shot of the KomodoSport sole from Vibram:

Look at all those jaggedies! The stated goal of the KomodoSport is to raise the “intensity” via an “aggressive multisport design [that] inherits what we love about the KSO with functional improvements that appeal to the most active fitness enthusiast” (I’ll get to a specific KSO vs. KomodoSport comparison below). The most obviously different feature of the KomodoSport is it’s aggressive 4mm rubber outsole (the bottom you see above — note the arch is EVA). This outsole features grooved tread to provide additional grip when engaging in more tenuous, stop-and-go, laterally cutting exercises or recreation—think sprints. Here are some more shots:

The KomodoSport outsole is paired up with a removable “footbed,” which I think of as an insole, that lays on top of the rubber outsole, thereby eliminating any of the bottom seams — namely the ones at the toe pockets. Just look at this photo of the inside of the KomodoSport and note that you see zero stitching at the heel and the fabric doesn’t pop up at the base in the toe pockets:

Follow the edge of the yellow footbed and note: no seams!

The seamless KomodoSport footbed is also incredibly soft, and if you do the math, a 3mm footbed plus a 4mm outsole gives you 7mm of total thickness give or take a millimeter. I’m getting ahead of myself here but by comparison the FiveFingers KSO has a 4mm (The KSO sole is just smooth/flat with razor siping vs. raised/lowered portions like the KomodoSport) and a 2mm EVA midsole — 6mm.

Note: I don’t recommend removing the FiveFingers Komodo footbed as it’s pretty hard to get back in. Also, if you’re wondering if you could remove it to get a bit better ground feel, well, you could, but given the inside portion of the KomodoSport outsole is rubber covered with a gritty mesh, it’s clearly not intended to be worn without the footbed in place. Maybe sans footbed plus socks it’d be okay — if anyone tries it let me know!

While the FiveFingers KomodoSport may look beefy in the sole, it still provides a great deal of ground feel and toe flexibility. I’d estimate it’s marginally better than the Bikila and Trek-styled soles and marginally worse than the KSO. The upside is that the KomodoSport is considerably more functional for recreation and fitness activities that require launching across a field or stopping on a dime.

The FiveFingers KomodoSport for Sprinting, Weight Lifting, and Lateral Cuts

The FiveFingers KomodoSport’s outsole/footbed combo is designed for traction (1) and (2) being able to cut laterally. Think: chasing after a launched frisbee or launching into a sprint. Raise your foot if you’ve ever launched after a frisbee in Sprint FiveFingers and attempted to stop only to find you couldn’t stop? Maybe it’s just me.

Another recreational example is kickball. First off, kicking a big squishy ball (as with kickball — not sure about soccer) works remarkably well in FiveFingers. Take away the shoelaces you get with a standard shoe and add the wide, flat surfaced base that is a foot in it’s close-to-natural condition—a.k.a. wear a pair of Vibrams— and you get a pretty accurate kicking foot. The sting isn’t terrible and you can really nail the ball — or bunt if you like that strategy. Directional kicks are much easier, to boot. That said, as I noted a bit over two years ago, rounding bases in KSO FiveFingers is difficult to impossible. You just can’t stop. Thankfully, the tread design of the Vibram KomodoSport goes a long way to providing stop and go traction — both for kickball and chasing frisbees. Win.

Straight up sprints work just fine in the KomodoSports, as expected. I’ve been doing a weekly hill sprint routine on asphalt (5×10 yard sprints, 4×20 yard sprints, 3×30, 2×40, 1×50) and haven’t found any fault with the KomodoSport design. They perform wonderfully — sprinting close-to-barefoot is just an awesome feeling. I believe I can fly.

Weight-lifting in KomodoSport FiveFingers is great, too. Mind, for most weight-lifting activities, just about any pair of FiveFingers will do. I personally love doing squats in all FiveFingers, and as it’s been pointed out everywhere, Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for training barefoot. I wonder if he has a pair of VFFs … Hmm.

That said, the KomodoSports actually perform a better than other FiveFingers in certain, admittedly niche weight-lifting endeavors. First, take a look at the KomodoSport here:

A left and right look at the yellow/black KomodoSport — this is my preferred color combo, actually.

I’ve been following a weight-lifting and nutrition protocol designed by my buddy Martin Berkhan around intermittent fasting called Lean Gains, and while I won’t delve into that here, one of the exercises is weighted chin-ups. We don’t have a weight-chain belt in my office gym nor do we have a weighted vest, so my workout partner and I make do with using a dumbbell placed vertically below the bar and lifted from the ground by our feet. This works fairly well, and I clearly have better “hold” on the dumbbell than my sneaker-shod buddy Rudy. However, the lack of padding on the top of my Bikilas, Sprints, and KSOs can make that iron really dig into my foot. It can seriously hurt.

If you look at the KomodoSport upper, you’ll notice that in addition to some fairly beefy straps, there’s a mesh fabric underneath the top strap. This mesh has the slightest bit of thickness and padding to it — probably intended to disperse the strap pressure. The added benefit for weighted chin-ups is that I get just a bit of cushion right where that dumbbell levers against my foot. Obscure-likely-unintended-FiveFingers-Komodo design FTW! Yea!

What else? A quick comparison to other FiveFingers models …

A close up of the dotted toe protection featured on the KomodoSport line-up — similar to what you get with the Bikila LS.
KomodoSport FiveFingers vs. the KSO

First, I need to disclaim that I still love my KSO FiveFingers. KSOs are “do-anything” (just about) and reigned supreme as the best-all-around, if-you-only-have-one-pair Vibram FiveFingers model for a long, long time. For that matter, they still may hold the title. In a nutshell, the KSO offers full coverage over the foot, an ankle enclosure to “keep stuff out” (get it?), the standard, original, razor-siped Vibram rubber sole, 2mm of EVA midsole, and a “hook and loop” enclosure system. It’s simple in construction and simply gets the job done in most applications.

That said, there are a few applications in which KSO FiveFingers struggle, and the one that matters most in comparison to the KomodoSport is in maintaining traction on slicker or less grippy surfaces. Rounding the bases in KSOs can be difficult and stopping on a base … well you might as well keep going! The Komodo FiveFingers’ sole just works better here.

The Komodo’s seamless footbed and lined interior make for an overall more comfy feel against your bare foot than the KSO, which has seams on the upper and seams in the toe pockets.

That said, the KSO benefits from being lighter than the KomodoSport, thinner in the sole (marginally) and thanks to a less complicated rubber sole, transmits more ground feel and is a bit more flexible than the KomodoSport.

KSO vs. KomodoSport Bottom Line — Go KSO if you want a more barefoot-like experience that will save you $15 over the KomodoSports and a bit of weight on the foot. Go KomodoSport if you’re going to need extra traction, don’t mind a heavier pair of toe shoes, and want a slightly more plush, soft ride for your foot.

KomodoSport FiveFingers vs. the Bikila

The FiveFingers Bikila is Vibram’s road (and light trail) barefoot-like running toe shoe. By comparison to the Komodo, the Bikila is more specialized and one-minded in it’s design: running. This running-specific design is best exemplified by the Bikila having it’s thickest polyurethane “cushioning” at the ball of the foot, which is intended to give a runner a smoother ride running with a natural forefoot “strike.” Comparatively, the Komodo is marketed (and designed) more for general activity, but also for high intensity sprinting or lateral cutting.

Both Bikila and KomodoSport offer a seam-reduced experience. The Bikila has fewer seams over the top of the foot whereas the KomodoSport has fewer seams at each toe pocket thanks to the footbed. Both KomodoSport and Bikila have a polyurethane footbed/insole though the Bikila’s insole is thickest at the ball of the foot as noted earlier. Overall, I’d say you get a smidge more ground feel in KomodoSports than Bikilas and a little more foot flexibility, as well. The difference in ground feel is marginal.

Bikila vs. KomodoSport Bottom Line — if you’re going to be mostly running miles in your FiveFingers, I’d go with the Bikila. If you plan to be incorporating running into a more generalized workout/training regiment, I’d grab the KomodoSport. Both are $100 so choose wisely!

KomodoSport FiveFingers vs. the TrekSport (or KSO Trek)

The FiveFingers TrekSport (reviewed here) is like a hybrid of the KSO Trek and the KSO in that it has a KSO-like upper (though made out of coconut fabric and having an added heel-cup for comfort) with a Trek sole. The Trek sole is designed for “off road” use featuring an aggressive tread and soft cleats. Thus, the comparison of the FiveFingers TrekSport to the KomodoSport comes down to, again, the distinguishing feature of the KomodoSport: the sole.

Since the TrekSport and KomodoSport both have a grippy sole that will readily “dig in” on cuts or loose ground, you can do a lot of lateral cutting and sprinting in both. It’s difficult to say if one rubber sole is better than the other for these purposes, but where the KomodoSport wins out is with it’s reduced-friction footbed. Though this amounts to just opinion at this point, I’d guess the KomodoSport will wear longer than the TrekSport if you’re doing a lot of intense cutting moves.

I have yet to run trails in the KomodoSport so I can’t (yet) comment on how they perform in this application, but I’d guess they’d do fine. The tread on the KomodoSport isn’t quite as deep or aggressive as the TrekSport (or KSO Trek — see the FiveFingers KSO Trek review here), so that’s a consideration. Also, I have had my fair share of dirt and debris slip into the upper of the KomodoSport — particularly sprinting around on a recently aerated field — the KomodoSport’s ankle enclosure isn’t quite as locked-on to your ankle as with the KSO, KSO Trek, or TrekSport.

TrekSport vs. KomodoSport Bottom Line — if your plan is to run trails, I’d go with the TrekSport or better yet pony up the extra $25 and get the leather KSO Trek for added durability and style. If you’re not planning on running trails often but want to have the option while still using your FiveFingers for sprints, workouts, etc., pick up some KomodoSports. Capiche?

Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport Overview/Review Parting Thoughts and Video!

Two more thoughts and I’ll cut you free. First, I want to clarify that the EVA arch cover on the KomodoSport is not arch support — at least, that’s not the intention. That said, as is the case with all FiveFingers, the arch curves up and in to hug the foot, and if that feels like support to you, then that’s that. The bottom line is that the sole of the KomodoSport (or Bikila, which is similar in arch design) isn’t supposed to support anything anymore than the innate structure of the sole will have some structure, and that structure will put pressure on your foot (Case in point: you can’t wiggle your toes exactly the same in VFFs as barefoot).

Two, I’m on the fence about the jagged, painted on lines you see on the upper of the KomodoSport line. I like them fine on the yellow and black KomodoSports for men as well as the purplish-y/indigo women’s KomodoSport. Where I’m less a fan is with the black versions as these lines have a metallic finish that is just a bit shiny for my taste. To each his own though! Overall, the KomodoSport line reminds me of Samurai swords and ninjas. What’s up with that?

And with that I’ll cut to the video review/overview …

KomodoSport FiveFingers Photo Gallery

FiveFingers KomodoSport in Yellow/Black (My personal favorite color combo) — more photos of the yellow, though a pre-production model, can be found here: