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If there was one model that brought Vibrams to the masses, it had to have been the FiveFingers KSO. When it launched, there weren’t many other toe shoe options outside of the open-topped Classic and Sprint FiveFingers and the water-centric Flows. The KSO just had the right balance of ground feel, ease of fit, aesthetics, and foot coverage (to “keep stuff out”) that made them the “go to” for newcomers to toe shoes.
A lot has happened since the KSO made waves in the barefoot shoes scene not the least of which has been Vibram’s dramatic expansion of it’s line to include all sorts of activity-centric sole designs.
One of the most exciting new sole platforms has been that of the EL-X that came out Spring 2013. Vibram launched the EL-X (an “Entry-Level crosstrainer”) as a way to get a lot of ground feel at a super-affordable pricepoint (You can find them for $65!).
So where to next? Come Spring 2014, Vibram will be launching a laced version of the EL-X—and you guessed it, it’s being branded as the evolution of the original KSO—meet the FiveFingers KSO EVO!
The FiveFingers KSO EVO Official Specs
Let’s start with the “facts” as they stand now. From Vibram’s Spring 2014 catalog:
Built on a platform that offers the best ground feedback in our line, the KSO EVO is one of three shoes that round out our new category: Max-Feel. A reinforced upper and speed lace allows for easy entry and a snug fit while the zig-zag patterned sole provides grip and flexibility in all directions. Feel more under foot with more versatility.
WEIGHT: M43 = 4.9oz W38 = 3.5oz
MAX SOLE THICKNESS: 4.7mm
INSOLE: 2mm EVA + Anti Microbial Drilex Sockliner
Machine Wash Cold/Air Dry
Note the “Max-Feel” category includes the EL-X (men’s only), Alitza (women’s only), and KSO EVO.
The KSO EVO Sole and Vibram’s “Max-Feel”
Thanks to already being familiar with the EL-X, we have a great sense for what to expect out of the KSO EVO sole. I’m going to pull from my EL-X review:
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.
If you’re after ground feel, the EL-X and KSO EVO sole are pretty hard to beat. I can’t speak to the Alitza, but if it’s comparable to the feel of the EL-X sole (anyone know?), the “Max Feel” moniker for this category makes a lot of sense.
When it comes to the KSO EVO, it’s all about the addition of laces. In my experience, laces have almost always improved the fit and overall feel of a pair of FiveFingers*. While I think the EL-X fits pretty well using nothing more than some painted on material over a stretchy mesh fabric, having the ability to customize how taut the upper is against my foot would be really nice.
And I think aesthetically it’s a nice improvement, too.
Is the KSO EVO going to be as much of a hit as the KSO? It’s hard to say but I’m skeptical—because there are now so many other options in the Vibram line.
That said, if you want a lot of ground feel, I think the KSO EVO will be exactly what you want. Also, if you’re female and wanted to get the EL-X sole, the KSO EVO will be your only “in,” since the EL-X is mens only.
What do you think? Would you swap your KSOs for a laced pair of KSO EVOs? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments! And see below for the various colorways (the pink and black are women’s; the rest, including black, are men’s).
If you want to stay up on other new toe shoes coming Spring 2014, be sure to subscribe as I’ll be showing off more in the coming days and weeks!
* I’d say the only exception to this is the SeeYa LS, which I just never warmed up to as far as the choice in upper design or materials.
Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad based in Atlanta where he works for MURAL in marketing. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.