When anyone mentions barefoot, minimalist or natural running you can be sure that the conversation will be steered towards Vibram FiveFinger shoes sooner or later. No matter what the age or experience of runner, most have not only have heard of Virbram as a company but also have a strong opinion on their shoes and philosophy one way or another.
Personally, I have toyed with natural running for the past three years and have run in a variety of flexible and flat shoes, all claiming to offer a true minimalist running experience. However, as far as I am concerned, you cant call yourself a barefoot runner unless you run regularly in a pair of Vibram Fivefingers. This is why I was so excited when Vibram offered to send me a pair of my very own to test out and see what I thought of their most popular line, the KSO.
Before we start the review, it is worth mentioning briefly what barefoot running entails and why it is gaining such momentum as a more body-friendly way of running.
Conventional running shoes have been designed with the view that more cushioning is better. This may be true in some cases but adding additional cushioning to the heel of a trainer increases its heel to toe offset level. Because your heel is now higher then your forefoot, when you run you tend to strike the ground with your heel more than you would if you were running without wearing trainers. This actually increases the amount of shock passing through your lower body and so the cushioning can actually cause more harm than good.
Barefoot striking video:
Barefoot running involved getting back to basics. Running in a shoe like the Vibram FiveFingers encourages you to land on your mid and fore foot initially before gently placing your heel on the ground before toe off. Although this kind of style takes a little getting used to, some people find that this style prevents impact related injuries as the whole gait cycle is smoother and less jared.
The Vibram FiveFinger KSO Review
The KSO has quickly become one of Vibrams best selling shoes. Over the past five years it has built up a reputation for being a quality multi sport shoe that allows the runner to not only feel more connected to the road, but also protects the foot from all the nasty debris that can litter your running route.
I first spotted a pair of Vibram’s five years ago in my local gym and have been dying to try a pair ever since. I made the jump from conventional Asics running shoes to the Newton natural running shoes about a year ago and so have had some experience in the ‘land, lever, lift’ way of running but putting on a pair of KSO’s was a whole new ball game.
The construct of the KSO is one of two parts. A flexible mesh upper keeps your foot glued in place to the durable rubber compound that makes up the sole of the shoe.
More anchorage is provided in the form of a single velcro strap that crossed the bridge as well as an elastic rim to shoe where ankle meets material.
Aptly named ‘FiveFingers’, the distinctive five toe pockets give the shoe its distinctive look and name. The tips of each toe section are coated in the same rubber compound that makes up the sole of the shoe and provides much needed protection from any debris that you may encounter whilst you are out on the road or trail.
Natural is the name of the game when it comes to the KSO and not only is the rubber sole moulded in the shape of the sole of a foot, but a light and breathable upper allows for ventilation and air flow. The light weight construction, breathable upper and thin rubber sole all add to the natural running experience of the KSO.
Running in the Vibram FiveFinger KSO’s
A review wouldn’t be a review if we didn’t talk about what running in the KSO actually feels like to run in.
As recommended by the Vibram website, it is best to build your mileage up slowly during the first few weeks of wearing the KSO. I actually found if quite difficult to comprehend going out for a run that was only a few kilometres in duration initially but after a few days I was actually really enjoying not having to constantly clock watch. My schedule last week consisted of the following:
- Wednesday: 10k Run with old shoes
- Thursday Afternoon: 2km run in the Vibrams followed by a 2.5km swim
- Friday: Intervals in old shoes followed by a 3km warm down in Vibrams
- Saturday: Legs feeling tight so opted for a bike ride instead of a run
- Sunday: 5 km run in Vibrams
- Monday: Legs felt good so opted for a 8km run in the Vibrams.
Wether it is because I have worn natural running shoes previously or the delayed onset of fatigue but other than some initial tightness in my calves and Achilles the transition from my previous natural running shoes to the Vibram KSO has been relatively painless. It is worth saying at this point that I have been very conscious of the strain that minimalist running can place on your lower legs and so I have been taking this past week’s running at a very slow pace and have been making sure to spend extra time stretching after a run.
I would suggest that if you aren’t used to running in minimalist shoes then you really do start off slowly as not only do you need to re-activate all of the stability muscles in your lower legs but you also need to learn how to take smaller steps and land on your mid/fore foot. This all takes time but there really is no rush – enjoy a few weeks to re connecting with running and the newfound freedom that the KSO can give you.
Available at Prima Lifestyle