Posted by: Joe Nuss on Oct 27, 2008
Vibram Five Fingers KSO - $80.00
If performance footwear existed twenty years ago when I was a private in the Marines, I didn't know about it. But, I did know an old gunnery sergeant who taught me how to make the most out of the gear I had with a few minor adjustments, like wearing my polyester dress socks underneath my standard issue hiking socks to wick moisture away from my feet on long marches. He also gave me the name of a shoe repair shop in San Diego where I could get my combat boots refitted with better soles - Vibram soles.
So when an old friend back from my water sport days sent me a link to the Vibram Five Fingers website http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/ I was highly intrigued to see if the company that shepherded my feet through six years in the military could create an effective sole-based shoe for outdoor sports.
Originally designed for water sports like kayaking and boating, the Vibram Five Fingers has developed a bit of a following among barefoot and Chi runners, as well. While I'm not a practitioner of those or other similar running styles, not to mention the fact that I'm a heel striker, I can attest to the durability of the sole of these quirky-looking shoes that draw sighs of disbelief from my wife whenever I wear them hiking.
I tested the KSO's (Keeps Stuff Out) at home and during a hike at Durant Nature Park in Raleigh. I found the soles to be incredibly durable albeit a bit difficult to get my toes where they belonged the first few times I slipped them on. The separately sleeved toes atop the laser-cut soles enabled my feet to grip wet rocks in the creek bed and confidently scale some decent size boulders in the park. I purposely kicked some wet sand in the creek to test the mesh upper's ability to Keep Stuff Out and true to its name, it kept stuff out.
However, I could only wear them an hour or so at a time at first without tiring my calves. I would imagine barefoot runners and the like could go longer. In addition, I found it hard to adjust my heel strike to walking on the hard paved trail at Durant, again, something that wouldn't affect barefoot runners nearly as much.
Overall, the Vibram Fiver Fingers are extremely durable and enabled me to walk on even the sharpest of pine cones that have sliced my three-year olds feet in the backyard several times this year. Used for the right purpose, they could be the best and strangest looking shoes you'll ever own.