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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Gear Review: Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek

Barefoot running with shoes.

by: Joel Nyquist

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Vibram Five Finger KSO Trek  (Courtesy Photo)
Vibram Five Finger KSO Trek (Courtesy Photo)

Ed Note: Vibram has notfied BACKPACKER that there are multiple fradulent and counterfeit vendors selling FiveFingers-like products. Please visit Vibram's website for more information.
If you’re shy about talking to strangers or self-conscious when people stare at your feet and whisper to their friends, the Vibram FiveFingers line of shoes will help you overcome your fears. You will find yourself in conversations in the supermarket checkout line or with random passersby on the street. Everyone wants to know, “Are those shoes?” (Answer: Sort of.) “Are they comfortable?” (Answer: yes.)

The deal with the Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek is that it’s designed to trick your feet into thinking they’re naked. The proponents of barefoot running claim all sorts of benefits to going sans shoes. Enhanced leg and foot strength, reduced injuries, improved posture and balance, the list is fairly extensive. The hypothesis is that our bodies were designed to be barefoot and to run around on uneven surfaces. But shoes and the flat floors we walk on have weakened our muscles and connective tissues, dulling our reactions and agility. Think of barefooting like going organic for the shoe crowd.

I’m a regular runner and believer in compound, body-weight exercises, so I was intrigued by the idea of barefoot running. But I also have soft, baby-like feet completely devoid of calluses, and the thought of running around trails barefoot filled my imagination with nightmarish visions of imbedded twigs and infected cuts.

I promise you this: The KSO Treks are unlike any other shoes you’ve ever worn. Instead of supporting your foot, they simply protect it from sharp things and let your foot move naturally. Most noticeable, they have a small pocket for each toe, like gloves for your feet, to let your toes move individually. It’s as close to being barefoot as you can get without risking your skin to the ground. The thin rubber sole provides just a bit of cushion, enough to take the jarring edge off from walking on concrete, but doesn’t feel that different from wearing regular shoes.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the FiveFingers are a little harder to put on than normal shoes. With a little practice I was able to do it in about 1 minute, but getting each toe into its little slot took a little concentration. Sizing is very important, and if your second toe is a lot longer than your big toe you might be out of luck.

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Reader Rating: -


Jun 01, 2010

I love these shoes, but I wish the construction was better.Other than that, they are fantastic shoes that are super comfortable.

Casey C
May 27, 2010

Fascinating. I read "Born to Run" which also makes a case for barefoot running. I hate running, but love to hike. Maybe I will try these... do they come in pink? ;)

May 27, 2010

As uber-cool and trendy as those appear, they look like they'd be really uncomfortable. It doesn't look like there's going to be a lot of wiggle room for those of us with extra long toes. I'm just not sold on them, and I think they look dorky (and I'm a primo dork!).

Joel N
May 26, 2010

Hey Austin, I've been trying to modify my form to land more flat-footed and less heel-forward, but after a mile or so I lose focus! I'll keep trying.

Nonoy- Definitely Hobbit shoes! I call them my "Bear Feet" because with the brown leather they really look like animal paws.

I'm going to keep wearing these things, I like them quite a bit, can wear them all day. One more note, though: pine needles can stick through the sides and jab your toes!!

May 24, 2010

I just dropped 125 bucks on the new KSO trecks. I use to do lots of trail running a few years ago before I joined the army and decided I hated running. Well....I love running again. I cant say enough about these shoes. My GF hates them....but I bet you if I boought her a pair she would wear them in secret ha ha. They are amazing and worth every penny. If you have aches and pains its beacuse you are running with technology that messes up the bodies natural running motion. We were given toes for a reason guys! Time to use them. I cant imagine ever wearing a different shoe ever again. 10 out of 10....and your feet will love you

Clynton Taylor
May 24, 2010

I switched to running only in my Vibram Five Fingers (KSO model) last summer after receiving back surgery. I can confidently say that they helped save my back! I wear Vivo Barefoot around the office so I rarely have to wear regular, high-heeled shoes (yes, mens' dress shoes are high-heeled!).

One note of caution, as with any change in your running form, take it slowly and listen to your body. I created the 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot to help folks condition their feet and legs to run naturally because so many people keep doing too much and injuring themselves immediately. Here's a link to the program:

Thanks for the post and good luck to all!

May 24, 2010

Frodo/Hobbit shoes!

May 23, 2010

If you want to know more about them, you might check out The forum, especially, is full of all kinds of great stuff! :)

May 23, 2010

I absolutely love my Vibram FiveFingers. I recently picked up a pair of the FiveFinger Bikila's( after a friend of mine bought his second pair and sweared by them. Each time I put these on I instantly feel like being active. These shoes (or toe shoes is what my children like to call them) are great for any outdoor activity there is. But it does take some time to build up all those little muscles that have been dormant since being a child runing barefoot through the yard. I'm glad to see Backpacker giving the FiveFingers some love. Maybe this will get the name out there and spark a barefoot revolution.

May 22, 2010

Jarring heel strikes while running in these stems from improper barefoot running form. There is a proper technique to barefoot running that must be adhered to... hence the whole theory that barefoot running is better for you than running in large-heeled running shoes. It's not only the concept of being barefoot, but the idea that the form that today's shoes promotes in evolutionarily incorrect. (that's also why your sprinting felt better as barefoot running is very close to the form used for sprinting, just shortened.) Hope this helps some people!

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