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.
Vibram recommends starting slowly since your muscles and connectors have a lifetime of atrophy to overcome. Eventually I grew confident enough to wear them on short hikes into the Colorado Rockies around Breckenridge and on dayhikes around northern Virginia. The traction from the grippy Vibram sole is superb, and I liked being able to feel what was underfoot. I really did feel more in tune with my feet while on the trail instead of mindlessly clomping along. Be cautious, though, since stubbing your toe feels pretty close to what it would be like barefoot.
The KSO Trek is the most rugged of the FiveFingers line, designed for light trail walking and running. Some of the other models have stretchy fabric uppers, the KSO Treks have kangaroo leather which is very soft and dries quickly.
You definitely won’t find me running a marathon in these, although I’m sure some people have. The heel strikes while running were too jolting, especially on pavement, for me to enjoy the experience. On hikes I didn’t feel like I had enough support to carry an overnight pack, although I did appreciate the light weight (11.5 oz. per pair) on steep dayhikes. I appreciated the KSO Treks the most during my calisthenics workouts. Jumping, lunging, sprinting and kicking all felt remarkably good, There are fierce advocates on each side of the debate, with boot and shoe companies claiming that you’re risking a broken ankle or stressed Achilles’ tendons. On the other side are the barefooters who insist that a return to nature is the solution for stronger, more resilient legs. I’m not a doctor and won’t comment on the medical benefits, but if you want to dip your toes into the barefoot movement, the KSO Treks are a great option for trying it out while keeping your feet protected.