I have a slight obsession with minimalist shoes. Due to surgery, my left knee is remarkably picky about types of shoes and as a result, I do much of my workouts in Vibram FiveFingers. I recently rewarded myself for a month of gym-going with a new pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO, a huge upgrade from my 6-year-old KSOs!
KSO stands for “Keep Stuff Out”, a name it received for being one of the first Vibram shoes back in the day with a fully enclosed midfoot (as opposed to shoes like the old Classics, which are open along much of the foot). I’ve had an on/off again love affair with VFFs; at first I wore them constantly, then I cycled out of them for a while, then returned to wearing them when I reinjured my knee in the fall. Unfortunately, my lovely old KSOs have a tear in the big toe, and they’re just starting to get a little ratty. So when I saw a deal on the revamped Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO on 6pm.com, on sale AND in my size, I jumped on it immediately!
The KSO EVO has a tremendous number of improvements over the old KSO design. Most notably, the EVO uses a bungee lacing system instead of a velcro strap, so you get a much more personalized and dialed in fit across the midfoot. I have fairly narrow but very long feet, so I fall somewhere along the high-end of women’s sizing and the low-end of men’s sizing, and I have found it’s far easier to find VFFs that fit me in men’s sizes. So I’m thrilled with the lacing system, since it insures that there’s no looseness around my midfoot and the shoe feels very locked onto my foot. It also means you can have a nice loose opening to wiggle your toes into the shoe quickly, which is a nice bonus when you’re wrestling your shoes on at 5am to hit the gym. The other big improvements include rubberized dots along the toes to help prevent snags, and a sole that manages to be both thin and offer decent traction. I have a lot of praise for the soles of these shoes, so we’ll get to that in a moment. Overall, the fit is excellent, though it does appear to run slightly small. I am a size 10 in women’s shoes, a size women’s 42 in Vibram Classics, and a size 41 in men’s Vibrams. Both my old KSOs and my new ones are size 41, but the new ones are notably snugger in the toes and heel. Some of this could be that my old ones have stretched over time, but even the shape and last of the shoe seems a bit trimmer than its older counterpart; if you’re between sizes or you like wearing toe socks consistently with your VFFs, I would consider sizing up on the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO if you want some room. On the flipside, if you’re narrow footed like me, you may find the fit to be perfect! Finally, from a purely aesthetic perspective, I think the red/black combo of the KSO EVO looks great, and the laces make it look less weird than the old velcro strap did!
I’ve had the KSO EVO for a few days now, and I’ve worn them around the house as well as to the gym for workouts. Walking and everyday use they feel great, and I haven’t encountered any hot spots or places where there might be future irritation. Wearing them at the gym has been fantastic as well. I like wearing flat, flexible shoes at the gym because I prefer to be as close to barefoot as possible when strength training; everyone is different, but this helps immensely with making sure my form is good and I don’t do anything to impact my already sensitive knee. I found that the KSO EVO was awesome for heavy squats; my feet stayed firmly on the ground, and I didn’t feel like I was rocking onto my forefoot or too far back on my heels. I haven’t deadlifted in these yet (I will on Saturday) but I would imagine the experience will be quite similar. Pushups and renegade rows were also that much more stable in these shoes, because my toes and foot could flex and hold my position comfortably. Running felt fine in them as well, though if you’ve never run in Vibrams before it is imperative that you ease very, very, very slowly into it. There is no padding at all in a pair of VFFs, and any issues with your running form will be that much more of a shock to your system. It’s best to walk around for several days in short bursts wearing them, then add them in for short runs before increasing volume. However, the fit of the shoes is excellent and they felt great in a very short sprint I did.
Let’s talk about the sole for a second. The old KSO sole had what was called “razor siping”, which amounted to a fancy way of saying it had tiny slits that helped with traction. The other thing the tiny slits did was act as tiny straws, slurping up any and all moisture near your shoe. The new sole has treads instead, so you get traction and a very flexible sole without the moisture penetration. It’s an issue more if you walk around all day wearing these, but I noticed an immediate difference when I walked through snow wearing these instead of the old KSOs. It was still freezing cold, and my toes were quite unhappy, but I didn’t get that “squish squish” sensation, and as soon as I entered a warm room my feet were fine, as opposed to a few minutes of clamminess. Note that these shoes are generally not a good idea when it’s wet and rainy, simply because the low profile sole means even shallow puddles will get the uppers wet, but on damp ground the new sole has a noticeable impact. Amazingly, it’s still quite thin and flexible, and I can wiggle each of my toes with ease, so they haven’t sacrificed ground feel for traction, which is a tough balancing act!
Vibrams are not for everyone, and I certainly don’t think they are a panacea for all your running shoe woes. However, if you like being barefoot but want some foot covering, or if you like extraordinarily low profile shoes, Vibrams are one of the best options out there, and the KSO EVO is one of their most versatile styles. I found mine for only $49.99 at 6pm.com, but they normally retail for $90 (or, if you’re not too picky on color or specific model, you can hunt 6pm.com, Leftlanesports, or The Clymb for discounted options). Even if you only use them some of the time, they’re a great tool to have in your fitness arsenal, and the updates and changes to the KSO line make the KSO EVO even better!
Source: Personal purchase
What I like: Fit is excellent; laces help improve tightness in midfoot; new soles offer better traction and are warmer; great for weight lifting and light running
What Needs Improvement: Nothing