Gear Review: Vibram Five Fingers KSO

I had been reading about these amazing new shoes that make you feel like you are walking barefoot, but still somewhat protect you from the elements. I am referring to the Vibram Five Fingers line of shoes. They are designed to be like gloves for your feet, fitting a sleeve around each of your toes, and having a very thin sole, so you can really feel the ground as you walk. I love to go barefoot and I had read that running in them is incredible. I was apprehensive, as they are not inexpensive, however, last Spring, I decided I would try a pair and I went to the local REI to pick out one that I liked. After talking with the salesperson and trying on several styles, I decided on the KSO (Keep Stuff Out). Each style varies in features and benefits, but I chose the KSO because it has a protective mesh covering to keep sand and debris out of the shoe, but a thin sole, so I still felt barefoot. Once I settled on the exact style, I needed to choose the size. I read that you really need to size it correctly, because if it is too large, you will develop blisters, but too small, you will be uncomfortable. They did not have my exact size in the KSO, but through trying on other styles, I felt that I had a good fit and could order a pair. Two months went by and I finally received them. Not to spoil the review, but the wait was well worth it. The Good The KSO is just as advertised, it really comes close to feeling like you are barefoot when walking around or running. I can walk or hike all day in these and my legs are still fresh. The body was designed to work without shoes and once you retrain your leg muscles to work properly, they do just that. If you have any kind of knee, hip or leg problems, I would encourage you to try them out and see if they might help. I am a big believer in natural medicine and these shoes seem to be one method to try to overcome long-term nagging injuries. I love to run, but I have had knee and hip problems for many years. They really flair up when I run too much (luckily, I'm kind of lazy, so that doesn't happen too often). These shoes definitely help me. I took them on our trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and spent many days hiking in them in China and Mongolia and I absolutely loved them. When we were in Datong, China, a fairly remote city, Sara could overhear many people commenting in Mandarin about these shoes. "Monster feet", "Alien feet", "Look, look, look, look, look. What happened to his feet?" were all heard. A bonus is learning what Brad Pitt must feel like on a regular basis. We had several people ask for us to pose for photos with them and one young boy even asked for my autograph. The Bad The biggest problem that I have had with these shoes is something that is unavoidable, due to their biggest strength. When the weather turns cold, it feels like you are barefoot. They provide absolutely no protection against the cold. I have bought some socks that work with the shoes, but because the shoes fit so well, the socks make them tight and quickly uncomfortable. I would still wear them in a pinch, but you cannot travel to a cold climate with only these shoes. Conclusion I have given these shoes a 4.5 out of 5 stars simply because they cannot replace any of my travel shoes (although they do replace bigger, bulkier running shoes, but I generally do not travel with those). I really wanted to be able to carry them as my only pair, but they are just too uncomfortable in the cold. They also are, through no fault of their own, not socially acceptable in certain situations, so it is necessary to have a decent pair of shoes along as well. If you are going to run in them (and I highly recommend it), be sure to break your legs in gradually. You will work muscles that do not normally get worked. On your first run, I would not go for more than a mile or two and then build from there to your normal distance. For sure do not enter any races until you are very comfortable with them. I would love to wear these shoes everywhere I go and maybe someday I will be able to, at least in the warmer climates. They still earn a place on my Ultimate Travel Gear list, but they are not a perfect 5. Disclaimer:  I paid for these shoes myself and was not given, nor do I receive any ongoing compensation for this review or any links herein.
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