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Monday, July 13, 2009

Vibram FiveFingers KSO and Classic Running Shoes

Plastic Gorilla Feet Give You Twinkle Toes
Jon Snyder/
7 out of 10

Plastic Gorilla Feet Give You Twinkle Toes

Minutes after wiggling my feet into these five-toed monstrosities I was creeping across a coworker's desk like Spider-man. Sadly, Vibram FiveFingers don't actually let you stick to walls and ceilings, but they are wickedly fun to wear.

Vibram FiveFingers are little more than flexible plastic soles with just enough cloth to hold them snugly on your feet. They have little individual pockets for each toe, making the FiveFingers into a sort of foot glove. The resulting footwear feel less like shoes and more like tougher, more invulnerable versions of your feet.

Traction is incredibly good, due to the grippy material, the separation of the toes, and the addition of siping, or tiny zigzag cuts etched into the soles that expand into little treads as the sole flexes.

The VFFs are also surprisingly comfortable. Each toe is snuggled inside its own little pocket, which is not only cozy, it also gives your feet a surprising amount of feedback about the ground you're standing on. Your toes, freed from their typical leather prisons, act like a tiny topography sensor array.

Running in FiveFingers is much like running barefoot, except without the mincing "Ow-ow-ow!" moments as you hit a patch of gravel or sun-baked asphalt. You have to use the same stride (and the same, probably atrophied, calf and arch muscles) as you do when running with naked feet. The end result is good: By forcing me into a more efficient stride, the VFFs helped subtract nearly a minute from my admittedly slow per-mile pace. Also, a growing body of research suggests that minimal or no footwear will result in fewer running injuries. But it takes some getting used to if you've never run barefoot before. Start with very short runs, and work up gradually.

Vibram offers four different models of its FiveFingers line; I tested two. The Classic offers as clean a line as you're going to get from such freaky footwear, but the KSO (short for "Keep Stuff Out") is more practical for running, with webbing on the top to keep debris from sneaking in and a single strap for snugging the shoes more firmly onto your feet.

Vibram FiveFingers will make you look like you have plastic gorilla feet. They'll draw curious, often appalled stares from strangers and mockery from your family. But by making you run as if barefoot, Vibram FiveFingers might just make you a stronger, faster and less-injured runner.

WIRED Just like going barefoot, except without the cuts, abrasions and icky stuff between your toes. Excellent traction on a variety of surfaces. Surprisingly comfortable.

TIRED Ugly as a bucket of vomit. Just looking at the shoes is a one way ticket to the uncanny valley. Slightly time-consuming to put on. Sizing is extremely fickle.

  • Sports: Hiking/Running
  • Manufacturer: Vibram FiveFingers
  • Price: $75 - $85
  • Release Date: July 10, 2009