Selecting your FiveFingers

So how do you go about selecting the right pair of Vibram FiveFingers for your trail running?

You could do as me, and buy and try every type there is on the market, but that will turn out to be an expensive exercise very quickly as a single pare of Vibrams go for around the $200 in Australia. Hardly the kind of money that allows you to experiment on the cheap.

But don’t worry, I have done exactly that. I am the proud owner of many types and flavours of FiveFingers. Some of them still as good as new, and others run down to the last thread. It is this last pair you likely want to go for, attempting our local trails. But let’s start at the beginning.

Which Vibrams are available for you to choose from, considering we will be using them for trail running:

[dcs_ol] KSO (Keep Stuff Out); KSO Trek (Kangaroo leather upper); KSO Trek Sport (Coconut upper); Bikila; [/dcs_ol]

I believe the above list is also the order of the shoes being released to the market, with the Bikila being the latest.

The Bikila generated a major hype, if we can call it that, and was called the first Vibram specifically designed for running. In my opinion, it is the classic example of how over-thinking something simple can go horribly wrong. The Bikila, although feeling very comfortable and soft, has major design flaws. The biggest issue with this shoe is the lack of the wrap around the heel, which is custom on all the other models mentioned. It is impossible to tighten shoe properly, and constantly gives me the unpleasant feeling of wearing flip flops. The Bikila feels more as a shoe than a glove, which is still what I look for in a minimalist shoe.

Out of the KSO models, the plain KSO was the first. I love this shoe for running on hard surface like concrete and bidgement, as the bottoms of these shoes are very thin, and put you in real contact with the surface you ate running on. They are also the mist unforgiven shoe from the selection. If you still heel strike, you will know about this within minutes, thanks to the developing blisters in that area. If you land on your feet in front of you, you will gave hotshots on the front of your feet quick smart. However, if you are looking for a shoe that gives you the signals of a wrong pose, than these are the once to go for. If your pose is correct (for foot landing, feet under your axis, heel lifting during push off, push off before landing, …., etc) these shies will make you fly!

But like I said, the KSO’s are more for hard surface, than for the forest trails, or gravel roads. If you are going to be running on sharp surfaces, and your feet are not made from dried leather, than the KSO Trek or KSO Trek Sport are the shoes for you. In many ways they are the same as the KSO, but with a slightly thicker and definitely harder sole, which makes running on the sharp stuff just so much more easier.

In fact, I often use the plain KSO for smaller trail runs, just to harden my feet a bit. But anything over three hours, I would be looking for the Treks.

So which Trek? Good one. At the moment I am inclined tho advise the KSO Trek Sport over the KSO Trek, for the following reasons:

[dcs_ol ] The KSO Trek, made from kangaroo leather, has (at least the ones I have bought so far 3) a shocking finish. Every pair had some form of fault in the big toe area, which of course causes hot spots and eventually blisters on the long runs. If you go for the KSO Trek, make sure you feel the toe sections with your fingers carefully, and don’t accept anything else but a smooth lining. Don’t think (like I do) that little bump is not going to give me any problem, because it certainly will soon enough.; The KSO Trek has a seem at the outer edge of the shoe, behind the little toe area, which cause hot spots if you are a true fore foot lander. It takes many, too many, kilometers to smooth the seem, and to me is too frustrating to have on my feet.; The advantage of the KSO Trek are water ‘proof’ ness. These shoes can take a bit more water, before your feet get wet.; The inner sole of the KSO Trek is also leather, rather than the now common yellow inner sole. I like the leather inner, as it grips well when dry, but more importantly does not smell dreadful after a few runs!;[/dcs_ol]

That leaves for the moment the KSO Trek Sport as the best trail shoe around, not having the problems described above, and some more benefits in addition:

[dcs_ol] Lighter than the KSO Trek.; Dries quicker.; Had this yellow sole lining, that kinda grips to your feet, making it a solid experience, even when wettish.; [/dcs_ol]

Some advice for buying the shoe:

[dcs_ol] Don’t buy them online unless you can return a pair easily if they are not quite to the standards you expect. Although Vibram has an excellent warranty return program, it is a hassle to deal with.; Buy at the end of the day, when you walked a lot. Your feet are bigger and thicker, and this is what you want to have when trying on your pair.; Decide if you want to run with or without socks. In all honesty, I don’t see the point any longer to wear socks with Vibrams. The injinji socks don’t last vet long, get very hard unless you wash them three times a day, and…. Well why socks?; Put your hand in the shoes and feel the bottom of the shoes very carefully. It must be smooth, or you gonna hate them.; The same is true for the upper, no sharp edges or seems.; When trying on the shoe by standing up, you should not anywhere feel the end of a toe pocket, or again, you gonna hate the shoes. Have plenty of space, and you will love them.; Ensure that the yellow bottom lining is properly glued to the rubber sole. This is a new problem I run into which is agonizing as the stuff bulges up somewhere around the toe area, where you are really going to be hurting (KSO).; Clip your toenails (if you still have them). Now, with the does on wiggle your toes, and ensure you do not feel the toe protection ‘caps’ clip behind your nail. Sure guarantee for black toenails. This is specifically for the KSO, as the have a toe cap that continues for a couple of millimeters on top of the toe pockets. No problem with the Trek versions.; If you have bunions, ensure no seem is covering it, as in wet weather this causes friction. This would be the time to actually wear socks.; [/dcs_ol]

So how many kilometres do these FiveFingers last? Interestingly the old cushioning argument of “a fresh pair every 300 kilometres” is no longer. Cushioning obviously does not exist, you will be running on a couple of millimetres of rubber! In fact, the Vibrams last until your feet or toes are starting to stick through the fabric somewhere. Don’t think that this will never happen, as believe it or not, you will create some cuts, holes or rips somewhere in the fabric soon enough (better the fabric than your foot right?). On average these shoes last me around the 1000 kilometres before the sole get that thin that my feet comes through, or the sole surface gets too uneven. That still outperforms a normal running shoe, and way outperforms a racing flat.

Like anything you wear, Vibrams need a bit of care to keep in top condition. Really, all there is to it is to give them a bit of a rinse after your run with cold water, or better step in a creek to cool your muscles and leave your FiveFingers on! Don’t wash them with hot water, nor use soaps, as I found this dissolves the glues being used for the inner sole. If you don’t rinse your shoe, the mud and sweat will quickly turn them into some form of rock art, ensuring blisters on your feet and holes in your shoes occurring because of the friction soon enough.

That’s it, they are without doubt the best shoe for me, and I will never change to the old fluffy shoes, guaranteed! Get the right ones that fit you well, and you will be a convert for life. Gone are the days that you run with blisters!

Enjoy your next trail run!

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