Short Version: There are two kinds of people in the world: those who will wear Vibram Five Finger shoes and those who won’t. After a bout with plantar fasciitis and shinsplints, I joined the former camp and feel much better for it. These new shoes, called the VFF KSO (Keep Stuff Out) Trek, add a bit of coverage to what are essentially foot gloves for running, hiking, and looking like a total freak.
Review: I’ve been running in VFF Classics all summer and only recently realized that soon it would be cold and there would be snow on the ground. Vibram seems to have foreseen this and created the KSO line, a selection of shoes that cover most of the top of your foot but not your ankle. The Treks, then, are the next level to this shoe style, involving nicely treaded soles and actual kangaroo(!!) leather uppers to keep even more stuff out.
I found these shoes to be on par with the Classics in terms of range of motion and protection. I ran down the icy streets of Jozefow, Poland, where my in-laws are, with nary a slip or slide and I wore these shoes without socks in sub-freezing weather, much to my mother-in-law’s chagrin.
As for styling, these shoes look considerably less freaky than the Classics. They are a closed shoe and they are black so the toes don’t stand out. You could feasibly wear these in mixed company, just like your buddy at Google.
As for their purported benefits, the jury is still out. I believe they have helped me but your mileage may vary. As I said before, the thinking is this: the foot is a perfect running tool. We were “Born to Run” (read the book, it’s great) and running shoes have slowly caused more problems than they solve. There is also some thought that the great shoe industrial complex is a scam and we need to go back to our roots. Whatever you believe, it’s fun to run in these. Maybe you don’t want to hit a 100 miler in them right now but you can take a jog around the block and really feel a bit freer than you ever have in standard shoes.
Interestingly, these shoes have even encouraged me to run barefoot for a time, even in Brooklyn. It’s a great feeling and a lot of fun and I only stepped on one used syringe (JKATW).
The shoes cost about $125 online. I got these shoes in the same size as my Classics (VFF sent these to me but I purchased my first pair) and found that the KSO’s run smaller than the Classic simply because they have to cover your foot. A 44 or 45 for a size 12 foot is fine in the Classics but err on the side of larger (I think I need a 46, although this is only because the strap is a little short) when sizing your Treks.
Freedom’s just another word for really skimpy shoes.