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"Barefoot" Footwear

Review: Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek – By Andrew Searle



Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek Trail Runner Review

  ★★★★½ 

By Andrew Searle

Living Barefoot Introduction of Andrew Searle

Andrew is a guest reviewer for Living Barefoot who brings to the review series an extensive background in running experience. Andrew is an accomplished road racer having completed numerous marathons including qualifying for and finishing the prestigious Boston marathon. He is also an incredibly successful trail runner having completed solo the 125 km Canadian Death Race and 146 km Sinister 7 trail races as well setting course records and winning his age group in the 80 km Blackfoot Ultra and the Moose Mountain Marathon. Andrew has also podium finished and placed in his age group in several of the 5 Peaks Trail Running Series races.

Overall Impression of the KSO Treks

After owning the KSO Treks for almost a year, they have become an integral part of my trail running footwear. I don’t wear them for every run but they are a fantastic tool for strengthening the foot, lower leg muscles, and improving agility and proper running form. They do take some time to get used to putting on and getting the correct toe into the appropriate toe pocket. The kangaroo leather is great, especially for cooler temperature running, even after they get wet. They fit snugly with their full-footed upper and Velcro strap adjustment. I really appreciate that the shoe is the shape of the foot as opposed to narrow toe-boxed conventional trail running shoes. Another important attribute for trail running is their lack of interfering cushioning to ground feel, this is especially important for trail running because terrain can vary widely in both traction and surface contour between every step.

What KSO Treks are Great For

The first time I ran in the Treks it was on snow, and even though my feet got wet from some slushy snow right away, my feet stayed warm throughout the run. They have good grip and I really enjoy running with them on hard-packed snow trails. I also run in a pair of original KSOs and the Treks have far better grip and are more enjoyable to run in on trails. They have great traction on dry or wet grass, snow, ice, as well as any dry surface whether it be man-made or natural. They also perform well on trails both uphill and downhill. I do enjoy running and racing in them, on the proper terrain, because they are so lightweight.

What KSO Treks are Not Great For

Although the Trek has good traction on dry trails, they do not have the best traction on wet terrain, especially slippery and/or deep mud. The lug design doesn’t provide enough traction for wet dirt deeper than a few millimetres. For this type of wet terrain, I would still trust the grip of a conventional trail running shoe over that of the Trek. I’ve also found that they are not that comfortable to run in on pavement because of the lugs, although this was not the purpose of their design, so not too surprising. I do tend to slow down on solid rocky terrain as well because their relatively thin sole does not protect the foot if you are not being careful as to where you are placing your foot, compared to a conventionally thick-soled trail running shoe.

I have experienced a number of blisters after running in the KSO Treks, even while wearing socks. These blisters are on my forefoot just at the bottom of my big and second toes. They are the same blisters I get from running in KSOs, although they do not occur as fast in the Treks. Running fast-paced speed workouts will cause blisters sooner than slower paced runs.

One other thing to be aware of while trail running in KSO Treks is that thick vegetation can get caught between your toes. In addition, you can jam your toes on rocks if you can’t see where you’re placing your feet if you can’t see the ground because of the vegetation.

Benefits of Trail Running in KSO Treks

There are many benefits to training on trails wearing KSO Treks. Because the Trek sole is thinner than conventional trail running shoes, agility and balance are improved, both of which are incredibly important to good trail running. They’re great for strengthening the muscles of the feet and lower legs. Wearing them is also a good tool to teach yourself good running form because of their increased feedback of potentially bad running habits. Wearing them can improve your cadence, agility, balance, and especially your awareness of foot placement.

Adding KSO Treks to your Trail Running Shoe Tools

As with any training tool, I recommend using them consistently, although it doesn’t have to be for every run, to gain the most benefit. I also recommend working up to wearing them for long runs in order to avoid common minimalist shoe injuries including tight Achilles tendons and top of foot pain.

Summary

The KSO Trek is a great trail running shoe that is best for dry, light trails but not the best for really rocky or wet trails if you’re planning on running at high speeds. They are a fantastic trail running tool to improve running form, cadence, agility, and balance. They will also help you become more aware of your foot placement as well as strengthen the muscles of your feet and lower legs, which can all lead to overall improved trail running performance

Other Great Living Barefoot Articles:

Buy Vibram FiveFingers at these quality online retailers:

REI
Rock Creek
Half Moon Outfitters
The Flip Flopper

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As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.




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Discussion

2 comments for “Review: Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek – By Andrew Searle”

  1. @Yannick Rendu,
    I wouldn’t bother much about that, that rubber of that part of the sole will wear out rather quickly as soon as you run/walk on hard surfaces (not only the cleats but also the transversal flat protrusions between the grooves of the tread). I can post some pictures of that part sole if you need to verify visually (BTW, I’m not heavy at all, just 58 kg/128 pounds).

    Posted by Zephyr | January 23, 2011, 18:08
  2. I’ve been using my KSO Trek’s everyday for 2 1/2 month’s. I was even lucky enough that my employer decided that, since I’m a OTA/PTA, it was acceptable for me to use them as my “work shoe”. They’re the only current Model that can pass as a “professional shoe”.
    I did find that there was a “breaking-in” period; it took about 2 weeks of constant wear for the Kangaroo leather to relax/stretch to my feet. I have 10 1/4 inch feet, so the M40 was the perfect option, any larger and it would have been a no-go. These were also my first pair of minimalist footwear, however since I’m in bare feet every wear except work and social functions, I didn’t have any foot issues with the transition to vibram’s.
    I did attempt to wear dress shoes, after wearing these constantly for a month, at a Physiotherapy conference, and had to return to my hotel room to grab my Vibram’s after about 15 minutes. My dress shoes were uncomfortable, bordering on painful, to wear; luckily when your around Physio’s, PTA’s, OTA/PTA’s, in a proffesional conference, it’s just another day.

    Posted by Patrick | July 9, 2011, 22:10

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