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VFF "KSO Trek" initial report

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  • VFF "KSO Trek" initial report

    For all those (other) runners out there who have noticed people at races running barefoot, or in "minimalist" running shoes, and wondering what the heck it's all about, this is for you.

    If you, like me have suffered through repeated running related foot and leg injuries and have searched and searched, mostly in vain for a solution, you might have considered these crazy shoes that look like socks with tread....

    http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/

    I went one step further and actually bought them. They operate on the premise that many of modern man's increasing in number foot problems are actually a result of better and better shoe technology. The idea is that as we isolate our feet from their natural function with better cushioning, thicker soles, stronger uppers, etc.. that what we're really doing is wasting away all of those tiny little muscles, ligaments, and tendons in our feet that are needed for proper locomotion and posture. Take plantar fasciitis for example, I've been running for more than 30 years and back then I didn't know anybody with that syndrome, now - everybody has or has had it! Why? Is it our shoes? I hoped to find out. BTW, I only run on trails in the woods, never on the street, so I bought the trail version, the "KSO Trek".

    Enough background.

    The shoes are shaped like feet, with individual pockets for your toes. They literally are tough, waterproof leather (kangaroo) socks with flexible soles attached to the bottom. If you need socks, you will need the corresponding socks with spaces for your 5 toes. (good luck if you have webbed feet). You can forget about using them in a triathlon as you'll have the longest T2 in history as they take time to put on correctly. However, once on, they are comfy. I wear a size 8 shoe, typically a size 41 euro, and the size 41 I bought was about a half size larger than I'd like. They fit great up front, but they're a little longer in the rear, and my heel slips around in them on highly off camber (sloped) terrain.

    For my first foray, I took a hike in the woods instead of a run as I read that they really take a while for your legs to get used to. They feel crazy at first! Like WTF do I have on my feet? Walking in them isn't too weird, they feel fine, but you can feel every rock, stone and stick. The most impressive thing about them for me was crossing a stream by hopping from rock to rock - incredible balance and grip! Your feet actually feel the rock, and you can grip it like a monkey. I have not slipped off a rock nor had wet feet once since running in these things.

    Just walking with temps in the 40's, my feet got too cold - there really is no insulation in these shoes, and the socks are very thin. If you're not generating excess body heat as with running, they might not be great in our winter climate. Running in them however, even at 30F is fine, my feet warmed up in a few minutes.

    So then I went running in them. I did a nice 3 mile run through the woods at Oregon Ridge. WHOA! WHAT THE HECK? Slam, slam, slam, slam. Every footstep, SLAM! That's not going to work. Immediately my body started adjusting the way I landed. Within a few minutes I was landing each footstep softly. The lack of cushioning is readily apparent, but the body adjusts very quickly into what is I am sure a more natural running motion, much softer and more sure footed. After about 10 minutes I was having fun. More careful attention to the footpath is required as you really can feel everything on which you step. Running up a very steep rocky hill was a much more surefooted experience. I was really enjoying it for about a mile when my calves started complaining. I needed to walk for a bit. WOW. I took this as a good signal, as I could feel my calves were being stretched way more than to which they were accustomed. Probably the major thing I noticed on that first run is that the arch area of my foot, the area that is always way too tight in plantar fasciitis sufferers, was being stretched gloriously with each step! If you've ever had plantar fasciitis, you know the stretches required to rehab from it - I can't imagine anyone who runs in these will every have plantar fascia problems again. It feels wonderful. Literally, every single step, full extension and stretch of the plantar fascia. Sweet.

    The shoes are so different from what I've been doing for 30 years that after that first run my legs hurt like someone beat on them with a hammer. Most if not all of the pain is in the rear of the leg, from the achilles tendon all the way up to the hamstrings. Your foot stretches completely with each step as your toes bend the way they're supposed to bend.

    I've been in these shoes for about 3 weeks now, running for about 30-40 minutes 3 or 4x weekly. My running style has changed completely. My legs are still getting used to them, especially my calves. Instead of using my feet as simply a landing platform, I'm starting to actually feel how my feet work with each step, and my foot stays in contact with the ground longer every step, too, as the foot bends through a step, providing traction, and control as it bends throughout the movement, not simply landing and lifting. I will say that my feet get tired and a little sore after about 30 minutes, but this is no surprise as they've been babied for 45 years. I can actually feel my feet working and using the little nuances that they are capable of to better control my forward and side to side motion.

    My foot speed is slower as I simply need to pay more close attention to where I'm running. I have not turned an ankle a single time since wearing these shoes, and fellow trail runners know how impressive a stat that is. Your feet give you warning that something is amiss and since they can actually bend, you're able to prevent an ankle turn, in every case so far.

    Will they help in the long run? Jury is still out on that of course, but I can't imagine that they won't. One final thought - I found mine on ebay for less than 50% of what the retail stores want, but I would have purchased the exact correct size had I bought them in the store.

    Will offer up long term insight on them when I have some! For now, they just feel right. Feel free to ask questions.

    Mike

  • #2
    VFF's are quite popular here at MDA.

    I bought my first pair of KSOs in March for my birthday. Since then I additionally picked up Sprints for summer wearing, Treks for hiking and for the "look" of them, and most recently Flows for winter. I wear them daily to work. They are my all-the-time shoes. I've basically been barefoot for 9 months now. We'll see if the flows can keep me all through the winter. Socks do help.

    Running is super easy in VFFs. I find myself picking up random sprints or jogs into the grocery store, or to check the mail. Running, when you learn to do it properly (on the ball), becomes very efficient. One good heel strike will remind you to stay on the ball.

    My only qualm... occasionally picking stuff up in the toes. Stones, weeds in the yard, strands of hay, leaves. It just becomes a new norm to sometimes stop and pick grass out from between my toes.

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    • #3
      I've had that "picking stuff up between the toes" thing too...often very large fall leaves that then stick comically out of my toes.

      I bought a pair of Terra Plana boots a couple of weeks ago, and now it's colder I do my walking-around-all-day in those. I miss the full splay of the toes, but they're pretty darned comfortable and thin-soled. And warm!
      Liz.

      Zone diet on and off for several years....worked, but too much focus on exact meal composition
      Primal since July 2010...skinniest I've ever been and the least stressed about food

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      • #4
        Thanks for the summary! Sounds like a lot of folks have similar experiences. Great.
        "Trust me, you will soon enter a magical land full of delicious steakflowers, with butterbacons fluttering around over the extremely rompable grass and hillsides."

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        • #5
          once your calves get "broken" in, running (or in my case "jogging") is kinda fun. But i still have to be really careful of where i step b/c it seems like my feet still aren't strong enough to deal with too many bumpy rocks n stuff like that. A sandy dirt path, esp when a little damp, is ideal.

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          • #6
            I picked up some KSO's this week and went for a light jog the next day. Pinged my calf muscle after about 1 km. Too hard too soon.

            Went for a walk yesterday and now have blisters on the soles of my heels...sigh. Apparently my feet are as soft as butter after wearing boots to work for years.

            I do enjoy them though and am wearing them as much as possible to break in my feet. Actually there's something. With Barefoot shoes you break-in your feet not the shoe!

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            • #7
              every time i stop jogging, no matter what kind of shoes, it seems to take about 2 or 3 wks before my calves start getting used to it again.

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              • #8
                I've had my sprints for many months now and love them.
                Heather and the hounds - Make a Fast Friend, Adopt a Greyhound!

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                • #9
                  I just got a pair and I love them too. Went hiking today with my dog. I did about 5 miles (carried traditional sneakers with me just in case), and can feel it big time in my calves. I also have some sore feet from the stones, but nothing worse than the first Spring day and being out barefoot. I think I'm really going to love these shoes. So much that I ordered a pair of these for work.
                  Christine
                  Wag more, bark less

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                  • #10
                    I like mine so far. For the first few days they SUCKED royally as my feet got used to them and the shoes broke in. The balls of my feet hurt mainly when I walk in them as I'm not used to walking like people are supposed to walk... but every time I wear them I can wear them for longer and they feel great (except for when they start to hurt lol)

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                    • #11
                      anyone have a pair of FLOWS? I have some classics and sprints.. my feet froze in my sprints before so I'm looking for a good winter pair of fivefingers. I just wanna know if they are warm.... :-P

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by thanatos View Post
                        Actually there's something. With Barefoot shoes you break-in your feet not the shoe!
                        I never thought of it like that but that's a very good point!

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                        • #13
                          ^^ +1 Actually I was thinking about just that this morning as I went for a walk in my Vibrams. And seriously, Sunday, the day after my hike, the bottoms of my feet were sore, which is to be expected (like when I was a kid and ran around barefoot the first warm day of Spring), but I also felt it in my inner thighs, and in odd places in my calves, even the ligaments and muscles around my knees. It's all a good sore, but it truly makes me wonder what I've been doing to my body - not just my legs or feet - by using these heavily padded shoes (and I have a pair of Nike Air Max in my shoe stables, but those are being put out to pasture).

                          Bottoms of my feet are still sore, but it's tolerable. I went for a 2 mile walk this morning, just to break in my feet more. I've been finding myself wearing the lowest shoes possible right now (as I'm 5'10, that's not a bad thing, although I like being tall :P). I'm seriously considering the Evo boots.
                          Last edited by Andtckrtoo; 11-15-2010, 10:57 AM.
                          Christine
                          Wag more, bark less

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                          • #14
                            anyone have a pair of FLOWS? I have some classics and sprints.. my feet froze in my sprints before so I'm looking for a good winter pair of fivefingers. I just wanna know if they are warm.... :-P
                            I got the trek sport yesterday and they are alot warmer than my smartwool. Having that top piece and a thicker sole helps. The KSO's with the kangaroo tops are warmer still and if you get those toe socks and have enough room that will warm them up too. probably not quite 'snow warm' though.

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                            • #15
                              I have the Treks, and the only problem I have with them is when I'm running on a paved surface, then I can feel all the nubs that give you traction on trails, they're fine for walking on paved surfaces but the running puts enough force to push the nubs back up into my sole.

                              Originally posted by eltigabii View Post
                              anyone have a pair of FLOWS? I have some classics and sprints.. my feet froze in my sprints before so I'm looking for a good winter pair of fivefingers. I just wanna know if they are warm.... :-P
                              The Flows are great for cold weather, I went for a run in them a couple weeks ago and ended up having to wade through mid-calf water (it was probably close to 8 celcius by that time), before I went through the water my feet had been sweating and after going through the water they weren't cold, my lower leg was cold though. I wasn't wearing socks with them. Only problem is that the Flows are the hardest to put on out of all the models.

                              It's hanging around -20c now, maybe I'll go for walk and see how they do.
                              I didn't like the rules you gave me, so I made some of my own.

                              Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general. - Mark Rippetoe

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