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FiveFingers: So Many Choices, What’s Best for Me?

by Agent Orange Blossom » on Oct 22, 2012 31

This post originally appeared on the blog Minimalist Footwear Tips.

Vibram FiveFingers: We wear them because we love the feeling of being barefoot and free.

Or…

  • We are cool
  • We are all about functionality
  • We seek a healthy alternative to regular footwear
  • We want to look different
  • We are attention seekers
  • We are hardcore minimalists

Or just because.

Nevertheless, we love our FiveFingers.

I am writing this entry because I am constantly being asked why I pick this style of Fivefingers over that style for whatever activity I participate in.  I am not a FiveFingers Guru, but since this has been my only footwear since Feb. 2005 I can safely say that I have invested quite a bit of time and energy in finding the right footwear for the right activities.

So, what is the style that meets my activities best? What are the differences?

FiveFingers come in many styles and choices and, as it turns out, they are not all equal.

You can drive either an SUV or a Lamborghini up a mountain, but you have a better chance of successfully driving the SUV in your quest. What I am saying is that the many FiveFingers styles available were designed with a specific set of activities in mind with a sole crafted for a particular terrain and impact type on the user’s forefoot.

Here is my rundown on styles and what they are best for:

CLASSIC and CLASSIC FRESCA:

I use them for light exercises, walking around, traveling. I do not use them for running as there are better options for that activity.  I do not use them for water activities as they get ripped off my feet easily with water. They are fine in the rain and perfect for warm weather with their very open design (I wash them after each use).  The thin razor-striped sole offers exceptional dexterity.  When you need that extra edge with a toe grip the KSO will deliver; the FRESCA does not flex as much.

 

SPRINT:

I use them for running short distances (2 Km or less), light exercises, walking around, traveling, long walks wet and dry. The difference is the strap that holds your foot down and prevent slippage; wet or sweat do not affect the performance as the insole gets grimy (wash them after each use).  The thin razor-striped sole offers exceptional dexterity.  When you need that extra edge with a toe grip, this one will deliver.

 

KSO:

I consider the KSO to be the SUV of the FiveFingers line of products. KSO will take you from the sidewalk to the road, the lake and the mud and back to the street without having to worry about traction. They have the ability to shed water better than any other FiveFingers and are easy to maintain. KSO are my favorite climbing footwear. They stay on your feet, no matter what you throw at them (I wash them after each use).  The thin razor-striped sole offers exceptional dexterity.  When you need that extra edge with a toe grip, this one will deliver. Also great for Parkour.

 

KSO TREKSPORT:

The TREKSPORT is the Hummer of the FiveFingers. They sport most of the features the KSO has to offer but with a more aggressive sole. They have a very similar upper Velcro fastening system and stay put on your feet when needed. The heel cup has tendencies to absorb more water as it is more padded, but other than that it does what it’s intended to do. The insole is a little thicker, thus offering more protection against the harsh elements. Over time, they have become my favorite golf and trail footwear (I wash them after each use). The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

 

SPYRIDON (and LS version)

The SPYRIDON is the new “Oshkosh M-ATV” of the FiveFingers line of products. This style sports a mid-sole armor plating that distributes foot strike impacts thus minimizing fascia bruising while impacting very rough terrain with those pesky, pointy rocks. The aggressive sole allows for great grip under dry and wet conditions. They are not as breathable and feel much warmer than the KSO and TREKSPORT but they are worth the sacrifice. They also have the tendency to accumulate more water and other debris when wet and take much longer to dry than the CLASSIC, SPRINT, KSO and TREKSPORT. They are my favorite when going up a mountain (approach).  They do also work well for Parkour.  The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

 

BIKILA (and LS):

Born to run with their specialized forefoot padding and a sole designed for long distance running the BIKILA is perfect for that purpose (Vibram carefully crafted this style for the runner). They are also great for long walks and casual wear. I see them as stylish and love them. I think of them as my little foot Ferrari. I do not take them to water-sport related activities because of too many points of entry for stuff to get in (I have SUV for that).

 

SPEED:

Ah! My beloved SPEED …… The SPEED offers similar features as the BIKILA and the SPEED has a breathable Nylon/Poly sandwich mesh upper, a Lycra fabric flex zone on the upper vamp, and Non Slip Nylon Lace 10 eye System. The only noticeable difference is in the thickness of the insole which is roughly 1 mm thinner than the BIKILA. In general, I find that the SPEED gives a better ground feedback.  Overall, the SPEED is definitely the perfect travel companion; not my choice for long runs but absolutely perfect for a casual night out.   

 

KSO TREK:

This one is my favorite for cold, dry weather.  Definitely not my choice for wet weather but offers good protection in cool weather, great traction, and forefoot padding.  Great for travel, long walks and some hiking.  The suede leather feels very nice and soft.  That nice look will return after a quick wash and a suede brush.  The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip.

 

KOMODOSPORT (and LS):

My favorite cross-fit training footwear. The sole is specifically designed to allow lateral movement (side to side) with a thicker insole to absorb impacts; they are in their ideal environment at the gym. I do not use for water related activities (water activities require sure footing with grip, lateral movement is not part of good grip); and the mid-sole and padding absorb quite a bit of water when wet (water related debris also accumulate underneath the insole and make them uncomfortable). Short runs are OK and so is casual wear. The stiffer sole will prevent you from using a downward toe grip. Most definitely NOT for the trails.

 

FLOW:

FLOW is one of my favorite winter footwear in wet conditions. The sole, similar to KSO is made with IdroGrip performance rubber that makes you feel like a Gecko. This is a similar rubber compound as what is used on climbing shoes. Perfect for cool and cold wet weather and any water-sport activities. Also, wearing socks with the FLOW defeats the purpose of neoprene which is designed to tightly fit against the skin.  The insulating properties of the neoprene are achieved when a moisture film is deposited between the epidermis and the neoprene; wearing socks – especially wet – will hold too much water and you start to feel cold much faster.  Also great for Parkour.

 

SeeYa (and LS):

The SeeYa is the ridiculously minimalistic running footwear. Providing that you know how to run barefoot, the Seeya will give you road hazard protection. They really feel like almost wearing nothing. The heel-cup seems to run wide but they will stay on your feet; after all, you run forefoot. I had a few few friends that got nasty blisters on the top of their feet which I believe are caused by the new, more abrasive Polyester Stretch Mesh. I understand that some of these issues have been addressed with the LS version, due fall 2012. I will review when I get to purchase a pair. Personally I would wait for the LS version as it is my personal opinion that they are not worth paying $100 for a pair.

 

JAYA (and LR):

The JAYA are by far the least minimalistic of the FiveFingers line with a sole made of 5.5mm EVA and 3.5mm TC1 Inlays. They are designed for indoor fitness. The outside world is definitely not good friend with the soft EVA sole of the JAYA, and most definitely not water-sport footwear. The rubber pads do provide good grip in the gym and fitness classroom.

 

BORMIO and TREK LS and CAREZZA:

I love my BORMIO and TREK LS and CAREZZA. I treated them with 4 layers of warm Beeswax and they are very, very water resistant. They are my choice of footwear in cold snowy weather. The warm boiled wool interiors of the BORMIO keep my toes warm and cozy; a brush of paraffin wax on the zippers makes them almost totally waterproof.  The TREK LS is my footwear of choice for dress casual wear.  I do wear the TREK LS with socks.  The TREK LS has tendencies to shed its tones on bare skin.  My BORMIO and TREK LS can and do get washed from time to time; once dried I treat them again with beeswax   When left untreated the black will look grey-ish and brown will look very faded and they absorb water quickly.  These bad boys are made of real leather; treat them respectfully.  The CAREZZA is the ultimate knee-hi fur lined boot and perfect for harsh cold snowy winters.

 

MOC & PERFORMA:

Some people have bunny slippers and I have my MOC. MOC and PERFORMA are the most minimalistic FiveFingers footwear to date. Definitely an interior footwear. I saw people recently walking downtown with MOC and PERFORMA and it literally broke my heart.

 

Notes on Beaches and Yoga:

Beaches are better done barefoot. Who goes running at the beach wearing any footwear? Enjoy the sand, exfoliate those fascias, it will do you good!

Yoga is another activity that should always be done barefoot, but again I am no Guru. It’s OK to connect with your mat and mother earth.

 

In retrospect, I use different FiveFingers for specific activities:

Water:

KSO, SPRINT, FLOW, TREKSPORT, SPYRIDON

 

Running on Road:

BIKILA, BIKILA LS and for the very experienced SEEYA and SEEYA LS

 

Trail Running:

SPYRIDON, SPYRIDON LS, TREKSPORT and KSO for the hardcore runners

 

At the Gym – Cross-Fit Training:

KOMODOSPORT and KOMODOSPORT LS

 

At the Gym – Fitness Training:

JAYA, JAYA LR, MOC, PERFORMA, KOMODOSPORT, KOMODOSPORT LS

 

Casual Wear and Travel:

SPEED, BIKILA LS, KSO, SPRINT, CLASSIC, TREKSPORT, KSO TREK (LS),

KOMODOSPORT LS

 

Climbing:

FLOW, KSO, SPYRIDON, SPYRIDON LS

 

Beach and Yoga:

Go barefoot and enjoy yourself

 

And remember: It’s OK to clean your FiveFingers after each use. Have fun, jump in the shower with your footwear on and use the suds! Rinse them and let them dry overnight in a cool, ventilated area and they will be ready, waiting to take you to your next adventure.

Here is a link on how to maintain them:

http://fivefingers-tips.blogspot.com/2011/09/stinky-fivefingers-other-minimalist.html

 

My version of a “shoe tree”. 55 pairs and counting…

Notes:

I have been a “Barefoot” minimalist for the past 55 years.

I use the “Run like a Fox – Stalk like a Fox” method.

I am not sponsored by Vibram in any way.

This is my personal collection of VFF’s that I have purchased since VFF’s inception.

I use a running style called “Fox Running” and walking style “Fox Stalking”

I get, on average 2,800 Km  (1,750 miles) of usability per pair.

 

—  Some VFF’s were not rated for water because they offered less grip in wet conditions and were accumulating too much stuff inside to be comfortable wearing in extreme conditions.

— Some VFF’s were rated inside only because that is their intended purpose and the EVA mid-sole is too soft for hard and harsh terrain.

— Some VFF’s were not rated for running because of a detachable insole or were not providing the right amount of protection on forefoot strike.

— Some VFF’s were not rated for trails because they do not offer the minimum amount of protection required for a fun trail run experience.


31 Comments

  1. David

    October 24th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Great post! Fun to read and great information!

    Reply

  2. Orange Blossom

    October 24th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks for the Kudos David.

    Reply

  3. James Anelay

    October 27th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Wow, 55 pairs, Nice work!

    Reply

  4. Brandon Frye

    March 28th, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I absolutely love your post. Way to break the models down with car analogies. I am currently sporting the Bikila LS on my long runs. I hope to use them for my upcoming marathon. Here is my post with my full review of the Bikila LS
    http://www.forkstofeet.com/2013/03/vibram-fivefinger-bikila-ls-review.html

    Reply

  5. Evert

    May 20th, 2013 at 5:25 am

    Have you tried the EL-X?

    Reply

  6. Brandi

    July 07th, 2013 at 2:22 am

    I’m going overseas to Thailand and wanted a recommendation on what you think would be good for beach use, well more for protecting my foot against the sharp coral & reef, but will also be doing some hiking? I want something with good traction & support, but also will keep the rocks and sand out?

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • L Perentoni

      July 09th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      did you receive answer on this?

      Reply

  7. L Perentoni

    July 09th, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Ciao!
    just wanted to say I LOVE your site…THANK YOU. Very informative and absolutely love your sense of humor…great descriptions and so informative.
    However, had to comment on the way you give props to Oshkosh Truck, know someone who works there- he laughed so much!
    He’s def ordering them too:))
    Gratzie!!
    PS how do you use beeswax on them?
    Also, what soap so you use to wash them?
    THANKS!!!!

    Reply

    • L Perentoni

      July 09th, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Also, not sure if you reply, or others – but if you/anyone may PLEASE (ASAP) suggest a pair for the following: A trip to a remote island, Lampedusa (AKA: Rabbit Beach) located between coast of Tunisia (Africa) and Sicily. Rated #1 beach in world last year and have to pack super light.
      (This will be my first pair), plan on spending whole time walking from Beach to rocky island, swimming a LOT (are KSO’s meant to swim in, or which are best for swimming- and yes, I did read your comments about barefoot…I agree!
      However, since there will be from lots of walking to and from hotel to beach 24/7, hiking the famous volcanic Mt. Edna (Sicily) as well as rocky shores (Almafi Coast and Italian Islands), and scuba diving- would you suggest a pair please?
      Leaving VERY SOON have to probably have these Express shipped. Your answer ASAP would BE SO APPRECIATED, PLEASE!

      SORRY for ALL questions- Also, was curious if Vibrams run small or large and if should wash with like Dial soap or what? LOTS OF H20 ACTIVITIES, should I use beeswax?

      PS: I’m a bit of a “fashionista” so any advice that includes something “cute” be great.. I don’t believe they have any heel inserts (to add any height,LOL, do they)?
      ONE LAST thing: noticed those Vibram soles that cover Christian Louboutins for protection.. know anything about them? BTW: YOU ARE THE FIVE FINGER GURU!!!!!!!!

      Reply

      • Agent Orange Blossom

        July 10th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

        The new SPYRIDON ( not the LS version) offer the the same closure system as the KSO but provides a better Fascia protection with it’s sole plating all the while retaining flexibility. (I will add the detailed review later today on my blog)

        I also find the the Spyridon provides a more aggressive grip on wet rocky surfaces than t he KSO on jagged edges like seashells and corrals.

        Spyridon and KSO do run size for size but I strongly encourage you to find a brick & mortar store wher you can try them on first.

        DIAL soap works perfect for that.

        Also, the sole sports a more aggressive set of threads. They can be cleaned daily just like the KSO.

        The Vibram soles that cover Christian Louboutin’s footwear for protection are great and provide great traction on wet surfaces; Christian Louboutin should take note. The color is a perfect match too.

        PS: Beeswax only works for the VFF’s with leather.

        Reply

  8. Kreig

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Mate, go for the KSOs. Not the suede leather ones though! KSO literally stands for ‘Keep Stuff Out’. If I take just one pair of shoes with me, I take KSOs. Great for water, road, trail, slippery rocks. They’re fully enclosed, so you can wear them to places that demand enclosed shoes. For this reason, I always get plain black KSOs. My various Sprint pairs, however, are radical colours. :-) For what you want, stay away from the lace up models. Hands down – for what you described, KSOs are for you. Will handle rocks and coral (though pkease do not make a habit of walking on the reef – it is a very fragile environment), gnarly trails and decent treks. I’ve just accepted a job as an outdoor adventure tour guide in Vietnam, kayaking, jungle trekkibg, camping, mountain biking, ziplining, speed boating, sailing, climbing. I guarantee you I’ll be wearing KSOs almost the entire time. And on the odd occasion I’m not, I’ll be wearing Sprints. For me, these two styles cater to my absolute every footwear need. Now, if they just made morphsuits with individual toes, I’d be laughing! I have worn them together before. Looks cool, but a little painful. :-) Oh, and one other important thing – if you’ve never worn VFF before, DO NOT

    Reply

  9. Kreig

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:17 am

    What I meant to say is, if you’ve not worn them before and know FOR SURE ehat your size is, DO NOT order your first pair online! You must be fitted in-store by someone who actually knows VFF. I see people get the wrong size all the time. Works great for me, because I just wait for my size to come up for sale on running forums, but is disappointing for the person looking forward to enjoying their first pair and discovering they’re the wrong size. Also, some people can’t wear them, because one toes is significantly more prominent the big toe. So if AT ALL POSSIBLE, go into a store for your FIRST pair. After that, go nuts and order online. :-)

    Reply

    • UNIXRUNNER

      July 18th, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      I purchased my SeeYa LS online after much research. They were my very first pair and had never tried one on. They fit perfectly, no blisters evident, and yes they are thin but I was expecting this. Just for future reference for anyone reading this blog. I my opinion it is possible to fit yourself if you know your feet. :)

      Reply

  10. Kreig

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Ok, just re-read your comment. Doesn’t look like like you can go into a store in time (really try to though)! Go to the official VFF page, and from memory they tell you how to measure your foot specifically. BE VERY ACCURATE, AND DON’T BE TEMPTED TO SNEAK UP ONE SIZE ‘JUST IN CASE’. They have to be a snug fit. My size in VFF is 42. I once took a punt on a oair of 43s. Bad move. Totally unwearable. Anyway, good luck, and have a great trip!

    Reply

  11. Kreig

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:34 am

    PS. No need for beeswax if you’re not getting leather. You want the neoprene-type version for water activities. And don’t wear VFF diving. I’ve done a LOT of diving, and you’re much better off with snug-fitting full-foot fins.

    Reply

  12. Kreig

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:45 am

    One last thing: I ran 147km non-stop in my very first pair of VFF, a red pair of Sprints. I do almost all road/footpath running in Sprints, no matter what the distance, and break out the KSOs for trails. Sprints and KSOs equally handle water and any distance road running. If you’re off roading it though, KSOs. Mind you, I spent 5 months last year hiking through SE Asia, including walking up the west coast of Malaysia, a 160km solo hike through the Cambodian jungle during monsoon, hiking hundreds of kilometres in Vietnam, various other jungle hikes, kayaking and canoeing trips, all in a single pair of Sprints. :-)

    Reply

  13. Agent Orange Blossom

    July 10th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    There is an alternative option to the KSO ..

    The new SPYRIDON ( not the LS version) offer the the same closure system as t he KSO but provides a better Fascia protection with it’s sole plating all the while retaining flexibility. Also, the sole sports a more aggressive set of threads. They can be cleaned daily just like the KSO.

    Reply

  14. Maria

    July 18th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and
    let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.

    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

    Reply

  15. Darlene Easter

    September 01st, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I am a walker sometimes walking 7 miles in a day and intermittently will run maybe no more than a mile. I sometimes visit the gym but enjoy walking outside much more. I go barefoot constantly at home inside outside all seasons so really believe this is for me. What would you recommend as my 1st Vibram for these activities?

    Reply

  16. Dave

    January 20th, 2015 at 2:46 am

    Can you tell me on what you think about the KSO EVO Five Fingers

    Reply

  17. Dave

    January 20th, 2015 at 2:52 am

    Can you tell me what you think on the KSO EVO,,,thinking about buying them for trail running,,thanks

    Reply

  18. Benjamin

    April 21st, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Hi, these days i wanna do a lot of trekking/hiking n includes crossing rivers with slippery rocks. What do u recommend?

    Reply

  19. Pam T.

    August 10th, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you for such a detailed post! I’ve had KSOs for the last four years, and this was a great resource as I finally try a new style.

    Reply

  20. Danny

    September 06th, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Hello there,
    i am currently looking for a vibram pair fitting for me, but i feel like its really hard to make a choice.

    I do a lot of hiking and climbing, traveling, but would also love to wear them everyday. do you have any recommendations for that?

    Reply

  21. Bill

    June 21st, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I have a rocky beach by my house where I enjoy running. I used to have the Bikila but the sand & rocks wore them down pretty quickly. I’m thinking about purchasing a pair of KSOs. Is that what you would recommend or is there a different style you think I should check out?
    Thanks!

    Reply

  22. SS

    June 25th, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Hey! Have you tried the V-Run models? Please share some advice as I mainly run/walk on concrete/asphalt city/urban roads!

    Reply

  23. Seker

    August 16th, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    Wow, thank you so much for your site. You’ve answered many of the questions I had in my mind about the differences between all these vff types. I need a good, general, everyday, stretch those feet ligaments and muscles type of vff. But one that can take being worn outside too.

    Reply

  24. Jake White

    March 07th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you! This post is a gem, I am going to get my first pain and this helped me a great deal.

    Reply

  25. Jake White

    March 07th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you! This post is a gem, I am going to get my first pain and this helped me a great deal :)

    Reply

  26. caah

    April 01st, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    best for all around light hiking/gardening/fishing/day to day use? can only afford 1 pair

    Reply

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