Vibram KSO Five Fingers Review 2018

  • Car Camper
  • Day Hiker
  • Ultralight Backpacker

Vibram KSO Five Fingers Overview

If you are a barefooter or intend to try minimalist footwear, then welcome to my review of the Vibram KSO Five Finger shoe/sandal! This is a lightweight and very basic shoe that will keep your feet protected while giving you a solid amount of grip, thanks to the Vibram XS Trek rubber outsole.

The point of the Vibram Five Finger line is “finger shoes” — or shoes that have specific slots for toes. You’ve probably seen them. It allows you to run, walk, and hike almost as if you were wearing no shoes at all, yet your feet stay protected.

I have been a supporter of barefoot/minimal footwear for nearly 12 years. I feel that it’s important to say that, because going minimal takes time. Your foot muscles need to become strong and your foot mobility needs to have some solid flexibility, or you’ll feel a lot of initial discomfort and give up quickly.

With that being said, the Vibram KSO is the classic model to start with (or to continue using) if you want a barefoot-style shoe. It has few features, which is just how I like it.

While Backpackers.com doesn’t award Picks for footwear (it’s just too subjective), the Vibram KSO finger shoe is a fantastic place to start for the barefoot curious, especially those that want more protection than a sandal provides. Day Hikers, Car Campers, and Ultralight Backpackers could all enjoy the benefits of the KSO. (And while you can technically backpack with a lot of weight in them, we don’t recommend that for most people).

See the full review of the Vibram KSO Five Finger sandals below, and see where they stand on our Best Hiking Sandals guide.

Vibram KSO Five Fingers Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 4.7 oz. (133 g) per sandal Incredibly lightweight, even for sandals.
Category Finger Shoe We categorize hiking sandals in four classes, with finger “shoe” being distinct. Vibram invented this category, and does it well.
General Fit Standard The fit of the KSO is fairly standard for Vibram, and the fit is different than any other shoe or sandal. You should try them on to see how your toes fit.
Strap System 1 strap There is just one small hook-and-loop closure on top to keep the sandal in place.
Sole Vibram XS Trek Excellent, minimal outsole made with non-marking rubber. Plenty of traction.
Sizes Available 38-50 for Men, 34-43 for Women, unique sizes that include half sizes Vibram offers a sizing chart to compare to US sizes. In general they have a decent range for men and women.
Manufacturer Warranty 90 Day Warranty Not the best warranty for shoes and sandals, but it’ll be enough time to know if you like a barefoot finger shoe.
Retail Price $85 Somewhat expensive for a sandal, but the durability is outstanding. If you want this type of footwear it’s worth the price.

Gear Review of the Vibram KSO Five Fingers

Origins: Easing You In

In September, I spent some time exploring the area I call home: the High Rockies of Colorado. I chose to use the Vibram KSO’s as my prime footwear during this trip. There was backpacking and day hiking galore, much of it on alpine tundra and boulder field terrain.

The length of trip was four days with 40 grueling miles, gaining roughly 6,000 feet of elevation each day. Generally, I choose minimal footwear for this kind of trip, as it allows me to experience the terrain fully. As a wildlife photographer, I also appreciate that minimal footwear allows me to creep around in near silence.

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Capturing the wildlife in the Vibram KSO.

Keep in mind: If you are new to minimal footwear, please do not attempt a large trip with only these shoes. That’s a fast track to injury. Vibram makes many models of minimal shoes, the KSO being one of the most minimal. If this is something that interests you, wear the shoes you normally would and bring these along for shorter day hikes.

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

On the third day of my trip, I had to cross a boulder field that was nearly one-third of a mile long. It was slightly daunting and I was feeling mildly hesitant about testing out a new shoe — even a type I’ve used for years — on such unforgiving terrain. But low and behold, the Vibram KSO performed beautifully.

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Grip and stability during boulder hopping, creek crossing, and more.

And that is due to the simplicity of the design. I did not have to second guess as I jumped from boulder to boulder; I knew by feel what I was dealing with. I didn’t have to worry about laces or my toes rubbing together. With the thin, tactile outsole I could feel my way through rocky landscapes, knowing that my feet were protected. I was able to pick up on the very slight movement of talus and scree, which is a huge part of why I love barefoot shoes.

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What you see is what you get — a bit of protection, grip, and barefoot purity.

What you see is exactly what you get with the KSO. They aren’t flashy and they aren’t super cute. But they are solid, quality, and functional.

Digging Deeper

I have been using Vibram KSO Five Fingers since its infancy. And truth be told, I have had the same pair for 11 years without replacing them. So, I was stoked to get a new pair and surprised by how this model has evolved.

The shape has changed a bit, mainly in regards to the length of the toes and a slightly wider footbed. Some of the webbing has been redesigned.

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The Vibram KSO is a very basic hiking sandal/shoe, with individual slots for your toes and a single hook-and-loop closure.

What I like most about this new Vibram KSO is that they are a touch lighter and they’ve stayed extremely minimal.

Comfort 

The KSO requires virtually no break-in time because the outsole is so thin. There is one strap to tighten on the shoe, which makes the fit more secure.

It can be hard to rate a barefoot shoe on comfort, because that isn’t generally a big factor with them. It’s how comfortable you are going barefoot.

But what I can say is they caused zero rubbing and no hotspots in the places I tend to get them. The sole is thick enough to absorb jagged rocks that might otherwise stab your precious paws. And that is a huge ask when selecting a minimal shoe!

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Plenty of comfort for a barefoot shoe.

Durability 

Vibram creates some of the most durable shoes I am aware of — and the fact that they make the outsoles for countless other shoe brands says a lot. I mentioned earlier that I still use a near original pair of KSO Five Fingers and I think that speaks volumes. A pair of shoes over a decade old are still going strong.

When I first got this new pair, I was curious if the quality had gone down. After using them relentlessly on this trip and for a month since then, I can say that Vibram is still living up to their reputation of producing quality footwear. The soles, uppers and seams all look brand new and I feel confident that they will remain as such for many years to come.

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The outsoles of the Vibram KSO get the most use, and they have relatively no wear on them at all. Extremely durable.

Soles 

The KSO only has an outsole, as opposed to most shoes, which have a midsole as well. After a ton of use the soles look brand new. The traction is fabulous on every terrain I’ve used them on: forest, pavement, talus, ice, and boulder field. They provide a solid amount of grip and still allow you to feel everything you’re walking over.

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Tactile grip at its finest.

Strap and Webbing 

I found the straps to be a tad long, which creates a bit of a problem. My solution was to cut off what I consider the excess and re-sew the ends. I have very slim ankles, so while this is an issue for me, it might not be for most.

That said, I love the new, larger webbing on the back of the ankle — it helps to tug these on or off a little easier. There are no bells and whistles on the Vibram KSO and the top strap and back webbing are its only added features.

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When there are so few features, even tiny ones matter. This oversized heel loop really helps to get the KSO on and off.

Fit

I have a true barefoot-foot. Very narrow feet that splay out as you go towards the toes. I found the fit of this shoe to be true. Of course, with a toe-shoe, some of that fit will depend on the length of your toes.

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A finger shoe fits differently than any other piece of footwear. Definitely try these on and dial in the fit, and your toe length, before purchase.

I have quite long toes and found the toe compartments of the KSO to be slightly longer than my old pair. This isn’t much of a problem. If you are familiar with Vibram’s sizing, get the size you usually would.

Grievances

I found this shoe to be nearly perfect. It was what I expected it to be, which is high quality and as minimal as it gets. I did think the toe compartments were a little bit too long. In the older model, they were 1-2mm shorter and I prefer that. But if you have long toes you will be quite happy with the updated version!

Final Word

I love being barefoot and feeling the world under my feet. And the Vibram KSO allows me to do it safely. I am consistently impressed by the quality and thoughtful design that Vibram puts out and the KSO lived up to my standard of what minimal footwear means. I will continue to wear these for many years to come!

Where to Buy Vibram KSO Five Fingers

We tested the women’s Vibram KSO Five Fingers. Vibram makes a men’s version as well, which are the same except for fit and size options.

Vibram also makes the KSO EVO and KSO Trek, which are variations on the original. The EVO has a bit more grip and padding, and the Trek is a more rugged version of the original KSO. It has a kangaroo leather upper and a 4mm insole, providing a lot more cushion.

We find every product in the KSO series to be excellent — make a decision based on how much protection and grip your feet need.

Compare Vibram KSO Five Finger prices below.

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DeDe Rosenberg-4

Deirdre Denali Rosenberg

Deirdre Denali Rosenberg is a photographer, writer, mountaineer and adventurer based in a tiny cottage in the middle of the high Rockies of Colorado. She believes every human has a wild spirit and nature connects everyone. She aims to inspire the masses to get outside, conserve our beautiful land and live an epic life. You can find her work on Instagram.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.