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  1. #1
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    Default Footwear: Toe Shoes

    Anyone here done a backpacking trips with their Vibram 5 Finger "toe shoes"?

    How did it work out for you? What distances did you cover? Any learned lessons or tips to share?

    I wore a pair of standard KSOs once on a short trip through Bucks Lake Wilderness. Snow was still present, and in some places about 10 feet deep. I felt I was able to cross mounds of snow easier than my heavy-booted hiking partners. They had to "pack" snow for each step; whereas I could just step, sink my toes into the snow and go. Water crossings were easy; just wade right through, no socks or wet leather to worry about.

    Even did some bouldering in my 5 fingers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DMyWSLoEpM

    O
    verall, I liked it but by the end of each day my feet were beat. My soles hurt and eventually I had holes worn into my feet. Specifically on my right foot, on the inside edge where the sole meets the fabric. Also wore a hole on the achellies tendon where the heel tab is.



    Lately, I've been hiking in my local park (with about 1/3 of the trails having paved asphalt). On my right foot, and right alone, the top of my foot between the ankle and toes will be extremely sore after a 11 mile walk. Sensitive to the touch and you can feel it "creaking" when I move my toes. Something new that didn't happen at Buck's Lake. I suspect it has to do with the asphalt walking. Not sure yet...

    I still wear my boots (Danner Super Rain Forest) more often than the toe shoes, but hope to make the switch to the lightweight toe shoes.

    How about you guys?

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    I just did about 400 miles of VA in a pair of KSO TrekSport's. My hiking partner and I averaged about 15 miles a day but did a few 20's too. I can't say enough good things about using these shoes for the trail. They have 3mm of EVA mid-sole and some plating on the sole which helps tremendously to deal with sharp rock edges. They are 13oz per pair, the upper is 60% mesh and the rest coconut fiber that dries fast. The best part is the agile feeling you get while wearing them... doing rock scrambles was much easier than with a regular bulky toe box of a shoe. The durability was good too since I did 400 miles in them and could probably still have done 400 or 500 more before needing a new pair.

    The one bad thing... all that freedom of movement for your toes provides almost no protection from impact. Rocks were easy to see and avoid but when hiking at a decent pace the occasional dark root would rear its ugly head and it was easy to whack a toe. I jammed my pinky toe around mile 400 and because I had to adjust my gait it kept getting banged so I had to eventually get a regular pair of trail runners sent to me from home for extra protection.

    I also had some of the problems with the ankle being worn down which was from sand getting between the material of the Vibrams and your skin. I got some wool toe socks and this problem went away completely. Toes socks would probably stop the seam near the toe rubbing that blister in you as well. The thin layer of fabric also provided just a bit of extra cushion so my feet were not as sore at days end.

    The soreness your getting sounds like overuse. When you start with toe shoes your foot will spread and adjust to absorbing the impact since your essentially barefoot. Just take it slow until your feet adjust.
    Last edited by dillard; 10-04-2011 at 15:35.

  3. #3
    Registered User Shiraz-mataz's Avatar
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    I've been hiking in KSO's the past year and a half and have nothing but good things to say about them. These are the ones with the "classic" sole which means they don't have the traction of the Trek models and as such are a little slippery in wet conditions. But that's okay - I'd rather trade a little traction for the better ground-feel and pliability of the KSO. Last time I was on the AT it was for a 25 mile weekend hike. They got soaking wet in the rain one day but I sat them in the sun for 15 minutes during a lunch break and they were totally dry. We're heading up to Dolly Sods, WV in a couple weeks and these will be on my feet once again, alternating with barefoot hiking whenever possible.
    “The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections.” Walt Whitman

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    i've hiked in them a bunch of times, doing mostly day hikes, but also rough, long hikes...i would say these shoes are great for simple stuff, but when i put weight on my back, they were not sturdy enough for my feet...what i mean is, it's one thing to be bouncing off of rocks and sticks and roots when you don't have a pack on, but add 20-30 pounds and your steps become heavier...i found that on longer trips, my mid-foot where the bottom narrows under the arches, would be real sore...i don't know where others have taken these shoes, but i wouldn't even consider doing a serious hike in them...for around town, simple day hikes or some kind of water retreat, these shoes are fantastic...

    for the record, i used the trek sports...
    Check out my website: www.serialhiking.com

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    Serial, I think your feet just need more breaking in... I had 50lbs pack weight often when I did my 400 miles section of the AT in VA with them and the pain in my feet was no more than with regular shoes after 8-10 hours a day of walking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dillard View Post
    Serial, I think your feet just need more breaking in... I had 50lbs pack weight often when I did my 400 miles section of the AT in VA with them and the pain in my feet was no more than with regular shoes after 8-10 hours a day of walking.
    And I'm curious, to get a comparison how much do your feet hurt? Went on a 12 mile hike (in Danners) and my feet were aching! The heel and ball of my feet in particular. I'd stop and lift a foot (a'la Flamingos) to let blood rush back in, temporary relieving pain and getting odd looks from passersby. :P

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    Registered User DayHiker G's Avatar
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    Default Great Topic!

    Thank you for creating this thread. I was introduced to Five Fingers a year ago by a co-worker. He has a pair that he uses to run in. I have no interest in running but the whole barefoot thing made total sense. Especially after I read the book “Born to Run”. Shortly after finishing the book I saw Five Fingers produced the KSO Trek and I’ve always wondered how they would perform on the trails. The AT trail in my area is mainly rocky and I thought being able to grip the rocks would be better than hiking in a traditional boot. Since reading through this thread and the following field reviews I just might give them a try. Worst case scenario I will have some comfy bum around shoes!

    http://birthdayshoes.com/vibram-five...so-trek-review

    http://www.backpacker.com/gear-zone-...ek-/gear/14198
    DayHiker G
    "Hiking is not a spectator sport."

  8. #8
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    I recall a fellow hiked the AT in his KSO Treks and didn't like it. If you'll give me a second, I'll come up with the link....

  9. #9
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    Damn, I forgot you can't edit your posts!

    Anyway no link but I do have the text.

    Last year I thru hiked the AT and for about 1600+ miles I wore KSO Treks. I thought I would give some additional thoughts.

    I went through two pairs, the durability averaged out to 800 miles a pair. the first pair being completely destroyed after about 750 miles (It went through worse conditions, could have been replaced at 600miles), and the second pair that is still in descent enough condition to wear after about 850miles (Mostly dry thru the summer months)

    To start I want to talk about the problems that I had with the VFF shoe design. In order of occurrence.

    CONS

    1.The VIBRAM LOGO TAG located under the heel was the first thing to cause an issue on both pairs. It bunched up and caused rubbing and discomfort. Had to be torn out before they caused blisters. The fact that it was there is senseless, it serves no purpose.

    2. Similarly, The LEATHER BOTTOM INSOLE wears and bunches, due to water, pressure and movement. This like the tag caused a deal of discomfort. I found my self with both pairs sitting in the middle of the trail at some point scratching with my nails and snipping with my Leatherman at the bits of leather bottom, till all but the leather up in the toes and around the sewn edges was gone and the EVA foam underneath was exposed. Knowing what the problem was with the second pair this event came more preemptively.

    3. The STICHING AND FABRIC failure between the toes is what made the first pair unusable and it began to happen on the second. Holes either rubbed or stitches tore. it was not a big deal on the small toes but, the big toe was wear I had the most problems with the fabric and it is directly related to number 4 below. Towards the very end of the first pair the rubber was starting to delaminate from the tips of the toes as well. And the left big toe had completely ripped away from the rubber. It kinda of flopped around but was not a huge problem.

    4. The BIG TOE RUBBER looks like it needs another 1/4 of rubber added on to the inside, heading towards the second toe. Once the fabric wore out completely my big toe would pop half way out and I would be walking directly on my toe. (also wore a hole through my socks in half a day).
    *Caveat - this may not be an issue for every one. This only happened on my right side and I believe it is because of my body and walking gait. At my hip I measured 5mm shorter on my left then on my right. Watching my feet walk, even with all intention towards good form, my Left foot/ Big toe would roll inward onto the extra rubber of the VFF and be cupped in rubber that is on the outside of the big toe. My right foot/ big toe would push outward to the side, causing my big toe to "want to slide off" the rubber, once the fabric wore away, it did. This was a very subtle movement of my unique walking gait but it did play a role in the performance of the shoes. The last 50 miles before Waynseboro VA I was walking directly on the ground with half my right big toe. IT held up pretty well, toughened up.

    6. Over time the VFF will BECOME LOOSER on your feet as stitches and fabric stretch and/ or break. When I received my second pair in Waynsboro, VA. The new VFF felt very tight on my feet. While some of this may be attributed to foot swelling, mostly it was because I had gotten so used to the first pair which by that point were in disrepair and falling of my feet.

    5. In a related note, the adjustable strap adjust pressure down as well as forward. This became a problem. It was never more evident then when going down the "Priest" (4miles continuous down) With the fabric of the shoe becoming loose, It was important to tightten the strap down. For Three reasons
    1.in order to hold the sole of the shoe onto my feet
    2.keep my feet from sliding forward causing the fabric in between my toes to cause discomforting pressure
    3. keep my feet from sliding forward causing the tips of my toes to jam in to the tips of the VFF, (Think turf toe)

    The design of the strap only compounded the problems of 2 and 3. The tighter I strapped my foot down and in, the more the strap would push my toes forward. The Priest was the first time that the trail and my choice to wear VFF caused my feet "irregular pain" that lasted for about a week. I.e. not the regular swelling, but structural in my toes. Normally even when the shoes were loose it was not a problem because you alternate up, down and flat. It was the continuous 4miles straight down that put me over the edge.

    OTHER PROBLEMS (in order of importance)

    1. MAN MADE SURFACES SUCK!!! Regrettably for most of the time I did not have camp shoes, they were stubbornly deemed not worth there weight. In hind sight I wont hike in VFF again with out some other foot wear. I could not walk more then a hundred feet on any man made surface before my feet would be screaming at me in pain. Through all the rocks of PA and all of the other terrain I crossed nothing compared to the pain that man made surfaces inflict. It is not even close. There is something about a hard flat surface that does not agree with bare feet. I can not emphasize this enough. This was by far the worst aspect of only having VFF as shoes. Even when trying to walk with the best form and placing my feet as gently as I could it still was a problem. Town became a get to the hotel and don't move experience. In one episode while blue blazing on a rode with two fellow hikers I just layed down on someones front lawn, because my feet told me no more road. The solution to that situation was stubbornly wearing my hiking partners hot pink crocs, the desire to be self sufficient and the embarrassment of hot pink crocs was outweighed by the thought of a tasty meal in town.

    2. STUBBING TOES - it happens, not that big of a problem, only one stubbed right pinky toe hurt for longer than 30 seconds. But I looked at the ground and my feet a lot!

    3. I found the TEMPERATURE MINIMUM for these to be 40* when wet. As for dry im not really sure I would not recommend going below freezing.


    PROS - In order of importance

    1. NO HEEL LIFT allows the heel to go all the way to the ground, converting from regular hiking shoes the biggest benefit was while going down hill, since your heel was allowed to go down further your knee is not pushed out in front over and past your feet as much. Instead you stay over your feet more putting less strain on your the front of your knees.

    (Edit) Additional anecdote: Topic Plantar Fasciitis, I believe that this no heel lift or lowering of a your heel compared to traditional shoes, prevents or helps to alleviate Plantar Fasciitis. With no heel lift your tendon fully stretches. Lifting the heel makes the tendons used, shorter. Previous to the trail I never suffered from this, during the trail this was not a problem. But after the trail when the weather became colder I started to wear Big clunky winter boots with a huge heel lift and Super Feet insoles. after about a week of wearing them one morning getting out of bed as my feet hit the floor and I had a shooting pain in my heal. Little bit of reading online, and I realized what had happened, my tendons had contracted causing minor PF. A little bit of stretching, removing the insoles and limiting the boot usage, I was fine. Ironically on the trail I had tried to convince a fellow hiker suffering significantly from PF of this hypothetical theory (I had read it somewhere at some point prepping for my hike). It was not until it happened to me did I fully believe this to be true.

    2. NO ANKLE SUPPORT allows free rotation of ankle, coupled with only a 4mm sole, allows for a greater margin of "error" when taking awkward steps. In a traditional high top or mid top, your ankle is locked in place. Which transfers the torque of a bad step up to your knees and hips. Also you are standing on about an inch of rubber. When you take a bad step, ie, a misstep or a unseen rock, your foot has that much further to go till it catches itself. The VFF allow your ankle to rotate free and to roll on to inside slightly if necessary, it does not have an inch to fall off of the platform of the shoe.

    (Not sure if I am being clear about this point, but it is a huge benefit)

    3. BALANCE, coupled with point number 2, the VFF give you a better sense of balance. It is that process of placing the onus onto your feet, ankles and calves, that strengthens your entire lower body. I fell only twice during my entire thru hike, and only once was it in VFF. (In VT I came to the crest of a small hump one step heading downward I put my feet together to break... it was pure mud... I plopped right onto my butt as my feet slipped forward.)

    4. Increased feel for the ground

    5. As stated above and before by others it strengthens the foot and lower leg. When I switched to Adidas Adi-zero shoes (Love them) at the base of the White Mountains after about a week my feet felt better than ever. I think the conditioning of the VFF on my feet made regular shoes, even minimal ones feel like a cushy palace!

    6. Conversation starter, boy is it, I do not know how many people stopped and asked about the shoes, I never minded answering the questions, sometimes I would go into more detail than others depending on peoples interest level and my energy level. But my Hiking partner defiantly started getting sick of it, later she said partly because people were stopping to talk to me and not her.

    7. Did not have a single blister the entire trail. Not sure if that is because of the shoes or just my feet and the conditions. I always wore socks I found Injinji Merino Wool Outdoor Blend worked the best. The synthetic Micro socks I did not like, the looked and smelled awful.

    8. I liked the leather upper, it protected my feet well enough from sticks and things and the smooth inside feel was nice. Also the leather upper was durable, fabric failure at the toes was at the seems and the mesh between the toes.

    9. The bottom of the shoe really held up well. I found that the rubber did not wear away that quickly and only towards then end of both pairs did it start to de-laminate in spots. I thought that it provided good enough traction for the conditions



    Summary

    I enjoyed my thru hike, and the VFF Treks were a good part of it. They forced me to slow down and pay attention to my walking, how and where I placed my foot almost every single step. This I think played a part in only falling one time wearing them. So they provided a level of safety. But at times they limited my movements, like when in town on man made surfaces. Not unlike alot of thru hikers, my feet had some pain and swelling almost always.

    I had reasons before the trail on why I wanted to wear them, I was looking for balance in my life physically and spiritually. Just like the trail the VFF had its ups and downs. Would I wear them again on a thru hike? I don't think I would. I experienced it and now like the AT its time to experience new shoes and new trails. I have my eyes on NB Minimus and the PCT!

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    For the shoe
    1. Eliminate Tag under heal
    2. Eliminate leather sole, the EVA foam was fine on its own.
    3. Independent strap system for Heel and forefoot which allow for maximum control over fit (this system is used in other VFF models)
    4. Additional rubber for the big toes (ie wider)

    For the user
    5. Wear with socks, Injinji Outdoor
    6. Be in tune with how you walk, though these almost force you to.
    7. If out on the trail for a while have secondary shoes, ie camp/town shoes
    8. Hiking poles help take the weight off a misstep, which you feel sooner because of the sensitivity VFF provides. Also I recommend on nicely groomed trail to just carry them in your hand as to not become dependent on them for balance over time.(ie train your muscles). In summary to maintain muscle balance I would have poles but only use when necessary over extended periods of time.
    9. Like others have said ease into it with miles and weight
    10. Walk Softly and carry a big spirit

    To end my comments on VFF I would like to share a comment a friend and fellow thru hiker said to me on the trail near Slatington PA.

    "You know Herro, there are parts of the trail where I think you could wear those...I don't this is one of them!"
    Also some links about VFF backpacking:
    Barefoot Jake Blog
    VFF on the PCT

  10. #10
    Registered User DayHiker G's Avatar
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    Thx for attachment and the other links Jason762. That was some great info. The very last comment of the review was the best since that is exactly where I do most of my hiking. Perhaps I will purchase the KSO Treks to do some experiemental hiking. I'm looking at the Inov-8 288 GTX for my next pair of boots to try on the trail.
    DayHiker G
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  11. #11

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    I recently got a pair of KSOs. I can't imagine hiking in them. Without socks, they'll rip my skin to shreds. With socks, the some of the toes are so tight I think they are turning blue. They're fun for bumming around on weekends, but I don't think I'd ever bring them backpacking.
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

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    I'm thinking about getting Vibram KSO's. Lots of good info here in this thread. I've found the more shoe I wear, the more my feet get injured. Only thing that concerns me is wet/cold. That's the one thing that keeps me trying waterproof boots (which pretty much guarantee ankle injuries for me, exactly as Jason 762 said in his "Pro#2" point.)So the decision is, which is worse, sprained ankles or cold feet (I have Reynaud's syndrome.)

  13. #13
    Registered User Donde's Avatar
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    Default KSOs

    I hike, trail run, and marathon in KSOs and love them. Certainly not for everybody and they require a gradual transition, but I am lighter faster and stronger, with them. Once your feet and calves adapt they are awesome. When hiking you've got to watch out for the toe stubbing issue. When running gravel really sucks. Also they get stinky pretty quick. Injinji socks and regular vinegar soaks and washing, help but, they can be smelly. Also KSOs have virtually no insulation or water resistence, though there is a neoprene model that can handle that. I am looking at switching to Merrill Trail gloves for hiking.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason762 View Post
    Anyone here done a backpacking trips with their Vibram 5 Finger "toe shoes"?

    How did it work out for you? What distances did you cover? Any learned lessons or tips to share?

    I wore a pair of standard KSOs once on a short trip through Bucks Lake Wilderness. Snow was still present, and in some places about 10 feet deep. I felt I was able to cross mounds of snow easier than my heavy-booted hiking partners. They had to "pack" snow for each step; whereas I could just step, sink my toes into the snow and go. Water crossings were easy; just wade right through, no socks or wet leather to worry about.

    Even did some bouldering in my 5 fingers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DMyWSLoEpM

    O
    verall, I liked it but by the end of each day my feet were beat. My soles hurt and eventually I had holes worn into my feet. Specifically on my right foot, on the inside edge where the sole meets the fabric. Also wore a hole on the achellies tendon where the heel tab is.



    Lately, I've been hiking in my local park (with about 1/3 of the trails having paved asphalt). On my right foot, and right alone, the top of my foot between the ankle and toes will be extremely sore after a 11 mile walk. Sensitive to the touch and you can feel it "creaking" when I move my toes. Something new that didn't happen at Buck's Lake. I suspect it has to do with the asphalt walking. Not sure yet...

    I still wear my boots (Danner Super Rain Forest) more often than the toe shoes, but hope to make the switch to the lightweight toe shoes.

    How about you guys?
    Bouldering alone is a no no and you know it. But anyway it seems you had fun.

  15. #15

    Default Vibram 5 Finger Reports

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason762 View Post
    Anyone here done a backpacking trips with their Vibram 5 Finger "toe shoes"?

    How did it work out for you? What distances did you cover? Any learned lessons or tips to share?

    I wore a pair of standard KSOs once on a short trip through Bucks Lake Wilderness. Snow was still present, and in some places about 10 feet deep. I felt I was able to cross mounds of snow easier than my heavy-booted hiking partners. They had to "pack" snow for each step; whereas I could just step, sink my toes into the snow and go. Water crossings were easy; just wade right through, no socks or wet leather to worry about.

    Even did some bouldering in my 5 fingers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DMyWSLoEpM

    O
    verall, I liked it but by the end of each day my feet were beat. My soles hurt and eventually I had holes worn into my feet. Specifically on my right foot, on the inside edge where the sole meets the fabric. Also wore a hole on the achellies tendon where the heel tab is.



    Lately, I've been hiking in my local park (with about 1/3 of the trails having paved asphalt). On my right foot, and right alone, the top of my foot between the ankle and toes will be extremely sore after a 11 mile walk. Sensitive to the touch and you can feel it "creaking" when I move my toes. Something new that didn't happen at Buck's Lake. I suspect it has to do with the asphalt walking. Not sure yet...

    I still wear my boots (Danner Super Rain Forest) more often than the toe shoes, but hope to make the switch to the lightweight toe shoes.

    How about you guys?


    I wear 5 finger shoes most of the time. I still wear "normal" shoes to church on Sunday and to "dress up" events, but wear the 5 finger shoes everywhere else. I especially like them for travel.

    I recently completed a rim to rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon in my KSO Treks (48 miles). If I said my feet didn't hurt at all, I would be lying, but what I can say is that my feet hurt less than when I have done the same hike in boots.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/1129680...ToRimToRim2011#


    Earlier in the year I did a hike to Clear Creek in the Grand Canyon wearing boots. My feet were hurting enough that I changed to my 5 fingers shoes. I wore them for the rest of the hike. I noticed a remarkable difference.

    This week, I climbed Mt. Wrightson (12.8 miles). The thing I noticed most is how much lighter they are than boots.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/1129680...eOldBaldyTrail#




    Last edited by Shutterbug; 11-20-2011 at 23:50.
    Shutterbug

  16. #16
    Registered User Typingsux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayHiker G View Post
    Especially after I read the book “Born to Run”.
    I started running a little early this year again, and read this book since I heard it's inspirational for you to push forward.
    This book and online discussion is what prompted my purchase of toe shoes.
    Most of you have Vibrams and I do as well, but I also have Fila Skele-toes and find I prefer the latter.
    I did gradually use them daily, even for errands and broke my feet in.
    I've only done day hikes in my toe shoes up to 11 miles.
    The 11 mile day hikes aren't a problem and I'm sure I can do lots more.
    The only thing is now it's going to get a little cold here in NY and I think I need to pick up some socks.

    The aforementioned stubbing your toes on roots and rocks just tends to make you more careful about doing so, it still sucks bad when you do.

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