Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fitting Vibram FiveFingers - And Injinji Socks - review

How do you fit Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) shoes? or How do Vibram FiveFingers fit, really? does that fit change with socks? would you want socks?

In the UK and even many places in the US, pretty much the only way to get Vibram FiveFingers shoes is by mail order, so getting the right fit in these uniquely fitting shoes is a kinda big consideration especially with shipping costs, and perhaps even more so if you're going international (more on the international scene at the end of post).

Having just gone through checking out the Fit of each of the four current FiveFingers models, the Classic, the Sprint, the KSO and the Flow, with and without socks, let me share the experience, and, i hope, help resolve a potential FiveFingers fit dilemma.

This is a kinda long piece. So, if you want to scroll ahead, this review gives
  • An Overview of Fitting
  • Why you want these VFF's
  • Fit, each model, one by one
    • Classic
    • Sprint
    • Flow
    • KSO
  • Adding Socks (Injinji to the Rescue)
    • injinijis as just cool socks
  • Getting Used to Five Fingers
    • caveats for colder weather
  • Notes on Ordering
  • The (Sad) International Situation (to date)
  • Summary on Fit
the New Bikila - how fit these, eh?
(update: and if you want to ask "ya, are you still wearing these?" i've posted an update about wearing VFF's five months on, too. The effect is pretty surprising and profound - in a good way. Also, how to wear 'em in sub freezing temps, and why they rule at airport security - and most recently (may 09): how VFF's afford free foot massage.)

Also, UPDATE at bottom on TREK and Performa Fitting Experiences)



(update on the new bikila, too, july '10)


(just added: FITTING THE SMARTWOOL CLASSIC - oct 9 '10)

Overview on Fitting
If you don't feel like going through the review, here are two fast take aways:
  • one: follow Vibrams fitting guidance for each model (check sizing link, bottom of page) - you may not believe it if you've mail ordered only one size, and one feels a bit snug or a bit big, but it will work out to be the case - more on why below.
  • A biggie to note is that the Flow and the KSO are recommended to be a size smaller than the classic and the sprint. Frex, if you take a 44 in the classic, you'd order a 43 in the KSO.
  • two: you don't need to get a bigger size for injinji toe socks to fit (and as the weather gets cooler, you may be pleased to fit in a pair of socks).
General Fit Guidance
It's important to note that the Classic and Sprint fit are different from the Flow and KSO. If you're size X in the Classic and Sprint, you're a size X-1.
Also Vibram says measure your largest foot from the heel to the longest digit (might be your big toe; might be your index toe) to get your size. Take that measurement in CM's or inches and 1/8ths of an inch to the fitting chart, and match gender/measure to the appropriate size chart.
The longest digit really is the biggie here, and Vibram is clear that if a toe is more than a certain fraction of an inch bigger than your big toe, getting a great fit may be a challenge. I'd add that that challenge *really* depends on the model.

Fitting. Another tip Vibram recommends for putting these shoes on: put 'em on the floor and slot your toes in, rather than trying to wrestle the shoe on toe by toe, or putting the heel in first and then trying to slot in toes. This, too, works. I also find after getting the toes in, moving the toe back and forth to make sure it's "in" can be a good check.

According to everyone i've spoken with who has worn these shoes for months to over a year, the guidance is: fit as snuggly as possible, but always fit with a bias to the toes. If any toe is feeling squished, go to the next size. When in doubt, go for optimal toe fit first and foremost.

Why do you want these?
Most of the reviews i've seen on the web review VFFs as running and hiking footwear rather than as walking around at work kinda footwear. Me, i'm looking at these as all around wear foot-ware, where i can do whatever whenever in the quest to "free your feet", - i like to run home/to work, for instance, or go work out, or be at work. Before i was enlightened about the evils of structured running type shoes, i'd wear high tech joggers to fit most of these activities - except deadlifting -where flat or no footware specifically was the guidance. So this review on fit is really looking at these shoes as largely generic options for everyday (heh there are black ones for the office if black is required)

Breaking (f)it Down, One Shoe at a Time
So, you've decided you too would like to check out these shoes for your lifestyle's activities. This next section looks at the features of each model and how they.

While going through the models, it's clear that each shoe is an evolution on Vibram's part around fit/shoe sculpting. There may be reasons that you choose one model over another, but there seems to be general consensus on which model has the best fit. So when getting these shoes, be ready for some compromise in fit/expectations. These compromises are not bad things or shoe stoppers, but each model really does have pluses and minuses around fit vs attributes that might make you decide on one model over the other - if indeed you want to make a choice.

The Classic is Vibram's original model, and it's very slipper-esque. It's what Vibram says is their "minimalist" approach. Minimalist in this case pretty much refers to what's used to hold the shoe to the foot. In this case it's (1) the fit of the toes, (2) the closeness of the shoe around the rest of the foot - very dance slipper or rock slipper like (except for the toes), and (3) an adjustable elastic to "secure" the shoe if/as necessary.

Unlike the three other models, the back of the heel on the Classic is not adjustable: it's a fixed rubber-esque material that goes around each side of the heel pocket like a big oval. While the slipper stays on based on fit, it can be further secured by the eleastic that runs around the top of the shoe that can be further tightened by a pull tab on the back of the shoe. Several people i've spoken with have said they've just cut this elastic because even at its loosest setting it's irritating with what still feels like there's some tension in the elastic even when it's at its most relaxed setting. I agree: i'd like to see a completely neutral setting on this elastic, which may be saying something as these shoes are so *not* tight on me.

Classic Fit: If you have a foot size based on your big toe, you're likely to get a really good fit with these shoes. That means that they're experienced as nicely snug, where the arch area fits close up to the arch of your foot. With this model, you'll enjoy the ease with which you can pull this slipper on and whip it off. I know folks who swear by the Classic, and love its simplicity and elegance - though i'm not sure if they've tried the other models.

Heel Fit: If you have a foot measured by a longer toe, you may feel like while the slipper fits your toes, and while the slipper stays on your foot, it may *seem* a bit long in the heel or like there's more play around the arch than a smaller size. This, according to folks at KayakShed.com who fit tons of people, is really normal. The fixed rubber grip on the back of the heel just doesn't snug into the foot as well in the Long Toe case (you'd have to have a really long calcaneus to snug the heel on).

I've now spoken with a number of Long Toe people who still like the Classic, but acknowledge that there is a bit of space in the heel - that they can squeeze that space between thumb and index finger while on their foot. Saying that, they still prefer this slight looseness to a toe being curled or on the verge of being curled up. I'd like to stress that even in running in the shoe, it does not come off in the Long Toe/more heel room case.

Reality Check on Fit: i tried on a size down from my big toe measure, and Vibram's fit guide is right: while the fit of the heel was closer in the size smaller, and i really wished it had fit, that pull on the Long Toe was a killer. And that classic heel even with that smaller size still leaves room where i could squish the back of the heel with thumb and index finger. So, i'm persuaded: go as snug as you can without any bending of toes. In this case, you just might decide you don't want this model because it feels too loose for your liking. On the other hand, this is very nice for deadlifting: you can't get flatter while still wearing shoes. And since they are not going to come off, gosh, these could be just right bang around in shoes. Now, as said, i'm ok with the loose feeling (i stress feeling) fit, but boy that string is irritating - i'm willing to believe that may just be me and a few other folks with whom i've spoken, and not a general irritant, but even here, on the high side, if the string bugs you, it can be cut.

The Sprint. The Sprint is not just the classic with a strap. While it has a strap over the top of the foot, it (a) gets rid of the string from the Classic and (b) adds dual straps on the back of the heel replacing the fixed rubber of the classic.

Fit. The strap means that the arch can fit closer to your own arch than a Classic for folks with the looser heel fit. Consequently, the shoe fits a wee bit differently than the Classic. For instance, for my own feet, whereas the smaller size Classic immediately killed my longer toe, i *almost* got away with the smaller (big toe) size of the Sprint and *maybe* it would have been ok, BUT the larger (actual as measured) shoe size is really dandy/ok because unlike the classic, the heel and arch can be better fit without compromising the toes.

So who likes this shoe? Runners who like the security of a strap; folks who like the easy fit of the classic but feel like a strap gives better fit/control, etc. All that's great. Without that string, and with the soft customizable heel, i find them generally more comfortable than the Classic, but really appreciate why folks want that Classic simplicity.

The Flow. If you imagine a Sprint converted into a full foot neoprene upper, you have the Flow. The strap/heel system is pretty much identical, though the rubber sole is technically a different material - it's not so as you'd notice putting the others beside this one.

The shoe is targeted to be either a cold weather runner or a stream crossing, go swimming hiker. I'm imagining it in the cold winter rains trundling to work.

Fit. The Flow is one of the two Five Fingers that is the One Size Smaller than Classic/Sprint rule. The camo rubber sole is pretty cool, though unless you put your foot up on your knee at work, who there is gonna notice, eh? Also, the fit feels like there's way less compromise going on with the Flow than with either the Classic or the Sprint. I wear the size in these i actually wear in a boot; it handles both the shape of the foot and the long toe thing without feeling like i've had to size up for that anatomical issue.

That said, this is a neoprene shoe: it's going to be snug. In fact my initial response was, "oh heck, i've followed the size guidelines and this is too small; i must get the size up. Phooey." But when i tried on the size up, there was WAY too much length in the toes, AND it STILL felt just as snug to get on. So again, you can likely feel pretty good about ordering the Vibram sizing guidelines.

In wearing these in a cold hotel room, i didn't find that the neoprene shoe felt any warmer than the other models: heat is generated by moving in these. If you're sitting at a desk, other toe solutions may be needed - and we'll come around to that shortly.

The KSO (Keep Stuff Out). The KSO is the most recent addition to the Five Fingers line. As for design, imagine the sprint, with a full foot cover added to that area from where the toe area ends, with mesh going up to the ankle, giving the same amount of cover as the Flow, but with this mesh on the forefoot, except cleverly where the strap closes which is solid material, and then mesh around the heels.

Now imagine as well a more minimalist strapping system around the heel and forefoot. Rather than three straps (one on each side of the heel and one across the forefoot), these one strap looped around the back of the shoe, linked at the arch and moving over the forefoot.

The KSO just works. Some folks may still prefer the open or uncovered forefoot of the Classic/Sprint, especially in the summer where bare skin against the wind is just a happy thing. But for those even in these conditions wanting to keep stuff out of the foot bed from trail running or whatever, the KSO mesh is a Very Good Idea. If you are a runner, there's a terrific 2 part review of the KSO, in comparison with sprint and why the KSO seems better over at Keith-in-Training.

The Fit. Now whether you like the mesh or not, there's no arguing with the Fit of the KSO relative to each of the other models. In both online reviews and in talking with long time FF patrons, there's general agreement that the KSO is the most perfect fit of the Five Fingers models, and is perhaps the best overall design. I'd have to agree: in my experience, the shoe that fit the best, fit best against the Vibram size guidelines, is the KSO. Like the flow, I also don't feel like i'm compromising on the fit of this shoe: that i had to get a size bigger for the Longer Toe issue. These felt great to put on, and after all the others, just felt without any of the questions the other ones elicited that these just fit. Like the Three Bears: not too big, too small, too snug; very much, just right. I don't know to what to attribute this better vibe to, since even without the strap done up at all, this model just happily hugs my foot and the toes feel just the right comfort between length and snugness.

Overall Goodness. The cool thing about this shoe is that it really seems like Vibram as a company is seriously working to improve the fit and function of these shoes with each iteration. What does this steady improvement bode for its next efforts - and there are new designs in the pipeline. Rumour has it, there's a home and training version on the way.

In the meantime, if you're looking for one all-rounder five fingers, the KSO takes that place.

Adding Socks: Injinji to the rescue
I've read about people running long distances in FF and getting blisters so really wanting some kind of sock/liner for their runners. For me, it's as the weather dips below freezing, and i can't wear sandals anymore, these shoes are just too thin or bare for the outdoors - heck, even indoors the other day, i felt my toes getting cold.

Vibram itself points to the San Diego sock maker Injinji. Injinji makes high tech toe socks. After going through the multiple fittings of all the above models of FiveFingers, the thought of having to do it all again to get shoes that fit with socks made me want to throw forks. But i had hope from online forums: only Keith of the above KSO review deliberately got a bigger size shoe to wear with his socks.

In my experience, even with the snug Flows, one does not need to get a bigger size Five Fingers to wear the toe socks. As far as i can tell, here's why, at least for me (your mileage may differ). In my case, i already have considerable give in both the Classic and the Sprint, so no problem with socks for these.

Also, The socks make the toe a wee bit thicker, rather than particularly longer. If you try on your five fingers, you'll likely find that your toes don't necessarily super squeeze right up to the tip of the toe and pull. At that point your toe would likely be about to be bent by the shoe. So, as for thickness - there's a LOT of give in the stretchy material of the Five Fingers - even with the neoprene. So fatter, no problem. With the KSO/FLow where the fit seems to be better, likewise, there still seems to be sufficient length and definitely enough lateral stretch to feel pretty comfy. Again, you *may* want to check this especially if you're running but i'm pretty happy with the length/thickness issue.

The ability to get these socks has meant that i can now wear these shoes standing still and not get cold feet - literally. They're available in the US at REI.com and KillerSocks.com. If you're outside the US, good luck. It's international order time again, it seems except for australia. Hi injinji australia!

Update Nov 24, 2008: Injinji in the EU. Injinji has said they are in the process of opening their European Distribution Central warehouse in Spain. They recommend contacting info@injinji.es in the interim about getting socks till they're fully up and running.

Injinji Socks on their own: cool toes.

Just a note on the injinji - these are cool technical socks. Injinji make less "technical" socks, but the Performance socks are thin, cool max, durable blends that come in black and white and three lengths: micro, mini-crew and crew. I have only been wearing these in the Five Fingers so far so can't comment on how they feel in "normal" shoes, but they felt great simply to walk or lie around in at home. One of the biggies is that it's actually easier with these socks on to watch how the foot moves in a gait. Anyway, i look foward to trying their Outdoor and Comfort models.

Getting Used to Five Fingers
if you've been walking barefoot or in Dopies or in footware with thin soles like Tai Chis or walk around a lot in bare feet, putting on Vibrams may feel initially more claustrophobic than wearing sandals or shoes, but they'll be no challenge to walk in. If you're coming out of highly structured shoes or stiff soled shoes or very cushy trainers, Vibram's advice again is on point: give yourself a chance for your feet to adapt to all the new muscle use. Your feet may get tired/sore initially. This is not the shoe's fault. Blame 18th century european footwear traditions that just haven't let go, and give these more of a chance.

Cold Toes Caveat. My only caveat about Five Fingers is that they are shoes designed to support being in movement, and that movement keeps blood flowing to the toes that keeps em warm. Otherwise, getting into these isolating toe pockets - even with socks - your toes can get cold. This may again be a don't blame the shoes. Get up and do some little plyo jumps to warm up your toes if you want to wear these as snug fitting foot gloves.

Cold Soles Caveat. Walking home on sidewalks where the night air was close to 0C, my feet were feeling the cold - and this is with socks in the shoes. Not sure that the Flows would address the bottom-of-the-feet chill - haven't tested that yet, though they have a slightly thicker sole. Indeed, the VFF site says of the Flow " A 1.2mm Neoprene lining and 2mm EVA footbed provide the thermal insulation and protection." - will update when i've tested this shoe in colder climes.

Just a note, then, that if you're thinking of these as walking shoes in the cold, rather than running and generating heat, that may need a rethink. That said, standing on the cold grass in KSOs was more comfortable at this temperature than the pavement.

In similarly frigid conditions early this AM, i wore toe socks with Dopie sandals - which have slightly thicker soles than the Five Fingers - and that made a definite difference between cold soles and just fine. After wearing the vibrams, though, the Dopies feel less natural of a footstrike - which is more of a surprise to me as wearing these for the past month+ solid i'm sure got my feet ready to go Five Fingers without any issue. Dang. where are the winter soled five fingers??

Notes on Ordering: check return/exchange policy
If you need to get these shoes not from a local shop where folks are happy to spend time with you to get these fit, like Boston's Core de Vie, check especially the shipping costs and return policy of the online store. For instance, KayakShed.com has a return policy that perplexes me:


Shipping on most orders is free, however we do not cover shipping from you to us. There is a re-ship charge on all exchanges. Returns will be charged a restocking fee of $8.
KayakShed, a major stockist of Five Fingrs, has free delivery on the initial order. Cool! They are also super helpful to talk with about fit/style and so on (so do talk with them if you have any questions). But on returns, you pay the postage to return the goods. Ok, fair enough, but you will also be charged to ship out a replacement pair on an exchange. In other words it is to your advantage to make a completely distinct order at some other point which means free delivery, rather than arranging an exchange. You'll also get dinged another 8 bucks to have those returns put back on the shelf (See comment from John at Kayakshed below: they're working on this).

TravelCountry, another stockist, has a return policy where you simply pay to get the shoes back - there's no posted restocking fee. Whether that means there is one, and they haven't posted it, i don't know. They say, in part.
Since we ship most orders FREE** UPS ground returns are the purchaser's responsibility. TravelCountry.com covers all ground freight back to you on exchanges. If we happen to ship you a defective or incorrect item, we will reimburse you for your reasonable shipping costs back to us.
Vibram itself will ship the shoes (and socks), but they charge for shipping, restocking the whole bit. If only Zappos.com shipped FiveFingers. Amazingly, they cover the cost of both shipping AND returns (by of course charging a bit more on the shoes in the first place :)).

As for in store, places like Core de Vie in Cambridge, MA has a great selection, and a passion for the product. They even have a vibram Five Fingers size thingy (called a “Franick” according to Vibram CEO Tony Post) that you step on to confirm your size - great idea, and yes it confirms that carefully measuring your foot as specified on the Vibram site does work. As for returning product, it's in-store credit only. Over at the small chain City Sports, they have full return for their product, and an Education discount, but so far there's less choice in colors/models (no women's KSO in stores, but available on web sites) and no “Franick” in store. The Vibram Five Fingers Site has lists of stores that DO stock their shoes, too. That's how i found some local stockists.

For International Orders. If you want to get the Flow or KSO (or women's sizes above 40 in any model), folks like Kayakshed.com do have international orders. Their shipping is reasonable, too. That said, the usual caveats apply about how clothing/footware may be dutied crossing the border, and whether or not you get dinged with VAT may be hit or miss. It would be great to hear from anyone with international ordering experience.

The Sad International Situation

Here's one specific fit problem - and this for women. In the EU/UK at least, the biggest size you'll get in women's is a 40. If you take a 41 or 42, you'll have to order from the US. Why is a mystery: all the shoes apparently go from China and then to Italy for the EU, and from China to the US. Same place produces all shoes, so why not throw in a few more women's sizes? Or a few more models?

Indeed, if you're outside North America, you can only get the Classic or the Sprint at outrageously inflated prices (even with VAT factored in, there's what seems to be a considerable mark up from US prices. Can't quite figure this, considering they all come from the same source, and the journey to the EU is actually shorter than on to the US). In speaking with one rep at the Vibram FiveFingers office, it seems that Vibram.it who deal with EU distribution are focusing on VFFs not just as a technical shoe, but a style shoe, too. The Flow and KSO, it seems, do not yet fit into that concept. How could camo soles not be a hit in Milan?

If you think either the lack of models or sizes is a shame, or would like to understand the pricing, why not email the FiveFingers distributor in the EU - and in the US too, and let them know there *IS* a demand for these shoes. Go UK! Go EU!

Update Nov 3 '08: Tony Post, President and CEO emailed to say that the EU office is distinct from the US office, "All design and product development has been done collaboratively, but North America has largely driven the market" Both the EU and US offices, however, are working hard to improve distribution. Excellent! - There is hope, then, that 2009 will see better selection on models and sizes. And that the CEO emailed directly is pretty durn cool, don't you think? That there are human beings making these things AND connected with their customers is just another reason to dig the company. Will of course update the page once the EU situation clears up.

nov 15:

This just in from reader Jason: UK online shoe store is having a 3 for 2 sale INCLUDING KSO's at LoveThoseShoes.com. That's one way to get US'ish pricing - but seem to be only men's sizing. dang dang dang


march 2010 - have been impressed with Pure Footwear's range of VFF's and pricing in the UK (no recompense for saying this - they were also the only ones to have the size 42's on vivo barefoot winter shoes for women)

Overall: Free Your Feet; trust your feet (and the FiveFingers fit guide).
The big motivation for Vibram Five Fingers, at least for me, has been to get towards barefootedness. I've written about the increasing arguments that say trust your feet: they have more engineering going into them than your shoes, eh? And Five Fingers make the claim that by their thin soles, and finger fit, they're Respecting the Foot, while respecting the reality of nasty stuff on the ground.

Now i'm *not* super entirely sure that having toes in individual pockets, rather than say a loose shoe like a moccasin or a vivo barefoot (assuming that vivo gets its sizing act together. See vivo note here towards end of foot freeing piece in the purple text - talk about contrast in responsiveness between the vivo office and vibram. but that's another story) is superior, or if so in what ways, but it's an interesting question to explore. One of the big immediate differences in the Mitt vs Glove analogy is that the VFF's glove fit really does mean the shoe conforms to all parts of the foot and does let the toes articulate freely. How this contributes to an outdoor foot experience will be a cool study. Based on all the great reports from VFF long time runners and wearers, i'm keen to learn. Apparently there is a study going on looking into Five Fingers but in terms of a specific research question i don't know what that is. But these ARE interesting shoes and they are a joy to walk, run, sprint in - more so than any non-toed shoe i have.

The take aways as i've said at least in terms of fit is that, from my very unscientific testing of models smaller and larger than those specified by the foot guide, and those right on the foot guide,
  • the foot guide has been right, and be sure to measure for biggest foot/longest toe
  • if you are a Longer Toe than Big Toe fitter, the KSO and Flow seem to fit better than the Classic and the Sprint. This difference doesn't mean the Classic/Sprint are not for you; just that the fit will not be as snug/glovelike potentially as the other models.
  • while your mileage may vary, generally, you can wear socks comfortably in the same same FiveFinger shoe that you wear barefoot.
Assuming you trust the foot guide on fit, the only real remaining question for you may be which model sounds like the right one for you based on where you plan to use them.

Good luck on your mission, and i hope this guide helps you with that Ordering Something I Can't Try On conundrum.
If you have questions, or other observations, please post.
If you think this review has helped, please feel free to leave a comment.

And by the way, the confirmed, official spelling of the brand is FiveFingers (TM) - all one word, and with caps as shown. VFF and FF also recognized abbreviations in the community.

UPDATE March 8, 2010: New post reflecting on the experience five months on of daily VFF wear, and the surprise stride effect.

Update June 17, 2009: Guest Article on birthdayshoes.com about how Z-Health can optimize the VFF benefit to help move/feel even better.

Update March 8, 2010:


Related Posts/Resources:

69 comments:

DannyE said...

I bought the KSO version, and they are awesome! Very comfy, and great for k-bell training! After following the measuring advice, I ordered accordingly, but I ended up having to go one size bigger, and although I was aggrivated, it was a better fit. People think they are so weird...I know they are different, but some of the looks I get?? My wife thinks they are "VERY UGLY". Whatever! :)

DannyE said...

In my experience, the customer support at KayakShed.com was great!

john said...

Wow. What a through review. Nice job! We love Five fingers and always like to hear from others that do too.

You're right fit is difficult. I hope lots of folks read your review it'll rely help them out. As for our returns policy ... I know it is odd. Sorry. We've had to adjust our policy due to all the exchanges we were getting five fingers. We couldn't afford to not charge for return shipping. That said finally UPS is talking about giving us a small break in shipping rates so we might be able to change our returns / exchanges policy. Stay tuned.

We just sent out an e-mail to our customers to help us give reviews to help people get an idea as to what Five fingers are. The reviews are no where not as in depth as what you have done here. Mostly they are a couple sentences or a paragraph. We'll start posting them today. Check them out at
Kayakshed Blog
Hope you don't mind but I'm going to place a link from our reviews page to your review. Again this is the most thorough review I have read on Vibram Five Fingers.
Great job!!
John
Owner www.kayakshed.com


dannye- thanks for the service comment!

mc said...

Dannye, thanks for the experience note. Agreed KayakShed are very helpful in talking through an order. I'm happy with the stock i have from them for sure.

Owner John, an honor to see your post. thank you for dropping by and for the info about the exchange policy on the VFF. Please come back to post any return policy update if you wish - it would be great to have the info.

by all means link to the page in your blog or store, mien bitte.

mc

Kevin said...

This is a great review. I would like to add a couple of my thoughts. I started with the classics and quickly purchased the black KSO's because I like the looks of them. I absolutely love the look and feel of both but really favor the KSO's because of the glove like feel. I can spend days in these and never experience any pain at all. This includes long days in NYC. I followed the sizing guide and made a small mistake. I wear a 45 in the classic and took the advice about ordering a size down for the KSO. I think they would fit better if I had stayed at the 45 because I like to tighten the strap to engulf my foot tight against my rather high arch. If I do so my toes get jammed into the toe slots and I find it rather uncomfortable after a short time. I think the Injinji's would fit better with the larger size. I have to release all strap pressure to be comfortable with socks. Next pair will be 45's. It could be a while because of how tough these things are.
I wear the classics around the house in all weather so far, it's been in the low 20's here in CT and I find them warmer without socks than wearing just heavy socks alone. I also agree that while you are moving they tend to generate heat but if standing on cold pavement you will have frozen toes in a very short period of time.
I was a barefooter as a kid and these give me the chance of feeling young again, almost barefoot on all kinds of terrain. What an easy, inexpensive midlife crisis. Anyone from the sixties and seventies that spent the summers with tough, filthy feet like me will appreciate this grown up version of childhood. The memories of freedom and letting go will flood your senses.

Kevin said...

I just received a pair of outdoor Injinji's and what a difference. I went outside for a while and they kept the cold at bay for a lot longer. I'm now sure that I will be able to wear my KSO's all winter for short, dry outings.

I notice that when I bend my foot at the toes my second one moves forward of the big toe. Now i'm sure I should size up.

Scott said...

"Home and training version": does this imply a more gym fitness type version do you think?

I'm interested in the KSO for use with my strength training in the gym; especially with squats and deadlifts. However, if a more gym-based version may come out I might wait a little longer.

Great review by the way :-D

mc said...

Scott,
thank you for your kind words.

i dunno if this idea of a gym/yoga/home fivefingers is real or just an idea - as said, rumour at this point, from some fine purveyors of vibrams in cambridge, ma.

dan john seems to really like the kso's for lifting, if these are his feet

So if you don't feel like waiting till spring to *see if there's a new model, you won't be disappointed in the kso's for anything on the street or in the gym.

of the kettlebell/lifter/martial artists i know who use fivefingers everywhere, they're happy happy with the slipper/classic.

don't know why folks call these ugly. sheesh

here's a more or less substantiated rumour for the spring collection: blue camo soles for the kso. shh.

all the best in your quest.

Kevin said...

We have 14 inches of snow and a temp that hasn't exceeded 25 f. so I figured it was a good time to go out with my FF's and Injinji outdoor socks. I tried around the house first and quickly determined that I would wear them out shopping and dining. It is too cold for the snow to melt otherwise there would be problems. Slush and FF's can't be a good combination. It was a great experience feeling the hard packed snow and ice underfoot. I even walked through deep snow to retrieve the trash barrel on the side of the house. I took a pair of boots with me just in case something happened and I had to walk any distance. My feet got somewhat cold as the truck warmed up but were fine after a little in-store walking. I wouldn't have thought it but cold asphalt is much less comfortable than snow and ice. Traction is pretty good and the sensation of walking "barefoot" on forgiving surfaces was a new, exhilarating treat. I felt the snow pack against my arch as if I were shoeless. If you are the type of person that can't handle cold feet then maybe this isn't for you, but if you are used to cold climate living this may be an interesting option. I quietly chuckle to myself when thinking about my bare foot prints on the floor of K mart and Walmart. People are probably looking for Sasquach in Waterbury, CT. After all, I do wear a size 12 in regular shoes.

Doc D said...

I found this very useful when purchasing a pair of KSOs (alerted to the existence of these shoes by the aforementioned Dan John article). Mnay thanks! The shoes feel great, and I'm looking forward to lifting in them (principal use envisaged - I'm a bodybuilder/powerlifter). Just one question on sizing, if I may: just *how* snug should they be? I have size 41 KSOs, based on the charts (my usual shoe size is 43, but I have ridiculously wide and short feet). In these, my big toe is right to the end of the pocket (i.e. pressing against it), whereas there is room to spare in all of the others. Not painful (not that I have tried jogging round outside in them, in case of need to exchange), but definitely contact/pressure. Does this sound right, or more like a case for moving up a size? My principal hesitation is that although my big toe might be less snug then, my other toes might not insert far enough into the pockets. Any informed opinions appreciated!

Scott said...

No probs mc

"here's a more or less substantiated rumour for the spring collection: blue camo soles for the kso. shh."

I like the sound of that.

mc said...

Doc D, this is a personal matter.
As long as that pocket is in no way BENDING that toe you should be ok - but do some lifts at home on carpet if you can to see if you are banging into the toe cap just to much for comfort. Also, give that toe pocket a little pull to see if there's any play in the toe finger at all. you may be surprised.

I've got flows on right now and my long toes are right against the butt end of those sleeves - but don't really notice it.

No compression or bending back. touching - i've found - is ok, but your mileage may differ.

best
mc

Patrick said...

I really appreciate the article/review. I am about to order a pair of the sprints and have a question about sizing (if anyone can offer advice).

My foot size is right between a 40 and 41 (dead in the middle). I was leaning towards a 40, because I enjoy a snug fit. However, one gentleman spoke of having high arches (which I also have) and while adjusting the strap tight....it pulled the shoe a bit tight in the toes. This has me leaning towards a 41 now.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

mc said...

Patrick, in my limited experience testing shoes and chatting with others, if your measure is above a size, go for the larger size. The last thing you want with these is any toe that is pulled back - so if you're over a given size you are OVER it. Go up to the next size
jmo - let me know if your mileage varies.

Glen said...

FiveFingers are available in UK and Europe at www.lovethoseshoes.com
The range will be increased in the Spring when hopefully stock availability will improve.

The pricing is fixed for EU and may well be higher than USA because of the weak pound, shipping costs, import duty and vat.

mc said...

yes lovethoseshoes is one of the places in the UK for fivefingers.

Don't accept the argument on price tho:

a) the price of the shoes have ALWAYS been near double with the STRONGER pound.

b) shipping from china to the UK is surely less than shipping from china to the US - or not that much different.

c) import duties on shoes are equivalent in both countries.

d) even taking off vat, the shoes are still cheaper to purchase in the US and have shipped to the UK.

This kind of price difference isn't new; it's just depressing.

my only guess is that perhaps volume of sales means a higher cost to folks selling in the UK than to the US but dunno.

at the moment, the prices are actually closer to equivalent because of the weak pound. not that that helps, since wages still aren't

mc said...

ps - thanks glen for your input.
and just to be clear, when i say "i don't buy" i just mean that if an individual can have a shoe shipped from the states, hit with duty and vat when it comes in, and still save money over using the EU distributor, something seems out of whack - and this is on an individual purchase paying full retail - something a distributor would not be doing. Their costs are clearly below retail.

When all goods come from CHINA this kind of price differentiation - where freight is equivalent - seems hard to justify - even factoring in duty/tax

fivefingers.co.uk is another shop in the UK - also limited sizes for women.

more are listed on vibrams own site.

mc

Kevin said...

I've taken to wearing my KSO's and outdoor Injinji's in cold weather to test the limits of comfort. So far cold, snow and ice haven't been a problem so long as I am moving and not out for extended periods of time. Puddles and slush have been the biggest problem for me. We had another big storm in CT last week and I wore my shoes exclusively for errands and visits. I didn't wear them while shoveling or using the snow thrower because the wind chill was below zero and I didn't want to deal with having to come in and change. I did wear them in deep , back yard snow to feed the wild critters and found it comfortable even with snow 8 inches deep. Sunday night I was going to the supermarket and all was still okay until I had to walk through deep slush and a small lake in the entrance to the store. I felt the water whoosh between my toes and I knew that the fun was over. I was okay in the store but once I exited and had to get back to the car my feet were wet once again. And FROZEN!

Then I had a brainstorm. Why not try waterproofing the toes of my shoes? I used a spray that was recommended for nylon and soaked them thoroughly. Once dry I dipped the toes of one in a sink of water and they stayed dry. If this idea works then maybe I can wear these year round.

My walks went from barefoot to FF's to FF's and socks to FF's and outdoor socks. Hopefully I will be able to reverse this trend because I am most comfortable with nothing on.

Graham said...

Thanks for putting together such a comprehensive review - all very helpful!

I went the John Lewis dept store in London as they are marked as a retail outlet. I hoped to try the product but they had just had a 50% sale so only one small size was left. At least I was able to have a look at that one and see how it was put together.

Checking out the size guide i came in almost spot on a 43 for the classic and ordered them from fivefingers.co.uk/primal lifestyle (who also answered some questions via email very promptly)

Now theyve arrived the fit seems good, with the slightly loose feel mentioned in the review but no suggestion that they will slip off.

Only poor thing is the final quality control - all five toes of the left one were glued together..and two of the right one.... Too much glue had been used to connect the sole and had oozed out onto the upper material effectively making the upper of one toe stick to the material of the next toe along. After half an hour of gently coaxing the toes apart I got them all seperated bar the third and forth toe, which took an age to pull away

mc said...

Graham - glad on the fit, sorry about missing the JL sale - where i am, they hadn't been in stock since the summer. that's pretty weird on the shoes - what did fivefingers.co.uk say?

Graham said...

Hi mc,

forgot to mention that the sales assistant in JL was very helpful. He looked up stock on his computor in all the JL stores, so it looked like 3 size 43 pairs were in Edinburgh but he couldnt tell what colour they were - i was still impressed with the effort though!. He expressed doubt that JL would restock them this year after selling the 2008 stock.

Ive only just contacted fivefinger.co.uk about the glue - i requested they forward the info to vibram.

Klue said...

Hi mc,

Thank you for the indepth post. I had a question you might be able to help me with.
I live in Europe and bought a pair of fivefingers today. Unfortunately because of limited supply I could only try on 2 pairs (I even had to go to two different stores, trying on one pair at each)
Classic size 42 and Sprints size 43. The classics felt alright, nothing too tight or whatever. But I bought the Sprints. I'm wearing them at home right now, deciding whether to keep them or not.
But in the sprints my big toe feels a bit jammed, nothing painful though (even though it is a size larger than the classic).
So now I'm very confused whether it should be feeling this tight.
I would want to take them for a jog, but then I can't return them..

thanks a lot!

Chris

mc said...

Chris, that seems odd to me that you have classics in 42 and sprints in 43 since vibram says that the classic and sprint are supposed to be the same size. how about that.

also if the sprint's heal is let all the way out - no tension - and your big toe feels jammed, it feels jammed. are you sure you're not doing the sizes backwards? classic 43, sprints 42?

just checking.

Klue said...

Hey again,

No, I'm pretty sure I had it right. I tried on 42 classics and bought 43 sprints. But tbh, I only shortly tried on the classics and couldn't compare since I had to go to different stores.

But things have gotten better..I wore the shoes for about 4-5 hours and after taking them off didn't feel anything wierd. So the feeling is just snugness. I also took them for a jog this morning, and that felt fine. I think what is happening is that the sprints are large enough, except the straps at the back are pushing my toes to far foward. If I keep my heel back the shoes are perfect.

Thanks a lot!

Chris

Jerry said...

Thanks for this very informative post. I was able to try on some KSO's before purchasing, hoping to try size 42. They had 41 and 43 in stock and 41 was too small, 43 too big. Ended up ordering 42s from KayakShed. They fit like a glove and I am slowly getting my feet used to them.

Since I had a coupon and gift card from REI, I thought I would order a pair of Classics. I took the advice given here and on the Vibram site, ordering a size large at 43. But, they were still too short for my big toe. I have sent them back to exchange for a 44. I really hope they are not too large, as I want the Classics for general wear during the heat of the summer.

mc said...

really happy for you jerry. that's great news on the KSO's - also pretty neat the weather is warm enough wherever you are to be wearing 'em. It's still Flow weather here.

Really good not to get squished toe. I hope the classics work out for you, but you may just find that they're either a wee bit long in the heel but fit in the toes, or you prefer the sprints - which have a more sizeable heel. Hope you'll come back and post what you find on the classics. I've yet to meet anyone who says they fit like a glove :)

best,
mc

Jerry said...

I thought I would report back after having both the KSO's (42s) and Classics (44s) for a while. The KSO's fit very well in the toes and the heel. My only complaint is that the elastic around the top of the shoe is a bit tight, maybe it will loosen a bit over time.

The Classics are definitely on the large side, but will do I think. They are loose, but stay on without any problem. The one issue I have with them is that the top of the heel on one of them rubs. I compared the right and the left shoes and the tab on the right is longer (taller) than the left. This long tab is chafing a bit. I may try and take some fine grit sandpaper to try and soften the material. I am hesitant to trim the material, because I would have to trim it below the level of stitching and I do not want to compromise the integrity of the shoe.

Overall I am still happy with both purchases. Half sizes would be appreciated though.

oyd11 said...

Is there a difference between the "men" and "women" models, or is it just the size? according to the size chart, a women's 41 would fit me best

mc said...

Alas yes - i bet you're in the UK where women's sizes top out at 40 in the classic and sprint. yes women's 41's are different than men's 41's - just take a look at what the length of a guy's foot is for a 41 compared with a gal's.

The men's are also WIDER.

I'd write the EU distributor (from the US vibram site) and ask what gives with women's sizing in the UK - i have, and have only ever had replies from the US.

The EU side of the house seems very different: as in, unresponsive, which is way too bad considering the price over here.

No anyone in the states?

best
mc

justinowings.com said...

Man what an awesomely thorough review. I'm going to throw up a link to it on my "resources" tab, and maybe down the road I could get you to do my bday shoes interview?

justin @ birthdayshoes.com (and justinowings.com

Aymeric said...

Anybody know where to find them in Australia?

mc said...

Aymeric - injini is in Oz - they might know; otherwise, ask VFF directly on their site - they reply quickly.

Justin, any time - you just call out my name, and i'll be there ya ya ya

best
mc

Laura said...

Very helpful article! Esp. the part about the "long toes." Thank you.

RafaƂ Pikul said...

Hi :)

Great review, Thank you !

I live in London, UK.

Does anyone know if there is a shop in London that sales VFF ? I would like to fit them before buying.

Thanks :)
Have a great weekend

Rafal

Kuan Ju said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry said...

Hello fellow VFFers,

Here is a site that I thought you might be interested in:

http://birthdayshoes.com/index.php

Enjoy!
Jerry

KJ said...

Fantastic article, thank you very much! I have been cursed with a left foot that is larger than the right. The left measures precisely 10 3/8 inches, while the right is 10 1/8. My longest toe is the big toe.

Because my feet are inconveniently exactly on either side of a 40 KSO according to Vibram's sizing chart, I purchased both 40 and 41 sizes of the KSO to try out. With Injinjis, the best fit for my left is a 41 (though the little toes do have a bit more play than ideal); the best for my right is a 40. If I try to wear a 41 KSO on my right foot, the fit is definitely a bit loose-feeling.

Without Injinjis, I can sorta fit my left foot into a 40 KSO, but then its big toe does have a slight feeling of being tugged down when the foot is lifted off the ground. That doesn't sound right!

So I'm facing the very unfortunate situation of either having a slightly loose right foot in a pair of 41 KSO, or just sucking it up and running with a 41 KSO on my left foot and a 40 KSO on my right. Twice the price, and I don't even know if I like running in FiveFingers yet!

Will my right foot, which is 10 1/4 inches long, be OK is a 41 KSO? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Rebecca said...

Great review, i'll deffinitley start pointing our customers to this! I work for Love Those Shoes, a UK stockist of Vibram FiveFingers and they are getting more and more popular so its great to have such a thorough review for customers to see a 2nd opinion!

We've just knocked 20% off our prices for FiveFingers and they are selling out like crazy! It's crazy to think they were unknown not so long ago...

mc said...

Rebecca, perhaps you can help us all understand why - even at this reduced price - these shoes in the UK are still 125% or more of what they cost in the states.

for instance - the ksos at your shop are 79 quid. take off 15% for VAT (i hope) and at 68 quid, that's still about 111 USD. The kso's at full retail in the states cost 85 dollars. Where's that 26 bux/15 quid going to? considering that 85 is full US retail, not the wholesale price that shops will pay - and when all these shoes come from china and import duties on shoes are almost non-existant.

Thanks much.

Gene said...

Great post! I want to get a KSO but am still unsure about sizing, even after reading your post. My index toe is slightly longer than my big toe, and it's a little curved in the joint, so it's difficult to measure my foot correctly. If I totally press my foot flat against the ground, the long toe flattens as well and the foot measurement becomes 11.5". However if I stand naturally with my feet relaxed (and it seems that when I walk around normally barefoot, that long toe stays a little curved), my measurement is 11.25". So I'm not sure if I should get a 44 or 45 size of the KSO. It seems that the 11.25" measurement is more natural, but on the other hand I normally wear size 45 (euro) shoes. Any advice on fit? Thanks.

Elf said...

I really want a pair of these, but shudder at paying UK prices! Think I will try them on in the UK, then send the info out to America and get a friend to ship them - or hope someone is going on Holiday soon! Price difference is crazy!

And I really wish they did KSOs in a red colour/mix.

Thanks for a really great review!

heilong said...

Elf, I am from Russia and I got my KSOs at kayakshed.com
FYI, I paid $30 for shipping.
I've got size 45 (ordered a little larger than measured), they seem to fit fine size-wise. My big and littles toes are curved inwards a little, so they seem a little awkward in these places, but not like they rub or smth. Just that I can feel I have some sort of shoes on in these places. KSOs seem a little hot to me, on a hot summer day. I think I'll get a classic or sprint as well, for these days.

zeephyyr said...

After having read ELf's complaints about UK prices I thought it could be useful to say there is a retailer with a street shop with lower prices in Zaragoza (Spain) and also sells on-line (bank transfers and cash-on-deliveries). For instance, the KSO model price including VAT is 90 euros (about 77.6 pounds). This is the link.
Their shipping fees are 10 euros (8.6 pounds) to anywhere in Spain, I think if you can ask for an overseas shipment you will charge according to the Post Office rates. They also have these other web site which can be swapped from English to Spanish and vice-versa. In this other link you can find the shipping and payment conditions. As this store is in the EU surely you won't have to pay customs fees ordering from UK in any case.

They seem reasonable people. The following morning after I had placed an order I received a phone call from them to confirm the size since I had previously made a query on 40 size availability and later on that same day I ordered a 41 (there are no KSOs in size 40 as in a lot of other stores, so I made up my mind to give a try to the upper size). Worthless to say I have no relation at all with these folks. I live 300km away from them and never been to their store.

By the way, has somebody noticed that shoe size to foot length correlation is one size larger in the sizing advice at primal lifestyle - fivefinger.uk.co in relation with to Vibram FiveFingers official site? In spite of that, when your feet length fall between two sizes their advice is going to the smaller one, thus in most cases you will end up choosing the same FiveFingers size irrespective to the chart you've taken as reference. Hope it can help.

Bitsy said...

Maybe I should put this review up on one of you more resent posts, but here seemed better.
I just bought a pair of KSO (women’s 38). I’m have a longer middle toe the then big toe, so having tried on the Originals and the Sprints at the store I agree with you feeling, they just don’t fit my foot as well as the others, there is a balance between the toe and the heal that just doesn’t work quite right. The KSOs, however, have a few things that are odd with my foot. 1) (This applies to other models as well) the toes are too short. That is, there is 1/8 -1/4 inch between when the toes of the shoes unite and when my toes end. I think this works out better then the other way around, my toes hit the dividers but couldn’t make it to the end of the shoe, but it is noticeable. 2) my foot is too thick (and my arch is to high) for me to comfortably get into the KSOs the first few times. The shoes seem to have stretched. 3) As a barefoot walker the extra fabric really helps keep the shoes to my feet, and give me a bit of extra grip and sensation. 4) I often wear sandals so I can put them on when someone insist I need shoes (I got disciplined in high school for not wearing my shoes inside), and take them off when I want to be barefoot. I can’t do this easily with these shoes. But, I’m trying the think of them as a sturdier replacement for socks. (Which, insolently, most people don’t notice if you wear sock, but not shoes in places people want you to be wearing shoes.) 5) They have rubbed at the back, but I will callous. 6) If I wear them too long the, like most other shoes get quite sweaty from my feet. Perhaps talcum powder would improve this.

For people who are interested in what these shoes feel like, I’d describe them as a cross between a ballet slipper and climbing shoes with toes. Gripy, but thin enough you can feel some detail thought them. Not nearly as much feeling as being barefoot, but, what can you do?

Also, people might like seeing (though I’ve done nothing more then look at the web pages) http://www.barefooters.org/ and http://runningbarefoot.org/ .

I should also mention that I bought mine at Paragon Sporting Goods, where the clerk tried to tell me I couldn’t try on a model because it was a mens shoe, and despite the measurement reading otherwise tried to give me Originals and KSOs in a 37. However, my father bought his at CitySports near 46th and 6th and was quite happy.

Vincent said...

Hi, thanks for the review! I'm looking to buy a pair of VFFs online, but I have a small problem. My feet are slightly short of 9.5 inches, so size 38 classics should fit. However, I would prefer to get KSOs, but I can't go a size down because they don't make size 37s.

The few suppliers in my area don't have my size, so I can't try on a pair. I could try a pair when I move to the Boston/Cambridge area in about a month (for college), but I'd prefer not to wait that long. Alternatively, I could try women's sizes.

Maybe I should just get a pair of classics now and buy another pair when I'm in Cambridge. Do you have any thoughts? Any advice would be appreciated. :)

jmarketing said...

This is among the most thorough posts I've found on the subject of finding the right shoe size for the Vibram FiveFingers. Great job. I included your post in a best reviews and info on Vibram FiveFingers on our blog. Thanks!

C said...

I just received my new KSO's by mail today, after ordering them sight unseen, based on the sizing chart. While i'm still clearly getting used to them - my first sensation is that for all of my toes - there is a small gap between the end of the toe and the end of the shoe; for both of my big toes - the toes touch the end. The shoes feel very snug, but not uncomfortable.

Is this how they feel? will my big toes touching the end cause discomfort when i run? i can't do too much in them if i want to return them but returning them is a hassle, as there are no retailers in my city. Any helpful comments? do your toes touch the end?

Gene said...

They did feel unusual to me at first. Generally comfortable, but a bit awkward near the pinkies and the big fingers (my big fingers are pointed inwards a little). I got used to it and they feel kinda like gloves now. Just give it some time, they'll fit well. If not, you can buy another pair in a different size :) That's what I would do (as nobody sells them at all, where I live)

Helix Matrix Healing said...

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Le said...

Very nice detailed informative article!

The only thing missing is perhaps that the women's sizes come between men's sizes, AND they start smaller. Most people only focus on their half of the sizing chart, which I think is a mistake. The women's shoes come in some non-feminine colours. You should buy the best fitting shoe despite what they are marketing it towards.

Mattayus said...

Hi,

I was just wondering if you could give me your opinion. I don't have anyone to discuss this with so I would appreciate your thoughts if possible.

I bought a pair of KSOs over a year ago now. When I bought them I just bought my shoe size which was 38 (I am a woman too). These have been great for me and I love them...

HOWEVER recently I was looking at a pair of surges for the Winter months..they are the boto version of the flows. I was sent sizing guides to just make sure I got the right size because I was getting them from America for cheap. Anyway on this, I discovered that my KSOs should have been a size smaller...like you say in your article.

Discovering this was a bit of a shock because I have had no problems with my KSOs being the size they are. I put them on again to see and I do find that there is a slight gap in the back of them which has never caused me problems.

Now I am wondering if I should just buy a pair of Surges in 38 or should go for a 37. From measuring my foot a 37 would be a snug fit and the 38 really should be quite loose (surges are same as flow in sizing). However, as I said the KSOs aren't really big and are in fact quite nice.

So I am not sure what to do...as I would be getting them from ebay I don't know if I should get a 38 or a 37. From your review a flow seems to be tighter.

Nowe from the sizing chart my foot is a perfect size 38 in sprint but as I said I got the same size in KSOs and no problems...

Not sure what to do. I am tempted to get the size 37 to see what a snug fit would be..I thought I was getting a snug one from KSOs but obviously not as I have some room in the back.

Anyway...yeah sorry for the ramble. Would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

Thanks,

Kelly

Luke said...

I'm curious about fit as well. I'm currently wearing a KSO Mens 43, which feel perfect on my left foot, but a little weird on my right. My big toe on the left just barely grazes the material, while my big toe on the right is pretty fit against the material. It's so close that I'm unable to tell if my right big toe is being bent. However, when I curl my right big toe upwards I can feel the arch stretch a little, an effect I dont get with my left big toe. Is this just being too picky? If I can't tell if my toe is being bent, does it matter? Any advice would be great... thanks!

mc said...

Luke, i'd encourage you to try the size up - you may be surprised at how happy your big toe is and not notice any other real fit difference in the shoe - especially with the kso's.

mackam said...

Hi,
First: great review!
Does anyone know where I could buy KSOs in Europe _cheaper_ OR which shop in US would send them to Europe ? Question is not without a reason - I tried to order from KayakShed and they refused to send them to Europe due to Vibram's policy, saying I should contact local reseller :(
But, the same KSOs are 60% more expensive in Europe (!!!)
regards

mc said...

i've recommended pure footwear in the UK.

I keep hearing from others that prices are fixed because of vat, import duties and weak pounds and shipping,

but i still don't get that:
shoes come from china whether going to italy or boston, so how's that a factor?
even when taking away vat, the base cost is still significantly more than the us, which also has import duties, so it *seems* that vibram eu has just decided to charge more because it can.

Glen said...

mc - I agree, but unfortunately there's an extra 'layer' in Europe. The shoes all go to Italy who is the European distributor ie.at the same level as the USA distributor, but then each country's distributor buys from Italy. The UK edistributor then sells to all the retailers. So you see, there's an element of margin each time it passes through another reseller.

If you buy from a USA reseller, the cost to ship then the UK import duty and VAT will add to the price.

The prices are rigidly controlled in UK to make a fair playing field, no one is allowed to cut the price.

mc said...

Thanks Glen.
Rigidly controlled pricing sounds like a cartel - i thought those had been broken up for fortress UK?

also, why not just buy directly from italy and cut out that other layer? If that middle layer is not adding value for the consumer?

Something seems dreadfully wrong that the mark up is so excessive that at full retail take a USD KSO at 85. Today that's 56.GPB. Add 3% import on shoes (mandelson made this famous). THat's 1.80ish. and 17% VAT is 9 something. so let's say 12 for import/vat. so now we're at 68. And again, we're already talking on full retail price - not wholesale and what distributors pay - so that's wrong. and way over costs.

Now lets add say a generous two quid for shipping one pair. Again way over considering volume shipping. but let's just say. so we have an even 70GPB.

This same shoe sells online for what?105 euros at VFF italy or 98.99GBP.

That's a bloody 30 quid above the costs calculated at full retail.

Sorry, i can't see that as anything more than a rip off, especially considering that those costs are figured out at full retail rather than wholesale, so the profit is already there in the calculation.

If anyone can show me how this is not grossly overpriced relative to costs, please, it would help us all.

thanks

Brett said...

just got a pair of kso's and trying them on i think that the fit is right but my last two toes have a bit of room left, otherwise the fit on the others is perfect and snug sooo good or bad...

Drew said...

I just purchased a pair of KSOs from the local outdoor place here in Wichita, KS, USA. My feet measured around 43, but I think I bought a 44 or 45, but it doesn't feel too bad. I have really tall feet (instep, I think) that are also wide, so I was worried putting them on that the neoprene would be too tight, but the bigger size helped me get it on.

Unfortunately, the store didn't have anything smaller, and wouldn't have anything smaller for a few more weeks due to supply issues. I'm going to give these a try around the house and on the treadmill at the gym, but has anyone had issues wearing something bigger like this? The toes feel pretty "right" to me, but the heel isn't too snug. Since I'll be running and walking with my forefoot, does that even matter much?

rn2trauma said...

I bought the KSO Treks for all around rather than the KSO's because I'm a heavier guy (over 200 lbs) and frankly, I wasnt sure about the "heftiness" of the lighter ones. My son had bought some KSO's and since our feet are sooo similar, I felt confident in his appraisal of the shoe. I an a nurse, working the ICU for 12 hour shifts and I go through "normal" shoes every three months or so. I have tried Z-coils, boa lacing systems, and just about every other supportive shoe thing out there. They work for a short period of time then wear out. I appreciated the philosophy behind the fivefinger shoes. Anyway, I wore my Treks the first time outdoors yesterday. Ran to 2 code blues, assisted with several standing intensive procedures, stubbed my toes on office chairs, walked over wet linoleum floors and just everything else nurses do in the daily rounds and I'm tellin ya, for the first day, these shoes are great! my feet didnt sweat, my toes didnt get any more hurt than in a normal shoe from stubbing them, my calves ached the next morning, but loosened right up with a nice walk. The little massage action between the toes are a nice bonus, and everyone in the hospital loves how they look. A little weird, they said, but sooooooo cool. So, my wife is considering them too. We'll see how they do in the long run.

mackam said...

Two weeks ago I as asking about how to buy VFF _cheaper_ in Europe. This appears to be simplier that I thought - I have ordered them on ebay in US and after 6 days a package was in Poland :) So, I have KSO's for 84$+25$ (shipping) - still 70% of european price. I think Vibram Europe is going to lose customers because of that. But I'm fine now, so this problem goes out of my mind for a while.

Now, regarding the shoes themselves. Simply:Great! I was very careful about measurement and they fit perfectly (normally I wear shoes 41/42, KSOs are M40.

I did not start slowly as advices on forums said. I simply couldn't resist going faster! Started with pace like 6:30/km I quickly noticed I am actually making 5:30 or better, with LESS EFFORT! And that I am running even faster on grass than on pavement. And that my HR is lower with better speed.
I am rather amateur runner, I am doing 30-50km/week, rarely over 10km in a shot. Up to now I was able to go 10km in less than 50min only once, with huge effort, average HR 164bpm and general feeling of total exhust and pain everywhere. And I usually feeled pain in my knees after 8-10km and sometimes hips pain after longer distances.
Wearing KSOs I did that easily <50min on second day having the biggest problem with just blisters here and there. Average HR was well below 160. No knee pain at all, no hips pain. I can hardly belive this difference.
Now about the bad side of this fast transition. This is not only the blisters (inner side of both feet's arches - looks like caused by thicker material where glued to rubber) - it would be too nice.
Yes I do have pain in calfs and also in Achilles tendons. But this is closer to deep workout pain that injury (for sure there's no injury in calf muscles, they just sooooore and I already had problems with Achil. tendon before VFFs so this is not just due to them).
Maybe it is to early to judge, maybe I will have more problems yet but as for now I feel I can do the same distances as before in soft adidas shoes - just after 5 days of using VFFs. Maybe I was able to switch easier because of trying to use some ideas of chi/pose running last couple of weeks (mainly: leaning forward and landing midfoot). Time will show.

So, best regards for all and I'm going to run nearly-barefoot today, too :)

Annabel said...

I bought some KSO flows a few months ago. I am UK size 6 so went down a size as recommended to W38. They feel right in the length and snug enough however when I have worn them on the treadmill where I am running slower than when with training shoes to get the feel of them I got blisters on my heel so have had to wear plasters since then. I then took them outside for the first time, it was raining a little, everything felt fine until about 20 mins into the run they cut into the side of both feet on the bone area below the big toe. Anyone else experienced this? When I feel inside there doesn't feel like anything particularly rough? Do they take some time to wear in or is this a sizing issue? I don't want to have to keep wearing plasters. Do you reckon the socks will help? Any suggestions?

veggirl said...

About fit (still trying to get it right). I found out that the KSOs and Flows do not work if you have a "high volume foot." I didn't know what that was until I tried to cram my foot into a pair of KSOs. The toes and heel were okay when I compared it to my foot, but the top of the shoe wouldn't physically fit over the top of my foot. I'm working on getting Sprints now.

maconnell said...

Heads up - do NOT order your FiveFingers from TravelCountry.com unless you don't actually want to receive them. TravelCountry.com apparently has a habit of listing things on their website as 'in stock' and ready to ship the next day when they don't actually have the item in stock...you'll find out in a few days that your shoes are on back order, and then a few days later, they'll tell you they're cancelling your order because they can't get the shoes. And this isn't just me - http://www.epinions.com/pr-Online_Stores_Services-TravelCountry/display_~reviews/pp_~1/sort_~prdrt/sort_dir_~des/sec_~survey_list

Mike C said...

Can someone help - I have measured my feet as per the vibram website and come up as a 39. Sadly the Sprints I've seen widely available don't come in a 39 (most people are doing them from a 40).
Alternatively, could I get a woman's size? In which case I would be a woman's 41 (again, most people seem to not stock this size).
I have fairly wide feet at the end so if the women's come up narrower than men's, they probably won't be any good.
What should I do?! Help please.

Whispering Death said...

It's hard to tell precisely which Injinji sock goes best with the Sprint - can you help?

Also, to add to your review of the Flow: I ordered a size smaller as Vibrams recommends, and I tried really hard to squeeze into them over several days and every time all that happened was that I lost blood circulation in my feet, they were so scrunched up. This was really disappointing after spending loads of money shipping them to India, so the next pair I ordered a size BIGGER than my Sprints, and this is so far working. It's not a snug fit, but it's not like my toes are flapping in there either. Also, given the slightly more rigid construction of the Flow, the larger size helps when you are wriggling your toes in.

eric said...

Have you tried the new Komodo Sport version? If so, what recommendations would you make on the sizing? I also have a toe that is bigger than my big toe, so should I get a size bigger? Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Eric

JasonM said...

Hi there,
I've been a fan of VFFs for a while, but only today did I actually get a chance to try a pair of KSOs.

I have one question: I tried a pair of 43 and they were way too tight (toes pressing against every pocket), but the 44s were perfect in the toes, although slightly loose around the heel. I am not much of a runner (I wanted these for casual or gym use), so will this present a problem? Will I need so socks to take up the slack?

Thanks a lot, great article!
J

Andrew Williams said...

Great post, cant believe i've only just found it. I hope it's ok to post a link to this page from our site www.freedomfootwear.co.uk as it would be very useful for our customers.

Thanks

Andy
Freedom Footwear

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