Thursday, 8 September 2011

Product Review: Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport LS

I have heard a lot about Vibram FiveFingers over the last few years. At first I only knew one person that had them, but now I know several and see them around quite often especially in the geocaching community which tends to have a larger proportion of outdoor types than the general populous. For mixed outdoor use the KSOs have always been the tried and true model, but there are a new line of FiveFingers that claim to offer the unique ground feel of a individually pocketed toe shoe while providing even more traction and control. Enter the Komodo Sport LS.
I walked into the only store in Midland that sells FiveFingers, Run this Way, with only a vague idea of what I wanted. I had never tried on these shoes before, so I had to be sized as they run according to European sizing. According to the guide my 11.5 US sized feet fit a 43 EUR. I tried on the KSOs first and while I liked the general fit they only had bright red ones left as they are being discontinued. I wanted something a bit more muted; they tend to draw enough attention without the addition of bright colors! Next, I tried on the Trek boots. Instead of the lightweight fabrics most FiveFingers are contructed from, these are made of a thin leather material. The soles are a bit thicker which allows for more heavy terrain handling, but the downside is that the toes are  much stiffer. I could not get my stubborn little toe into its compartment despite many tries.

Lastly, I found the Komodo Sport LS in Castle Rock coloring. I like the light weight of the shoe and the raised tread on the sole. The quick lacing system secures the shoe against grit and stone while the velcro fastener keeps the laces from flopping around and collecting debris. Once you guide your big toe into the first spot all the others find their way with little manipulation. But the true test came later on in the Davis Mountains when I was able to get on trail in these unique shoes. The retail price for the Vibram FiveFingers Komodo LS is $110.

I had worn my Komodos around town a bit to get the feel of them. I am very flat footed so I was worried my feet would really ache after a little while with the thin and mostly unpadded sole. However I found them comfortable for the most part. One thing I noticed was pressure in the middle of my foot after standing still for prolonged periods of time on level terrain. The Davis Mountains were a different story though. Once I left the parking area behind the Indian Lodge and started up the trailhead everything I thought about these shoes changed. I could feel every rock and pebble beneath my feet like being barefooted but there was no discomfort. I walked over a few boulders and felt the soles of the Komodos grip the rock. I even climbed a live oak looking for a geocache.

The shoes respond to what you are standing on while allowing you the foot feel to know its there. The last thing I wanted to see was how these shoes handled a little bouldering. There was a cache on top the bluffs overlooking the Lodge that had gone unfound for months. With few clues to go on me and another cacher I met on the trail started searching. I searched high while he went low, and after fifteen minutes or so the cache was found on a rocky outcropping part way down a close to vertical cliff face. Stepping from one rock ledge to another I could feel the rock with my tiptoes and actually curl my toes around the ledge. This is something that is impossible with any other shoe I've ever worn. At the end of the day despite several miles of hiking with no socks and thin tight fitting shoes I had no blisters at all.

I love these shoes, I want more already, maybe giving the Treks another shot as I would love a thick soled version for true off trail hiking. The only test I haven't done is to see what happens when a mesquite thorn finds its way into my sole. I'm not eager to see or feel the result. Also, I don't recommend  these shoes for casual wear in town, the sheer flatness does start to ache your feet after standing around for extended periods.