Before talking about the FiveFingers KMD Sport LS, let me spend a minute or two and talk about minimal running. I appreciate the fact that for the past 3 years at least, just about everything you have read has extolled the virtues of minimal running. I won’t present the argument that you must run minimally to be a real runner to you here, but I do want to get a couple of points out there for anyone who may be reading this and thinking that they are ready to take the plunge into minimal running.
First, you will need to ease into minimal running. What do I mean by that? You could be a marathoner with 20 years of experience running with flawless biomechanics, but the first time you wear minimal (sometimes called bareform or barefoot) shoes, you should not run farther than a half mile in them. To hit that point home, let me take the approach I take with my 5 year old sometimes and say the exact same thing again. You could be a marathoner with 20 years of experience running with flawless biomechanics, but the first time you wear minimal (sometimes called bareform or barefoot) shoes, you should not run farther than a half mile in them. After that first run with a day or two between runs, you can gradually increase your minimalist mileage. To increase your mileage too quickly will undoubtedly cause unnecessary soreness and increase your exposure to overuse injury exponentially. I don’t say that to scare you away from minimal running, but the point of starting slowly with this method needs to be made.
Second, unless you already run with a mid – forefoot strike, you will need to take some time to retrain yourself how to run with minimal shoes. Because there is little to no cushioning in minimal shoes you cannot land on your heel and go very far. Minimal shoes are designed to help you run with natural alignment, with the foot landing underneath the body, in line with the hip, to allow the arch, ankle, knee, and hip to perform their evolutionary role as shock absorbers. So when you start running in minimal shoes take your time, go slow, and just be ready to have things feel different for a while if you are changing your foot strike.
Those two points can sound a bit intimidating and I have friends that heard me make those two points who changed their mind and never tried minimal running. That is fine. Minimal running isn’t for everyone. What I can tell you though is that I have (and love) maximally cushioned shoes, standard cushioned shoes, and minimal shoes and even though I am a heavy runner I always feel better after running in my minimal shoes. By their very construction and lack of cushion, I am forced to focus on my running form with every step. Even on a long run, I still have good form because running with bad form in minimal shoes equals immediate pain in my heels. They are an excellent training tool and I will always have at least one pair of minimal shoes in my running shoe rotation.
Now, on to the review of the Vibram FiveFingers KMD Sport LS.
The name has so many words, it sounds like I am talking about a supercar rather than a shoe. KMD is the rebranded name of their Komodo Sport line. LS is their designation for a model with a speed lacing system. The speed lacing system replaces the usual velcro strap found on the KMD Sport, but allows runners with a high arch or wide feet to be able to wear and experience the benefits of FiveFingers.
This is my second pair of FiveFingers. My first pair was the great Bikila LS, a model specifically designed for road running. I loved these shoes and for quite a while they were my favorite running shoes. The KMD Sport LS has supplanted the Bikila as my favorite. The first difference I noticed between the KMD Sport and the Bikila was the tread pattern. The Bikila was quite obviously a road shoe that was built to endure the continual friction of road running. The KMD Sport tread pattern puts me in mind of a road/trail hybrid shoe. The sole is just a bit chunkier than the Bikila sole and I can attest that while running/hiking in the rain, wearing the KMD Sport on trails in Estes Park CO two weeks ago, I never had a moment when my footing felt unsure or slippery.
One of the features of all FiveFingers is the way they allow your foot to spread out in a more natural way. Altra does something similar with their shoes by building their shoes with a wider toe box. By allowing the foot to spread out as it would naturally rather than be restricted by a smaller toe box, the foot feels better and more importantly, each stride feels very natural (once you are used to your minimal shoes, that is to say).
The KMD Sport LS also supplanted the Bikila as my favorite because there feels like a bit more of a rigid arch support in this shoe than the others I have tried on. I don’t have any evidence that Vibram constructed these shoes any differently by adding any sort of arch support, but I can definitely feel the difference.
On the Runner’s High scale of 1-5, I give the KMD Sport LS a 5. In this shoe, Vibram left in everything I love about the Bikila and turned it up to 11 (I really hope you’ve seen Spinal Tap or that will just sound dumb). By giving a more rigid arch support, Vibram made this an excellent shoe that will be very difficult for them to improve upon in future versions.
Do you have any experience with minimal running shoes? Do you like them, hate them, think they’re ugly, etc? Leave a comment and let me know.
Respect the Run!
Jonathan Keeth is a proud father of two and the husband to a beautiful and longsuffering wife who tolerates his obsession with running shoes and gear. Jonathan is the author of odyssey100.com where he blogs about his two great goals, training for his first 100 mile race and losing 100 lbs so he never has to register for a race in the hippo class again. Follow him on Twitter: @odysy100