The FiveFingers KSO by Vibram… The Greatest Surf Bootie Ever?
The FiveFingers KSO by Vibram… the greatest surf bootie ever?
I was recently intrigued by a book a friend of mine was reading, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. At the risk of oversimplifying, i’ll summarize: the the book says that the way we’re taught to run is largely wrong; we’re taught to extend our stride and drive our heels into the ground, which creates pressure and unnatural torque on our legs and back. The natural — and more mechanically sound — way to run is barefoot, which is what the tribes the author describes have been doing for centuries.
There has long been an undercurrent of runners that knew this all along and have used whatever protection they could find to run without destroying their feet (boat shoes, sand socks, etc), but recently there has been enough interest in the topic that Vibram (the inventor of rubber-soled shoes, fyi, according to Wikipedia) started manufacturing running / canyoning / hiking shoes that make you feel like you’re barefoot. And they’re the biggest things since slap bracelets.
Enter surfing, and assume you’re in warm water. Here’s the SIJ perspective on the 7 things you’d want out of a surf bootie:
1. You want something that protects you from the stickies on the ocean floor (urchins, coral, rocks) — the Vibram KSO has a 3.5mm “TC1 performance” rubber sole and a 2mm insole
2. You want good grip — the sole is razor-siped to increase gripping (article on siping from Wikipedia, it mostly means ‘diagonally cut’)
3. You want something that doesn’t mark up your board — Vibram claims the rubber is the ‘non-marking’ kind, couldn’t find any reviews on this (comment if you have an experience / opinion)
4. You want them to be light — they’re 5.7 oz each, a little more than the weight of a full checkbook
5. You want something that doesn’t fall off – the straps are strong and secure, but can occasionally act as a ‘saw’ on the rest of the fabric, causing wear and tear with lots of use; here are some mods for taping Vibrams to increase durability.
6. You want it cheap — sorry, these things aren’t ($100+), but that’s what you get for quality and brand name
7. You want to keep sand /gravel out of the shoe — the “KSO” stands for ‘Keep Stuff Out”, and the top is a thin, abrasion-resistant stretch nylon breathable mesh that wraps the entire forefoot
Couldn’t find much in the way of reviews from except for a thread about Vibrams for surfing on the SurferMagazine forums, where there’s a compelling display of manliness in which the regulars cut on Vibrams for being ‘for bitches’. I’m guessing they’d add a “#8″ to the list, which would be “looking cool,” for which the Vibrams might not score so well.
The few people that said they had tried them, however, seemed to like them a lot, much to the dismay of the bros.
There’s about a lot of different models for the shoe, i’ve listed some below; write comments if you’ve used them and can say one way or another. I’m asking for some for Christmas because they seem awesome.
UPDATE: here’s a video of an Aussie tow surfing in Vibrams: