At the start of the year, I made the switch to the iconic, near-barefoot toe shoe. This has been a gradual process. Moving to a minimalist trail shoe about 2 years ago and ditching my orthotics about 18 months ago proved to be easy. I had come across Chi Running during that period and picked it up easily — one hidden benefit of the orthotics was that I was unable to heal strike. I had already changed my stride to a toe-midfoot strike.

Just after New Year’s Day, I was in REI’s Bargain Basement and found many pairs of Five Fingers that had been returned. Bought this solid pair of KSO for $20.
Vibram Five Fingers KSOREI Bargain Basement Beauties scored for $20!

These at first were great. Lots of stair training to start off the new year. I am psyched to be participating in the Big Climb up Columbia Tower, Seattle’s tallest building, on March 25. The downside of the KSO is running when it is wet. In Seattle, that means all winter guaranteed. After a second soggy 10K the KSO upper fabric had stretched and caused the sole to rub in a few painful places on each foot. Blister city. Thank you KSO, I will see you again in rainless July.

Back to REI, no more Bargain Basement beauties left, so I bucked up and went upstairs to try on a pair of Bikila LS. The improved fabric on the upper and between the toes has made a big difference. The running inspired bottom is awesome. I have put about 70 km on them so far and not a single blister. Interestingly, these are a size bigger than the KSO pair, and overall, more comfortable. I found it worth taking the time to try them on and did not even mind paying full price with the famous REI guarantee. Big fan of the Bikila LS. If you are looking at a pair for running check these out.

Vibram Five Fingers BikilaBikila LS after a 10 mile trail, beach, stairs run.

If you are thinking of making the switch, I would recommend the following:
1) Read Born to Run. Great book and will inform and inspire.

2) There is an adjustment with your body. My legs look a few weeks to get comfortable with no drop from a minimal 5-10 mm drop. It was never painful, just working muscles in new ways. Some people consider it a con. Chi Running, Pose Method or even 100 Ups all preach a basic truth: Do not run on your heels.

3) Vibram Five Fingers are machine washable. Great to know that I can go get wet and dirty. Both pairs clean up well.