The etymology of the word weird is ‘Wyrd’. Of Germanic origin, usually translated as fate or destiny. The adjective originally meant ‘having the power to control one’s destiny’.
At Wild Life, we fully and wholeheartedly embrace our weirdness. When people shout “Weirdos!” at us, it brightens our day.
We know that the ‘weird’ practices we do are a major part of our ability to reclaim back our power to reshape our destiny.
You see, we were all born into this world as natural, wild humans. But, over time, due to our environments and life choices, we can become maladapted to life.
We lose the range of motion we were designed to have because of our misaligned movement patterns.
Our hormones become erratic because our natural experience of interacting with sunlight becomes skewed.
Our digestive system becomes problematic because we are not exposed to the natural variety of foods and vast array of microbiota needed for optimal health.
In the past we have assumed that gene expression was set in stone; a roll of the cosmic dice that meant you won or lost in the game of life.
We now know that this is not the case, barring a few exceptions. The field of epigenetics tells us that we have within us the power to change the narrative about our health.
We have the power to change the destiny of our health. We truly are wyrd.
The human foot is an incredible example of this and a magnificent feat of natural engineering.
Babies’ feet are perfect. Beautifully splayed, fantastically aligned, and with all the sensory inputs needed to make sense of the tactile world around them.
Then, over time we shove them into stiff-soled, cramped shoes with elevated heels, rarely letting them see the light of days, let alone feel the infinite texture available to them.
We end up going from this.
Now, I’m not suggesting we all burn our shoes, and go au naturel. This would cause as many problems itself.
The ideal way to rewild the feet is with patience. I discussed in a previous article on barefoot shoes, how to transition safely from shod to a more barefoot existence.
I’ll link to some of our minimalist/barefoot and foot-shaped shoe reviews at the end of this post, but today I want to review perhaps the closest thing to being barefoot, whilst still wearing shoes.
Vibram Five Fingers KSO Evo
This is the best selling model from Vibram Five Fingers. I can really see why.
I’ve had a number of VFFs over the years starting with the original KSO model. KSO stands for Keeps Stuff Out.
The original VFFs were low cut and, as a result, meant stuff got into the shoe during use.
The KSO Evo is a higher cut to avoid this happening. Added to this is the excellent speed lacing system – no bows, no loose ends, no velcro straps. Just pull the cord tight, push down the plastic toggle to secure, and stick the end tab to the velcro patch, and we are good to go.
The first thing you’ll notice when you put these puppies on is the enhanced ability to feel your surroundings.
With over 7000 nerve endings in each foot (more than your hands), your feet are the perfect data gathering devices, allowing us the sense of proprioception, the ability to sense movement, action and location.
Conventional footwear is like a blindfold for your feet. VFF KSO Evo are like sunglasses for your feet.
They allow your feet to pick out a huge amount of detail in the world they are traversing, whilst taking a little of the ‘glare’ out of the picture.
The ground feel is really impressive. I feel like my body does a sigh of relief every time I put them on.
Out of the box, these shoes have a 2mm EVA foam insole and a 2.7mm Vibram rubber outsole.
The insole seems to compress pretty quickly, forming to the natural contours of your foot and most likely ends up with a lower stack height than the starting 4.7mm.
This thinness allows a wonderful, natural freedom to flex your foot in all directions.
The rubber sole itself is brilliantly grippy. The zigzag tread pattern and slightly tacky feel to the rubber means it feels stable on a variety of surfaces and substrates.
You are not going to get the traction required on really wet, mucky trails, but for roads and hard packed trails they are fine, presuming your feet are transitioned appropriately to deal with the surface.
I mainly use mine for road running (now that I am a town dweller) and gym work. I normally lift weights barefoot. This is fine when I lift at home, but often frowned upon in a public gym space.
The KSO Evo are perfect for this setting. Totally flat, with the ability to splay your toes and drive through the entire foot. One thing worth noting is that people often complain of hot feet when running on a treadmill wearing VFFs.
Another welcome upgrade is the the KSO Evo’s heel. It’s a huge improvement on the preceding model, the El-X. They both share the some sole, but I find the heel on the EL-X has a habit of slipping when I run.
No such problem with the KSO Evo. The heel is much more structured and higher than the EL-X, and so far has had no slippage issues at all.
For balance work they are near perfect. The stretchy uppers and flexible sole allows the foot to form around whatever object you are on. You can grip with your feet, to a certain extent too, and the grippy rubber gives good confidence.
I am pleasantly surprised at how durable the soles are, considering how thin they are.
The uppers themselves are very lightweight, stretchy and breathable. Predominantly mesh with a rubber detail similar to the EL-X, they have a more resilient, rip-stop style material in between the toes.
This inter-toe area was always a weak point of the early VFFs, but thankfully the KSO Evo seem to be much more resilient.
The fit for me is the same as in most other shoes, a EU44, but sizing can be tricky for some due to foot shape and toe length.
One piece of advice often mentioned is to go for a 1/2 size smaller as some people find the shoes stretch a little.
Needless to say, if you have any kind of webbing between the toes then these shoes are not for you, sadly.
People with very short toes may also struggle. My little toe looks like it was added on as an afterthought and barely makes it into the toe pocket.
The less good stuff
One thing that drives me nuts about the VFFs, and to be fair, it’s more a critique of my skill than the shoes, is when I skip.
Clearly the rope glances off the toe of my more conventional shoes pretty regularly when I skip, with no issue at all.
Put a pair of VFFs on and the rope continually gets stuck in between my toes. It’s so frustrating.
A brief bimble through a meadow will culminate in a huge amount of flowers and foliage caught between the toes. In the VFFs world this is known as ‘Toe Salad’.
I actually like this and consider it a feature rather than a bug, but some people hate it.
My biggest bugbear is the smell.
Sweaty feet directly against the insole fabric for the duration of a number of workouts can leave the shoes humming and your gym pals keeping their distance.
The new KSO Evo have a built in moisture control and natural odour control system to help with this. Truth be told, I’m not going to hold my breath relying on this.
Thankfully the shoes are machine washable and dry very quickly.
I wear toe socks with mine which extends the period between washes massively and adds a little extra warmth for winter.
Which leads me to another slight negative. They are not the warmest shoes on cold days. VFFs make some specific insulated models, but these aren’t them.
Also, your feet are going to get wet even on the slightest damp surface, thanks to the incredibly minimal sole.
This too could be viewed as a feature, I guess. If you are looking for a true barefoot experience, then cold and wet is pretty true to life.
At the time of writing they are going for £83, but it’s worth looking around for a deal. I picked mine up for about £54. Not cheap, but not extortionate either.
I love them. They genuinely make me happier than a shoe has the right to do.
For gym training and road running in the warmer, drier days, they are my go-to.
If I need to wear shoes for my mobility work and balance practice then these go on my feet every time.
For simply walking around, day to day, they are a pleasure to wear. And I pretty much include these in my rucksack for any long distance walks I do as evening camp shoes or for driving between the peaks.
Their size and flexibility means they take hardly any room, and their weight (coming in at 128g per shoe for the size 44) is negligible making them the perfect travel shoe.
Vibram now do a couple of eco versions, one in hemp and one in wool. It’s good to see environmental sustainability becoming a feature.
They are weird looking
No, they look like feet wearing protective gloves. They are only odd in relation to the norm.
Normal does not mean natural.
Sure, you are going to get some peculiar looks. Yes, your children will roll their eyes when you pick them up from school gates. I even made a small child cry once.
But the real weirdness is with regards to the original meaning of the word, ‘to have the power to control destiny’. You have the power to change your foot health.
Destiny is calling, so go put on your dancing shoes.
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