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Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's Review

This shoe is a truly novel concept that is as close as possible to being barefoot in a closed-toe shoe
Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's
Credit: Vibram
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $105 List | $94.46 at Amazon
Pros:  Lightweight, nimble, extremely minimal, moderate price
Cons:  Permeable to water and dust, some may experience friction
Manufacturer:   Vibram
By Lyra Pierotti  ⋅  Jul 20, 2021
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of 9
  • Natural Feel - 40% 9.0
  • Weight - 20% 9.0
  • Traction - 15% 6.0
  • Versatility - 15% 5.0
  • Durability - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

Vibram continues to lead the minimalist shoe market with its novel FiveFingers KSO EVO shoe design. These shoes may look funny to some, intriguing to others, and judging from their growth and the spread of casual models available, even stylish and cool to many. Whatever your reason for wearing them, the benefits to foot strength and running efficiency can be real if you build up gradually and thoughtfully, with careful attention to your movement, muscles, and overall health. This shoe wins our Top Pick for Closest-to-Barefoot because of its high-level performance, natural feel, barefoot accuracy, and impressively light weight.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
Bottom Line This shoe is a truly novel concept that is as close as possible to being barefoot in a closed-toe shoeThis performance racing flat is fun for a variety of workouts and terrain typesA true all-rounder, these minimalist shoes are highly versatile and comfortable in a variety of settingsThis shoe is so light and nimble you'll barely know it's there
Rating Categories Vibram FiveFingers... Xero Speed Force Xero HFS Merrell Vapor Glove 5
Natural Feel (40%)
Weight (20%)
Traction (15%)
Versatility (15%)
Durability (10%)
Specs Vibram FiveFingers... Xero Speed Force Xero HFS Merrell Vapor Glove 5
Style Barefoot road Barefoot performance Barefoot road Barefoot trail
Weight (per pair) 8.5 oz (size EU 41) 12 oz (size 10) 13.5 oz (size 10) 11 oz (size 10)
Stack Height (mm) 5 mm 4.5 mm (2 mm removable insole) 7.5 mm 6.5 mm
Heel to Toe drop (mm) 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Outsole 3 mm 4.5 mm FeelTrue 5.5mm FeelTrue® Vibram EcoStep
Midsole 2 mm Removable 2 mm insole 2mm removable Feel The World® insole N/A
Upper Material Polyester fabric Mesh Mesh Mesh and TPU
Best For Running, gym Running, gym, performance Running, gym, casual Running, gym
Width Options Regular Regular, wide Regular Regular

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you crave the feeling of running barefoot but still want to protect your feet, the KSO EVO might be your new best friend. By far the lightest shoe in our review, this award winner is nimble, well designed, and friendly on the wallet.

Performance Comparison

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - the iconic fivefingers from vibram, still leading the minimalist...
The iconic FiveFingers from Vibram, still leading the minimalist shoe industry.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Natural Feel

The FiveFingers KSO EVO scored very well for barely being there. On numerous runs, we assessed the shoes for natural feel by examining the fit, ground feel, and how well they promote efficient running form. They let us run naturally without trying to control or correct our movements, exactly what we want in a minimalist shoe.

The KSO EVO is one of our favorite running shoes in this review because it lets us run uninhibited while still protecting our pads just enough to allow us to unleash and run as swiftly as desired (on the appropriate terrain, of course). These shoes hug the feet so well you'll barely know they're there, but they also provide enough padding to the soles so that you can cruise over terrain with more challenging textures. The soft and thin upper fabric allows the feet to flex up and down with ease when pushing off and landing.

For those up on technical running terminology, these shoes allow easy plantar flexion and dorsiflexion by minimizing the resistance of the shoe to the natural foot movements.

The KSO EVO has a total of 5mm of sole (3mm rubber sole + 2mm sock liner) between the foot and the ground — plus socks if you're wearing them (which we rarely did in these shoes). The sole is made of a single material, which is one sign that it is not designed to control any running motions or correct technique flaws (as some more built-up shoes are). These shoes allow you to run just as you would if barefoot so you can focus on the rest of your body and your technique.

The sole is easy to twist, so it doesn't offer any artificial stability, and the forefoot is easy to bend, allowing toes to rise and fall naturally as you land and push off. The sole is well under the 10mm benchmark for the minimalist category and is consistently 5mm thick from heel to toe, making it a "zero drop" shoe. There is no traditional toe box, so we can't say these shoes have the signature wide toe box — instead, the toes are entirely independent, similarly allowing them to splay naturally and achieve a more stable anatomical platform for running and walking. Additionally, the upper material is lightweight and breathable, and the lacing system is simple, secure, and non-constricting.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - testing the performance of the vibram fivefingers kso evo in...
Testing the performance of the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO in Kolomenskoye Park, Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

When our lead tester first tried running in these shoes several years ago, she strained her foot muscles and launched into months of plantar fasciitis — she had committed the classic error of running her normal terrain and mileage in her new kicks. At first, she shunned the shoes. At the time, she had been running in another pair of minimal shoes, so clearly, the problem must have been with the FiveFingers.

Or, maybe not.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - be sure you get the perfect size and fit when you purchase a pair of...
Be sure you get the perfect size and fit when you purchase a pair of FiveFingers! Our first pair turned out to be a tad too large, and the rubbing of this little bit of textured fabric quickly turned into a hot spot.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

For this review, we took foot strengthening seriously, building up slowly and progressively, and we are happy to report healthy, strong feet at the end of months of training and miles of running. We ended up enjoying every minute we spent in these shoes — they made us feel the joy of our childhood summers, running around barefoot in the grass or on the beach, but without the fear of stepping on a bee.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - twisting the footbed of the fivefingers kso evo to look for minimal...
Twisting the footbed of the FiveFingers KSO EVO to look for minimal platform stability and maximal freedom for our feet.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Our only worry with the KSO EVO is the painted-on, plasticized outer protection bands. The edges of these protective coating strips would rub on our feet sometimes. This usually was not noticeable except on much longer runs. And it was more noticeable if the fit of the shoe wasn't absolutely perfect. Take the time to get the right size so that you don't end up with any unnecessary rubbing.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - testing the forefoot flex of the kso evo in our footbed test.
Testing the forefoot flex of the KSO EVO in our Footbed Test.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti


The KSO EVO are some of the lightest running shoes on the market. Our European size 41 or US 9-9.5 women's weighs just 8.5 ounces for the pair. We were astonished and pleased.

Since you lift the weight of your shoe with every step, any extra weight on your feet adds up very quickly. Compared to our usual footwear wardrobe, these shoes felt as if we had absolutely nothing on our feet — while still enjoying the benefit of a little protection for our pads.


This FiveFingers shoe gets most of its traction benefits from the simple fact that you are so close to the ground. This makes it easier to keep your balance and recover from slight slips on loose trails. Since you are not standing on a tall platform, it is easier to sense where you are relative to the ground and much easier to keep your balance and center of gravity when running.

Beyond this, the XS Trek sole from Vibram is optimized for wet conditions, with grooves that allow fast drainage and contact with the ground. The sole also does well on dusty terrain — even much better than most on the dreaded dust-covered-rock phenomenon. The non-marking sole is also excellent for indoor use.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - testing traction on steep dusty social trails in kolomenskoye park...
Testing traction on steep dusty social trails in Kolomenskoye Park along the Moscow River, Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti


These shoes are excellent for the die-hard bare-footer looking to expand the benefits of barefoot running into the more challenging seasons. The KSO EVO is a great choice for hot summer runs on asphalt where the heat will melt your pads, and they may also allow you to push the barefoot benefits into the cooler fall months as temperatures start to dip.

The uppers consist of a highly breathable, thin polyester fabric, so they offer no insulation but may provide just enough on cool-weather runs for those well adapted to barefoot running. The darker colored upper materials can make running in the full summer sun more challenging, but the lightly colored soles do help to keep the pads cool, insulating them from hot ground surfaces.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - we didn't mind getting the vibrams wet, so long as we didn't mind...
We didn't mind getting the Vibrams wet, so long as we didn't mind that our feet got wet, too.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

The Vibram XS Trek sole is optimized for traction on wet terrain, making the KSO EVO a good go-to for those who spend most of their running time barefoot but want to protect their pads from damp trails or frosty morning runs. They won't keep your feet dry, however, if it's really wet out.


We saw no issues with durability during our testing. These shoes are reinforced where it matters — the rubber of the sole curls up to protect the tips of the toes, and there are snake-like scales on each of the toes to deflect debris and prevent scuffing. There are few seams to fail, and the laces and eyelets are strong enough for long-term use and abuse.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - we liked the vibrams on flat, smooth terrain when we still wanted to...
We liked the Vibrams on flat, smooth terrain when we still wanted to give our feet a good workout.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti


These shoes might not be as cheap as your birthday shoes, which were free, but they're a smashing value. For their simplicity and durability, we imagine you'll get a lot of miles and a lot of fun out of these shoes.


The Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO is one of the lightest running shoes on the market. They do not offer much other than protection for your pads, and that means these are a great shoe for the barefoot enthusiast who is reluctant to put shoes on at all, but due to weather, terrain, or hygiene, might sometimes need to wear something on their feet. If you're serious about your running form and diligent in your foot strengthening, this is the shoe that will best stay out of your way. We thoroughly enjoyed testing this shoe, though it was not the type of test where you just put on a new pair of shoes and give them a whirl. We spent months building up our foot strength and improving our running economy so we could fully appreciate these minimal running shoes, and because of that, we appreciate them very much and recognize them for being the closest to barefoot you can be while still wearing a shoe.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO - Women's barefoot shoes - sometimes going out for a run is really more about stopping to enjoy...
Sometimes going out for a run is really more about stopping to enjoy the wildflowers. The Vibrams let you do both at the same time by picking the flowers and bringing them along between your toes.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Lyra Pierotti

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