Let me summarize my long term review of the Vibram Five Finger KSO booties/slippers by saying 3 things:
- if you kite, windsurf, SUP or surf on the beaches I frequent in Canada and Mexico you either wear something on your feet or you get cut up badly.
- these KSOs are the best footwear solution I’ve found for these sports in warm to cool water.
- there is significant room for improvement of this product for the water-sports crowd.
If you want to read my pervious review click on the image above. I’ll only be discussing my long term experiences with the KSOs in this post.
- they fit my odd shaped feet reasonably well
- they don’t interfere with the bindings on my twin tip kiteboard
- they provide decent board feel on my strapless kiteboards, SUPs and surfboards
- they provide excellent traction
- they provide excellent protection from sharp rocks, coral, urchins, glass, etc…
- soles are very durable
- available in black so you don’t attract too much attention!
- reasonably priced for specialized sports footwear
- they don’t fit some people
- not much good in cold water
- sole is much thicker than needed for protection or durability for board sports
- thinner sole would provide much better board feel with no downsides
- fabric tops are not very robust [mine have been ripped open between the toes several times now]
- once the fabric rips small rocks and sand get in as you walk down the beach and get into the water. This really irritates the feet while you are riding for 3hrs and your skin gets soft.
- glue is letting go between rubber and fabric along the sides
Bottom line I love how these slippers work compared to a regular neoprene surf bootie, but it’s sad to know I’ll shred the tops after a couple months of beach use while the soles are good for 10 years of abuse. I’ll keep buying them because for now there is no better alternative for warm and cool weather water-sports.
Here is how to improve them for water board sports:
- make sole 30% thinner for better board feel.
- they rip mostly between toes when a rock gets in there are rubs the fabric so wrap a thin layer of rubber up the sides of each toe to add to the durability.
- change top fabric to something 50% more abrasion resistant.
- to make the Flow neoprene model better increase size of each toe box to account for thicker neoprene material compared to KSO. Currently Flow toe boxes are too small for many people’s feet.
- make a high top side entry Flow so you can tuck the top under a wetsuit leg to stay warm in cold conditions.
As I said in my original Five Fingers review – kudos to Vibram for brining such a novel and highly functional product to market. They rock in many ways and I’ll be buying a new pair of KSOs now that I have shredded and repaired my 2yr old pair so much they can’t be fixed further. I hope Vibram takes some notice of the concerns listed here. Everyone I’ve met on the beach who uses Five Fingers has had the same experience.