Test Report Vibram Fivefingers KMD Evo
Test Report Vibram Fivefingers KMD Evo
Yes I did test the New KMD EVO from Vibram Fivefingers over the weekend. Although surprisingly they do not have this piece of footwear marked as a running shoe. The testing conditions were a mixture of wet underfoot off road and some road use to enable getting to the off road. Plenty of hill and trail, approximately 22 miles in total.
This is the thickest offering underfoot to arrive from VFF and that has an off putting effect on some of the more hardcore Vibram users who will always go for the least amount of protection. However, for me, who uses Vff Bikila Evo on my daily commute of 7 miles over 3 of Edinburgh's hills, I found the extra thickness and grip a distinct advantage allowing me to absolutely hammer across the roughest of terrain where I would otherwise be treading very daintily. The extra thickness has no effect whatsoever on the overall flexibility of the shoe and allows the feet to extend into their full range of motion without any restrictions. You still get the odd stab in the foot from that invisible sharp stone, but instead of buckling your legs from under you, it allows more time to correct and carry on at full speed.
I remember when I first discovered the Bikila Evo which, when I first heard about it, was distraught at the mere thought of 6mm of cushioning, I ran in it for the first time and could not believe how sensitive this shoe was. The KMD EVO is a very similar experience offering protection with a very soft eva midsole of 6mm allowing the shoe to absorb the shock of faster running without too much compromise of groundfeel. What makes this shoe distinct over all others is the lug thickness and arrangement on the outsole. It has been put together with a good thickness of traction rubber lugs which makes it much tougher than the other shoes from the EVO sector.
The upper is incredibly close in construction to Nike's flyknit, which is completely biomorphic and totally moves at one with the foot. The tongue is beefed up thicker than any other VFF allowing the shoe to be fastened firmly without restriction. Overall the upper is the most comfortable yet from VFF.
Dislikes would be the price which is understandable when you see the amount of work going into the construction of the shoe. The only other dislike I would have was my initial feeling of a slight wobble when first trying the shoe on due to the rounded shape at the heel. This only has an effect when walking in the shoe and as soon as you start a run that sensation completely disappears due to the compliant nature of your foot landing with most, if not all, the weight over the front section. Having used VFF's in virtually every form I can honestly say, well done Vibram for such a protective shoe but remaining fully flexible with great groundfeel. I am back to enjoying some faster running on the trails
Running Shoe Industry - Where Are We Now?
The Running shoe Market going into 2015(Colin McPhail 15/01/2015)
This covers the current barefoot shoes, minimalist and standard cushioned/support shoe trends.
Next Time we will be looking at MAXIMALISM and its effect on the natural human gait.
Asics, Brooks, Saucony, Mizuno, Nike, Adidas, Puma and many more household names, all major players making cushioned shoes, for the mass market of heel striking runners (roughly 95% of the market lands heel first), are all brands who have been making changes to shoe designs towards natural running, You may ask, what's the difference between "natural" running and just plain old "running" ? Actually there is quite a difference between running in a cushioned shoe landing on the heel compared to running naturally which does mean moving your landing further forward on the foot. Put simply, running naturally would be described as running barefoot
..but with shoes on.
You don't need special shoes but a different configuration of the shoes design will help you to progress further towards a forefoot / midfoot landing, which would be considered to be closer to natural than a heel first landing.
So what have the industry done over the last few years to help people move toward natural running and why should they do anything at all? After all if there are x number of people all running and buying shoes, as they are currently manufactured for the heel strike market, surely this keeps the profits up for the big corporates, so why try and change things?
Current rates of injury have created a wave of interest and the modern runner is now taking a good look at why certain people avoid injury and look, athletic, relaxed, and springy when they run. The "natural runner" will use elastic recoil from stored energy within their tendons, they will also use their major muscle groups for power which is their glutes, the use of quads is less apparent in the top athletes due to their minimising of deceleration forces which are created by heel first landings. The deceleration zone, that runners all have, is minimised by landing the foot closer to the centre of mass, in other words, closer to under the body. The further the foot is placed in front of the body at landing the greater the deceleration zone, = inefficiency.
With this in mind we can now see a reduction in the lever arm effect of striding out in front of your own body. This can only mean less stress to all connecting joints.
To address this problem the shoe industry realises that the raised heel of a modern running shoe was assisting in the encouragement of a heel first landing (Rear foot strike RFS) purely by studying the mechanics of the shoe they decided that by lowering the heel inside the shoe, currently referred to as the "drop", this would have the effect of moving the landing point of the shoe further forward. Think of a foot being held horizontal with the ground and then lowering it, the landing at touch down is even between the rear and the front of the foot. Now take the same horizontal foot and add something under the heel to effectively raise it by, just for example, 12.5mm and lower the foot again this time the heel hits first.
So by understanding the standard modern running shoe has a 12mm drop (raise to the heel), what if they lower this to, say, 4mm it has the effect of moving the landing point of the shoe forward by 2-3cms. Doesn't sound much but by doing this it allows the knee to become bent quicker relative to the initial ground force reaction, touch down. This design route has been adopted by some of the above mentioned shoe manufacturers and they insist on incorrectly labelling their cushioned shoes as minimalist!!
Let's be clear about one thing, minimalism is a reduction in support levels, weight, cushioning, stand height and heel to toe drop. "Bare-footwear" is zero drop, minimal weight, no support whatsoever, the thinnest possible material underfoot and over the foot. There is a difference between a minimalist shoe and barefoot-wear, it's mainly due to levels of cushioning and bare means virtually none. Nobody will ever define barefoot better than the barefoot runner who doesn't wear shoes at all. But this is the minority of hard core natural runners and realistically we can only expect a small amount of folks to adopt true barefoot, so we are stuck with shoe categories, so lets be clear about them. Transitional is the label most of these "minimalist" shoes come under.
Where Are We Now Continued..................read on
With this in mind the industry has made some fundamental changes to particular ranges of footwear.
Asics,more associated with GT and Kayano support shoes and also Cumulus and Nimbus cushioned shoes. Now boast one of the greatest ranges of "Natural Running" shoes from their Natural Running 33 series. Clever of them to adopt the right name and get the shoes to move with the foot without going for something that looks like a glove on your foot. You will find the Super J 33, the Excel 33 V3, the Gel Lyte 33 V3 and the Electro 33 all shoes that work in helping transition to a more natural gait. Asics keep with more traditional looks but have progressed to the front of the field in shoe technology, it's also very clever of them to keep natural and manufactured traditional running separate.
Saucony have on the other hand made minor changes to virtually "all" of their main line shoes by reducing the amount of heel lift by various amounts in different shoes. They have gone down the route of moving most to 8mm drop then they classify Kinvara and Mirage as minimalist which is strictly speaking not true as the stand height of these shoes is the same as their inline models but they do have a 4mm drop and a lot less weight. Great shoes for those not fully committed to getting their heels down to the natural zero drop level. They have also a great appeal to someone looking for a lively race shoe for big distances due to the lightweight. But be careful if you are looking to transition fully down to zero drop natural running, there are other shoes which will encourage you off the heel at a faster rate.
Brooks have always separated their natural running shoes from the mainline shoe like the traditional GTS and Ghost which are in their best seller lists. They have kept the configuration of 12mm drop in the traditional shoes and created PureProject3. These are now into their 3rd generation and have gained popular support with the masses who may be slightly more committed to natural running. Their big movers are the Pure Flow, Pure Cadence and Pure Grit. These models fall into the minimalist category by default as they have a stand height of under 23mm at the heel and they all have a 4mm drop combined with super lightweight and great flexibility. Although they do have a built in heel counter they are great transitional shoes and I personally highly recommend them.
Mizuno have slowed down the production of their barefoot shoes, the Evo Cursoris and Evo Levitas which are fabulous shoes built light weight with zero drop and full flex on a totally flat last showing this company understands what is required from the natural running market, such a shame they don't do transition but that's a whole new debate. They were however the first in the minimalist / barefoot market with possibly one of the most natural running shoes in the world which has been in their range for a number of years and certainly long before barefoot running hit the headlines back in 2009. The Wave Universe is possibly one of the best shoes ever as it is so minimal it's virtually non-existent. The shoe weighs in at approx. 80gms and has the thinnest layer of blown eva rubber ever with dots of carbon rubber on the landing areas of the forefoot. When you put this shoe on you don't even know it's there. Possibly one of the most under-rated shoes ever produced, but they did overprice it
..the price has been driven down to where it should be and now it's going to be a major player in the natural running section at "footworks" / barefootworks.
Inov8 are still keeping the brand alive with zero drop and 3mm which are all in their embarrassingly huge range. One of their best sellers is the F/lite range and these have been jazzed up graphically and with more anatomic lasting to make them appeal to a wider audience. They have always referred to themselves as a natural running company and as such we hold their products to this by not stocking their shoes with the greater drop and stack height. We carry many of their 6mm, 3mm and zero drop shoes which are excellent for barefooters and transitional runners. A firm favourite for me is the Bare X 233 which mimicks what happens in the plantar surface of the foot during mid stance, this encourages big toe pressure and has the effect of helping the foot back into its rigid lever state (Sub Talor Neutral). It means that even with a 6mm drop you can give a transitional runner a shoe that has minimal stack height and very little forefoot cushioning.
Merrell are a relatively new brand to Footworks and although they appeal to many people as they have got a lot of very good features and work exceptionally well in the natural running market. Branding themselves as "barefoot" is perhaps debatable but they do have some incredibly flexible footwear like the Vapor Glove which is almost gossamer like in its fit with a 3mm very flexible outsole. The Vapour Glove is most certainly a barefoot shoe and they also have Trail Glove with a chunkier outsole that gives just a little more grip and protection against jagged objects. Their Road Glove and Bare Access are another great shoe using 8mm of cushioning just to give you some protection for bigger distances on hard surfaces. All in all the brand Merrell offers the best value for money available in the barefoot shoe market possibly because they have been known more in the outdoor walking market where pricing tends to be a little more aggressive.
Vibram fivefingers are always seen to be the company that changed the face of footwear in the barefoot market. Their idea of individually compartmentalising the toes as if wearing a glove on your feet was seen by some as wayward and out of the normal train of thinking. But now they have established themselves as market leaders in barefoot toe footwear many are aspiring to own them. Although not cheap they do last a long time and they will teach you to be very light on your feet. This year sees an introduction to cushioning in the Bikila, the 6mm Bikila Evo, which will appeal to many distance runners as the hard feel of the road has always been regarded as their biggest downside when going for a longer run over 15 mile lets say. There appears to be very little compromise in the flexibility from adding a small amount of cushioning. Looking forward to testing a pair.
Sockwa have come onto the scene very quickly and are also regarded as a purist barefoot shoe. They offer little or no protection other than a 2mm skin wrapped round the foot. The big selling point with them is the simplicity in sizing and choice of colours.
Altra Zero Drop Footwear is a young vibrant company from the USA with the fastest growing brand in the US home market in year 3 of their life. They offer a tight range of both road and off road / trail shoes and the one that appears to going down well with the ultra distance trail runners is the "Lone Peak" we have a huge number of testers in the field and this shoe is getting rave reviews for its barefoot feel and sensitivity with a high level of protection that gives confidence in the foot placement. Highly proprioceptive for a shoe with a 20mm stand height, you don't expect the same kind of feel you would receive from a Vivobarefoot Breatho or an Inov8 X Talon which are much more flexible. For a good long distance trail shoe this is worth trying.
VivoBarefoot have been hard at work re-vamping their entire range with jazzy looks and new innovative proprioceptive soles. Their puncture resistance is still one the main selling points of the 3mm outsole used on The One, The Evo and The Stealth. They still remain number one when it comes to conventional styling combined with barefoot feel and now the range is jazzed up with funky colours they are starting to appeal to a wider audience. The Ra is a leather shoe for day to day use and comes in Black or Brown to match your suit, I even sold a pair to a Minister from Skye who I believe wears them while preaching on Sundays
..now thats some accolade. Great shoes for zero drop runners and walkers that will not let you slope back into bad gait habits.
Pearl Izumi have stayed in the mass market with their Emotion system hoping to capture transition runners with their rather alternative styling. They say the shoes are very comfortable and perform well and this is verified by the repeat business from customers converted. The good thing about their construction is the shoe is built around a flex groove which encourages the foot to move naturally. They have shoes with support at various levels and they also have a specialist Tri range and Trail range. Well worth a look as a transitional shoe or just to go running in.
.Luna and Xero are our two main brands and to be honest there is few days go by that I don't run in my Luna's. I am a total Luna convert and have every shoe in their range but my favourite is the Venado which will leave a wet barefootprint as if no footwear is being worn when stood onto a dry surface. These are the closest thing to barefeet that I know of. Yes there are thinner soles but the Venado has everything and your feet are out in the open. The Newest shoe to the range is the Oso and its rugged, tough much thicker underfoot and is fit for hard core trails but always take the Venado with you as its just so bare. Xero shipped a load of shoes last August and we have had some success with them as a, new to sandal running, introductory sandal. Their major sale point is the price; £29.99 gets you the kit and you make them up yourself. If you are thinking Luna and can't decide whether to spend the money as you don't know if sandal running is for you then get some Xero's, I can assure you once you have discovered the freedom and honesty of the sandal you will never want to run in anything else.
The market for natural running is, for us, growing but this is caused by a lack of interest, from other mainstream shops, in directing people towards a more interesting and healthy future. I personally find giving out information that helps people enjoy and make more from their running to be very gratifying and this is reflected in the comments received from customers. By using a 4 way split camera system (usually only found in a research lab) we can very quickly give you pointers and advice. I think this sums up very roughly where the shoe industry has ended up at the start of 2014 and it will be very interesting to see where it ends up after 12 months. The prediction is there will be a further split between Barefoot, Minimalism and Manufactured Running. The Unite States are already suggesting that the shoe companies will pander more to the cushioned market and start putting more into the minimalist shoe. Who knows by 2015 we may have Natural running versus Manufactured Running.
Written & Posted by Colin McPhail 21/01/2014