NRC Full Shoe Review

Vibram KomodoSport

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Review Summary

by Pete Larson, of RunBlogger

For the first few years after I started running, the 5k was my preferred race distance – in fact, my 5k PR (18:51) was set back in 2008. Like many runners, I was quickly bitten by the marathon bug and focused most of 2009-2010 on long distance races Despite my preference for minimalist shoes, one thing that I had not done until last week was run a race in zero drop shoes. Last Thursday there was a 5k race in my home town of Concord, NH. I had run a sub-19:00 solo 5k time trial earlier in the week, so I knew I wasn't going to be running on the freshest of legs, so I made a choice to have some fun with the race and run it in a pair of Vibram Fivefingers. Given that the course would be a mix of gravel, grass/dirt, and road, I opted to use my Vibram Komodosports since they seem to offer a bit more cushion underfoot than my VFF Bikilas or TrekSports. The KomodoSports are in many ways quite similar to the VFF Bikilas.

1. First and foremost, the Komodosport has a removable insole. Underneath the insole is a rough material that seems to directly overlie the outsole, so most of the cushioning appears to be built into the insole. It would have been cool if Vibram had made the material under the insole similar to the lining of the Bikila so that the wearer could have the option of running with or without it (Vivobarefoot shoes do this particularly well). Running without the insole would allow for a much firmer ride, better ground feel, and would likely help accommodate a slightly higher volume foot.

2. The Komodosport doesn't fit quite as snugly on my foot as compared to the Bikila – it's a bit more like the TrekSport in terms of fit. This makes it better as a walk-around shoe, as the tightness of my Bikilas can get constricting when I'm not running in them.

In my opinion, most of the other differences between the Komodsport and the Bikila are largely cosmetic. When compared to the Treksport, the most obvious difference is the sole – the Treksport has a thicker, treaded sole that feels much firmer underfoot. I would have worn these for the race given the off-road portion, but I prefer the slightly more cushioned feel of the Bikilas and Komodos on the road (cushioning here is a relative thing, as even the Bikila and Komodos are far less cushioned than the vast majority of shoes that I own). Since it was a split course – half on- and half off-road – the Komodos were a reasonable compromise.

When the gun went off, I took off at a sub-6:00 pace and felt pretty good. I settled into my typical low 6:00 5K pace as we approached the trail section. {In the end}, I wound up crossing the finish in 19:30. That put me in 7th place overall, and I wound up winning the 30-39 age group. At the finish a bunch of people asked me what it was like to run in my toe shoes, and I happily explained that it was my first time, but that the experience was a good one. The only issue I had was a hot spot that developed under one of the seams at the edge of the black mesh panel behind the little toe. I barely knew I was running in Vibrams for most of the race, and though I can't say they made me any faster, they certainly did not hold me back any. There's probably no way I could have done this two years ago when I first started running in Fivefingers, and it felt great to know how far I've come in being able to perform in an ultraminimal shoe. If you're legs/feet are well adapted, I highly recommend giving it a try.

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