Toe-Shoes with Tread: Vibram FiveFingers 'Spyridon' Test

Last year on a backpacking trip, standing atop a steep descent in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I began to have second thoughts about my footwear choice for the trip. Rain had plagued the day, and the trail was a muddy mess. On my feet, I wore the toe-equipped Vibram FiveFingers KSO shoes (yeah, I am one of those barefoot shoe guys) and the smooth soles were no match for the slick mud I was about to face.

But that was then and this is now. . . a lot has changed in the FiveFingers world as Vibram continues to evolve its line, including new this spring a model called the Spyridon LS, designed specifically for trail running.

vff trail running shoe.jpg

VFF shoes with tread, marketed at trail runners

For $120 you can get a full set of teeth for your bare feet. By this I mean the shoe has an aggressive lugged sole that wraps up the side of the foot. Sandwiched between the outsole and the insole is a nylon mesh sheet designed as a rock guard to blunt rough terrain.

The shoes have stretchy, quick-drying uppers that contour the shape of your foot. And they have laces, complete with a tongue, which make the “foot glove” feel more like a shoe.

vff trail running shoes.jpg

Grip provided with 2mm tread underfoot

I have a tough time finding shoes that are a comfortable fit because of my wide feet. The stretchiness of the Spyridon’s fabric is accommodating and doesn’t cause me any discomfort. They pull on like a glove — snug, secure, and form fitting.

The toes, however, are another matter. There are way too many seams in the toe pockets. This means that there’s a lot of potential for blisters when worn barefoot. As a result, when taking them out for extended periods of time I wear a thin pair of toe-socks from the likes of Injinji.

On the trail, testing the Spyridon LS this spring my results have been mixed. They weigh about 7 ounces a foot, which is light for trail-running shoes, but heavier than most FiveFingers models. The lugs are only about 2mm high and not very widely spaced — grip on the trail is not great when compared to normal trail-running shoes. That said, they offer more grip than any other FiveFingers model I have worn.

vff treaded sole.jpg

3.5mm Vibram rubber sole

While the nylon rock guard does help to blunt rough terrain, the shoes still maintain a lot of “ground feel.” You can sense every root and pointy rock you step on. Depending on your perspective, this may or may not be a good thing. (I happen to like it, as I feel more in touch with the hike and can walk or run more naturally.)

Overall, the Spyridon LS are a good upgrade for people looking for more grip in the “foot glove” category. I would have killed for the Spyridons on my muddy backpacking trip in the White Mountains last year. If you have longed for a FiveFingers shoe with a little more bite this treaded glove could be a great fit.

—Contributor Damien Tougas is editor of Toesalad.com.

Posted by Noël - 04/30/2012 05:29 PM

I hike the White Mountains in my Treks and haven’t had any problems. Do you think the Spyridon are better than Treks?

Posted by Damien Tougas - 04/30/2012 07:42 PM

I have not tried the Treks so I can’t comment on the difference in the soles, but was never really a fan of having an active shoe made out of leather.

Posted by Jonathan - 05/15/2012 10:54 AM

In the UK we also now have the Spyridon without laces but the velcro strap instead. I got a pair of these last week and have run 2 longish runs (20k) in them. And I hurt! Serious rubbing issues on the inside of both feet above the arch. Did you experience anything like this with the LS? I’m sending mine back to the supplier and am considering getting LS instead….

Posted by Damien Tougas - 05/22/2012 04:32 AM

Hello Jonathan, I didn’t experience any rubbing issues like you describe. Were you wearing them with or without socks?

Posted by Jasper - 06/02/2012 12:46 PM

Hello Jonathan, i have apair of KSO with strap and had the same problem, loosing the strap is a bit beter. I also run on my Kabila LS no problems at all. So change to the LS.

Posted by Jonathan - 07/05/2012 03:59 PM

hi
so, an update on my spyridon rubbing issue: they were duly returned to vibram, who evidently admitted a fault(!)… I had them replaced with the LS model which I ran a flattish and slow 46k with little rubbing at all. great! I then ran a trail race in wet and grim conditions and they rubbed my right foot raw – again just above the arch. that was 2 weeks ago. yesterday’s run also showed rubbing in the same area and also on spots on the top of my foot. This relative inconsistency makes me think it’s a sizing or an adjustment issue. Still, it’s something I never experienced with other vff models.
No, I wasn’t wearing socks…

Posted by Lee - 07/17/2012 11:52 AM

Hi, I recently bought a pair of these w/ some Injinis for my local trails and was curious how well these hold up to longer/more strenuous treks. I’m planning a trip to Peru/Machu Picchu entailing moderate difficult hiking over 4-5 days, plenty of altitude change and some rough terrain. Much appreciated.

Posted by Rita - 05/13/2013 06:48 AM

Pro. Very light. Very stable. They do not slide even on the wet balk.
Cons. They rub all 10 fingers. They do not breath. Never use them as the only pair. If you need to go 10 km by asphalt road you’ll kill your feet.
And they take all water from the ground. I felt filth wearing VFF in public places.

Posted by Sam - 01/16/2014 09:55 AM

I absolutely loved mine, until the material inside on the instep stiffened up after a grubby run, there is a seam running from behind the ball of your foot up the instep…. 6 months on I still have the scars from the rubbage. hopefully a good clean will solve this but I haven’t used them since through fear alone! I plan on manning up shortly.

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