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.
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.
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.
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.