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October 19, 2010

kigo edge Shoe Review (and Coupon Code)

When I started venturing into minimalist waters last year, one of the most intriguing companies out there was kigo. They had a great back story: three fun-loving ladies - one of whom is an e.e. cummings fan, thus the lack of capitalization anywhere (seriously) - who needed simple, functional footwear and committed themselves to environmentally responsible manufacturing, eventually introducing a product that was a promising example of minimalist footwear that doesn’t compromise either performance or style.

My review of that shoe, the shel, was generally very favorable, with one significant exception: the toe box was rather narrow, and therefore uncomfortable for long-distance running. So when I heard that kigo had plans in the works for a more athletic shoe that would better support natural running, I was eager to try the new pair.

kigo edge
That shoe is the edge, and it’s better than the shel in a lot of ways … but not in the most important way that I had hoped. Before I qualify that statement a bit more, let’s look at the specs.

kigo edge on left, shel on right
Honestly, it took me a few days to realize that this was a whole different shoe model than the one I had reviewed last year; by outward appearance, the edge looks nearly identical to the shel. kigo is establishing brand recognition with its distinctive look, but it might be hard for first-time customers to distinguish one model from another aside from keeping track of the color schemes.

The good news is that all of the things I liked about the shel remain unchanged: the super light weight of 5 oz per shoe, the breathable low-profile uppers, and the eco-friendly construction are all present with the edge as well.

Outstanding kigo outsole
I was pleased to see that the edge does away with the “fold in half” feature of the shel that I considered something of a gimmick. This enables the overall thickness of the outsole to be a bit thinner in the heel and forefoot than the previous model. Best of all, the edge retains the same durable, flexible 1.5mm non-slip outsole that I considered the biggest strength of the shel last year. Traction from this fingerprint-style tread is outstanding for either road or trails, in both wet and dry conditions – in fact, I’ve done a handful of river crossings with them, and their grip is as good as any other trail shoe I’ve tried.

Eco-friendly uppers
One improvement that isn’t immediately obvious is the flexibility of the uppers. kigo uses a fairly remarkable innovation called CYCLEPET which incorporates post-consumer plastic (think recycled bottles) into its construction. It’s also water and stain resistant, and maintains decent ventilation. The trouble with the shel was that the material was rather inflexible, which made it difficult to get the shoe on, and hard to accommodate wider feet that might strain against the narrow toe box.

Most of those fit concerns were addressed with the edge: the upper material has a four-way stretch component along with stretch stitching to improve its flexibility. There is more flexibility built into the foot hole for an easier on/off transition, and the vertical volume of the toe box is noticeably increased. In other words, they made almost all the changes I would have liked to improve the fit …

kigo edge at left and center, kigo shel on right; no discernible difference in toebox width
… except for changing the darn toe box. It’s essentially identical in width to the shel, which makes the edge just as problematic for running as its predecessor was for me. Taking the removable insole out provides a marginal increase in width, but not nearly enough to make these comfortable for anything but short runs around the neighborhood.

Considering how close this is to being a fantastic shoe, and considering that I thought the toebox issue was going to be addressed with this revision, it’s a bit frustrating to see that kigo hasn’t quite nailed the running shoe design yet. My contact person (one of the owners) assures me that they are working hard on new lasts and molds for a wider toe box, but by the time they finally arrive, kigo is bound to find the market far more congested with minimalist running shoe makers than there were one year ago, or even today. I believe the company was an early arriver who had an ideal opportunity to make its mark with this shoe – but I fear the window on that chance might be closing.

I hope not, because the company really does have a lot of very admirable traits, and they seem honestly committed to promoting natural foot function with a wide range of athletic activities. In the meantime, the edge is a comfortable shoe for those with somewhat narrow feet – the shoes are officially unisex, but I suspect they are much better suited for women than for men - or for a general minimalist walking around shoe.

If you fit into either of those categories, kigo is making it easier to give its unique footwear a try. They’re offering free shipping (a $12 value) if you purchase a pair of kigos from now through October 26. Enter coupon code RAMBLE at the end of your checkout, and the deduction will apply. The kigo edge retails for $70 from the company website.

*Product provided by kigo
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com

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RH Averett 10/20/10, 9:01 AM  

Add another voice to the call for a wide toebox. Otherwise I'd give them a try to support the company's environmental and minimalist efforts. And for the minimalist closed toebox, because my left little toe is taking a beating in Treks.

JamesBrett 10/21/10, 2:07 AM  

so these kigos look a lot like the $20 cudas flatwaters i run in -- only with a smaller toebox...


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