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June 20, 2011

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport Review

When Vibram FiveFingers first hit the market, and especially after the outstanding KSOs were released, part of their appeal was that they were adaptable to practically any activity you could think of. Early marketing campaigns showed users running, hiking, practicing yoga, doing parkour, leaping from boulders into a lake, and so on. The product mimicked barefoot function almost perfectly, and people came up with countless new applications for use as their popularity increased.

From the beginning, Vibram has embraced customer feedback and suggestions for improvement, and as a result, they’ve spent the past couple of years expanding and specializing their product line to appeal to the widest range of athletic interests possible. So while the KSO is still a great all-purpose shoe, it’s not nearly as good for hiking and trail running as the KSO Trek, or for road running as much as the Bikila (and Bikila LS).

(And to make sure everyone knows what I'm referring to before we progress any further, let's throw in some back links to my original reviews, shall we? I'll have these at the end of the post as well:

Vibram Fivefingers KSO review

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek review

Vibram FiveFingers Trek Sport review

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila review

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS review

OK - back to our primary programming.)

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport

This spring, Vibram introduced the Fivefingers Komodo Sport, which is targeted at multi-sport athletes and general fitness enthusiasts. It has some very noticeable design changes from previous FiveFingers models, most of which are very effective, although there’s one in particular that I wasn’t crazy about. It features an entirely new outsole that will appeal to athletes who demand a lot of lateral movement (think tennis, basketball, etc), and is ideal for working out in the gym. However, it’s still quite attractive as a running model – in fact, most of my testing has centered around trail running (I know … shocking), and this model has performed nearly as well as the KSO Trek, which is Vibram’s gold standard for going off-road.


Closed mesh upper; PU abrasion dots on toes

From the midfoot to the toes, the upper of the Komodo looks very similar to the Bikila, although its closed stretch mesh material is slightly thicker than the mesh used on either the Bikila or Bikila LS. Also present here are the same polyurethane dots above the toes which the Bikila LS uses for increased abrasion resistance.


Very dirty ... but still very yellow

The Komodo is available in black, gray, or yellow; the dark colors are quite sharp-looking, and the yellow is, um … very yellow. Since bright colors aren’t really my thing, I was kind of hoping that a lot of trail miles would dull the color of this particular pair a bit, but that hasn’t quite happened yet. I’ve heard that some folks really love the bumble-bee look though, so I won’t dwell on this too long.


Separate straps around heel and on top of foot

One of the design changes I wasn’t crazy about was the addition of a second strap to the upper. Stylistically, this two-strap design borrows from both the KSO (with its single strap that wraps around the heel) and the original Bikila with a top strap that isn’t integrated around the heel. On the Komodo, there is a second, independent Velcro strap to adjust the heel fit – but in practice, I found that cinching this strap tighter than the “factory” positioning resulted not in a more snug ankle fit, but in gapping at the inside of the ankle, as seen here:

Gapping at R inside ankle collar with heel strap tightened (click to enlarge)

Ultimately, rather than mess around in search of the perfect heel fit, I just returned the strap to its starting position, and the ankle collar stayed in place just fine. If you have unusually fat ankles, loosening the strap probably won’t help, either, since the primary size-limiting component here is the circumference of the ankle collar. So I’d say the extra ankle strap is a nice idea, but doesn’t quite deliver the practical application for which it was intended.


Removable smooth 2mm insole

One noticeable change to the Komodo is a smooth insole that provides a seamless, stitch-free bottom layer for improved comfort against bare feet. The insole is 2mm thick and is removable, although replacing it is somewhat difficult thanks to the individual toe cutouts. Many sockless users will appreciate the fact that for the first time, there’s no stitching underneath your foot to cause potential irritation. Although I generally wear socks for my long trail runs, I’ve spent many sockless miles in the Komodos, and the combination of sockliner and insole is nearly as comfortable as the Bikila and Bikila LS. If you’re thinking of removing the sockliner on these, be forewarned that the undersurface is fairly coarse, so you’ll probably end up wanting socks – which might defeat the point of removing the insole in the first place.

The insole brings up a point of overall thickness, which gets a little bit confusing with FiveFingers sometimes, because some models use insoles and others use an EVA midsole. On the Komodo, there is no midsole material, so its standing height is the 2mm insole plus the 4mm outsole, or 6mm total thickness. That’s actually slightly less than the Bikila models at 7mm (3mm insole plus 4mm outsole), as well as the KSO Trek and Trek Sport (4mm midsole plus 4mm outsole), but slightly more than the KSO with a 2mm insole and 3.5mm outsole. Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion, but I found that the Komodo’s ground feel generally reflects the specs: it’s noticeably better than the Trek and Trek Sport, roughly equal to the Bikila and Bikila LS, and slightly worse than the original KSO.

At 7.1 oz, the Komodo weighs in as the heaviest FiveFingers to date, although to be fair it’s only a half-once heavier than the Trek Sport. I suspect that the extra weight is primarily attributable to the additional Velcro strap – which is unfortunate, since I just explained that I didn’t find the extra strap very effective – and perhaps the thicker mesh of the upper. If you use these as a dedicated running shoe, you’ll probably notice a weight difference compared to the 6.0-oz Bikilas, but if used for their intended multi-sport purpose, the additional weight of the Komodo might not be too troubling to most users.


New multi-sport outsole

Here’s where Vibram really changed the game on the Komodo: its brand new aggressive 4mm rubber outsole that is grooved in multiple directions to facilitate rapid stopping and turning, and for additional grip on generally flat or smooth surfaces such as asphalt or hardwood. Just as with the overall thickness, flexibility of the outsole is a middle ground for Vibram as well: the Komodo is more flexible than the KSO Trek and Trek Sport, but slightly less than the podded Bikila and Bikila LS.




Just for kicks, I spent several afternoons shooting baskets on the blacktop with my kids while wearing my Komodos, to get a feel for how they perform in rapid stop-and-go situations. The outsole is really quite strong in this regard, probably the equivalent of many general-purpose sneakers on the market. It’s a significant improvement over the original KSO, and I don’t have to worry about wearing the knobs down like I do whenever I wear my Treks on pavement. I would imagine that if you’re in an aerobics class or using weight machines at the health club, the Komodos would give you all the grip you need.


Lab testing in the Wasatch foothills

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised as to the general durability of the outsole for running. I’ve put close to 100 trail miles on mine, and they aren’t showing any significant signs of wearing down yet. When I heard that this was a “multi-sport” model, my fear was that it wouldn’t be compatible with distance running, but the Komodo has been more than up to the task. In fact, for dedicated trail running, I definitely prefer it over my Trek Sports, although it’s not quite strong enough to dethrone the KSO Trek as my first choice. For dedicated road running, I still prefer the lighter weight and overall comfort of the Bikila LS, but if you’re going back and forth between road and trail a lot, the Komodo would be an ideal choice.

All things considered, the Komodo just might be the successor to Vibram’s original KSO as the premier all-purpose do-anything model. The KSO was the first FiveFingers model I owned, and I used it for everything – trail running, yard work, and general goofing around. Thanks to my product review gigs, I now have the luxury of owning different models for different uses – but if I had to go back to a time when I could only pick one FiveFingers model to do everything with, I’d definitely pick the Komodo over the KSO now. For anyone else in that situation, the Komodo would make a great introduction to the joy of wearing Vibrams.

*Disclosure: this review was sponsored by TravelCountry.com, who provided my pair for testing, and who have the best stock and selection of all Vibram FiveFingers models anywhere on the Internet. The Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport retails for $100 in both the men’s model and women's version.

**
See related reviews:

Vibram Fivefingers KSO

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek

Vibram FiveFingers Trek Sport

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS




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17 comments:

Brandon Mulnix 6/20/11, 8:23 PM  

I love the Komodo, but they have issues. I am on my second pair of Komodo's because I love the feel, but I am surprised at their ability to wear down quickly on asphalt. After a 12 hour run (63) on bike trail they heal of my Right shoe is worn to within a mm or 2 from wearing all the way through. So I purchased another pair, and after only 15 miles they are doing the same. I understand its a form issue on my part, but I was used to my indestructable Trec Sports that have triple the mileage and minimal wear. If only they felt better on pavement.
I am happy to wear down another pair as they will be my primary and hopefully only shoe I use for an upcoming 100 miles. Total mileage on my first pair was 250 miles.

Donald 6/20/11, 10:56 PM  

Brandon: very interesting. Maybe my outsole durability has been higher thanks to running mostly on trails - although I've done a few road runs of 8-10 miles in mine without issue. I'm actually sort of disappointed with the durability of my Trek Sports, so the Komodo has been an upgrade that way. Keep me posted, please.

jens 6/21/11, 5:23 AM  

Nice Review, thanks a lot. I bought my pair a few days ago, so it couldn't help me directly, but I got some very interesting facts about my new shoes out of your test :)

I'm curious and excited how my first run in the komodo sports will be. but i'm a huge vibram fivefingers fan, so I guess it won't be disappointing

jens

iJuls 6/21/11, 9:24 AM  

Another great review. Thanks!

Mike74 6/22/11, 11:17 PM  

I got my first pair of Five Fingers shoes (Komodosport)as a gift for Father's day this past weekend. I'm a 9.5 in sneakers which puts me at a size 42/43 in Five Fingers. I had a size 43 for one night, and decided to return them because my pinky toe was only half way in the pocket, and by fisting my toes, I was able to get my middle & index toes out of their pockets. Now, I've had a size 42 for three days everything is good except for the tightness in the big toe pocket. There's occasional discomfort on the top inside corner of the big toe, where the fabric meets the rubber. Feet flat on the ground, raising toes only, feels like my big toes could bust thru the top of the inside stitching (tightness). Should I go back to the size 43, tighten the heel strap to max, and wait for my feet to expand (if they do at all) into the toes pockets, or stick w/ the size 42's and give them more time stretch (if they do at all)? I don't want to waste to much time, and not be able to exchange w/o hassle. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated....

Donald 6/23/11, 9:47 PM  

Mike74: Sounds to me like you need the bigger size. Maybe a pair of toe socks would help also?

Johnny McDermott 6/30/11, 4:23 PM  

Like your other reviews of the Vibram FiveFingers family, this one on the Komodo is excellent. I've read most of the reviews because I want to buy a pair and try them out. Any suggestions on which model to start with or does it matter? I try to get off the pavement and onto trails, but the sad truth is that most of my running is still on the hard stuff. Any suggestions for my first pair of Vibrams?

Sean Fry 6/30/11, 6:05 PM  

Just ordered a pair after reading the review, hope it delivers!

Donald 6/30/11, 10:02 PM  

Johnny: if you're switching back and forth between surfaces, I'd go with the Komodos for sure.

Sean: glad to hear it!

Kuma 8/24/11, 9:16 AM  

I am about to get my first VFFs and I will be doing a lot of road running/trail running and hiking.

I like to run daily on the road, and then hit the mountain on the weekend.

My question is, would the komodo fit both purposes in one? Or would I be better off getting the KSO Treks and the Bikala LS and just use them for the seperate purposes?

Just curious if it is a good enough hybrid to fulfill all of my needs.

I have also been looking into the Terra Plana Evo II

Any clarity would be great.

Thanks!

Donald 8/24/11, 9:41 PM  

Kuma: I think the Komodo is an ideal hybrid, and obviously a lot more cost-effective than two separate pairs!

Kuma 8/25/11, 6:09 AM  

Alright awesome, thanks!

I think I may grab the Komodo LS since that option is now available. Will you be reviewing these soon?

I was able to snag a pair of Neos on steepandcheap for 57 bucks,which was something I couldnt pass up, so I will be giving those a shot as well. Just out of curiosity, are those holding up well on trails for you?

Donald 8/25/11, 9:49 PM  

Kuma: I don't have the Komodo LS yet, but hope to have them tested sometime this fall. The Neos are holdig up pretty well, but I'm really looking forward to the Neo Trail release this fall also.

killdeer 11/4/11, 2:31 PM  

What did you think about the breathability of the Komodo Sports?

I bought a pair of the KSO Treks about a week ago and love those. But haven't tried wearing them in the summer yet.

The Bikillas were nice for breathability but didn't feel tight enough in the heals. I really liked the second velcro strap on the Komodos but my feet felt like they were suffocating.

The trade-offs between these models can be frustrating. I like the design of the KSO Treks, but don't want to wear suede through the trails.

Anyway, again, just wondering about your thoughts of breathability. The Komodos were the only vff shoe that felt as comfortable as (if not more comfortable than) the KSO Treks.

Donald 11/7/11, 8:23 PM  

Killdeer: I'd rank the breatheability of the Komodos slightly below the Bikila and the KSO Trek. Not significantly, but noticeably.

Alleged Wisdom 11/17/11, 11:55 AM  

I have also had problems with the durability of the KomodoSports. They wear out more quickly than KSOs, and even worse, the hard midsole pokes holes in the side of the toes. After five months of parkour once a week, they have fallen completely apart. I will probably stay with KSO's from now on.

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