In contrast to the number of companies who have moved into the minimalist arena recently, it’s worth noting that kigo is already on their third generation of minimalist athletic shoes.
That’s not to say that they’ve perfected their craft, though – in fact, when I reviewed their second generation edge* shoe, I came away fairly disappointed, in that there wasn’t really much to distinguish the newer version from the previous one; more specifically, a lot of the deficiencies I identified in the first-generation shel shoe went largely unaddressed. Not that I expected the company to jump through hoops for me, but it’s always a cool thing to see a company respond to user feedback.
(*in case you’re wondering about the convention here: all kigo shoe models, just like the company name, are written entirely in lower-case. I explained why in my edge review.)
That’s why I’m happy to report that this time around, kigo has indeed made some significant changes to their flagship athletic shoe, and that the new drive is very close to what I was hoping the shoe would be more than two years ago. It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s a significant upgrade to a shoe that already had a lot of attractive features to begin with.
One of the things I appreciate about kigo is their commitment to responsible shoe construction, and everything about the drive is true to that mission. Material construction of the outsoles and insoles utilizes PLUSfoam, a compound created from various combinations of reclaimed consumer products.
The uppers are constructed of a CYCLEPET compound made from recycled plastic bottles. All dyes, glues, and water- or stain-resistant elements are certified non-toxic. And when you’re done with the shoes, you can send them to the company’s recycling center so the materials can be reconstructed for the next pair.
Like its predecessors, the drive has outstanding minimalist specs as well: it’s a completely flexible, pure zero-drop shoe on a 2mm outsole, weighing roughly 4.5 oz. This is approximately a half-ounce less than the edge, which is impressive considering how light it was to begin with. If you want to leave the removable 2mm insole in place, your standing height is 4mm, otherwise there’s a mere 2mm of thickness between your foot and the ground.
|drive on top, edge on bottom; the edge is my son's everyday school shoe, thus explaining the heel wear|
Now for the improvements. Previous kigo shoes were uncomfortably narrow through the entire foot, particularly in the toebox area. Even though the CYCLEPET upper material is somewhat flexible, it wasn’t enough to make up for the narrow last which restricted natural toe splaying. kigo fixed that with the drive, creating a wider footprint front-to-back, most notably in the toebox, which now allows plenty of room for all your toes to do their thing.
The upper has also been revamped, and now features a speed lacing system for ease of entry and for custom tightness around the midfoot. This is a huge improvement over the previous versions, but there’s still one aspect I’d like kigo to tinker with: when you tighten the laces, the fit improves around the midfoot, but remains somewhat loose around the heel. It would be great to see a strap or some other means of construction that incorporates the ankle collar into the midfoot area for more uniform tightening.
kigo’s outsole was one of its strengths from the start, and I still give it fairly high marks for traction on roads and dirt, in dry and mild-to-moderately wet conditions. The problem here is that while kigo has stayed the same, other brands have made remarkable advances in minimalist outsole traction for off-road use (in particular, a 2012 Vibram model that I’m not allowed to talk about yet), so now this fingerprint pattern is just a “solid but not outstanding” feature of the drive.
Sizing was also an issue with previous iterations of kigo shoes, but the drive runs true to size. However, it’s (somewhat oddly) only available in half sizes, so if your size happens to be an even number, you’ll have to wear something a little bit roomy or a little bit snug. Sizing is still unisex, which might be an issue if you’re a male with excessively wide feet or a female with unusually narrow feet.
Last year I expressed some concern to the kigo owners that their window to get established in the minimalist athletic shoe conversation was closing, thanks to the influx of so many new companies coming to market. With the drive, kigo appears to have raised their game sufficiently well to remain near the forefront of this category - and they offer a relatively unique product in terms of design and material construction that makes it distinctively attractive and sets it apart from most other minimalist shoes on the market today.
The drive retails for $91, which is a less fortunate upgrade compared to the edge*. However, from now through the end of the year, you can use coupon code SHIPKIGO to get them with free shipping here from the kigo website. The offer ends on December 31st, so take advantage of it for a late Christmas or early New Years gift.
(*See the comments section for a brief exchange with one of kigo's owners regarding the price point.)
*Product provided by kigo
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at email@example.com.
Get updates as soon as they're posted! Click here to subscribe to Running and Rambling.
Check out the Running Life book for a collection of our most popular columns.