Thursday, May 17, 2012

i go kigo! kigo drive review

As part of my continuous pursuit for great minimalist running shoes, I've looked at a number of different companies and shoes in the market. I remember seeing a few blurbs about kigo footwear and I was intrigued by their design, and the company itself.  I am very fortunate to have been provided an opportunity to test and review the kigo "drive" pictured above.  Before I dive into the nitty gritty review however, I did want to talk a little bit about the company.

First of all, it was no mistake above that I didn't capitalize kigo, or drive. As a matter of fact, virtually everything on kigo's site is that way. One of the co-founders has a Masters in Literature, and she loves poetry and the creative use of language, hence the e. e. cummings style :-)  I think it also reflects on the minimalist style of their shoes, and their company philosophy.  And, it saves me the time of hitting the shift key!

I also am impressed about kigo's focus on sustainability. From the philosophy about work, packaging, and reuse/recycling to the materials used in the construction of the shoes, kigo is truly benchmark.  kigos are recyclable too, and the company will give you 25% off a new pair when you return your old ones! I'll cover more about the materials in the review below, but if you want to read all about it, check it out here. 

Ok.. now on to the part you've been anxiously awaiting for... well, at least I hope so!  Before I jump into the performance of this shoe, here are the the technical specs that all minimalist shoe fanatics like myself live for:
  • Zero drop outsole (of course)
  • 2mm outsole, with a 2mm removable insole
  • 4 oz average weight per shoe (yeah.. these are light)
  • Zero toe spring
  • Speed lacing
  • Anatomical foot print 
Next to my Vibram Flow's, these are by far the most minimalist shoes I've run in, from a ground height perspective. I kept the insoles in, because I found that it provided the best fit for me inside the shoe. Without the insole, I felt it was a little too roomy and I couldn't snug up the laces enough.  However, the proprioception with the insoles is still outstanding. And talk about light weight! I loved how it felt like I had nearly nothing on my feet. 

As far as the soles go, I like the imprint.. it leaves cool footprints!  However, it is not a super aggressive tread, so I would be careful in instances where traction could be a problem, but this tread pattern worked great on the road, and surprisingly well on the trail for me as well. I think the flexibility and ground feel from the shoe allows for good gripping when needed.  Also, you'll notice that the shoe is almost straight...  it was funny because the first time I put them on, I wasn't sure I had them on the right feet! It made me aware of how even many minimalist shoes have some kind of structure or form to them.  These didn't put any odd pressures anywhere on my feet.  And the toe box was plenty roomy for me as well. I think my feet are "average", so for these shoes, my concern would be if you had a narrow foot.. you may not be able to tighten things up as much as you may like and they could feel sloppy. 

So...  how do they perform?  I will admit that when I first saw these shoes, and even after I tried them on, I was skeptical about how well I would like them for running, especially trail running. They just seemed too insubstantial, and I was concerned about durability as well as comfort.  

For my first run on the road, they felt great.  What struck me most was the fact that I had nothing to think about or contemplate about the feedback from the shoes. They were very comfortable, so comfortable that I forgot about thinking about them, and focused on running instead. The light weight made me feel I could run faster, so that's what I did. I was out for a 5K, but that decided to just push that first mile...  I ran my first sub 8 minute mile, which for me is fast considering my running pace is in the 10:30-11:30 range.  And over the 5k, no hotspots or stopping for adjustments etc.   Also, as you can see above, I paired the kigos with Injinji Outdoor Series, light-weight toe socks (no show length). This turned out to be a really great combination with this shoe. 

Are the kigo drives trail-worthy?  I would say yes! Granted, I'm not an ultra distance runner (not yet at least), so my long trail runs are in the 6+ mile range. I took the drives out to my favorite trails to see what they could do.  The first thing I noticed was that even with a 4mm ground height, and no rock plate, I wasn't getting that sting from some of the nastier rocks that I've felt in shoes with 6 or 8mm of height. I don't know if it was because I was mentally making myself run lighter (which is not a bad thing), or that I was getting better at dancing around some of the tougher stuff.  It was probably a combination of both, but there must be something about the composition of the sole that help disperse some of the terrain without sacrificing the ground feel. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised that such a thin and light shoe performed as it did. Granted, they still may not be substantial or protective enough for really long technical runs, but I'll let you know when I get there!

Also, you can see me daintily putting my foot down for a stream crossing, but on the way back, I jumped in with both feet to see how they dealt with water.  WOW... at least right now, these uppers are the true definition of hydrophobic. Water beads immediately and drops off...   This is because the uppers are constructed of CYCLEPET, which is a flexible fabric made from plastic jugs, which is then treated with an eco-friendly water/stain repellent called AsahiGuard E-Series. What remains to be seen is how long this treatment will last over time.  Also, the fabric of the upper stretches and molds to your foot, as I've noticed over a few runs. kigo's website notes that you can reset, or tighten the fabric by washing (no soap), and sun-drying them.

Of course, none of my reviews are complete unless I've gone up the Manitou Incline a few times, and down Barr Trail.   I haven't been up the Incline as often as I was going over the winter, but this morning I was about 30 sec shy of my personal best going up.. I credit the light shoes!  Then of course, I had to put my feet up in front of Pikes Peak..  hard to believe I am planning on running up and down that next summer!

Oops... forgot about the price. You can get the drive for $91 retail on the kigo site, or from one of their retailers here.  While not exactly inexpensive, these are priced in the "normal" range for minimalist shoes, and not bad considering the eco friendly materials and processes. BUT as a special bonus for readers, you can use the code BFIREVIEW at checkout for 20% of your purchase through 5/24/2012.

 So.. there you have it.  I know.. long-winded, but if you've hung on this long, congratulations.  If I've missed anything in my review, or if you have questions, please let me know.  I'll probably put up another longer term review later this year after logging more miles in these great shoes. For a cool story about the long-term durability of their shoes, check out their 12 month long world trek on this blog Vamos Kigo!

Happy trails!



  1. I always love your reviews, and this is no exception. Never heard of these shoes, but I will totally be giving them a look should I see them in person. They sound AMAZING.

    On another note, you got a brief shout out on my blog today. Minimalist shoes are the ONLY way I can tolerate shorter (less than six mile) runs, so I always think of your minimalist prodding when I discuss them. LOL

    Thanks for telling us about this cool brand! Can't wait to see their stuff in person.

  2. Great review, Jeff! Seems like another great option when you need some protection.

  3. I've never heard of these shoes. Very interesting review, I will have to hunt around and see if others I know have tried them. Bonus points: They look great on your feet! :)

  4. Cool! Won't find them in the running stores ... drat. BTW, a friend just finished his first marathon in haunches!! Check out Eric's breakdown!

  5. Those are pretty cool looking. I've never heard of them but I like the look of them. Summer time is my time to run in minimalist shoes so I'm looking forward to getting back at it.

    I always have location envy with your blog. :)


I live for comments.. so leave one! Thanks!