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WFPF KO Shoes Review

The World Freerunning and Parkour Federation Know Obstacles shoe is one of the most widely hyped parkour shoes on the market. Its tagline of, “The best shoe you will ever destroy” caters exactly to the tough-on-shoes traceur segment. The $39.99 KOs are hailed as light, grippy, flexible, durable and cheap. Does it live up to its reputation? Read on to find out.

Note: Know that this review is written from the perspective of someone who has worn a pair of New Balance running shoes for the past two years. He’s bound to be happy with any new shoes.

The ordering process:

The ‘selling’ website is well designed. The ‘buying’ website feels a little half-baked compared to the selling portion, but not so much that it discourages purchasing. What did discourage buying was finding out that shipping is $15, bringing the total price up to $55. Come on, guys. $55≠$39.99

The order page is NOT encrypted (https), so you have to go through Paypal if you’re security conscious. This is a pretty big annoyance.

No HTTPS

 

Shipping took a week. A WEEK. FOR $15 SHIPPING. WHAT. THE. HECK. Shipping that costs $15 should not take anywhere near a week. One guy from California contacted me and said his pair took three weeks to arrive. This, more than anything, made me mad at WFPF. There is simply no excuse for charging that much for shipping and not using the fastest possible method. They should have just charged $50 for the shoe and $5 for shipping. The current (cheap price)+(obscenely marked-up shipping)=$$$$ model feels really, really sleazy. I expected better from the WFPF.

Unboxing:

 

FINALLY, they arrive.

 

Cool box.

 

Hello, my beauties.

 

Hey cool, a backpack! Good. Shipping doesn’t feel quite so bad now.

 

Nice looking treads. Nice looking uppers.

 

Weird-looking U-shaped heel.

 

Wow, nice details. Bet the little “KO” lettering will last about five wall-hops.

 

Very little arch support.

Not much arch support, which is good for jumping, since it allows the arch’s natural springing action to actually function. It’s tough to jump properly in shoes that have a lot of arch support.

 

Duly noted; it will not be eaten.

 

Know Obstacles. Know Freedom.

 

First Impressions:

Holy crap, these things are LIGHT! According to my highly unscientific testing, both shoes together weigh less than one of my old shoes.

As I said, unscientific.

Yeah, I used my pull-up bar as a fulcrum. And yes, that is a Take Flight sticker on it.

 

Woah, flexible. They bend in the middle, not just at the toe.

 

Hmm...

Duct tape: ghetto shoe repair.

Duct tape: ghetto shoe repair.

Not much tread left on the old ones. Guess that happens when you wear a shoe for two years.

These spots look like they could be trouble. The black grips seem to be just barely coming away from the base of the shoe. Not an issue now, but I suspect they’ll be trouble down the road.

 

KOs with backpack.

 

KOs in backpack.

 

Hi-res Flickr set of KO pictures.

Thoughts after the first training session in the KO’s:

(Consisting mostly of short precisions between concrete parking lot stops and a few wall-hops)

  • They are so LIGHT! I barely feel like they’re there at all..
  • Soles are extremely grippy. Wall-hops are easy, easy.
  • Soles are very flexible, almost like flip-flops. They’re nice and grabby, but if you’re used to stiff mid-soles, you’re going to be re-evaluating your technique for precisions onto bars and railings.
  • The soles really let you feel the ground. The texture, slipperiness/roughness… If you step on even a small pebble, these shoes will let you know. Not painfully, but as a nudge against your foot. I really like how communicativeness.
  • The back end of the shoe seems to be trying to nudge my heel outward, while the front end nudges my toes inward. This is disconcerting; I don’t like it.
  • The insoles are slippery bastards. You must scoot your foot all the way to the front before making a jump, or your feet will slide forward when you land and knock you off balance. I sort of fell on my ass the first time I did a big precision in these shoes.
  • There’s not a lot of padding in the heel or toes. I found some definite problems with my landing technique that I hadn’t seen before, because the cushioning of my old shoes masked my errors.

Takeaway:

The lack of padding is forcing me to rethink my landings. The sheer grippiness of the shoes makes wall-hops really easy. The communicativeness of the soles is unexpectedly quite amazing.

Second Training session:

This one consisted mostly of precisions on wood, balancing on a bar, and tacs/wall-hops on trees.

  • The shoes tilt your foot inwards. The heel is pushed outwards and blade of foot is pushed inwards. Toe-strike running and walking is okay, but normal heel-strike walking feels weird. Not a particularly good weird, either. The upshot of this is that you have to land with your foot at an over 45 degree angle to the ground to roll your ankle, which is a GOOD THING.
  • The oval shape of the shoelaces makes them STAY TIED. They’re pretty springy, but that’s almost certainly just because they’re new. As they age they’ll lose the springiness and get looser. In any case, they can be tucked underneath the other laces. No big deal.
  • They’re incredibly grippy. There were several times I would have fallen had I been barefoot or in my old shoes, but the grip and width of the KO’s kept me upright. This is a huge confidence booster. I found myself doing progressively bigger and bigger precisions.
  • Initially I wasn’t fond of the amount of flex in the soles, but it’s starting to grow on me. I can feel exactly what’s going on under me. The soles tell you exactly where pressure is being taken, which makes balancing easy.
  • My initial impressions of slippery insoles are being borne out. If the shoes fit very well on your foot, this might not be a big deal since there won’t be as much room to slide. A new, grippier insole would probably fix the tilting-inwards problem as well as eliminating slips.
  • The toe padding seems to be just about perfect. There’s not a whole lot there, but it’s enough that landings are definitely easier on your feet than barefoot.
  • The heel’s horseshoe shape is odd. I don’t quite know what to think of it. The U-shaped ring of black rubber around the edges feels weird to walk on.

Takeaway:

The KO’s aren’t just grippy, they’re stable. The flexibility of the soles makes for some fun precisions, but watch out for the slippery insole.

Walking on concrete for several hours

I’m pretty used to walking on concrete barefoot, but the lack of padding in the toes led to the balls of my feet being very sore after 2-3 hours. And again, the communicativeness of the soles is great. It was fun being able to tell the differences between the textures of tile, slate, blacktop, and concrete just by wiggling my toes.

If you want to get a feel of what they’ll be like, walk around on concrete barefoot for about half an hour. That’s pretty much exactly what it feels like to simply walk normally in the KO’s.

Third Training session

(precisions on concrete, wall-hops on painted concrete wall, crane leaps, cat leaps)

  • magical grip. I must have gone at least a six inches higher than my usual wall-hop. I can climb slippery things with ease.
  • Got to land juuuust right or it’ll hurt the balls of my feet.
  • THE GRIP! I LOVE IT!
  • This may be just my wide feet, but the upper blade of my foot is pushing against the outer edge of the shoes. Not comfortable. But again, this only comes out strongly when walking.

Random other thoughts:

Insole comes out easily. A more padded or fitted one may be a good idea, depending on your foot. A less slippery one is definitely a good idea.

As my foot gets used to the shoe and vice versa, the initial problem of having to re-adjust the shoes before every jump will probably disappear.

The soles flex at the middle. I strongly suspect the back end of the front sole grips will start to come off.

These are bad shoes for walking, especially on concrete. The lack of padding is going to kill your feet.

The white on the bottoms of the feet is going to get dirty and dull. Especially if you walk a lot on grass or dirt.

The bright blue uppers look nice.

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • Relatively cheap
  • Extremely light
  • Extremely stable
  • Extremely grippy
  • Extremely communicative, they telegraph exactly what’s under you
  • Very flexible
  • Laces stay tied without needing to be double-knotted
  • Properly balanced for toe-strike running
  • No arch support
  • Lack of padding forces a better landing technique

Cons:

  • Lack of padding leads to sore feet
  • No arch support
  • Insoles are too slippery for comfort (but they can be replaced easily)
  • Durability is iffy.

To buy or not to buy?

It depends: If you’re a newbie, hold off on the KOs. Learn the basic techniques of parkour in normal, stiff, cushioned shoes. They’ll protect your feet from injury as your ankles and knees get stronger. Stiffness and lack of grip will force you to learn wall-hops with perfect form. If you learn handicapped, you’re going to be that much better when your handicap is removed.

If you’re an advanced traceur, you should absolutely get the KOs. Without a doubt. They’re lightyears ahead of normal shoes in terms of grip, weight and flexibility. Add a new insole and they’ll be just about perfect.

The WFPF Know Obstacles are, indeed, “The best shoes you will ever destroy.”

–Alan

Questions? Leave a comment below or send me an email at [email protected].

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