A little more fashion than function but comfortable enough for casual wear
The VFF Alitza is another foray into fashion for the famous toe shoes. The FiveFingers website writes that this model is best for fitness and casual wear. I do enjoy the look of the elastic straps as well as the accent-coloured dots and find them comfortable enough for short-term wear but a little sharp on the skin for long-term wear.
Price: $80 USD
Width: Narrow to Average (Wide is doable but pushing it)
Sole Thickness: 3.5 mm + 2 mm EVA midsole
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3.25 ounces or 92 grams
Insole: None included
Sizing: 34–42; Full sizes only; Fits same as VFF KSO
Comfort & Fit
The comfort of the Alitza will be largely dependent on the width and height of your feet. With a short instep and a narrow or average width foot, I’m sure this model would be quite comfortable to wear for long periods of time. With a high instep and/or wide to extra wide foot, the Alitza is not all that comfortable for long-term wear. The straps across the top are elastic and quite stretchy but after 20 minutes of wear do dig into my skin enough to leave marks. With a high instep, these marks would probably be quite severe. Also, although the black mesh around the top of the foot is stretchy and soft to the skin, the leather reinforcement at the heel is sharp and obtrusive to the back of the heel and my Achilles area. I believe that these problems are more of a fit issue and to be aware of while fitting this model, however, I find them comfortable enough for short-term, casual wear. The toe pockets and footbed are soft and I have no comfort issues there or anywhere else with this model.
Barefoot Feel & Function
The ground feel of the Alitzas is great. The groove depth of the outsole is about 2.5 mm so any pebbles larger than this, and that don’t get stuck between the grooves, can be felt. The rubber outsole is extremely flexible and bends around ground contours easily. The only noteworthy comment I have about their function is that I find the flat area of the heel a little narrow. Although the forefoot is plenty wide enough for me, the heel is a little small and while walking, I definitely feel the curve of the heel cup rather than the flat part. Being used to walking barefoot and landing on my flat heels, landing on the curved heel outsole area is different and, I thought, worthy of note for others as well.
The rubber outsole is a little sticky and has excellent traction. This is probably the greatest improvement over the original VFF Classic model, which did not have ample grip on wet or smooth surfaces. There is more than sufficient traction for wet, dry, or smooth man-made surfaces as well as wet or dry, hard outdoor surfaces. As these are casual shoes, they are not suited for muddy or slippery conditions.
Measuring under 100 grams, they feel more like socks on the feet than shoes in terms of weight.
The upper is made of stretchy polyester mesh with some leather-like reinforcing material along the edges and the heel and a closed-weave synthetic material for the toe pockets. The mesh is highly breathable and wonderfully airy. This model is machine washable in cold and should be air dried. There is no break-in period for these shoes as the material is synthetic, it will not change with wear.
The outsole is made of a 3.5 mm TC-1 Vibram performance rubber and the midsole is 2 mm EVA. The footbed is anti-microbial drilex sockliner. The total sole stack height should be about 5.5 mm and is incredibly flexible. The Alitzas have no arch support designed into the shoe but the outsole mildly hugs the foot arch but provides no actual support.
Although the quality of the materials seems good, the quality of the manufacturing of the review pair could be better. There are visible excess glue marks along the edge of the outsole on the upper between and around the toe pockets. The stitching, however, appears excellent.
In terms of durability, this probably is not the longest lasting VFF in their line-up. The upper materials are quite thin and the outsole is a soft rubber. As this is a casual shoe and not a running or high-impact activities shoe, with gentle wear I’m confident this shoe will last at least a couple of seasons.
The Alitza is a women-specific, strappy sandal-looking casual shoe. VFF has just released new colourways for this model and now has a total of six colour options including: grey/rose/purple, black/grey, black/blue/green, purple/grey, pink/white, and all black. I like the choice of solid or two-toned elastic straps and I also like the colour-accented dots on the toes and small mesh areas on the sides of the shoe. Vibram creates models that are requested by their customers and, at this point, I think has a good feel for what their customers like in terms of style for their unique design.
If this shoe fits you comfortably, the Alitza could be a long-wear, casual shoe for walks and errands around town or all day wear at casual offices. If you are like me and find the straps a little tight and the heel a little sharp, they can still be a nice option for a short-term wear, casual outing shoe for lunches or dinners out. Just because I find them to be more of a fashionable rather than functional shoe, doesn’t mean that if it fits your feet well, they couldn’t work perfectly for longer and more adventurous or fitness wear.
At $80 USD, they are priced at the low end of VFF prices as well as the minimalist casual shoe market. If you love the VFF style and this model fits you comfortably, this prices seems completely reasonable. I would recommend handling the particular pair you are interested in purchasing so you can visualize the quality of manufacturing before buying it.
The Alitza is one of two replacement models for the original VFF Classic. It has an updated outsole with superior grip and flexibility as well as a wholly redesigned upper with new materials, more mesh for improved breathability and straps for a unique look and a more firmly attached fit. I like the look of the Alitzas and love that they come in six colour options. This particular model will fit a narrow to average width foot with a low instep the best. If you have a wider to extra wide foot or a high instep, you might find that the straps dig into the skin on the top of your feet. I find them somewhat more fashionable than functional footwear for me for this reason but could be a great option for all day wear for the right foot type.
For more information about the Alitza and other spring/summer 2013 models by VFF, you can check out their website at VibramFivefingers.com.
Stay tuned for the upcoming VFF Entrada review next…