Monthly Archives: June 2013

Vibram FiveFingers Alitza Review

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.

Quick Details
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
Category: Casual

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.

Upper Qualities
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.

Sole Qualities
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.

Overall Quality
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.

Style
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.

Uses
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.

Value
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.

Summary
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…

OTZShoes OTZ-300GMS Goat Suede Review

Super soft, minimally designed, casual unisex shoe
I’ve reviewed a number of models from OTZShoes over the years and am continuously impressed with the direction the company is going. This is a company that is all about options, minimal design, and true comfort. The new spring/summer 2013 OTZ-300GMS is outstanding in terms of options with 39 colours and 5 upper materials to choose from ranging in price from $80–165 depending on the upper material. Although this review focuses on the OTZ-300GMS Goat Suede model, I highly recommend checking out the OTZShoes website for the cornucopia of options currently available for this season.

Quick Details
Price: $115 USD
Width: Average to Extra Wide
Sole Thickness: 7 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 5 3/8 ounces or 152 grams
Insole: Removable, 1 5/8 ounces or 46 grams
Sizing: 36–41; Full sizes only; Fits true to size
Category: Casual

Comfort & Fit
These shoes are wonderfully comfortable. The goat suede upper is luxuriously soft against the skin and the two diagonal seams lay flat and are completely unobtrusive. They can be worn with or without socks to customize your temperature or volume needs. They are wide and anatomically shaped. If you have narrow feet, these might seem somewhat sloppy in the fit department so an insole and/or socks may be required. For my wide feet, they fit perfectly without socks and a little more snug with a pair of toe socks. The natural goat suede keeps my feet a comfortable temperature without a sweaty feet feeling.

The 300GMS fit true to size. I usually fit a U.S. 8 or Eur 38 and the size 38 review pair fits me perfectly in length and width. Despite the lack of laces or other attaching devices, the shoes stay on my feet well and are easy to get on and off.

Insole
The insole that came with the OTZ-300 GMS Goat Suede is OTZShoes’ CORKFit® arch-supported, high-heeled, cork and latex insole. As with all these insoles, I took it out immediately. An insole is not absolutely necessary with this model as the footbed is flat but somewhat unfinished with the stitching exposed around the edge. If you need more volume to the shoe because of a high instep, wearing them with no insole will accommodate this. If you would like a more minimal insole, there are two ways you could go: 1) find an insole from another shoe and hope it fits or 2) acquire one of OTZShoes’ brand new minimalist cork insoles. I whole-heartedly encourage the second option!

The new minimalist cork insole is comfortable, flexible, and fits perfectly into the spring/summer 2013 collection of OTZShoes. It is 6 mm think and perfectly flat. In the future, I believe customers will have their choice of insoles and I recommend the minimalist option for those of us who prefer our insoles as minimal as our shoes.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The lack of ground feel is the only room for improvement that I would recommend for this shoe. The 300GMS is made with a natural jute, co-moulded rubber outsole that has very little flex compared to most minimal shoes. There is, therefore, very little ground feel with this outsole. There is ample volume in the shoe for my feet and toes to wiggle around freely, they just don’t bend around ground contours.

Although most of the shoe’s weight is in the outsole, I haven’t felt like they are unbalanced or heavy weighing at a little over 5 ounces each.

The jute/rubber outsole has an approximately 2 mm grip depth and a tread design and rubber stickiness that provides more than enough grip for man-made and dry natural surfaces.

Upper Qualities
This model is made with high quality, unlined goat suede with a goat leather reinforcement around the collar. For a flexible leather shoe product, the leather is quite thick and will undoubtedly last a long time. Despite not being a breathable material, my feet have never felt sweaty in them due to the large opening and the natural, rather than synthetic, material. For increased longevity, I recommend treating them with a good quality leather protector.

There was no break-in period required for these shoes as they were comfortable right out of the box.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of natural jute co-moulded with rubber. It is approximately 7 mm thick and only flexible lengthwise and not at all flexible width-wise. The footbed and outsole are completely flat with no arch support designed into the shoe.

Overall Quality
The materials and manufacturing both appear of excellent quality. The upper is stitched directly to the outsole using minimal glues, a unique design feature in minimal shoe production. If treated well, I suspect the leather upper will last a very long time and the jute/rubber outsole also appears to be quite durable and long-lasting.

Style
There are few shoes on the market as minimally designed as the OTZ-300GMS. I adore their simplicity and use of natural upper materials. If you like the 300GMS, there are a plethora of new colours to choose from this season as well as five upper materials including linen, mesh, and a variety of leathers. These shoes are extremely versatile for casual use for both men and women.

Uses
The 300GMS is definitely a casual shoe and probably best suited to urban adventures. Their simple design makes them perfect for just about any casual outfit and their wide range of colour options promises something for every taste.

Value
At $115 USD, they are priced at the high end of the minimal market but average for a leather shoe. Considering the high quality leather used and the expected longevity of the shoe, I think it is worth the price. The 300GMS ranges in price from $80–165 depending on the upper material.

Summary
The OTZ-300GMS is the ultimate in simplistically styled casual shoes. My only desire is that they could have a more flexible outsole for better ground feel, but then I wonder, how would the shoe keep its shape and stay on the foot? This season, OTZShoes introduced an outstanding 39 colour options for this model. If you have an average to wide foot, and you don’t mind a lack of ground feel, this extremely comfortable, minimally designed shoe may be right for you.

For more information about OTZShoes and to check out their impressive colour array, you can go to their website at OTZShoes.com.