Monthly Archives: August 2013

VIVOBAREFOOT The One Review

Three years of proprioceptive research and development, and it shows
The One was a long time in the making. Extensive plantar pressure experimentation was conducted in order to maximize proprioceptive feedback for this model. Does the rest of the shoe compare to the excellence of the outsole’s properties? Read on to find out.

Quick Details
Price: $115.00 USD
Width: Narrow to Wide
Sole Thickness: 3.0 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 5 ¼ ounces or 144 grams
Insole: Removable; 5/8 ounces or 18 grams
Sizing: 5–13; Check VB website for sizing
Category: Road/Light Trail Running

Comfort & Fit
I really wanted to like the upper of The One but I just don’t because it is ultimately not comfortable for me. It fits in terms of length and width, stays in place on my foot and heel, and the material is plenty soft enough against my skin, but the upper is so thin that all the edges feel sharp. The collar and tongue have minimal padding, which is not really an issue as the collar is cut in such a way that my ankle doesn’t really feel the edges. The biggest problem is in the crease in the upper when I bend my toes. Every time I wear these shoes, I get at least a hot spot and at worst a blister on the top of one or both of my feet, even while wearing socks. I can understand a blister if not wearing socks but WITH socks? The overlay on the medial side of the top of my feet is simply in the wrong place for me and with every step, it creases too sharply and too deeply for the shape of my feet.

I can’t help but compare The One to the VB Lucy Lite (if you are not familiar with the Aqua/Lucy Lite, feel free to skip this paragraph). The only downsides of the Lucy Lite as a road running shoe are that it is not that breathable and it doesn’t have the best proprioception in the VB range, although still one of the best in the minimal market as a whole. However, it is the most comfortable minimal shoe that I have reviewed to date without question. I was hoping that The One would be just as comfortable as the Lucy Lite but with improved breathability and a new and improved outsole for even better proprioception. The One is about 1.5 cm narrower than the Lucy Lite, which for a person with wide feet, makes the Lucy Lite far more comfortable. If you have a narrower foot, The One is probably the better shoe for you in terms of fit. The One has next to no padding anywhere in the upper and feels sharp to the touch and where it bends, while the Lucy Lite has just the right balance of padding in the tongue and around the collar for all-day wear. Therefore, in terms of shape and upper comfort, the Lucy Lite is far superior to The One. Admittedly, The One does have better breathability and improved proprioception but with the potential of a blister every time I wear them, I doubt I’ll be wearing them that often.

Barefoot Feel & Function
VIVOBAREFOOT performs extensive research to maximize proprioception in their products and The One is the culmination of three years of experimentation and optimization. It has incredible ground feel and absolutely allows your feet to move naturally. It has one of the best barefoot feel of any running shoe I have reviewed to date (I’m torn between which ground feel is better between The One and the New Balance HI-REZ). With the removable insole, you can choose the maximum amount of proprioception or slightly more cushioning and insulation.

Weighing in at under 150 grams, they are some of the lightest on-road running shoes on the minimalist market.

The hex grip outsole provides more than enough traction for dry or wet road conditions. For light trail use, I would recommend keeping on the dry side.

Upper Qualities
The One upper is made with a V web lamination, some faux leather along the laces around some of the collar, and a soft-fit lining on the interior. One of the best features of this shoe is its breathability, soft breezes can easily be felt through the upper. Water will flow in but will also flow out just as quickly through the meshy upper material.

As there is a considerable amount of glue used in the construction of this shoe, I would not recommend machine washing but a scrub in the sink instead followed by an air dry.

Regarding a break-in period, I’m not sure whether one would be beneficial or not. I do get a hot spot on the top of my feet every time I wear them, whether with or without socks. I don’t know if the crease in the upper that causes this will ever soften enough to stop doing that or if this shoe shape just is not the one for me.

Sole Qualities
The One outsole is a 3 mm, TPU, hexagonal, on-road sole with VIVOBAREFOOT’s patented puncture resistance. It feels like one of the thinnest soles I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing yet. It has incredible flexibility and, like all VB products, no arch support.

Overall Quality
The quality of the materials appears excellent but the quality of the manufacturing is somewhat lacking in the glue use with visible excess along the bottom edge where the outsole meets the upper and along some of the seams in the heel quarter or missed edges altogether in the same area. Granted, these are only visible with close examination but still noteworthy.

I have no doubt that the outsole will last a very long time. The upper will likely be the first to fail but I would guess will last at least two seasons of heavy use.

Style
I love the minimal styling of The One and think that for a running shoe, they look fantastic, and for a casual shoe, they look sleek and stylish with quite a bit of character in the details. The hex design in the toe cap matching the larger hex pattern in the V web lamination is classy and understated but shows attention to detail and style. The clever use of colour accenting in the slightly crinkly, stay-tied lace is also a nice touch. The One is available in three colourways for women including black/teal (my personal favourite), grey/salmon (I can’t say that I’m a fan of this particular shade of pink), and grey/teal (for those who like their running shoes a little louder) as well as two colourways for men including grey/royal blue and grey/yellow.

Uses
The One is designed as an on-road running shoe but it is perfectly suited as a fitness shoe in the gym or a minimalist, casual, around-town shoe. I think they are appropriate as a light trail running shoe as well but during dry conditions only.

Value
At $115 USD, they are priced in the mid-range of minimalist running shoes. With this shoe, you are purchasing the peace of mind of VB’s puncture resistant sole and the best proprioception in footwear that money can buy. If this shoe fits you comfortably—without the creasing on the top of the foot—this shoe is absolutely worth this price.

Summary
The One is VB’s ultimate on-road running performance shoe. It was in development for three years and is the result of extensive research and development in the proprioception department. The outsole has one of the best ground feel of any of the running shoes that I have reviewed to date. The upper, although stylish, soft and functional, is not the most comfortable in terms of fit. The creasing across the medial top of the foot (similar to issues described for VB’s Evo in the original models) is a huge hot spot creator for me with or without socks. I’m not sure that breaking them in will soften this issue as, frankly, I’m not willing to put in the time to get the hot spot/blister, heal, and then repeat only to potentially discover that it will not soften out. However, if you find that The One is the right shape for you and there are no creasing issues, it is an excellent on-road, in the gym, or around town shoe with the best ground feel you can get.

To find out more about The One, you can check out VIVOBAREFOOT’s website.

VIVOBAREFOOT Jing Jing Review

The most comfortable and simplistically stylish ballet flat
VIVOBAREFOOT has made some of the most comfortable shoes that I’ve had the pleasure to review and I can now count the Jing Jing casual, ballet flat among them. I’ve had extreme difficulty finding a simple, stylish, truly minimalist shoe that I can wear with fancier outfits that does not rub holes in the tops of my tender toes. Until now. And for once, I’m not the only one that feels that way. At a recent wedding, where I was test-wearing my review pair of Jing Jings, the bridesmaids were both wearing them as well and for long into the night when even the bride had ditched her heels!

Quick Details
Price: $75 USD
Width: Average to Extra Wide
Sole Thickness: 3 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3 3/8 ounces or 96 grams
Insole: None
Sizing: 6–10.5; Check website for new sizing
Category: Women’s Casual

Comfort & Fit
Absolutely every aspect that I qualify in the comfort department is surpassed by the Jing Jing. All the edges are soft with just enough and not too enough flex, including the all important heel, which can be difficult to get just right. The material lining the inside of the shoe against the skin is wonderful and not at all abrasive. With extremely sensitive skin, it is difficult to find sockless casual shoes that have not rubbed blisters on the tops of my feet and toes and after all-day wear, my skin was blissfully happy and whole. The footbed is also soft and with just the right amount of cushioning (i.e., very little but enough to not feel any edges from the outsole) and the interface between the footbed and the upper is completely unobtrusive. Despite there being no attachments, the Jing Jing stays in place well without binding the top of my feet or slipping off my heel.

VIVOBAREFOOT seems to be changing their sizing from European to a U.S. number system on their website. The review pair is a EUR size 39 and U.S. size 8.5, and it fits me perfect in terms of length and width. I am extremely pleased with the width of the toe box as there is plenty of room for my wide feet. I believe this shoe would fit an average to extra wide women’s foot well but a narrow foot might feel a little sloppy and might not stay on quite as well.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The ground feel of the Jing Jing is amazing. Despite being able to feel very small rocks, walking on gravel was not a problem as sharp edges were muted enough to maintain a comfortable walking speed. The outsole is extremely flexible and easily bends to conform to ground contours; my feet are free to move naturally.

As a casual shoe, there is more than enough traction for dry man-made and natural surfaces. I did find smooth, wet surfaces a little slippery and took more care stepping on these.

Weighing under 100 grams, they feel more like slippers than a shoe.

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of faux leather or suede vegan material with an elasticized topline. The material itself is not breathable but because of the open design, plenty of air circulation dries sweat away from the toes. As this is a faux leather product, no leather treatment is required and a wipe with a damp cloth should clean them of dirt. For the suede models, cleaning may be more difficult if you want to maintain the brush suede look. Unlike most casual flats I’ve tried, there is no break-in period required for the Jing Jings as they were comfortable right out of the box.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is a 3 mm, non-marking, hexagonal rubber with excellent flexibility and VIVOBAREFOOT’s patented puncture resistance. Although it appears while not wearing the shoe that there is a lot of toe spring, while wearing them, I am not the least bit aware of any because the outsole is so flexible. As with all VIVOBAREFOOT products, there is no arch support designed into the shoe and has a completely flat footbed.

Overall Quality
Although I have no doubt that the sole is high quality material, the upper material seems a bit thin to say they will last a long time. In addition, this thinness also allows creases produced during the manufacturing process to be visible from the inside of the shoe to show on the outside of the material. Albeit, these are only visible upon very close inspection, it is still noteworthy.

Style
I adore the simple yet fashionable styling of the Jing Jing. As mentioned above, I wore them all day to a recent wedding as did the bridesmaids (had there been an all-white model, I’m sure the bride would have worn them, too). Their elegant style makes them an ideal casual flat for just about any casual or office-appropriate outfit for those of us who prefer minimalist design. They are currently available in five colours including black, dark brown, yellow, and pink leather as well as a taupe suede.

Uses
At a wedding, at the office or walking errands around town, the Jing Jing is perfectly styled and exceptionally comfortable for all-day wear. If you’re the type of barefooter looking for a simple and packable shoe, these also foot that bill as they are easily stowed in a handbag or purse. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a summer occasion that these would not be a fantastic casual shoe choice.

Value
At $75 USD, they are priced at the low end of the minimalist market and competitively for a quality, casual, ballet-type flat. Considering their stylish versatility for around town, summer function or office wear, they are well worth their price in value.

Summary
VIVOBAREFOOT has created another fantastically comfortable, functionally fabulous, and beautifully styled product in a niche that is sorely lacking in minimalist options. The Jing Jing is one of those casual shoes that goes with just about any outfit and can be used for almost any casual—and even not-so-casual—occasion. It was awesome for me to see two bridesmaids wearing the same shoe as me and they both attested to their comfort, packability, and style as well.

For more information or to purchase the Jing Jing online, you can check out the VIVOBAREFOOT website.

ToeSox Five Toe Kirra Sandal Review

A ToeSox twist on conventional flip flop design
Have you ever wanted to try flip flops but aren’t a fan of the single-post design? That pretty much describes me. When I saw the new ToeSox Five Toe Sandals with a 4-post design, I was instantly interested. The company was kind enough to provide a pair of Kirra sandals for review and, although not exactly a minimalist shoe by my (rather strict) definition, they are a cool option for summer sandal wear.

Quick Details
Price: $39.95 USD/$44.99 CDN
Width: Narrow to Extra Wide
Sole Thickness: 15 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 5 ounces or 142 grams
Insole: None included
Sizing: 5–11; Full sizes only; Fits true to size
Category: Sandal

Comfort
Physically, the Kirra is quite comfortable as all the upper materials that touch the skin are soft and the footbed is grippy and squishy. Functionally, this sandal is not comfortable as my feet were tense with every step trying to keep them from slipping off, which they did as soon as I relaxed my feet to a comfortable state. I was hoping that with the 4-post design, tense feet would not be an issue but it was. I did not have to scrunch my toes with every step to keep the sandal on, like with a conventional single-post flip flop design, but the top of my foot was tense instead to keep the posts between my toes. With every step, the back of the sandal slaps the bottom of my feet, which after a while, does not feel nice. To keep the sandal from slapping, scrunching my toes actually worked but then my toes had to be tense and that wasn’t comfortable either. While walking, the heel of the sandal drags against the ground because there is no attachment keeping the shoe in place in the back. That would be my strongest recommendation to make this a more comfortable sandal: add an attachment to the back so the toes and tops of the feet don’t have to work so hard to keep the shoe in place.

Fit
Functional comfort issues aside, the Kirra fits quite well with just the right amount of spacing between the toes, a wide enough surface area between the denim upper attachments for a wide midfoot, and an adequate footbed length for my heel to be cradled and my toes to not slip of the end. This sandal will probably work very well for a wide range of foot widths from narrow to extra wide. The cupped footbed in the heel is a nice touch to keep the back of the sandal in place laterally (if not vertically).

Barefoot Feel
The yoga mat footbed absorbs any ground feel so don’t be expecting to feel rocks or ground contours. In fact, I could barely tell the difference between walking on a concrete sidewalk and the grass next to it.

Upper Qualities
The sandal upper is a washed denim strap with a textile liner, three lateral elastic posts made of two elastics each, and a non-stretchy fabric medial post surrounded with plastic tubing, which minimizes the width of the material between those toes. They are all solidly attached to the footbed. If you need to wash them, I’m sure that a machine wash on a gentle cycle and air dry would be easy for these materials to handle.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of three materials: a yoga mat footbed, two layers of a dark and denser but still squishy synthetic material, and the outermost rubber traction layer. The footbed is a squishy yoga mat material with a bumpy texture for foot grip. It rises at the edges of the heel to cup the rear of the foot in place. Although from the medial side, it appears as though there is quite a rise at the midfoot, but I don’t feel any obtrusive arch support underfoot. The denser, middle layer is thin at the forefoot, thickest at the arch, and 1 cm thick at the heel. Upon measuring the height of the outsole at the forefoot and the heel minus the raised, cupped edges, both measurements are 1.5 cm tall despite appearances from the side. The outer rubber layer is 3 mm thick with an additional 1 mm in grip depth for traction. The grip pattern is a clever ToeSox company name and logo.

Where the middle, denser layer is the thinnest, the outsole is the most flexible. At the arch, at its thickest area, it is not very flexible at all, and a little more but not very at the heel. Overall, there is little flexibility which also deters from ground feel.

Overall Quality
The quality of the materials and manufacturing is excellent as there are no flaws in the review pair. I am confident that the upper will last a long time. However, because of the lack of heel attachment that causes the back of the outsole to drag on the ground with every step, I don’t think the heel area of the outsole will last long. After a few short walks, it is already significantly worn on the lateral edge where it drags the most and is down to 2.5 mm from 4 mm.

Style
The simple style of these sandals is probably my favourite feature. I love the look of the washed denim and their elegant curves. They are a great looking casual flip flop with a 4-post design twist. The Kirra is currently available in four colours, including soft black, blue, and purple as well as a pure black.

Uses
As I don’t find these sandals very comfortable functionally, I wouldn’t recommend them for long walks. However, if you’re used to a flip flop-type of sandal and want to try a funky new design with a comfortable feel and squishy footbed, the Kirra could be a good choice for you for casual summer wear.

Value
At $39.95 USD, the Kirra is priced kind of high for a simple flip flop sandal but that is not what they are. They are a great looking, quality material and manufactured sandal with the purpose of gently aligning your toes and providing a little more attachment than a regular flip flop with their 4-post design. If you live in sandals all summer, these might be worth a try for something a little different.

Summary
The ToeSox Five Toe Sandals are a great twist on the conventional flip flop design with 4 toe posts rather than just one. Although an interesting idea, my feet still had to be quite tense to keep the sandals from slipping off. I never was able to forget that they were on and just walk comfortably and naturally. If the sandal had a rear foot attachment, I think I would like them very much as I find the footbed and upper quite comfortable, and I do like the look of them quite a bit.

For more information on the Kirra or to check out the other models in the Five Toe Sandal line, you can check out the ToeSox website.

To purchase ToeSox products in Canada, you can find retailers by calling 1-888-756-7798 or email info@toesox.ca. ToeSox is exclusively distributed in Canada by Kloz.

New Balance Minimus HI-REZ Review

Ingenious Engineering Meets Minimalist Footwear Technology
New Balance has truly outdone themselves in the engineering department with the new HI-REZ. The shoe boasts many innovative new technologies and really does deliver on a sensational barefoot feel. I love how this company continues to push the limits of minimal design and raise the bar with each passing season and new model introduction.

Quick Details
Price: $119.99 USD
Width: Narrow to Wide
Sole Thickness: 8 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3 ¼ ounces or 92 grams
Insole: None included
Sizing: 5–14; Half sizes available; Recommend trying the fit
Category: Road/Light Trail Running

Comfort & Fit
The HI-REZ definitely feels more like a sock than shoe. The “FantomFit” upper is extremely flexible, soft against bare skin, and practically seamless with only the lateral edge of the tongue disconnected from the rest of the upper. The footbed/fabric outsole is also soft with no obvious edge between it and the rest of the upper. The shape of the HI-REZ works extremely well for my wide feet; despite the appearance of a pointy toe box, there is plenty of wiggle room for my toes. I very much enjoy the way the whole upper hugs my foot like a sock and the laces allow for customizable foot-hugging adjustability. Although the edge of the collar is quite thin and with no extra padding, I’ve never felt like it was sharp or digging in, much like the edge of a sock, actually.

Sizing is crucially important when it comes to this shoe; the wrong fit will feel cramped if too small and sloppy if too big, more so than with other shoes because of the softness and flexibility of the upper and fabric outsole. I have read numerous reviews that say they fit a half to full size short or long as well. Although I normally wear a size 8 in New Balance shoes, I think I could have used a half size larger in the HI-REZ. For me, they fit as close as a sock while sockless and a little too tight with the thinnest pair of toe socks. Although the inside material of the HI-REZ is very soft, while both running and walking sockless, I did get blisters on the tops of several toes. This is very common for me as I have extremely sensitive skin and most closed shoes will cause this issue. However, I found that wearing socks in them was uncomfortably squishy and a size up with thin socks would probably be the best fit and circumstance for me. I have no doubt that if you spend more time sockless in shoes, this would be no problem at all for you (I just have crazy sensitive skin).

There is no insole included with the HI-REZ as that would defeat the purpose of the innovative pod-designed outsole—which is to maximize a barefoot feel with the protection of a lightweight shoe.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The ground feel of the HI-REZ is AMAZING! The EVA pods mechanically bonded to the flexible fabric base allows you to feel every ground contour 1.5 X 2 cm at a time. If your soles are quite sensitive, you will likely feel the flat tops of the pods compared to the flexibility of the fabric between them. I found the difference in texture mildly distracting at first but not annoying in any way. They definitely have more ground feel than any running-specific minimalist shoe I have reviewed to date. I feel like my feet can move naturally within the flexible upper and with the flexible outsole design.

As the EVA pods (the pink in the review pair) and the rubber overlays (the green in the review pair) both have a bumpy texture to them, they definitely have a grippy feel to them on man-made and natural surfaces. I would not recommend them in mud but dry or wet smooth surfaces are not a problem in the traction department.

Weighing under 100 grams, these feel practically weightless and again more like socks than shoes.

Upper Qualities
The upper is full of innovative properties from the “FantomFit” material to the support structure formed by the hexagonal print pattern fused to the underlying breathable mesh. The burrito-style, one-side tongue is also a great feature, adopted from the Minimus Road ZERO, minimizing seams and edges. The upper is extremely breathable and slight breezes can be felt through the shoe. Water also goes straight in the shoe but also right out again for fast drying. There is no break-in period for the shoe as they are so incredibly flexible right out of the box. As for shoe care, I wouldn’t recommend sticking these in the washing machine as perhaps the pods may dislodge from the flexible fabric base but I haven’t tried it myself, I just wouldn’t do it with my review pair.

Sole Qualities
The sole is certainly an ingenious engineering piece of shoe technology. The 42 independent midsole pods are made of a high abrasion EVA with additional outsole rubber post-applied in high-wear and abrasion areas for extra resilience and traction. Each pod is 8 mm thick by 1.5 cm tall and 2 cm wide. The pods are mechanically bonded to a durability coated, flexible fabric base. There is no other minimalist product with anything close to this kind of design and the feel is certainly unique and proprioceptive. The fabric outsole flexes as easily as a sock and the pods protect from sharp (but not pointy) objects. There is only the thin footbed overlaying the fabric outsole and pods allowing ALL ground sensations through (one pod at a time).

Overall Quality
The quality of materials is downright space-aged. The quality of the manufacturing is as excellent as the engineering is innovative. Even the interface between outsole and upper is unique with a completely unobtrusive stitching process and reinforcing rubber wrapping around the perimeter of the shoe. As for longevity of the shoe… I have no idea how long these will last nor whether the thin fabric mesh will fail first or the EVA outsole pods. I have noticed that after a half dozen or so walks and short runs in them, the EVA pods without rubber reinforcements are already showing a bit of wear while the rubber overlays are not showing any. There is 8 mm of pod to wear through, so this might take considerable distance, depending of course on how hard you land and if you push off with each step.

Style
I really like the sock-like, space-aged look of the HI-REZ. There is nothing inherently flashy about the style until you look up close and see just how unique almost EVERY aspect of the shoe really is. I love the design of the overlay and how it maximizes breathability while also providing structure to the upper. The HI-REZ is currently available for both men and women in three colourways each allowing you to pick how loud you would like your conversation-piece, innovative footwear to be, from a subdued black and grey to a vibrant orange and white.

Uses
The HI-REZ is designed strictly for on-road walking and running. There was an insert included with the shoe that read essentially, “Not intended for off-road use.” Do not expect the fabric base to protect the bottoms of your feet from pointy objects that get between the pods because it will not, nor was the shoe design intended for that. Running on trails with small, sharp rocks and/or, more importantly, evergreen needles, may not be a good idea if you expect your soles to remain intact.

Running on wet surfaces was an interesting experience: rather than water reaching my foot from the top down, water reached my feet from both the top and the bottom. This is a feature to keep in mind if you are planning on running long distances in wet conditions. Water did rush out as easily as it rushed in but your feet will be wet from all directions.

Value
At $119.99 USD, the HI-REZ is priced at the mid-upper range of the minimalist running shoe market. If you value technology in your shoes, this model is an obvious choice. If you value a superior barefoot feel, this model is also an obvious choice. If you value shoe durability and extended wear, only time will tell if this new model stacks up to some of the others in its minimalist class. As I value a comfortable fit, great ground feel, and the ability for my feet to function naturally in my shoes, I would definitely be willing to pay this price for this shoe as it fulfills this criteria exceptionally well.

Summary
The New Balance Minimus HI-REZ is a marvel of innovative footwear engineering in a comfortable, functional, and stylish package. This strictly designed on-road running shoe is intended for experienced minimal consumers looking for a barefoot feel paired with lightweight protection. The HI-REZ delivers in comfort, proprioception, and natural foot movement. Although not intended for off-road use, on-road runners wanting to try the latest in minimalist technology will enjoy the engineering featured in this model.

For more information or to purchase the Minimus HI-REZ, you can check out the New Balance website.