22 June 2014

The Long-Awaited Shoe Review

So a couple years back I discovered that companies were making minimal/barefoot shoes. I like the idea and since then, I haven't purchased any other shoes.

Here's the rundown on the ones I own.

I'm a big fan of Vivobarefoot shoes. They are extremely minimal and have a nice, wide toe box. I've owned many pairs, but right now I'm down to three.

Vivobarefoot Neo
My first pair was the Neo. I basically destroyed them. I wore a hole in the sole, ripped a chunk of the sole near the toe and grew out of them. I don't know if I grew out of them because of my feet being freed from constricting shoes or if it was a product of taking testosterone. Or perhaps they were small to begin with, and I didn't really notice until I realized how shoes were meant to fit. Anyhow, I really like the sole on the Neo, it's called amphibious I believe. It's quite thin, but still has nice grippy nubs. The Neos worked quite well for parkour and hiking. They're terribly ugly though.

Vivobarefoot Off Road Mid complete with off road mud.

I use the off-road mid for my winter/wet weather hiking. They are (were, now) waterproof, so I'd just wear them with gators and keep the wet out. They aren't insulated though, so if I'm snowshoeing or hiking on snow and I stop moving, my feet get cold. I do keep the insoles in to help a bit with that. The lugs on the bottom distract a bit from the ground feel, but they do help to keep from slipping in snowy or muddy conditions. After two winters, some of the seams let in a bit of moisture and a few of the lugs are coming off. I need to find a waterproof and insulated minimal boot for next winter.

Vivobarefoot Aqua Lite
My next pair of Vivos are the Aqua Lite. They have the thinnest soles, very little grip there. I use them for casual wear and often for parkour, though I'm afraid too many climb-ups will wear through the soles quickly. I love the wide toe box. They are probably my most comfortable shoes.

I briefly owned some Breatho Trail shoes. They were inexplicably too big without the insoles (and I hate insoles). Also, I decided I didn't like the lugs for everyday use. They work well for the winter, but not so much for general hiking and trail-running. 

Vivobarefoot Freud
The canvas Freud shoes complete my Vivobarefoot collection. They are solely for casual wear. I've changed the laces to make them blend in more. The sole is similar to the Aqua Lite, but slightly thicker. I'm not as worried about wearing them out quickly.

After I wore out my Neos, I wanted to find a good hiking/trail-running shoe. I already mentioned trying Breatho Trail and deciding against them. I considered another pair of Neos or other Vivos with the same sort of sole, but either the price or the general look of the shoes turned me off. So I decided to look at other brands.
Merrell Trail Glove
First I found a pair of Merrel Trail Gloves for a very reasonable price. I found out quickly that they aren't so good for hiking/trail-running due to the narrow arch. I wore them for part of a fourteener hike (Sherman, I believe) and the scree kept poking my arch. I have rather flat feet and the shoes just don't provide enough protection. I do like them a lot though. I turned them into my work shoes once my original Neos wore out. I wear them 40 hours a week and they're quite nice. When the weather was cooler, I'd go for runs on my lunch break. These shoes work well on pavement and non-rocky paths.
New Balance MT10
So my search continued. Recently I went to a local running store to get some ideas and try some shoes on. I felt a bit bad just trying things on then leaving, but I found the New Balance Minimus Trail 10 (MT10). And I found out that I'm not actually and 8, I'm an 8.5. I don't know if it's my feet having grown, or perhaps I just don't know how to fit shoes. Anyhow, I came home and bought the MT10s online for half the price. Initially, I didn't know if I would like them. After wearing them about five minutes, the band around the forefoot started to make my foot ache and cramp. I worried that I should have purchased a wider size, which they totally have. But after some trial and error, I found that I just need to keep the shoes very loose. I actually slip them on and off without untying them. And they don't slide around when I run either. I am a huge fan. Mostly because of the color, but also the feel. After getting the lacing right, I love how much toe splay freedom I have. I love how ventilated they are. I wear socks, but I'm sure they're fine without as well. They aren't zero drop like my other shoes, but I actually don't even notice the 4mm difference from heel to toe. I've already hiked around 13 miles (half the trail up Pike's Peak) and they performed wonderfully. I can't wait to take them out again.
Inov-8 Bare XF
I also own a pair of Inov-8 Bare XF shoes. To be honest I got them mostly because of the colors, but also because of the very minimal sole. They are quite nice to look at, but they aren't very comfortable to me because they are far too narrow. This seems to be a trend for Inov-8, making very sleek and "fast" shoes. But my feet are quite wide and need a bit more room. I still use them for some of my runs around the park, and for casual wear. The soles are very thin, nearly as thin as the Aqua Lite, and much slicker.
Unshoes Pah Tempe (template B, I believe.)
My final shoes are Unshoes. I'm on my second pair and I love them. I have the Pah Tempe style which resemble Chaco sandals. I'd been a huge fan of Chacos and the foot tan I'd get each summer, but they had a painfully high arch and or course a rather tall stack height. I learned of Unshoes and fell in love with the idea. Partly because of the minimalness and the similarities to Chacos, but also because they're inspired by Tarahumara huraches. Having spent time in Mexico with the Tarahumara, I'm familiar with huraches. I often hike with the Unshoes, but for hikes with a great deal of scree, something with more foot protection is obviously preferable. On hikes I generally bring both my Unshoes and another pair- now the MT10s- since the great thing about minimal shoes is that they are super light and therefore a negligible weight to carry.

Thus concludes my footwear collection. As I mentioned, I need to add a winter hikers back to the list since my current pair is no longer suitable. But for now, I'm happy. Ready to go beat up my new MT10s.

1 comment:

Abby said...

Nice review. I like the looks of your vivos as I also require a wide toe box. I mainly shop for minimal running shoes, and I have a pair of barefoot merrells for work. Happy hiking!