Help me save my sole
July 5, 2011 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I need to find a pair of minimalist footwear (barefoot shoes? What are these things even called?) that will last out the summer.

Unlike previous Ask Mefi questions on the subject of Vibram shoes, I'm looking for something a little bit more pedestrian; I don't run, I just walk; to work, to the store, to the bus. Right now, I'm wearing a pair of Vibram Fivefingers that I just flat out love. They're awesome. However, they wear out waaaaay too fast. I've had these for two months, and there's a hole in the sole near the outer edge of my right foot.

I want to find a pair of barefoot-style shoes that will provide me with both the comfort of being essentially barefoot and the durability to last me say 4-5 months instead of 2. I'm not asking for miracles, here, but if I can only replace these once a year instead of two that'd be fantastic.

For what it's worth, although I like the fivefingers style, I'm not wedded to the toe thing; it's the thinness of the sole that I want.
posted by ChrisR to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Ever tried Luna Sandals? I haven't, but I know a few barefoot shoe enthusiasts who switch between these and their Vibrams depending how much toe freedom they want on a given day.
posted by phunniemee at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2011

Here is, they have a large breakdown of brands and shoes. They have a forum as well for reading up or asking questions.
posted by MansRiot at 8:37 AM on July 5, 2011

The problem is, the running shoe sites all share one big implicit assumption: That the shoes will not be worn full time, only for the running part of the day. I'm wearing these things sometimes 12 hours a day.

Does anyone have feedback on shoes like this that work when worn that steadily?
posted by ChrisR at 8:40 AM on July 5, 2011

I wear the Merrell Trail Gloves and have since they came out a few months ago. In addition to wearing them all day at work, I also use them for running and conditioning work. Super comfy, huge toe-box (I found VFFs too constricting for my toes) and I haven't noticed any real wear and tear to the shoe.

Technically, they are trail running shoes so they actually have a puncture plate up near the forefoot. This probably helps a bit with durability.
posted by Loto at 8:54 AM on July 5, 2011

I've had a pair of Vivo shoes for a few years. They have lots of styles from minimal sandals to almost formal. My particular model isn't sold anymore, but they've been tough as nails. Great for travel as they are so light. Very nice trail/hiking shoes.
posted by bonehead at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2011

I am too cheap to buy FiveFingers (and thank you for telling me that they wear out pretty quickly, that's what I was worried about.) I run in cheap $5 fake aquasock type things. They have them everywhere, they are comfortable and they are $5. They wear out kind of quickly, but so what?
posted by artychoke at 8:57 AM on July 5, 2011

I got one of these: kits last year.

I haven't worn shoes except for one day so far this summer. (When I forgot these sandals at a friend's place.)

I don't wear them 12 hours a day. I take them off and actually walk barefoot whenever I can. They're great for biking and walking around in the city. The thing about 'barefoot' is you might need to slowly work up to comfort in these shoes. At first the laces will rub. Your foot, ankle and lower leg muscles won't stand up well in the first few days coming from shoes with a footbed. But it will get better.

I really like them, and at the $20 price point they're not gonna break the bank. But I'd walk everywhere barefoot if I could. These are the most acceptable non-barefoot thing I've tried so far.
posted by kjell at 9:00 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Both of those sound interesting; the Vivo ones, however, seem to be sold only online and in New York, which is... a bit of a rough commute for a Seattlite :)
posted by ChrisR at 9:01 AM on July 5, 2011

If you walk a lot it is a bit unfair to require a single pair shoes to last forever and meanwhile still give you a barefoot experience. Consider in perspective that your foot skin sheds daily, and that over the course of one month you can produce and shed 5mm worth of skin layer. To last this long a shoe sole should be at least that thick (if using the same texture as skin) or be much harder.

Vibrams are absolutely brillant, but you might want to use several pairs in rotation.
posted by knz at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2011

knz: I'm not asking for forever; I'm asking for one summer :) I fully expect and am willing to replace my shoes annually, but not bimonthly.
posted by ChrisR at 9:07 AM on July 5, 2011

... also, fivefingers are bloody expensive.
posted by ChrisR at 9:07 AM on July 5, 2011

"There's a hole in sole, like a cavity..."

Have you considered getting replacement Vibrams? They have a 90 day warranty if you have a receipt. (Although it takes 7 to 10 days for processing if you don't do the return at a store.) I can't comment on how strict they are because I was about to exchange mine due to a tear in the toe but then lost them on the train one morning.
posted by mkb at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2011

I'd love to, but the receipt got lost in a move, and I'm pretty sure I bought them a bit more than 90 days ago (I didn't wear them right away because I screwed up my ankle and was off my feet for a while). So, no go there :/

Vibram's customer contact site only allows 140-ish characters in the message field, too. WTF.
posted by ChrisR at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2011

Like Loto, I've been getting a lot of mileage out of my Merrell barefoot trail running shoe (in my case, it's the Pace Glove). I'm wearing them hiking and just about town and they are fine. The sole on this line seems pretty solid; it will definitely last you more than a couple of months. Although - that might just mean it's a bit thicker than the Fivefingers, so you might want to try these on in a store and see how you feel about them.

Maybe take a look at the men's leather version, too. It's got a leather upper (so, you know, looks like a shoe, and should be durable) and the Vibram sole.
posted by pemberkins at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you already have Vibrams you love, there's a guy on eBay who sells some for between $45-80.

I think alternating between two pairs would last you much longer than two pairs worn constantly . . . but I may just have some silly idea about shoes benefitting from a day of rest . . .
posted by MeiraV at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2011

I wear my Five Fingers about six days a week, and sometimes run in them, and they have lasted over 18 months with little sign of degradation. I have concluded this is because I only hand-wash them, though.
posted by michaelh at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2011

Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers
posted by axismundi at 9:55 AM on July 5, 2011

I have New Balance Minimus shoes that I adore. I only wear them for working out, but they are quite sturdy and I'd imagine they might last a little longer than Vibrams?
posted by so_gracefully at 10:08 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend Sanuks, but axismundi beat me to them. They're ridiculously comfortable, sturdy, and can be washed in the dishwasher if they get foot stank. Only problem is that they're a bit pricey.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2011

I used to own vibrams, but I wore out both big toes. Maybe you could wear what I'm wearing, the unistrap Chaco sandals.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2011

I like them because I have no qualms with stomping through puddles while wearing them, thereby replicating the barefoot experience.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2011

Note: Sanuk's aren't even close to the feel of the Vibram sole. They are thick, like a real shoe.
posted by Loto at 11:49 AM on July 5, 2011

Thanks, Loto; that's what they looked like, so I was leery.
posted by ChrisR at 1:07 PM on July 5, 2011

Very, very minimal shoes: I often wear lyrical dance sandals if I have to wear anything on my feet. They're not designed for streetwear, so I coat the bottom in liquid electrical tape with a little texture, and just re-apply the coating when it starts to wear thin.
posted by galadriel at 1:16 PM on July 5, 2011

My husband uses a combination - huaraches (like the Luna sandals, but homemade) for everyday running and working around the house, Vivos for work and occasionally Vibrams for running on less sandal-friendly terrain. The huaraches are cheap and easy to replace and last pretty well. The Vivos were a bit of an investment but they've also held up well. The Vibrams get worn out fast, but he patches them with a bike tube repair kit, which he says lasts around 50-100 miles.

If you don't mind the look of them, the huaraches are comfortable and the cheapest to do - especially if you get a big sheet of the sole material (this will make easily make multiple pairs as long as your feet are shorter than 11.4").
posted by waterlily at 1:28 PM on July 5, 2011

I have Jingas which I love. It's like wearing socks outside. I have the old style which aren't durable, but the "Jinga Originals" now out are better. Getting them from the UK will set you back about $90 however.
posted by yeti at 3:03 PM on July 5, 2011

How about these (or these)? They're not particularly durable but they're extremely comfortable and usually very cheap, although the toms ones are severely overpriced (they usually go for 5usd or 10usd in south america), maybe you can find cheaper options close to you, they go by the name espadrilles i think (or alpargatas in spanish).
posted by palbo at 5:04 AM on July 6, 2011

« Older Help me remember a historian   |   Refill cartridge for thrifted pen: "PIC non-dry... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.