- 20% off coupon added at bottom of post!
The Kigo "Shel" is a minimalist shoe that has not received the attention some other minimalist shoes have. This is unfortunate because this shoe, while not designed specifically as a minimalist shoe for running, is a very good option worth considering.
Before I begin, I must always add the disclaimer- I am a barefoot runner. My preference is to always run barefoot. I view shoes as a tool to help run when conditions are not conducive to barefoot running because of weather or terrain. For me, the perfect minimalist shoe must have two qualities: it must have a flat, thin sole that will allow me to feel the ground and it must allow toes to splay when the foot comes in contact with the ground. I will assess the Shel based on this premise.
At First Glance: The Shel looks somewhat like a high quality aqua sock (or beach shoe depending on naming convention.) The shoe consists of a slightly flexible upper and a rubber outsole. Some have compared their apprearance to rock-climbing shoes.
Close Inspection: Upon close inspection, the quality is much greater than aqua socks. The upper material is not as stretchy, the sole is thicker and of a much higher quality rubber, and the stitching is excellent. The shoe is very light.
The Fit: I received the largest pair Kigo makes: size 11.5. This pair is slightly too small. Even with the insole removed (my standard practice), my feet had little extra room. While it was possible to get a feel for the shoe's performance, it would be diifficult to run more than 15-20 miles due to foot swelling. Regardless, the fit closely approximates my Vibram Treks. The shoe hugs your foot like a glove. This allows your foot to move in a very natural way with minimal interference from the shoe.
Sizing: The Shel runs small. Normally, a size 11.5 would have ample room. The 11.5 Shel is snug. I would recommend ordering at least one size larger, maybe even 1.5. They will stretch a bit, but a larger size will allow for slightly better "barefoot" performance.
Toe box: The toe box is slightly narrow. The material and sole did allow my toes to splay, but not to the degree of Vibrams or Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot's shoes. If I were to make one single improvement to the shoe, I would add a few millimeters to the toe box width.
Sole: The sole appears to be relatively thick, but proves to be somewhat deceptive. At it's thickest point below the heel, the sole measures about three millimeters. Ground feel is better than expected, but not great. It is on-par with Terra Plans's Evo and Vibram Treks. The one disappointing feature- the heel is raised about two millimeters above the forefoot. This slight heel raise is noticable. The sole would be MUCH better if it were a uniform thickness close to the thickness of the forefoot area.
Traction: The traction is excellent on asphalt and concrete, and very good on wet surfaces. Traction on trails is not as good; it is about the same as Vibram's KSOs.
Durability: Durability is almost impossible to predict. I rarely wear my review shoes for more than 100 miles. As such, my durability assessment is more of a construction quality assessment. Having said that, I believe the shel should last longer than most traditional running shoes. Quality is definitely much higher than even the best aqua socks I've encountered. The materials, stitching, and consistency are all top-notch. I would be curious to hear more reports of this shoe's long-term durability.
Price: The retail price of the Shel is $49.99. This is one of the most pleasant apects of this shoe. I would consider this to be a serious minimalist running shoe. Compared to it's competitors, this shoe is a very good value.
Conclusion: The Shel is one of the better minimalist running shoes I have encountered. For barefoot runners looking for a good shoe to approximate barefoot running, the Shel would be a very good choice. The shoe could use some improvements to make it more effective. The toe box could be widened slightly and the raised heel could be eliminated. I would also like to see larger sizing. Being limited to size 11.5 (closer to 10.5 in actual sizing) eliminates a large chunk of potential customers. This shoe would be ideal for people with smaller feet that either do not like the articulated toes of Vibrams or cannnot find them due to availability issues. The price is very good considering the quality and the cost of competing shoes. I would give these shoes my stamp of approval.
Look for Kigo's new line to be released soon. The new line will feature some models with a wider toe box which will result in an even better minimalist running shoe.
The Shel can be purchased here. Enter "BAREFOOT" at checkout and receive 20% off! This coupon code will only work for a week, so hurry!
This product was supplied by the manufacturer.