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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vibrams 2011 Models... Really?

Back in the day, I loved Vibram's Five Fingers shoes for their simplicity.  The design looked peculiar, but the shoes served the purpose.  My circa 2007 black KSOs are still my favorite minimalist shoes I own. 

Those second generation of Five Fingers shoes (the Sprints, KSOs, and Flows) were tremendous from a functional standpoint.  Okay, the Flows sucked.  The other two were great, though.

The next generation was hit-or-miss.  I love Treks, though I still haven't purchased a pair.  The Performa and Bikila suffers from thicker soles and decreased flexibility.  The Mocs lack durability.  Vibram seems to be developing shoes more for form than function.  If that isn't bad enough, it seems as if Vibram's quality control was slipping.

I was holding out hope that this trend was a temporary setback from an otherwise brilliant company.  That hope died when I saw pictures of the newest Vibram models for 2011:


Jaya

Komodo Sport


Bikila LS

All three models look pretty sharp.  I especially like the aesthetics of the Komodo.  However, all three have the silly foot pads on the soles.  I have not found dimensions at this point, but I am assuming all three have soles thicker than the original KSOs. 

Vibram, your pandering to the masses has diluted your product.  I think I may be looking for a new "favorite minimalist shoe" company.  Terra Plana is doing some great things, and I can't wait to try Ted's new Luna Huaraches.  With all the other minimalist options being developed, Vibram may have sealed their fate as the industry leaders by deviating from their formula for success.

On an unrelated note... here's a sneak-peak:

20 comments:

  1. Ugh! Vibram needs to stop messing with the sole. I love my KSOs, but I was thinking about getting a pair of the Bikila--until I saw them in person and felt how stiff they are. Might as well get a regular running shoe!

    What Vibram should do is go the Apple Computer route and offer more colors. Don't change the product--simply offer more color options!

    I would love it if they let us customize our color options on their site. I'd buy a new pair right now and I don't even need to. My KSOs are still rocking.

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  2. The Jaya has peaked my interest. Looks like a hardened version of the Moc.
    I'll def pass on the other two though. And of course all will end up being priced ~$140 and so I'll end up passing on all of them.

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  3. I have 2 pairs of KSOs and I like walking in them...running is okay, not great. I prefer my huaraches I made. The Five Fingers take away too much sensation from the road.

    I'm tempted to try following these directions, though, for making myself some minimal shoes:
    http://r2w.us/8v

    Might not use as much on the bottom as they did, but worth playing around.

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  4. I agree. I think Vibram's ship has sailed. My next minimalist shoe will be someone else's. Skoras maybe or who knows who. Not Vibrams, if this trend continues.

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  5. I like the Bikila's alot. I wear the KSO's the most and the Trek's rock for trails. I don't see Vibram eliminating their old models. The foot pads are not much thicker on the bikila's. They might even be helpful as they have some space in between to give a bit, but I'm no expert. Sure completely bare is best in most circumstances, but until these are tried, I'd suggest keeping it at wonder. They are tinkering with design to have a pair for everyone and everything (yeah the KSO's can be that as well). And sales. HA!

    Example of possible improvements are in the Bikila above: I have a high top of foot and the Bikila is snug. With the LS above, the laces may allow me to reduce that. So it is a plus but for others, they may not want the laces, which is usually my answer.

    The other 2 I cannot guess what they are for until it is said. One could be for Parkour even, or rock climbing, etc. As a runner, I wouldn't want some things a climber would want or a freerunner. The KSO's could be used for all those but the KSO Trek obviously has better traction and I would prefer it for now in off roading because of that alone. ANyways...

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  6. I just got my first pair of KSO's the other day, and I do like them a lot. I'm totally with you on the ground feel aspect, I thought the whole point was to mimic barefoot as much as possible. As long as they keep a couple models that adhere to that philosophy I don't care what else they do. I just hope that they don't push all the models into more padding and protection. It is weird that they seem to be taking the same kind of path Nike did: Start with a simple light shoe and then add bells and whistles you don't need. Keep the faith Vibram!

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  7. I have a pair of KSOs for walking around, and I've done a little running in them. While the soles are flexible, I still think they isolate my foot from a lot of ground feel. They also give me blisters that I don't get when running completely barefoot.

    Another thing I'm not real thrilled with on the KSO is the strap which pulls up from the arch, providing arch support -- which I absolutely don't want.

    Because of this issue, the lace-up Bikila above is an intriguing concept because it appears to offer less arch support. I've also heard from current Bikila owners that the insides are softer so as to eliminate a lot of the blister problems with earlier models.

    I may give it a try... or not, depending on how my barefoot running progresses.

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  8. That is why when I read the negative reviews of the Bikila, I went out and stock up on another pair of KSO just in case they decide to discontinue them. I now have two pairs of KSO and one pair of KSO Trek. I agree that they should just offer more color choices instead of radically changing what was nearly a perfect product.

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  9. On the one hand I appreciate their ingenuity and desire to play with the design. On the other hand I wish they'd just respect the simplicity of the product and let it simply stand, as-is. So long as they just keep making the basic KSO model, I will be entirely happy. But if they stop making it, in favor of these more "mainstream" models, I'll jump to some other solution.

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  10. I emailed this to my wife. She just got a pair of Sprints a few months ago, and is loving them. Her response, "Eh, I don't like them. They are getting away from being minimalist and staring to look like running shoes with the increased amount of tread." Love the styling on the Jaya, but we don't like the beefy tread.

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  11. The Komodo looks like it has short toes or something.

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  12. Could be that these new models are awful. But honestly, It doesn't matter. The market is breaking open for minimalist footwear and great products are going to emerge from a field of inevitable flops.

    I personally don't like a lot about my Sprints, so I welcome the innovation. Hopefully Vibram will listen to feedback like this and refine their product. If not, I'll be happy to buy a better product from another company.

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  13. Some of us live where trails have actual rocks and roots. A little bit of additional protection, which doesn't hinder the ability to run correctly, is a nice thing to have.

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  15. Wish Vibam made a version of PERFOMA Mary Jane for guys. It has a segmented more minimalist sole that is closer to barefoot. They need to a shoe in this direction for barefoot runners who need a minimal protection IMO.

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  16. I am very new to the barefoot running scene - I suspect that the UK is quite behind on this in general. Is Terra Plana the best place to start for a barefoot novice?

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  17. Vibram's Five Fingers shoes is very comfortable on foot...this is a good shoes if you want your foot to be relax even your in the game...

    brooks addiction

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  18. I've run over 300 miles in my KSO's this last year, going to the Bikila a few weeks back was definitely less phone, less like barefoot, but I do like the traction on slick surfaces.

    I think the Bikila ls and the jaya look good(especially the top of the jaya).
    I HATE the current bikila strap. I have high arches and I may just cut the worthless strap off.

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  19. I guess all the bad press for these shoes must be because this is a "barefoot" site? Me, am not a true barefoot runner. I will never develop the 1/4" callus on the bottoms of my feet to survive it. I have put about 1500 miles on my 1st pair of KSO's and really liked them but most of those miles were sets 5mi or more and the inner seams on the KSO wore through my skin in spots requiring me to tape the side of my foot with athletic tape. I have also experienced several nasty stone bruises.

    I just got a pair of Bikilas. I LOVE them. For me that little bit of extra tread does not interfere with the feel of the ground and they give me a lot more protection from stone bruising with a not to careful misplaced step. AND, the new seamless sock lining is AWSOME! no more athletic tape, a truly comfy sock less foot glove.

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