As an introduction, I will periodically be posting these reviews of various products and brands.
At the end (a few months), I will publish all of the reviews in a PDF and make that available to anyone who wishes.
Note that I am reviewing products that I have done a good bit of research on First before including them in my list of products to review so I am anticipating most all of the products will receive favorable feedback (these are not 'blind' tests).
Also, all reviews will be posted on my blog and on my facebook page as well (The blog will include all the pictures)
This is my first Shoe review this round
(although I did review the VFF Bikilas vs VFF KSO’s a while back).
Today we have the VIVOBAREFOOT (Terra Plana) Neo.
First off, let me say that this is my second pair of Terra Plana/VIVOBAREFOOT
shoes and I am very impressed with the company’s direction they are taking.
They have had their VIVOBAREFOOT line now for going on 8 years now
(certainly ahead of the curve).
What I really like is that with each new shoe they put out,
they are listening to minimalist minded people and addressing their concerns –
getting better each time.
First impressions were great. The shoe is just a great looking shoe. I am a minimalist shoe and barefoot runner and let’s be honest… the good shoes typically ARE going to get you all kinds of attention, but the not the attention a fashion minded individual may want…
• The sole is not soft and squishy (a good thing), but everything around your foot (achilles/heel, sides, tongue) all felt very cushy and comfortable.
• The sole may not look like much, but I found it to be amazingly tough! After running a week on concrete, asphalt, crushed rubber (track), grass, and trail you couldn’t even tell I had used them at all!
• A small benefit that took me a little while to put my finger on were the laces: the laces are set slightly farther forward (not coming up as high on your ankle) and slightly wider apart (wide tongue) allowing the shoe to be laced very loose while remaining secure. This allowed the shoe to be worn without any tension or squeezing on the top of the foot or the front of the ankle like you get in traditional lace up shoes.
• The upper is a ‘different’ material. “Airmesh and microfiber”, as they call it. It’s like thick mesh. What it did was keep all debris out and even kept water out (I noticed after I had run through a puddle that my feet didn’t get wet even though I assumed they would get soaked in this mesh looking shoe – it was only after that that I noticed VB market it as “water resistant”). Also, for a water resistant shoe, it breathed very well. That said, it will, of course, not breathe quite as well as a full ‘summer mesh’ shoe. To me, it’s a good balance. It allows me to run comfortably each day in this crazy weather we’re experiencing here (literally over the span of 2 weeks we’ve had days of 93 degrees and days of 48 degrees).
• The Neo is said to have a 4mm sole. 4mm is certainly a great thickness for a minimalist shoe and without the insole the ground feel was quite good. With the insole (probably increasing the sole by nearly 50%) the ground feel is still exists, but is marginal at best. I say this because many people (like me) reading this will want to feel every pebble under their foot (no insole), but there are those out there who simply do not, and for them, the marginal ground feel will with the insole will be a plus.
• The Neo is a light shoe, as traditional shod shoes go, however, in terms of minimalist shoes, it’s a touch on the heavy side. Mine register right at 8oz a piece. To give some reference here, the Fivefingers range from around 5.6 oz to 6oz a piece, however, keep in mind that an Asics Kayano tips the scales at just under 12 oz a Piece. With that said, the stated weight (8oz) actually surprised me – I did not personally notice the increase in weight that significantly, but would obviously prefer it a bit lighter. If you are a barefoot runner, you will notice the weight slightly heavier than you are used to. However, if you are typically a shod runner, these will feel much lighter than anything you are currently used to.
• By far the biggest + of this shoe is the width. The toe box is extremely wide (all the way out to the end of the toes-not just where the toes join the foot) and allow for maximum toe splay. Not only are these shoes wide at the toes, but they are quite wide the entire length of the shoe. If you have wide feet, these shoes will be perfect! In fact, many would be minimalist runners complain that they can’t wear any minimalist shoes due to their extremely narrow last – not the case with these! Width wise, these are the best in width of any minimalist shoe I have seen so far.
Now, time for some opinion: many people will love the wide from heel to toe build of these shoes. For me personally, it was a bit of a turnoff, from a running shoe perspective.
Again, this is preference only, but I prefer a shoe to fit more glove-like around my foot with width reserved for the toe box (for splay).
The other thing was the padding: the padding was not on the bottom of the shoe, so it didn’t affect the run, but the padding around the top and edges of the shoe combined with the width just didn’t do it for me. I felt like I was running in a pair of old airwalk skater shoes. With that said, I Love them as a casual shoe. They look great, they have decent ground feel, zero drop sole, no arch, perfect for jeans… just not, for me, as a running shoe.