FiveFingers 'Casual Shoes'

By STEPHEN REGENOLD
In a more cynical time, the new shoes debuted last week from Vibram would have been the butt of a very funny joke. They would have made for a good final touch with a clown costume. Indeed, take a close look. These are casual brown lace-up shoes and leather boots. . . with articulated toes!

Today, in an era where barefoot-style running is in vogue and Vibram FiveFingers shoes are a near religion for some, the company can get away with making dressy shoes with toes. These are FiveFingers for wearing to the office. Says Tony Post, the company’s CEO, “Our new casual footwear introductions [offer] dedicated consumers more alternatives for all aspects of their daily lives.”

Vibram FiveFingers Wool Boot.jpg

FiveFingers’ Cervinia model, a “cold-weather lifestyle boot”

In 2007, Time magazine named Vibram FiveFingers one of the best inventions of the year. Then the barefoot-running craze took off. Vibram’s “shoes with toes” became a mega-trend, and Mr. Post — who pushed me personally in a meeting years ago to look seriously at FiveFingers for running — has a place now in the pantheon of people who forever changed the running world.

I use FiveFingers on occasion to train and strengthen my legs and feet. Though I am not an evangelizer like some, I know the value — and have seen the measureable results — of Vibram’s minimalist approach.

But the casual line, I think, has gone too far. The new styles for 2011, which come in men’s models and a boot for women, are just strange. They cost up to $160 per pair. Maybe some people are so in love with their VFFs that they need to wear them all day, not just while working out. I am a fan, as I said, but am no where near that committed.

Vibram FiveFingers TrekLS.jpg

TrekLS “comfort shoe”

But Vibram cites it is simply “answering overwhelming demand for casual models.” So be it. Sell more shoes. That’s the point, I realize. Now, after my editorial, here are some details on the new line. . . .

The men’s TrekLS model is a $140 “comfort shoe” made with (for further mystification!) distressed kangaroo leather. You lace them up and tie them with a bow. The men’s Bormio is an ankle-high boot also made of kangaroo leather. They have a zipper in lieu of laces to seal up on the side. These casual kangaroo zip boots — with articulated toes, of course! — cost $160.

Vibram FiveFingers Bormio.jpg

FiveFingers Bormio zip boot (made with kangaroo leather)

For women, the $140 Cervinia is a “cold-weather lifestyle boot.” It has a calf-high upper and a treaded rubber sole. There’s a 5.5mm foam midsole to add cushioning and warmth.

Finally, the new Speed model has a somewhat retro running-shoe look, with white, black or blue mesh and a contrasting tongue. They lace up and come in men’s and women’s models for $100 a pair.

Vibram FiveFingers Speed.jpg

FiveFingers Speed model

The new VFFs are not made for serious running. As stated, they are “lifestyle” shoes and designed for everyday use. Wear them grocery shopping or to pick up your kids at school. Ask your boss at work if they fit into the dress code. I am betting they’ll pass the inspection by H.R. If nothing else, these VFFs are sure to get you a ton of attention around the water cooler, no doubt.

—Gear Junkie’s recent barefoot coverage includes stories on Vibram FiveFingers “foot gloves,” Kigo Minimalist Footwear, the $175 Newton shoes, Merrell’s barefoot-type shoe, “spy photos” of New Balance’s to-be-released barefoot shoes, and a controversy involving Inc. Magazine and a marathon Gear Junkie ran in barefoot-style shoes in 2007.

Posted by Lorne - 01/28/2011 11:10 AM

Gotta agree with you on this one, they’re getting a bit carried away, but I guess they have to sell shoes. And I am someone who wears his Vibrams all day. Though I’ve had some durability issues with the Kso treks, I like the shoes in general.

Posted by josh - 01/28/2011 11:53 AM

Yeah, too far. I’ve been running in VFFs for a few years (KSOs and Bikilas) and for that and other related sports they’ve been nothing short of awesome, but that is really all I wear them for and I have no desire to wear them, or any of those models, otherwise. A decent casual minimal shoe needs to be light, have as close to zero as possible with regard to heel to toe drop, decent ground feel and a nice wide toe box, but separated toes, in my experience, don’t really come into play for casual wear.

Posted by TQ - 01/28/2011 12:49 PM

See, I can understand the practicality of the cold-weather boot. I was actually just thinking it’d be nice to have Vibrams meant for colder weather; where I live, we get a lot of snow, and I don’t leave the house in anything other than knee-high boots if I can possibly help it. I’ve refrained from buying Vibrams on account of how completely useless they’d be to me right now.

Posted by Dave - 01/28/2011 03:10 PM

This is fantastic! I’m always sad when I have to change from my Vibrams into something more work-appropriate after my morning run, as I know that the shoes I’m changing into aren’t nearly as comfortable. I realize that these casual models are going to have a bit more material and will not be quite as light on the foot as the regular models, but I’m betting that they’ll still be more comfortable than what I currently wear around the office. I’m fully on board with giving these shoes a try.

Posted by Matt Caron - 01/28/2011 03:52 PM

This is perfect. Sneakers are banned at my workplace, so most of the existing models wouldn’t work – I was thinking of getting a KSO in kangaroo leather and seeing if anyone noticed, but the Bormio is perfect – there’s no fleshtoned lack of socks to draw the eye.

Posted by Aaron - 01/28/2011 04:24 PM

As someone who owns 4 pairs of Vibrams, I actually find myself a bit torn. I love the things – and try to wear them all the time, including at work (which thankfully doesn’t care what kinda footwear we have). But the whole perk and reason behind them is feeling close to being barefoot and having the dexterity of toe and foot movement. One of the pairs I have is the Sport Trek, which has a thicker sole than the others, and I find that partially restricts toe movement. Not terribly mind you, but noticeably more than the other models. The new insulated models look to have even thicker soles for warmth – 5mm, so I would think movement would be even more restricted, and thus I question why one would bother with individual toes if you can’t move them about. Now, the casual models aren’t bad so long as the soles are no thicker than the Sport Trek, but with the Bikila and other models, I wonder why the bothered with another running shoe?

Posted by Richard Norman - 01/28/2011 05:48 PM

Last August I purchased my VFF KSOs and I have never regretted it. They are amazingly comfortable. I run, surf and work out in them all the time. I highly recommend them!

Posted by Josh Galt - 01/28/2011 07:36 PM

I am STOKED about this. There were fakes on the market that laced up for the past year, it’s about time Vibram answered demand. I never thought ANYTHING could pull me away from Nike, but I live in these things and am glad they’re making some casual / dressy ones that look cool but stay true to the whole concept behind going barefoot (hopefully). And those knee-high chick boots are hot…I hope they get them into Latin America soon.

Posted by Lipripper - 01/28/2011 10:43 PM

I live in Anchorage Alaska and I don’t see anywhere what good the snow boots temperature goes down to before your feet are solid ice

Posted by E Burgess - 01/29/2011 03:56 AM

I’m really excited to see the new offerings. I wear Vibrams not because I run or exercise, but because they are the only shoes that don’t cause my back to hurt. I’m just a stay-at-home mom and the majority of what I do is just walking around and picking up my kids now and then (which I minimize due to sciatica). The Vibrams allow me to be in my 30s again, which I am, instead of feeling like I’m already in my fifties and using a cane. So I’m really glad to see the new offerings and know some of them will be on my santa list for next year!

Posted by Isaac - 01/29/2011 12:47 PM

Source? There’s nothing on the VFF website about any of this.

Posted by James - 01/30/2011 07:09 PM

I wear nothing but VFFs except when I run with my huaraches. I only hope Vibram doesn’t abandon the other models and the reasons I love my VFFs.

Posted by Gear Junkie - 01/30/2011 09:36 PM

Isaac — Source was Vibram communication/press dept. This is to-be-released line.

Posted by Steven - 01/31/2011 08:59 AM

Dear Stephen.

You deny it but I have the feeling that you are an evangelizer!

I thought I might give five toe shoes a try and I love it. Running is kinda light in them and after getting used to it my feet don’t feel tiered at all.
I also wear my KSOs as regular shoes but you might live in Texas or California where it is never cold. But here in Germany we have 14°F which makes them unusable as regular shoe.
Even Running with socks feels cold and I need to speed to get the warmth back.

But standing in a Stadium or walking to a pub HURTS.

“But the casual line, I think, has gone too far. The new styles for 2011, which come in men’s models and a boot for women, are just strange.”

Toe shoes are different not strange.
Id love to pick the TrekLS or Borimo. Not for running but for the daily use.
Normal shoes became uncomfortable to me. Normal!!! shoes feel narrow and clunky.

Why so negative about the new models?
Last year we had -4°F. Yes I want to se you wearing classics then ;)

No a nice leather shoe for work, studying and shopping. great. and the thicker sole will protect my feet from the cold as it is the FALL/WINTER lineup.

When we have summer again I still can grab the classic.

Posted by MissChievousRN - 01/31/2011 09:53 AM

i think its a great idea and i do think there is just as big market for the casual line. i love my vffs for running and almost bought a pair for work but then i saw the inov8. since im a nurse, the moulded silicone is much more practical and im hoping the sizing will be more 4giving and stretchy.
other than that, i go barefoot anyway so i probably wont invest in the casual shoes. im too much of a girl to give up my heels for going out and my lifestyle, luckily, doesnt require much more
my biggest concern about the new casual line is that the company cant keep up with the demand for the basic models! i would much rather see them filling orders than fussing around with new styles.

Posted by kiara - 02/01/2011 03:24 PM

I’m actually happy to see this. I’ve always thought that if they were good for running, and trail running then a boot that you could wear in the woods while hunting or other cold weather stuff would make sense.

Posted by PJK - 02/15/2011 10:07 AM

I do not like the Bormio but LOVE the other three! My husband and I call our kangaroo Treks our “Sunday Go To Meeting Shoes” and wear them whenever we can. I love my Vibrams!

Posted by Zanshin - 02/25/2011 02:05 AM

I understand that for some people thin soles are the main attraction, especially for running; for me they are lovely but not as crucial as toe room.

The main reason I like VFFs is the articulated toes. All women’s and most men’s shoes, except for some Keens, crush my toes into unnatural positions, and Keens have ridiculously thick soles. Being able to use my toes correctly in VFFs on a daily basis has strengthened my previously flat arches and cured my foot and back pain.

Two years ago I was wearing Sprints as my everyday shoes; since this past fall I’ve been wearing Treks as my everyday shoes. Because I want to be pain-free in as many situations as possible, I think it’s great that Vibram is making more models on the dressier side, even if they’re using the less comfortable thicker soles.

I live in Virginia, so the Cervinias should be warm enough in the winter and will look fantastic while they’re at it. $160 is a perfectly reasonable price for a fashion boot – though I’ve never bought any hitherto because they’re all so uncomfortable.

My main unfulfilled wish is for a low model that looks appropriate with a skirt. Performa Janes with a Sprint or perhaps Jaya sole would be great. As it is, I’m stuck with Sprints, and the Jaya LRs don’t look much better.

Posted by Harmen - 04/12/2011 12:39 PM

Sure hope they fixed the smell problem.

Posted by Ws - 07/08/2011 02:56 PM

@Harmen
Just wash them like any other garment. Be sure to stick the velcro together or you’ll have a vibram bolo in your washing machine.(also hang dry)
I’m mystified by people complaining about the smell. How often do you wash your other cloths? What do you do with anything else that smells/looks dirty?

Posted by Kelli - 07/22/2011 10:02 PM

I have two pairs of VFF’s and I have to say I like the new line up. I really like the boots, I am planning to get a pair. These are the only shoes I wear anymore, but seeing that I live in Ohio, it’s kinda hard to wear them when there is snow on the ground. Looking forward to the Boots. Since I have been wearing my vff’s My back and hips no longer hurt like they use too. I think they are an all around great shoe, which I happened to find by accident. Both of my kids have them, they wear them to school. They both love them!!

Posted by Brian - 08/24/2011 10:03 AM

Honestly these new models are exactly suited to my needs. If you have been wearing your VFFs for every part of your life as I have and not just for working out you can see the huge technical improvement in all-leather toe pockets for a men’s lifestyle shoe. In the colder months I switch my classics out for treks for added warmth (sometimes even with socks) but a major problem is when it gets wet out. Accidentally stepping into any tiny puddle or getting caught in the rain invariably makes my toes wet and they immediately get cold. When I’m running that doesn’t matter but when I’m out partying it does. The closed leather toe pockets are much more practical for everyday use and prior to these models I had even been trying to modify my brown treks to partially seal up the toe pockets to give me just an extra 2 millimeters of water resistant material. The new models are exactly what I wanted. I have also torn the fabric in between the toes on old treks, treksports, while hiking and playing basketball and I suspect that the leather will be much more durable over time. The Trek LS might be a more suitable shoe for hiking, for example, and not just for wearing around. Finally these are much more low key shoes (the men’s options) than any previous VFFs. This could help reducing the number of people that notice them and ask the same annoying questions. Get over it, they are very comfortable shoes with loads of health benefits.

Stephen, how can you say they’ve gone too far? Can they go any further than they’ve already gone? Isn’t a shoe that looks this way much less daring compared to the other models when you wear it around? Seems like you’re missing the point here.

Posted by Redditor - 01/11/2012 08:20 AM

http://i.imgur.com/sjs8b.jpg

Posted by Tamiko - 11/12/2012 08:56 PM

Does anybody know where I can get a pair of Bromio boots or the cervinia boots? I live in the northeast where we get a lot of snow and cold weather and I find that with my KNO’s for the first time I can walk without my cane and I really would love a pair of boots to keep my feet warm and dry. Thanks

Posted by Russell Scott - 02/18/2013 09:37 PM

Where can I get a pair of the bormio fivefinger crazy horse winter zipper boots

Posted by Russell Scott - 02/18/2013 09:37 PM

Where can I get a pair of the bormio fivefinger crazy horse winter zipper boots

Posted by Mr. Melvin Lee - 12/18/2013 12:36 PM

Are your FiveFingers Bormio zip boot (made with kangaroo leather)and FiveFingers’ Cervinia model, a “cold-weather lifestyle boot”still available? I can be reached at (719)290-5269!

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