Back in the summer of 2009, the Vibram Fivefingers KSO was my first ever barefoot-style running shoe. Vibrams played a big role in my transition to minimalism, but to be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve run regularly in VFFs. The main reason for me is that I’ve had a really hard time getting the fit right – using Vibram’s foot measurement technique it’s recommended that I wear a size 41, but recent pairs that I’ve worn have been a bit too snug. They haven’t been uncomfortably tight, but my toes reach almost to the end of the toe pockets, which makes it hard to wiggle my toes when wearing the shoes. Additionally, I tend to get an ache under the second metatarsal of my right foot when I run in VFF’s – this doesn’t happen in other non-cushioned shoes, and I have attributed it to some funky effect of the toe pockets restricting toe movement.
A few weeks ago I got an email from a marketing rep for Vibram asking if I’d be interested in trying out the new Vibram Fivefingers SeeYa LS. I was initially hesitant given my recent problems with the line, but had heard that the SeeYa was a big improvement over other recent models in terms of flexibility and comfort on the run. I agreed to try out a pair, along with a pair of the original SeeYa for comparative purposes (Disclosure: both pairs I received were media samples provided free of charge by the manufacturer). I opted to size up to a 42 to see if that would help improve fit and comfort.
I’m going to try something a bit different here and do one post on the SeeYa LS which I will update as needed. Having now run in 75+ shoes in the past few years, I find that my thoughts on and ability to write about a shoe are clearest after an initial try-on and run, so view this initial post as my gut reaction. Most of the time my thoughts change very little with additional use, but sometimes a break-in period will change my feelings a bit about a shoe. I will add additional information with added use if I feel it is helpful. This will also help me get out from under my stockpile of shoes waiting to be reviewed!
Fit and Feel
The shoes arrived last week and I’m happy to report that going up a size made a world of difference. I was able to wear them for several hours the day they arrived without the slightest feeling of discomfort. I still have trouble flexing the toes down in the shoes, but my toes had an easier time flexing inside the pockets with the roomier fit (I’m still not sold on the toe-pockets being a plus).
The main differentiator between the SeeYa and SeeYa LS is the upper. The upper of the LS is a very thin, breathable synthetic mesh, whereas that of the original SeeYa feels more like a stretchy fabric (I have not tried on the original SeeYa yet – will compare in more detail when I review it). The LS’s are probably the most breathable VFF’s that I have worn, which is a good thing – wonder if this will help with Vibram-stink?
The other big difference between the two with regard to the upper are the laces on the LS vs. the velcro closure on the original. It was a little tricky getting my foot in the lace-up version, but that probably comes as much from a lack of recent VFF-putting-on practice as it does from any problem with the shoe. Unlike the KomodoSport line, the footbed of the LS is non-removable and reminds me most of the footbed of the Bikila.
First Run Thoughts
I took the SeeYa LS out for a 5 mile run over the weekend on the roads around my house – averaged about a 7:30 min/mile pace, which is about my marathon race-pace. Overall I liked the shoes a lot, and think they’re a big improvement over the Bikila and Komodos for running – however, it may just be because sizing up has improved comfort dramatically. The SeeYa LS’s are light – listed at just over 5 oz in size 43 on the Vibram website – and the sole is very flexible. The cushioning in these is very minimal, so I’d categorize it as a barefoot-style or ultraminimal shoe – as such, ground-feel is very good. I almost wish there was less rubber under the met heads though.
I had two issues with the SeeYa LS’s that may be unique to me but are worth mentioning. First, I experienced significant abrasion at the front of my arch on both feet. Had I run any further there likely would have been blood. I’m not exactly sure what caused this, but it’s in the area below the gray overlays just behind my first MTP joint (the ball behind my big toe). My guess is a pair of Injinji socks would resolve this, but I prefer to go sockless in Vibrams and wearing socks kind of defeats the purpose of the shoe.
The other big issue I had was the re-appearance of second met ache on my right foot. I had hoped that sizing up would allow more toe movement and thus alleviate this issue, but after a few miles the ache appeared once again. I have a hard time determining if it’s a bony ache or a soft tissue issue, but I lean toward the latter since it pops up only in VFF’s and the ache seems to radiate backward into the arch. Almost feels like something is pulling inside my arch.
Minus the abrasion and met ache, this is a really fun shoe to run in.
Of the Vibrams I have, the SeeYa LS is the lightest, most flexible, and most breathable, all of which are very good things. Comfort is excellent, though that may simply be because I sized up. I have concerns about the abrasion on the arch, which may ultimately preclude regular use for running, but I tend to have abrasion issues in a lot of shoes so this may not be a problem for everyone (leave a comment if you’ve experienced this!).
My biggest worry continues to be my aching right foot when I run in Vibrams – I’d like to know exactly what it is, why it happens only in these shoes, and to be sure I’m not doing any serious damage. I suspect it’s nothing serious since it comes on a few miles into the run and goes away as soon as a stop, but something is clearly up. I plan to use them on additional runs, and to do a more detailed comparison with the original SeeYa, so we’ll see if a bit more acclimation helps alleviate the ache. That’s it for now!