Vibram Fivefingers SeeYa LS Review: Fit, Feel, and First Run Thoughts

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.

Vibram Fivefingers SeeYa LS

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).

Vibram Fivefingers SeeYa LS Top

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.

Vibram Fivefingers SeeYa LS Sole

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.

Summary

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!

The Vibram Fivefingers SeeYa LS is available for purchase at Road Runner Sports – click to view men’s and women’s models.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Hello Pete,

    I’m about to become a newbie in barefoot running. I’m in the research process, and I thought Vibram Five Fingers were the only shoes that approached the bare-foot experience…

    Since this is going to be my first experience, it’s probably that any pain, damage, blister, hurt, etc., that I will suffer I will think it was made because I’m a newcomer to this kind of running and that I have to adapt.

    Now that I read your posts, I see that there are some models that causes pain, abrasion, blisters, etc…

    What would you recommend to start running “almost barefoot”? I will want to know for sure that all the pain is for the transition to running “barefoot” and not because I chose a wrong model…
    Your advise is very appreciated…
    P.S. It doen’t have to be Vibram five fingers… any good brand.
    Thanks!

  2. Doug Robertson says:

    This is a great review. My concern with these (I currently run in Bikilas) is the extreme lightness of the shoe means the pads will wear out faster. Thoughts?
    Also, what would you say is a comparable shoe minus the toe sockets?

  3. Pete,

    I bought a pair of Bikilas a few months ago that have since been relegated to yard-work shoes. More on that in a moment.

    Prior to buying the Bikilas I seriously considered the original SeeYa but had serious reservations about the durability. They felt great on but seemed too flimsy to hold up. So, I bought the Bikilas instead.

    When trying the SeeYa I was wearing a 41, and they seemed perfect. This in spite of most of my toes, first and second especially, touched the ends of the toe socks. When trying the Bikilas I was in a 42, which had a little more room but not a noticeable amount.

    Having just worn through a pair of Trail Gloves I was not a newbie to minimalist shoes. Nonetheless, I chose to be conservative on my inaugural Bikila run and kept it to two miles. This was a good thing as by the end of the two miles I had a large blood-blister on the bottom of my left first toe. I had not had any such problem with the Trails Gloves.

    After a few more short runs where my first toe continued to take abuse, plus general discomfort between the fourth and fifth toe on my right foot the shoes got relegated to the yard.

    I struggle with the whole concept of individually wrapped toes. In my limited experience there is little flexibility for the toes to splay naturally, but for inside each toe sock. Ultimately I concluded my feet are just not built for 5 Fingers shoes.

  4. ricardoromell says:

    So I always have been running in VFF’s and recently started breaking in the Seeya LS, I blindly got the same size i always buy with VFF’s i.e. 41 lo and behold tho i think the material in the seeya LS has no tolerance for stretching a lil bit due to impact. Doing a HM training run i cracked my toenail and finished the last km and a half barefoot. I guess i should have come across this article earlier and go a size up.
    If u guys know anyway i can continue to use these shoes over long runs do let me know (Yes i use injinji toe socks) the reason being here in Mumbai, India the humidity is really high and you sweat profusely. A wet sole causes grip issues and a wet shoes lots of abrasion with the skin.

  5. I have a pair of the original SeeYas, and I have placed them in the “occasional” pile of minimalist shoes I own. I ran 6 miles in them last week, and I’ve been able to feel them limiting my 2nd toe on my left foot in its range of movement (resulting in a sore 2nd metatarsal head). I have no such issue on the right foot. Also, the top seam in the 5th toe on the left side abrades the top of my little toe to the point of bleeding; I usually just put a bandaid on to cope with it.

    Otherwise, I will continue to run in them maybe once a week while the weather is still agreeable. They don’t have enough insulation for my taste, and I’m concerned that excessive running in near-freezing temps may cause other problems.

    I also have the Trail Gloves (love them on trails), and Road Gloves (also a good shoe, my only complaint is that the sole is a little too hard for extended runs).

  6. bdizzlefizzle says:

    Great review, Pete. I have 2 pairs of the originals, and also get the abrasion you’re talking about. My assumption was always that it was connected to the attachment point of the velcro strap (or that I had over tightened it or something). Reading your review of the LS makes me second guess that. Incidentally, I tend to run with Injini socks on, which doesn’t stop this from happening (though it’s MUCH worse without the socks). It happens much more when running outside, as does general burning and blistering on anything more than 3 miles.

    I find that I can move my toes really freely in them, but I now prefer Adidas adipure Gazelles (thanks for the recommendation), and feel even freer in those.

    I have also found that durability of the sole is poor in the SeeYa. My older pair has two pretty bad areas of damage on the sole after maybe 50-70 miles on them (mix of treadmill and asphalt).

    As for size, I can’t get KSOs that fit, but these fit perfectly in a 42. Same for the Bikilia (though I get really weird abrasion pain in my big toes with the Bikilas even when walking and had to get rid of them after fewer than 5 miles run on them). It’s clear to me that the sizing of Vibrams is not consistent across models. This is super annoying since they use their own sizing, so you’d expect them to be consistent within themselves. No dice.

    I like my SeeYas, but I’m not sure I’ll run with them other than on the treadmill again.

  7. Pinkdonuteater says:

    I think that when I run in my bikilas almost all of the shock absorption is coming from the calf-achilles complex, which I think is poor at mitigating shear stress. Because of this I also tend to get a hot spot on my left foot at the distal 1st met. When I run in a shoe with even a little bit of cushioning this doesn’t really happen as I think the shock absorption of the foamy cushioning underfoot mitigates both compression and shear stress. I still do some runs in bikilas because I find that they’re still the only pair that I can really do good formwork in.

  8. David Henry says:

    I’ve had similar problems with a 2nd met ache in both Vibrams and in the Merrell Barefoot line to where I’ve since sold all of these shoes that I own. My best working theory is that both of these shoes use a very close, glove-like last and the soles usually wrap up around the sides. These seems to shift pressure fromt the 1st met to the 2nd met for me. I actually had a 1st met problem on my left foot that I was working through and running in Merrells completely alleviated it, instantaneously. However, about a month after running a lot in my Trail and Sonic gloves, my 2nd met on my right foot started hurting and will get sore if I run in them or VFF to this day. I concluded that the last and construction of the shoes were such that they were off-loading my 1st met and putting more load on the 2nd met. Any shoe that has a sole or midsole that wraps up on the edges (like a bathtub) causes this for me regardless of brand. When the footbed is flat all the way till it meets the upper I have no issues. That’s my current take…glad I’m not the only one with issues with them. Thought I was the weird one.

    David

    • Pete Larson says:

      Interesting theory, will have to run in the Trail Gloves again and see if it happens in those – been a long time since Ive run in them

      • David Henry says:

        Another thing I should mention after I got to thinking about it is that part of the offloading of the 1st met may take place because many of these shoes the sole is not present in the arch area and so there is a length fit with a width fit that has to be spot on or the shoe will push your foot one way or another. I find that with the Merrells and VFFs that my first met sits on the sole edge where it cuts in toward the arch and this seems to have the potential to push it toward the 2nd met a little and I think not allow it to load on the medial side as much as it does in other shoes not designed this way. I don’t think the suspended arch is the problem, it is the edge of the sole hitting my foot in the wrong spot (i.e. still touching part of my 1st met instead of completely behind it).

  9. Steve Allat says:

    Thanks for the review! : )
    I am currently wearing KSO’s and having no major problems.
    Was glad to hear you mention the Injinji socks as I do have some blistering in any running shoe on my little toe,and heard mention of these socks on a podcast last week (either Trail Runner Nation or Runner Academy or Marathon Training Academy) and forgot the name!

  10. John Yanzuk says:

    I’ve had a similar problem. The big toe may be migrating too much towards the 2nd toe and that seems to take the arch out of the equation. I’ve tried a small wad of tissue between the 1st and 2nd toes, taped the two together, and that seemed to do the trick. My problem was more left foot than right, and I also realized that I tended to favor the right side of the road too much.

  11. I have been running in Vibrams for the past couple of months with great success. I’m up to 4 mile runs! In the past when I have attempted to run, I would get shin splints constantly which would cause me to quite running. I had a pair of Vibrams as a gardening shoe and when my shorts wouldn’t button at the end of August I took off running in them. No shin splints ever and I am now up to 12 to 16 miles a week in the Bikila Ls. The local running store suggested that if I plan on running past 4 miles that I should have a shoe with a bit more padding. So I bought a pair of Altra Instincts. After only running 2 miles in them, I got shin splints and a twinge in my right knee. I waited a couple of days and attempted to run in them again and turned around after only 3 blocks. I slipped on my Bikila’s and ran 3 miles no problem. What do you think? Should I stay with the motto “if it aint broke don’t fix it”? or if I plan on running longer distances, keep trying out shoes with more cushion? Thanks for your input.

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