Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vibram FiveFingers Smartwool Classic for Warmer Winter Toes (preview)

UPPER - SmartWool Cozy with
67% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon
SOLE- EcoStep 2 rubber with 50% recycled content
FOOTBED- SmartWool Felt 2mm with
95% Merino Wool, 5%Polyester
My feet turn blue even on summer evenings. Doesn't bother me. Much. I like going barefoot, and socks just mean slipping on wood and tile floors in the house. But it would be nice to be less blue of foot. I think vibram may have developed a solution: make their classic slipper like version with smartwool upper and felt liner. Voila, the smartwool classic. So here's a wee preview of this new vff, with a few notes on fit.

Wool: it's lovely Now i dig smartwool as a company. It uses marino wool for everything from toques to socks. I love my smartwool toque that i got in Santa Fe nearing on 10 years ago. Durable without looking aged (ie, ratty) and very cozy.  The shoes have the same sort of feel. In fact the feel very soothing just stepping into them. Performance, but with an emphasis on the kind of comfort only wool brings.

Recycled Sole Another thing about the shoe that's interesting is that the sole is 50% recycled rubber.  That's nice.

Pull Tab. And i dunno why but i can actually use the pull tab elastic on this version of the classic and not feel it biting into my ankle. Many folks actually cut the cord as it were when using classics because of this. For some reason, - maybe the back rubber behind the pull is a bit thicker - it's a functional device on these ones.

Testing Fit. I'm happy to trial these out - i had hoped for a similar result with the performa, but that shoe and i just haven't been a strong and happy mix. Not that that driver's glove for one's feet that the performa/moc is, is not a lovely shoe; the fit just didn't come together perfectly for me. But my cousin now loves me even more for having passed them on to her. So i'm hoping the smartwools that i have on right now will work - the toasty feeling in this cool room is just what i've been seeking.

The Longer Toe Issue: Where's the hesitancy in my voice? Fit. The smartwool is the same sizing as the the classics. That said it's not the exact same fit. Speaking with the kind folks at City Sports in Boston about the differences, Alison said "It's the big toe, isn't it?" yes, i said, exactly. The big toe (sorta like the performas were). You may find that where you usually have some extra room on a regular classic, ya just don't in the smartwool - especially if you are sizing from a longer than big toe toe. If you order these online, be sure to check your vendor's return policy as you might want to get your usual classic and one up to make sure.  These are wool uppers: they're going to stretch, that's true. But they'll stretch wide, not long.

Now when i one upped the size with the performa for the toes to fit better, the rest of the foot was just too loose. Hence the gift to cousin. For those of us with longer than big toe toes - this shoe  (like the performa) *may not work*  But that may depend as well on just how much longer the toe is: the one on my left is not as much longer than the one on the right, and the left feels perfect, beautiful, lovely. But the right foot is likely bigger than the left, too along with the longer toe, and it is both the big toe and the longer toe where - all i can say is i'm "aware" of those toes.  Will this sensation go away? i don't know.

With no other VFF to date have i had any issues with toe sizing. The bikilas (my huge concrete running, good looking fave) are just awesome. KSO's same thing. Sprints, yes. Standard classics fine, flow, fine. What's with the revised classics (performan/smartwools) that the toes feel a little - well - something.

It was a show stopper on the performa; don't know if it will be here.

And here's the other weirdness: i have put the soles of these smartwools right up against the standard classics and matched them groove against groove. THey are - as far as i can tell - exactly the same length on everything. So how weird is that?? I just know when i put on the regular classics i have no toe awarenes on the right - indeed i can squish the big toe cap a bit - there's room at the top of the toe; put on the smartwools - no squish and toe awareness. Will it go away?? Or will these shoes just go back?

And here's the funny thing: wearing socks feels pretty good too! Dunno what's going on. These are wild and crazy shoes.

UPDATE - le recherche: well, after wearing them back and forth indoors for hours, testing with and without socks, alas that right foot shoe feels like it's just not making happy with both the big toe and the long toe, so i've had to return them. Sigh. Just like the performa. I'll try to find out why these fit differerntly than the other classics.

Recommendation:  for folks with no toe issues looking for a cozier shoe for kicking back at home - or just something kinda funkier for dress wear - these are a goodie.

PS - the Sport Trek - quick overivew
Also tried on a TrekSport today. Maybe it was the black, but i just didn't go for it. Here's why: it has a KSO'ish upper (tho different material - still mesh) and the trek's sole. That may be perfect for hiking about in the summer - the mesh is really really nice on these - but coming into the fall, i'm not sure they'd be a much used shoe.

Here's the thing. The bikila's (discussed here) have become my fave running-on-concrete/frisbee playing/looking fine shoe. I really LOVE these shoes (tho they sure pick up a stink more than any of the other VFFs. Wow).

Compared with the KSO, the kso have a 2mm insole and a 3.5 mm outsole. The Bikilas have just a wee bit more sculted love with a 3mm insole and 4mm "anatomical pod" outsole. That's just about as thick as i want to go for what i do in the city and on the grass. The advantage of the slight treading on the grass is that unlike the standard vff soles, these do not slip about. Nice effect for stop and start movement.

Now the TrekSport has a 4mm eva midsole and a 4mm outsole with the nobly tread. I feel like i noticed that extra thickness. And again, for what i do, not needed. If i were living close to a trail and running in the woods in warm/hot weather, these would likely ROCK.

In the interim, i am still keen to try a woman's KSO Trek for fall/winter - just for foot warmth - to extend outdoor season. And the lovely thin SportTrek Uppers just won't do that.

Aren't all these new models wild?

Anyway there's new good stuff (and familiar stuff) at Vibram FiveFingers. Hope you'll check it out.

FIT in general
And if you're keen to learn how to fit these things, and what they fit like with sock, here's an overview, and here's a way to test any shoes for foot health. PLUS a whole lot more articules on the VFF experience over - gosh - approaching two years of living in VFF's.

If you try the smartwools, please stop by to share your experience.


Anonymous said...

I used to have Smartwool Classic before. I don't have it anymore because I gave to my cousin and he so loves it--and so do I. I actually bought another pair of VFF similar to Smartwool and it's called Classic. It feels great wearing these shoes because it emulates the feeling of running barefoot. In fact, I customized it by adding colors and some cool shape designs to make it somewhat personalize or signature shoes. Check out the finish project here

- Stas ^_^ said...

KSO Trek is no warmer than the KSO. You'll find that Bikila probably carries more warmth. Leather is very thin, and there are ventilation holes. Absolutely no water-resistance. ;-)


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