This review was originally posted on Sept. 26, 2011 in The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy‘s blog. Worth a visit if you want to learn about new running shoes and gear – he’s reviewed a ton of things.
My very first real product review. More to come!
Back in January I was looking for a casual minimalist shoe to wear on a business trip. My company sends me to trade shows a few times a year, and I have to stand and talk to people for 10 or 12 hours each day. I love my soft faux-leather flats but they don’t last, and Aldo started putting a kitten heel on the one I always buy, subsequently killing the reason I loved them so. At some point I stumbled upon the Kali on vivobarefoot.com (I think it was actually because Christian was giving away a pair to one of his readers so I checked them out), and ended up ordering them in black (they don’t have black anymore – I wonder why?). I wore them to the show and they were everything I wanted in a work shoe. And SO COMFORTABLE! I left the trade show each night without sore feet/back/legs, which is a lot more than I could say for my work buddies. That was eight months ago, and I have been wearing them two to three days a week since then.
The Look and Feel
I gotta say, these kicks are stinkin’ cute. They are classic without the boring, and the available colors are just darling – I’ve been eyeing the beige/lavender ones for weeks. They are made of high-quality nappa leather that hasn’t broken down at all over these months of wear and weather, and I’ve never used any leather protector products on them. I just have some creasing in the toe area, which impresses me because I tend to beat up shoes pretty quickly. Their simplicity is perfect for everyday wear, with jeans, slacks, skirts, shorts and leggings. I love the look of the wide toe box, very boho-chic, and I’m grateful for the room to accommodate my extra-wide barefoot runnin’ peds. I wouldn’t be quick to recommend these to people with very narrow feet, you might be flopping around in them. But then again that may be the reason for the elastic band over the top. At first I thought I’d have to cut the whole thing off, because I figured it would annoy my very high instep like all other elastic straps. But it didn’t – it’s actually quite supple and has a lot of give. The fit is snug for me but not constricting. I will admit I do get a mark across my midfoot by the end of the day, but it doesn’t cause any real discomfort.
Downside: the first couple of weeks in these guys was a little rough. The leather isn’t soft enough out of the box, so like most good pairs of shoes they need to be broken in. I had a pretty nasty blister on my heel for a while, but now they’ve turned into something like mary-jane-style foot gloves.
Minimal Enough for Ya?
Vivobarefoot’s commitment to the minimalist movement shines through quite well in this product. The Kalis have an exceptionally flexible, zero-drop, 3mm sole and they weigh only 5.5 ounces. I have been tempted to go for a run in them, they feel so much like my minimalist running shoes! The Kali comes with a removable insole (see pictures – sorry for the dirty worn-in shoe pics…but hey at least you know they last!). Leave it in and I have a ground feel similar to my Vibram FiveFingers Bikilas. Take it out and it’s like walking around in my FiveFingers Classics. I chose to leave the insole in because I’m not as much of a stickler for ground-feel as many other folks are. Also, I like to take out the insole and machine-wash it periodically…because I’ll tell ya, running or not, if you don’t wear socks with your shoes you’re eventually going to start wondering what died in them. Or maybe it’s just me. Hm. Either way you can replace the insoles for $15, which I’m thinking of doing soon.
I should mention that although the hexagonal-patterned rubber soles have not worn down at all (!) since I bought them in January, they do make a lot of squeaky noises when I walk on slick surfaces. I sound a bit like a basketball player scuffing my sneakers on a hardwood court. Sort of weird but not a deal breaker. The manufacturer’s details say that the thin sole sacrifices some traction, but I have actually found they have terrific grip – the first month I wore them there was 36” of New England snow and ice on the ground and I had no slippage problems whatsoever.
What’s in a Pricetag
The hardest detail to swallow about the Kali was the price. Sure, I’ve spent $100 on my running shoes and I’d do it again. I’ve spent $250 on a fantastic pair of fashion boots, no problem. But the $120 pricetag on a pair of flats was a little tough for me to swallow. And coupled with the fact that I can’t buy them in stores (they’re sold out of the UK), it was a hefty risk that I wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t fit. But I took the risk and I found the fit true-to-size (I’m exactly between EU38-39, the 38 is perfect), and I consider the long-lasting quality well worth the sack of change. I may not have to buy another pair of casual minimalist shoes for another couple of years….but I’m not promising anything because that Venus style is looking mighty fine in purple.
I hope that this review has been helpful. If indeed I have helped along your decision to purchase a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, please show me some love by entering VIVO’s site via my blog. You can do that by entering any of the links on this article or by clicking the VIVOBAREFOOT banner to the right. Thanks so much and happy running!