Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

Review: Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa

22 Comments

I bought this pair of SeeYa‘s myself because I wanted to try them out, right now, and didn’t want to wait for Vibram’s PR crew to respond to me. They were released earlier this month and most of the running stores in my area that reliably stock minimalist shoes won’t be carrying these for at least another month. Also I only found a couple online reviews of these so far, and I know when I am thinking about investing in a new running shoe I want to hear at least 4 or 5 different opinions. So I figured I’d take this opportunity to help out my fellow minimalist runners by adding to the wealth of early reviews on the SeeYa. Yes I know, I’m more like Mother Theresa every day.

Anyway, so here’s the Barefoot Monologues first impressions the Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa.

Looks and Stats

  • The Vibram SeeYa has been marketed exclusively as a road shoe. Its design has been paired down to the bare minimum of weight and materials, making it their lightest, most breathable offering yet.
  • This is a stylish shoe, in line with the current athletic shoe trends. It comes in some of the popular bright colors (my pair is of the teal and day-glow orange variety – I can dig it)
  • My size 39 weighs in at just about 4 ounces per shoe
  • The SeeYa is exceedingly pliable and unsupportive – it’s more like a sock than a shoe, and more like a sock than all the other Vibrams I’ve tried, with the exception of the Jaya (however I disliked that model for various other reasons)

SeeYa fruit rollup

  • Easy to slide on as compared with the Bikila, and has a lightweight (so light it’s almost transparent) adjustable strap closure
  • The SeeYa upper is made from a paper-thin, soft polyester stretch mesh and some (what looks like) suede detailing around the edge of the shoe.
  • The sole is a combination of the usual TPU rubber and Vibram’s lighter TC-1 rubber. Basically it’s got a tread pattern and toe pods that look more like the bottom of a Bikila than it does the Classic or KSO models, but ends up being a lighter sole than any of them. From what I can tell, the TPU rubber is used on the parts that hit the ground because it’s a more durable material, and the TC-1 rubber is used in the arch and between the toe pads. From the bottom these look like alien feet – kinda weird, but it works. Oh, and you’ll notice in some of these later pictures that the arch area looks stiff and plasticky, which would make one think that the arch is rigid and, therefore, supportive. However I assure you it is none of those things.

Weight
These babies are just incredibly light. There’s nothing to them. When I say I feel like I’m not wearing anything, I mean I feel like I’m not wearing anything. The stretch mesh is so stretchy that it puts very little tension on my foot. It practically disappears when I’m in motion, all I can feel is the collar of the shoe at the ankle opening and the rubber soles clinging to the bottom of my feet. This is a huge positive for me because I have extremely wide feet and everything is tight. The super-stretchy fabric of the upper seems like it would be quite accommodating to various foot widths, and the strap closure can be adjusted for a precise fit.

The SeeYa is very light. But it can sometimes be difficult to tell really how light a shoe is when it’s on your foot. So just to be sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, at the store I actually tried on one Bikila (my long-time favorite) and one SeeYa and walked/ran around for a few minutes. The guys at the store probably thought I was a total ass – but it was all for the love of my readers! When I did this exercise I was astounded by the difference. The Bikila feels padded and lifted in comparison to the SeeYa. In essence, it is just a heck of a lot more shoe than the SeeYa. That’s not a jab to the Bikila either – I still love the comfy-couch factor of the Bikila, and my size 39 in them still only weighs in at just under 5 ounces per shoe. But the SeeYa seems to be built for performance, with extra attention paid to that all-important ground feel.

Fit and Performance

The fit was a bit strange and misleading, I’ll admit. My first impression wasn’t great when I tried them on at the store. I was sure I was going to hate two things about the fit: the heel and the toe. In both places, the meeting points of the super soft stretch mesh and the (relatively speaking) stiffer TPU rubber caused me some feel-weirdness. There is a short, rounded lip of rubber at the heel, and more rubber on the toe-guards that travel up the front of the toes. I could feel the rubber brushing the top of my big toe right away (even though they are by no means too small), and the mesh at the heel immediately scrunched down and caused a bunching-up of the fabric there. Both things seemed way uncomfortable to me while I was walking around at the store, and I hoped it would either work itself out after some wear or I could solve it by wearing socks. Funny thing? The second I started running in them the weird feeling went away, both in the toes and heel. I actually forgot that I was worried about the problem, that is until I was walking around the office in them later, on my way to the showers. For this reason I will probably only ever use these shoes for running.

Check out the heel – you can see how the soft fabric bunches up.

In another review I read, there was a complaint about the strap closure digging in to the reviewer’s foot, so I was anticipating a problem there. Especially because the strap, although it’s really thin and light, is made of a more rigid fabric than the upper and I could see it becoming an issue. But I typically keep the straps loose on my Vibrams anyway, and so far I have yet to feel it at all, even when I go sockless.

Alien feet

As far as general performance, I am happy so far. I ran some hill repeats in these, and I did notice my heel sliding around in them a bit when I was really digging in to my stride. This was a fairly cool day at 58 degrees. Since the uppers are made of such airy mesh, this shoe is naturally going to be great for summer running – but I wonder how much more sliding will happen when the days (and my feet) warm up.

Final Thoughts
So far I really enjoy the SeeYa, and I am pretty confident that it could become my favorite FiveFingers model. I have begun to notice that Vibram is starting to go the way of developing shoes for certain purposes, for instance this one for roads, and the Spyridon for trails. Some people don’t like this new direction, but I think it’s good, and it’s about time. In my opinion it’s smarter to have a separate thought process for each type of terrain and maximize the usefulness of its corresponding footwear, rather than try to come up with a jack-of-all-trades shoe that masters none (cough…Bikila…cough, cough).

But this isn’t going to be my final word on these. I want to write a follow-up review after a hundred miles or more. The biggest reason is because they’re so light and the sole is so thin, I think it will be important to understand how the SeeYa holds up against the other FiveFingers offerings. After two years of minimalist running I know that I have pretty good form, but after only a few runs in these I’m already seeing a bit of wear in the usual landing spots of the sole. The durability of this shoe might (or might not) be its biggest weakness, only in that if it dies much earlier the rest of Vibram’s $100 lineup, its perceived value could take a nosedive. Despite its obvious technical merits, I still cringed a little at the price vs. the amount of durable materials. I look forward to seeing how this shoe holds up on the roads this summer.

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22 thoughts on “Review: Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa

  1. Vibram should totally be sending you shoes! Great review… very thorough and informative. I have one pair of VFF’s (Flow) that I scored at Goodwill. I really like the groundfeel, but they are really warm as they are neoprene, like a wet suit. Might be cool for water running etc. But these look pretty cool… and very minimal! Did you notice any different soreness or fatigue points in your feet/legs that weren’t there when running in your Vivo’s for example? I am really interested in the Spyridon’s too for aggressive trail running.

    Anyway, thanks for the awesome review! You should totally share this on the VFF Facebook page, and find an email for their marketing dept… you are doing their work for them! :-)

    Jeff

  2. Wonderful review; very informative. I love my different VFF’s, now using them for most activities…wearing a pair of black Treks as I type. Most of my VFF running had been split between my KSO’s and Bikilas. I slightly preferred running in the KSO’s….had a strange feeling under my big toes with the Bikilas…perhaps due to the “pods?” Still, this model sounds and looks good. Glad to read that it feels good to, at least during runs. I look forward to reading your “100 mile report.”

    • I find that lot of people who start in KSOs end up not liking the Bikila. I started in Classics and they didn’t work for me for running – and then I went straight to the Bikila because I knew I’d be doing some trail stuff (this was of course before many minimalist trail shoes came on the market). And I loved the Bikila.

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  4. thanks for the review! I have a pair of KSO and wear them all the time running and casual. I was wondering if seeya would be good to do the same thing in or if they are strictly for running only? Curious as to what the life expectancy is if they are used for casual and running alike.

    • Thanks for reading, Ethan. It is yet to be seen, but my gut says these probably aren’t the shoe you want to wear everywhere, if you’re hoping they’ll last a long time. The fabric is extremely thin and stretchy, the soles are really light, even lighter than the KSO’s. Wearing the SeeYas everywhere could result in a tear in the upper or a major wear-down of the sole much sooner than you want. I would say keep wearing the KSOs for errands and stuff if you love them, and bring the SeeYas on your runs.

      • How has the wear on these been now that it’s a few months? Also, how do they fit size wise? I wear a 38 in the speed and a42 in the trek sports.

      • Hi, Vance. Thank you for remiding me that I need do a follow-up review on these soon. I haven’t worn them exclusively, so I’ve probably only put about 50 or 60 miles on them. So far they aren’t showing too many signs of wear, except the strap has curled from being packed into bags and won’t go down all the way anymore. the soles are rubbed a tad here and there, but nothing like I expected at first. Also I don’t use these on treadmills or trails.

        As for sizing, I almost always wear the same size in Vibrams, 39. I haven’t yet run into a pair that I need to wear a different size, with the exception of my classicss – 38. Because of my super wide feet, the SeeYa is actually the best fitting Vibram I own. They have grown to be my absolute favorite.

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  8. Great review!
    I must say your review is by far the best one regarding the seeya’s, far better than the “mainstream” reviews from birthdayshoes and other well known running/minimalist websites.

    I just got my own pair of seeyas and I look forward to finding/reading your updated 100-mile report since these shoes will likely be my primary running shoe. I jumped into minimalist running with my bikilas which are a little over 7 months old and they’re starting to see some serious wear on the soles, and I’m interested how the far-thinner seeya will hold up.

    • Thank you, Fernando! I appreciate that. I am still putting mileage on my SeeYas, between testing other shoes and such, and I will definitely have more to say on them once they’ve got some major wear mileage. So stay tuned. Thank you for reading!

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  10. Thanks for the review! See Yas are my favorite VFF’s and I’ve had mine since April. I have been putting miles and miles on them and they’ve been fantastic. I just ran a marathon yesterday in them and they were the perfect shoe for the job. In April I ran a marathon in Bikilas which I also loved, but for some reason I feel the need to wear socks with Bikilas and not in See Yas. This gives me the feeling that I’m lighter and closer to the ground in the See Yas, which I really like. I’ve been trail running as well as road running in them, but I’m not sure how the tread will do in the muddy Oregon winter. I just bought a pair of Spyridons to try for winter trails if I find myself sliding around too much in the See Yas. Thanks again!

  11. Yeah I happened to really like the Spyridons on the trail. I did a review too. Great tread on them. I don’t wear the SeeYas on trail for the same reason – too much sliding around. They really are more of a road shoe.

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  13. How has wear been so far with the Seeya’s now that this pair is many months in?

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