I realize I’m a little late in the game to review the Neo, it’s been out for a few months now and lots of people have reviewed it already. But that’s okay, because I don’t mind playing catch-up and I have a few things to say about this shoe.
Let me start off by saying this is going to be a pretty good review. In the past I’ve been asked to write reviews for different kinds of products, and I’ve never been the type to crank out fluff articles just to make suppliers happy. I have tried stuff I don’t like and I’m happy to say so, but so far I haven’t had much opportunity to write proper reviews before every other minimalist blogger already had them covered like grass on a golf course. And I won’t write about anything until I’ve tried it out sufficiently enough to give it a fair shake, this being why no review exists yet for my InvisibleShoes.
But enough of that blather, on to the review.
I want to start with a point of reference: I love my Vibrams. They’re a fantastic minimalist running shoe. Until I met the Neos, I never thought I’d find something to replace them. But since I got these babies in the mail three weeks ago, my Vibrams haven’t seen the outside of my closet. It wasn’t something that happened right away, though. The first couple of times I wore them just around the office for the day, and while running errands. Like my Kalis, they were a little stiff to begin with. But after a bit they became molds of my feet and I’m not sure I’ll be wearing anything else running for awhile. Or at least until VIVO comes out with something even more genius.
Made of soft Microfiber and Airmesh, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo is 100% vegan (if you care about that stuff), and eco-friendly with its recycled insole. The materials of the upper seem to have a water-resistant quality, so my foot stays dry longer. The flexible, zero-drop rubber sole is 4mm thick and puncture-resistant. These puppies are lightweight, too. Weight with insoles is 5.7 ounces, 5.2 without. I left the insoles in, mostly because I can’t really tell the difference, and because I like the idea of stinking up a removable insole and then replacing it later. The Neo is designed to be worn with or without socks. I have worn mine both ways – there were no seams to bother with, but the shoe is roomy (more on that later) and very warm for running so I prefer wearing socks to protect against chafing from moisture. The design and construction of this shoe is exceptional in quality, and absolutely adheres to the minimalist runner’s ideals for a running shoe.
When I was given the generous discount by VIVO to snag a pair for review, I went first for the Evo II. And why not? It’s the most popular running shoe they offer. But I will admit I’m not totally in love with the look of them. The Neo is more my taste, it’s simpler, cleaner. It doesn’t even look like a running shoe to me, so I’m happy to get more wear out of my pair for non-running related stuff. The Neo is built on basically the same platform as the Evo II, but it’s a little lighter and the upper is made differently. Also the price was a bit more feasible for me.
The shoe comes in a bunch of colorways, which is pretty rare I think, especially for women’s athletic shoes. I chose the gray and red. When they came in the mail I thought they were really cute, and I got a ton of compliments. The only setback to their look is the lack of normal shoe-contour. When I put them on and looked down they looked sort of lumpy and shapeless, because they don’t tuck in at all where the natural arch narrows my foot. This is unusual for a shoe, but I don’t know that it hurts the Neo’s actual performance for me.
Fit and Feel
VIVOBAREFOOT doesn’t make shoes like Vibram or Merrell does. The Neo doesn’t hold tight to your foot like a sock. For a long time it seemed to me that was the only way to make a great minimalist shoe. But the Neo is a great minimalist shoe, probably one of the greatest, and in a completely different and unexpected way.
Like I said in a past article “My Favorite Things (So Far in 2011)“, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo fits like a slipper. It fits snugly and has traditional laces for adjusting, but there’s a good amount of room in there to move and flex. It doesn’t pinch or constrain my foot in any way, which is a downright miracle for someone with feet as wide as mine. The shoe and sole is soft, pliable (especially after a few wears). I can feel the ground in a spectacular way: brick sidewalks feel like brick, trails feel like rocks and leaves, the ground feel is there but in a different way than other minimalist shoes. The shoe is so pliable that it just seems to bend around surface texture. Not only does it curve upward with your toes, it curves downward and sideways as well, all while not having to conform to your foot. It truly is like running inside a soft, comfy slipper.
That point about not conforming to your foot does two more great things: 1. it keeps your feet warm. These will be my winter running shoes, I have no doubt about that; and 2. it will fit more people. You don’t have to compromise a good fit for your gnarly long toes or your beastly wide foot.
The only downside I can think of for the roomy fit is for someone with a very narrow foot. The laces are pretty adjustable, but I bet if you’ve got an exceptionally narrow stomper then you might find yourself floating around in these. I’ve met some minimalist shoes that would be well-suited for the narrower foot, like the Merrell Pace Glove and the NewBalance Minimus, both of those are made way too narrow for me (at least the 2011 models). So I guess there’s something for everyone, right?
- construction is sound; this is an exceptionally well-made shoe
- completely zero-drop
- made of light, flexible eco-friendly materials
- stylish and retro, not at all garish or strange-looking
- a good alternative for VFFs, if you don’t like getting weird looks from people
- excellent ground-feel, as compared to most minimalist running shoes
- fit is roomy, made more for people with normal to wide-width feet
- more suitable for cool weather months
- hands-down, one of the best minimalist shoes on the market
- Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail (barefoot-monologues.com)
- Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail (and my first 14 mile run) (barefoot-monologues.com)
- Review: Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa (barefoot-monologues.com)