Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


Review: Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa

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.

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.