Minimalist footwear, as much of a niche product as it’s known for, has become a big deal with people who are looking to engage their bodies in new ways. It makes sense — shoes are shells of support, but confining and often come with their own set of compromises, depending on what you’re wearing and what you’re doing, but for the most part, minimalist footwear is worth the raucous.
There are lots of benefits for the patient — better ground feel, a stronger set of feet, and a little pain early for a lot of strength later (that’s where the patience should kick in), and the leader of the movement has long been Vibram. Known for its articulated toe footwear, Vibram has made being almost-barefoot a real and tangible experience with its shoes — and two shoes from Vibram made an impression on me.
The Vibram Komodosport and the Vibram Spyridon are two models of the articulated toe brand, but are representative of the most involved activities that people do: standing, walking, and running. Literally, the Komodosport and Spyridon are essentially trainers that serve for gym and outdoor activity, and they’re impressive — at least to me, and I spent a great amount of time ascertaining their value and overall worth.
The Komodosport is a great training shoe, and much to its credit, its patented Vibram sole is a major reason for its balance. All portions of the bottom of the foot are accounted for in its sole’s zoning and the rubber is sticky. In my training, I felt confident in the way the Komodosport hugged tight to my feet, the upper providing just enough space not to constrict, but close enough to envelope me like a second skin. The midfoot strap system allowed me to lock in my heel and my midfoot, giving me the ability to customize my fit as needed. The toes are wrapped high in rubber, protecting my own as I ran and giving me security in stationary movements.
The Komodosport is a durable shoe and fairly comfortable. There’s not really any protective foam like a conventional shoe, but its design allows for the foot to be the main vessel of shock absorption and stress distribution, which makes the foot stronger in nature and biomechanically informs someone like me to move more intelligently, theoretically preventing injury. It’s a shoe that excels with strength training and does well enough for running (in which running form means a great deal in your success and failure) — but it does have its lesser attributes.
Unfortunately, the Komodosport requires a significant amount of time to really get comfortable in; 4-6 weeks of time was adequate to really make it mine, usually with me walking around my home for hours at a time to make sure my feet would adapt to the stress. The trainer also isn’t particularly fun to enter into, with the articulated toes and all, and the odor protection isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but thank goodness, the shoe is machine-washable (also true of the Spyridon).
Vibram’s Spyridon is a shoe that’s a little more basic in some senses. Its strap is more upfront, the sole isn’t mapped to the anatomy of the human sole, and it’s more rugged — it’s an outdoor shoe, a trail shoe for minimalist aficionados who really want to make a bigger adventure of the terrain. I found the Spyridon to have really great traction, with its considerably thick rubber lugs, similar to that of an aggressive car tire tread. The flexibility of the shoe is good and it’s an expert-level shoe for trail runners and hikers. It’s not for novices with weak feet, and it is certainly not for those who’ve never felt the actual shape of stones and rocks underfoot. The Spyridon is good for the road, grass, gravel, rocks, and virtually any kind of surface, and it too has its drawbacks.
The Spyridon is also sort of lackluster with entry, but again, like the KSO, it’s a shoe that seeks to hug the foot, which enhances its fit — you take the good with the bad. The break-in time is also significant, but I felt that it didn’t require as much as the KSO, because the thick sole only allows so much flex. The Spyridon’s single strap is ok, but actually needed the KSO’s heel strap to better lock my foot in; overstrapping is an issue, as tightening the single midfoot strap can cause significant pressure over the bridge of the foot, so that requires a bit of touch and experience.
In truth, both the KSO and Spyridon are shoes that are about taste. They do enhance foot strength, but require patience; they put you closer to the ground, but we’re not all the far from it to begin with; and both Vibrams will set you apart from your peers, but unless you care deeply about what people think of your feet, it’s likely a delightful experience in and of itself.
If you’re looking for a new life experience and a new way to enhance your health, either of the aforementioned Vibram shoes can help you, but you just need to remember that they’re footwear of purpose, not pomp.