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Vibram Five Fingers SeeYa Review: The Best VFF Since the KSO?

Posted by on Dec 10, 2011 | 7 Comments

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Five Fingers.  When I started barefoot running, they did not exist.  My minimalist shoes consisted of a collection of ill-fitting aqua socks.  When Barefoot Ted first wrote about them back in 2006 or so, I immediately bought a pair- black KSOs.

The shoes were awesome!  The fit was far superior to the aqua socks and they lasted more than 100 miles.  I wore them for a handful of races, including an aborted 100 mile attempt at the 2008 Burning River 100.  The next year, I wore a different pair of KSOs as I finished the Hallucination 100 miler (the race report from my book.)

The next year, VivoBarefoot released their Evo and Evo II, which was followed by a string of “one-toed” minimalist shoes.  The KSOs were pushed to the back of the closet.

Soon after, Vibram made waves by releasing the Bikila.  I tried it.  It felt terrible.  It seemed far too built-up.  Next came the Trek, which I liked.  Unfortunately for the Trek, a lot of other shoes hit the market around the same time.

The next generation featured more built-up shoes that didn’t seem to capture the magic of the original KSOs.  I even wrote a post about my apathy toward Vibram.  The most exciting news from the company came when it was announced they were making the soles for the New Balance Minimus line and the Merrell Barefoot line.  I eventually broke down and purchased a pair of KomodoSports.  They looked sweet, but I wasn’t a fan of the cushioning.

Then I attended the Outdoor retailer trade show in Friedrichshafen, Germany.  I met with several of Vibram’s international reps.  I saw their Spring/Summer ’12 lineup.  WOW!

They had some truly innovative shoes.  One particular shoe really captured my attention- a barely-there ultra-minimal Five Finger dubbed the “SeeYa.”

Since the shoe was only available in a size 9, I had to wait many months to actually test a pair.  Here are my thoughts:

First Impressions

Imagine a KSO with a slightly thinner, more flexible upper, a thinner, textured sole with a separated forefoot and sole, and a more forgiving fit.

That’s the SeeYa.  It was designed to be a road running shoe, and it is exactly what many of us have been asking for since companies started listening to us.

Upper

The upper is made of a stretchy fabric which gives the shoe a glove-like contoured fit.  The upper is exceptionally breathable and dries quickly.  The shoe has two suede strips running along the medial and lateral sides.  The suede was probably added for strength, but it gives the shoe a striking appearance.  The upper allows water to pass freely, so this shoe will not keep your foot dry.

Sole

The sole consists of two materials- the well-know Vibram rubber covering the midfoot and toes, and another section covering the heel.  The two sections are connected by a lighter, smoother plastic-like material.  The sole feels thinner than the original KSOs.  Ground feel is nothing short of spectacular.  There appears to be some cushioning, maybe 1 mm or so of EVA.  The sole provides just enough protection from asphalt abrasions… exactly what is needed in a great minimalist road shoe.  Durability probably won’t be on par with KSOs, but will definitely be greater than the “replace every 250 miles” limits of traditional running shoes.

Fit

The shoe fits much like any other Five Finger.  The lack of structure though the stretchy upper will likely fit a wider range of foot shapes.  The liner works well without socks.  It is significantly more comfortable than the KSO or KomodoSport liners.  My foot fits well in the toe pockets, though my fifth toe had a tendency to sneak out when sprinting uphill.

The shoe did cause blisters on the lateral side of my fifth toes when sprinting.  This is most likely due to the fit issue that caused the toes to occasionally slip out of the pockets.  I didn’t have any issues at slower speeds, even a 5k pace.

Performance on Roads

The shoe does exactly what a good minimalist shoe should do- it goes unnoticed.  The lack of structure and superior ground feel place it in a category that was previously occupied by the original Feelmax shoes.  For runners that run with a good midfoot landing under their center of gravity, this will be the ultimate minimal road shoe.

Performance on Trails

As expected, this isn’t an ideal trail shoe.  The lack of protection limits the shoe to non-technical or minimally-technical trail running.  Trail traction is better than KSOs, but not nearly as good and pretty much anything else.  The shoe does work pretty well on solid cambered rock where traction is critical.

Crosstraining

I was hoping the shoe would be a good crosstraining shoe.  Unfortunately, the lack of structure can cause some slipping within the shoe when making sudden cutting motions.

The shoe wasn’t designed for trails or crosstraining, which limits it’s usefulness as a “Jack of all Trades” shoe.  Still, road performance alone more than makes up for the shortcomings in other areas.

Conclusion

The SeeYa should be the shoe that puts Vibram back at the forefront of minimalist shoe conversations.  On top of the brilliant design, Vibram is taking steps to educate their customers.  Check out their education site here:

http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/education/index.htm

The SeeYa joins an ever-growing selection of excellent minimalist road shoes.  Aside from their own models, the SeeYa will compete with the likes of Merrell’s Road Glove, New Balance’s Minimus Zero Road, the new Altras, and the new Skoras (both of which I may be reviewing in the near future.) There are even more that aren’t listed.   The fit and design of these various models offer us tremendous variety to select a model that fits our feet and the conditions we’ll encounter.

Of these, the SeeYa appears to be the most minimal.  This is a shoe that will appeal to the hard-core barefoot runners that demand exceptional ground feel with minimal protection.

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7 Comments

  1. John
    December 12, 2011

    Great and thorough review! I had a pair of the Bikila (not a fan…had to cut off the annoying strap) and have a pair of the Bikila LS (better, but not perfect). The See Ya looks promising except for the presence of the strap. I do not like them, and if you can get the sizing to fit your foot you probably won’t need the strap. C’mon spring!!!

  2. Vibram Five Finger: SeeYa (VFF) | Barefoot & Minimalist Running
    December 12, 2011

    [...] Robillard has an interesting write up on the VFF [...]

  3. EdH
    December 12, 2011

    Thanks for the review. I am definitely looking forward to the Seeya. I’ve tried the Bikila and didn’t care for it. I continue to use the standard KSO.

    I’ve got almost 600mi on my current pair and I snagged two pair on sale about a month ago in the closet, so by the time I burn through those, it will be late Spring 2012, hopefully in the same time the Seeya is available.

    One question: Do the Seeya’s have any reflectivity? It seems a runners shoe should have that and it is one thing (the only thing really) I don’t like about my KSOs. From the pics, it looks like the Seeya doesn’t either, but would like to confirm.

  4. Ben S
    December 10, 2011

    Thanks for the review! It appears ideal for road and beach.

    I like the low straight cut around the ankle. Often companies raise the cut above the heel neer the achilles tendon and it acts like a funnel for sand, snow, pebbles, and other debris to get down into the shoe.

    Is the lighter smoother plastic between the two parts of the sole resilient and protective or is it jelly-like and soft? It’s difficult to guage from the photos.

  5. John R.
    December 10, 2011

    Jason, how do these compare to the Vivo Aqua Lite’s in terms of proprioception?

  6. Barefoot Josh
    December 10, 2011

    Re Komodo cushioning, the insole comes out. Fits better for me that way, too. Anyway, the seeya looks nice.

  7. Nikolaj
    December 10, 2011

    Excellent review, was waiting for it! Thanks a million I cannot wait for these to come to Denmark. I’m on my second pair of Bikila’s and I am craving for something that just protects my skin and this MUST be it :)