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Monday, April 2, 2012

Vibram Seeya Review



Keep your eye on Vibram this year citizens.  The Vibram Spring 2012 lineup means serious business.

In my opinion, Vibram lost its way a little bit after the initial success of classic shoes like the KSO and the Trek.  They started out making solid minimalist shoes for a wide variety of styles and uses.  Then they started trying to cater to folks that weren't completely sold on the idea of a minimal shoes.  Often that meant that they compromised the quality or features of their shoes.  Other times they made shoes that were just plain weird.  See as reference the Vibram Bormio.  A dress shoe with toes?  Yeah...cuz nothing says professional like a giant suede foot.

This year, Vibram seems to be getting back to the stuff that made it THE standard in minimalist footwear.  In fact, I think they've gone one step further.  Especially with the new Seeya model, Vibram is courting hardcore minimalist fans.



Generally, when a shoe company tries to make a shoe as minimal as possible, they tend to design something that resembles a slipper or sock.  In fact, wearing socks is considered by many to be the closest thing to going barefoot as possible.  One step up from that would be a pair of socks with a plasti-dip coating for a little more protection. 



In my opinion, the Seeya is as close as a shoe can get to the look and feel of a plasti-dip sock.  Vibram accomplished this by stripping out as much of the structure of their shoes as possible while keeping the integrity of the shoe intact.

Nowhere is this more clear than the shoe's upper.  Now most Vibram shoes don't have much structure to begin with, but shoes like the KSO still have a few pieces of leather and nylon to provide more durability and keep the thing on your foot.  Not so with the Seeya.  The Seeya's upper is entirely comprised of a thin, breathable mesh that is quite flexible.  The mesh is lighter and more flexible than the traditional nylon fabric found on classic Vibram models like the KSO and Classic.  I also find it to be softer and more comfortable against my feet. 

Perhaps sensing that this material would be less durable, Vibram also added numerous tear-shaped TPU dots to the upper material.  These dots are concentrated at the toes to prevent ripping.  Vibram has used TPU in this fashion very effectively with shoes like the Komodosport LS.  I've never had any issues with fabric ripping off the toes of my Komodos because of these dots. 



The Seeya secures to one's foot through an elastic band around the heel collar.  The tightness across the foot can be adjusted through a velcro strap.  The velcro strap is much lighter and narrower than in other models, and is secured to the shoe with a light suede strip instead of heavier leather and nylon.

I, and many other reviewers have found the strap to be largely nonfunctional.  And the increased flexibility of the fabric makes the fit of the shoe a little loose at times.  As a result, I've heard numerous reports of blisters either around the heel collar or along the toes and arch where one's feet tend to move within the shoe the most.  I haven't experienced any blistering or hotspots personally, but the fit has made me feel less confident in my footing while running on unstable surfaces, or when changing directions. 



Like many minimal shoe manufacturers this year, Vibram eliminated unnecessary material from the sole of the Seeya.  The Seeya has molded the traditional Vibram rubber sole into a number of foot pods similar to the underside of the Bikila model located under the toes and ball of the foot of the shoe.  Larger podding is also located on the heel.  Along the midfoot and between the toe and heel pods is a lighter, flexible TPU plastic.  There are thicker "skeletal" bands of TPU plastic running between the heel and forefoot of the shoe that give the arch of the shoe a bit of structure, but nothing resembling the molded arch of the Bikila.  The thickness of the Vibram sole portions of the shoe is 3mm; standard for most Vibram models. 



Cutting out all of this structure makes the Seeya one of the lightest and most flexible minimal shoes on the market today.  My Seeyas top the scales at around 4oz, the lightest Vibram shoe available for outdoor activity.   I would compare the flexibility and groundfeel to a slipper-like minimal shoe such as the Soft Star Moc3 or the ZEM 360.

But stripping the Seeya down to the bare essentials comes at a price.  Namely, the shoe is a little to flimsy to be much more than a unitasker.  It's low, slipper-like profile makes it an ideal shoe for road running.  I put it right up there for that purpose with great road shoes like the Moc3 or ZEM 360.  In fact, I consider the Seeya to be a step above the Moc3 and the 360 for overall comfort because, like so many Vibram models, the shoe so closely molds to my foot.  However, they don't have enough tread of structure to be effective trail running shoes.  I also found them a little unnerving for any crosstraining where I wasn't staying in one spot or traveling in a straight line. 

I also think any purchaser should be concerned about the potential longevity of these shoes.  Many folks buy a pair of Vibrams and get hundreds of miles out of them.  Since the materials used here are not as durable as those used in most Vibram models, I would suspect they won't last as long.  I'd be especially concerned with the TPU portion of the sole, since in my experience TPU breaks down faster than your typical Vibram sole. 

Overall, I believe with this effort Vibram has made one of the best road shoes on the market.  If you're primarily a road runner, this is the Vibram to get.  If you're not...skip this shoe.  There are better Vibrams out there for you. 

Well done Vibram.  Well done...

Cheers

18 comments:

  1. Hmm interesting! The Bikilia's gave me terrible top of foot pain!! Something I never experienced in KSO's

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  2. damn! You beat me to reviewing these! I have about 30 miles or so on mine (it's time for barefoot here in Michigan) and so far I like them quite a bit for road running. I agree with a lot of your comments on the shoe (instability when changing direction, potential durability issues, and others) but I'll save most of my BS for my own review ;)

    thanks for the review!

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  3. "There are better Vibrams out there for you."
    What would you recommend? Gravel and asphalt roads ...

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  4. How did yours fit? I usually wear a 43 in Bikilas or KomodoSports, but I had to bump the Seeya up to a 44 to get it right.

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  5. Ousa, if you're running on more variable surfaces, I'd suggest a well-rounded Vibram like the KSO or Komodosport.

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  6. David, my Seeyas fit the same as the rest of my Vibram collection.

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  7. Really excited about these, except I'm worried the lack of material will mean they wear out quicker, like you said. Think I'll wait until some people have a few months on theirs and see what the verdict is. Thanks for the review.

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