There are FiveFingers fans and then there are really FiveFingers fans. While there are a growing number of people who have five to ten pairs of toe shoes in their closet, there are only a handful who have over forty — that's over 400 toe pockets.
The above photo comes to me from one such fan whose name I'll keep a secret (though a few forum members will know who it is immediately). It's a look at his collection of Classic FiveFingers, and boy is it a doozie. It might be hard to make out some of the styles — all of the colorways above are authentic, too — but many of them are (were) only available in Europe. There's even a leather pair of Classics in there (the red and white) or the Suomy Classics (the floral print).
I am jealous. Classics are, fitted right (not easy to do), quite possibly the best toe shoes ever made for all-around, everyday wear (I've reviewed them, accordingly). And it's for this reason that I'm a little disheartened to see that Vibram seems to be categorically downsizing the colorways of Classics out there. Actually, it seems that it won't be long before the only colorway of Classics available for men will be all black.
I don't know if this was intentional or not, but you'll note in the above photo that the all black pair sorta stands alone on the edge of the collection. I'd probably put my pair there, too: it fits the worst (it's just a little too small for some reason); it looks probably the most out of place worn with shorts or pants; it just doesn't work that great aesthetically. Comparatively, look at all the other options! I love the yellow- and white-soled varietals of Classics but would also take a grey-soled Classic, for that matter.
Back to Vibram paying less and less attention to the Classic — what about the Sprint or the KSO? These are the three major pairs of FiveFingers that all feature the original, razor-siped, "simple" 3.5mm Vibram sole. Don't get me wrong, I like the new designs and the innovation they bring (the recently released Spyridon LS sole with it's impact-dispersion tech. is garnering a lot of positive reactions, for example), but generally speaking, the simple flat sole that made Vibram FiveFingers a smash hit in the first place is still the best for maximizing ground feel and creating that "barefoot-like" (But not!) experience.
I'm sure the original sole could be reloaded (the Fresca for women is a reload, of sorts) and made a bit better; for example, perhaps making it a little less "bubbly" looking around the toes or improving the toe-flex somehow by marginally reducing the rubber used at the toe joints — might make the original sole a little more stylish and even functionally better.
I just hope Vibram doesn't forget the original "secret sauce" that exploded a whole new category of footwear. Why not reload the original sole (or at least keep it with some periodic, new colorways) at least every handful of years?
If nothing else, it seems that the original-soled FiveFingers could be — no should be — the most affordable way for folks to discover the world of toe shoes. As it is, newcomers to toe shoes are learning about them through — gasp — Fila Skele-toes, a pretty substantially inferior product.
Isn't that an opportunity for Vibram?
Who wants to see more FiveFingers with the original soles? (or if nothing else, a new riff on the old sole that keeps it substantially the same with minor improvements/changes)? Sound off in the comments — or remain silent and see if next year we have even fewer options available in the original toe shoes that set this whole party in motion.