Adidas shook the minimalist footwear/"barefoot shoes"/five toe shoe world a couple months back with the announcement that they would be releasing their own take on toe shoes called the Adidas Adipure Trainer come Fall 2011 (
some time in November is the expected release date they are now available for sale at Finish Line for $90!).
I managed to finagle a pair of the Adidas Adipure Trainer to test and review — note the emphasis on the "Trainer" as there are other "Adipure" labeled shoes from Adidas but they are neither toe shoes nor minimalist. For simplicity's sake, forgive me if I just call them the Adidas toe shoes ... or the Adidas foot gloves.
This is my in-depth review of the Adidas toe shoes having used them for their intended purpose: training (Like the Fila Skeletoes shoes, the Adidas Adipure Trainers aren't intended to be running shoes).
How do these Adidas toe shoes perform? Where do they stack up in sole thickness, flexibility, and comfort relative to the reigning champions and category founder, Vibram FiveFingers? The answers to these questions and more, including a video review and the customary slew of review photos, after the jump!
The Origins of the Adidas Adipure Trainer Toe Shoes
Let's begin with a little background. What's the trainer part about anyway? Turns out the Adidas toe shoes official name (Adipure Trainer) hints at their design being geared towards weight lifting, plyometric, and gym enthusiasts. This has been made clear already by the inclusion of Mark Verstegen of Athletes Performance among the various Adidas Adipure Trainer marketing materials thus far released into the wild (e.g. those seen here).
So if you can imagine doing heavy squats or dead lifts in toe shoes (and I'm guessing some of you can) or perhaps doing a plyometric, "crazy 8" Turbulence Training workout a la Craig Ballantyne, then you'd fit Adidas' target market.
Would you use the Adidas toe shoes as your running shoes? Well, you could, but that's not their purpose. If you want toe shoes for running you're best off sticking to Vibrams. That's not so much a knock against Adidas' take with the Adipure Trainers, it's just the manifestation of their intended design — more on this in a bit.
Adidas' toe shoes employ a strapless upper matched to a sole that has five toes and is built using two materials — rubber and some sort of foam (I'm guessing EVA). There may be a third material used to add structure to the sole above the foam — take a look at the sole photos above and note the cross-shaped cutouts.
These put on display the innermost material, which appears to add an overall "frame" or structure to the sole. Then there is the red foam and finally the rubber. You can see how the rubber is covering the bulk of the foot and where it stops past the forefoot, each toe gets its own rubber pod. As you likely suspect, this separation lends to increased toe flexibility
The Adidas toe shoes are clearly meant to be worn barefoot (though they could be worn with toe socks, too). Adidas did a good job minimizing exposed seams to the bare foot with most seams concentrated in the toe pockets (same as most Vibrams). The fabric on the upper is stretchy and breathes well.
If you let me geek out on design a bit, I'll point out the painted-on black stripes as well as the painted on toe covering. What's going on here? Well, if I had to speculate, I'd say that Adidas wanted to reduce the stretchiness of the upper material at these points — at the toes so that when your toes dorsiflex (bend up to the sky, toward your shin), the toe pockets move with your toes. And the stripes add some resistance to keep your foot anchored to the shoes. Whether or not this is the intended purpose I'm unsure, but it works.
The other bit of design to point out on the toe pockets is the use of a second fabric that wraps the sidewalls of each toe pocket. This fabric is stretchy though a bit less than the overall upper. Finally, note that the sole on the Adidas toe shoes does not wrap the ends of the toes at all — it rises about halfway up the front and stops. While not a huge deal, you can imagine how a stubbed toe could be problematic here (by way or ripping the fabric).
The shoe has no difference in sole thickness between the heel and the forefoot. The overall thickness of the sole as measured by my "trusty" calipers is 10mm (at both heel and forefoot).
Barefoot Feel and Sole Flexibility
The Adidas Adipure Trainers feel quite comfortable on my bare foot. The toe pockets, in particular, are well constructed in my pair — whatever seams are in there go virtually 100% unfelt by my toes. I point this out because this is not often the case with Vibram FiveFingers, which frequently have at least one or two seams exposed to my toes that are noticeable and occasionally quite irritating to my toes.
These toe shoes seem to have a too-big heel on them. What I mean is that while my foot feels well-seated in the shoe at every point at and past the arch, my heel feels like it's floating a bit in the back — it has too much room. I can't say if this is a sizing issue or not. When I held the Adipure Trainers up against a pair of like-sized FiveFingers I noticed that the heel on the Adidas toe shoes looks wider. This results in a less grounded feel when wearing the Adipure Trainers.
And what about sole flexibility and ground feel? I have to pin the Adipure Trainers somewhere between any given pair of FiveFingers and the Fila Skeletoes. The Adipure Trainers have a flexible sole — it's better than 99% of the shoes out there in other words — and the toe flexibility is particularly good: it's easy to dorsiflex my toes. The primary rubber/foam/base of the Adipure Trainers is a bit inflexible though and robs my feet of a good bit of ground feel as it provides for a somewhat stiff platform on which my foot rests (and resists against).
I'd say the Adipure Trainers are mostly meant for use on unvaried surfaces given the duality of the sole — flexible at the toes but stiff on the foot. Think of a gym, track, or concrete floor. If you wanted to bomb over some rocky trails, they'd mask the terrain well enough to save your foot from pokes and prods, but maybe a bit too much (more than, say, the KSO Treks or TrekSports, which afford more flexibility across the entire foot by comparison).
Are they cushy toe shoes? No. They aren't. Overall the sole structure feels stiff, if anything — a bit more so than your typical pair of Vibrams for that matter. That they employ the foam "middle" (As displayed by the little cross cutouts) is almost a red herring in that it might make you think "Geez that is thick! Must be a plush ride!" It's not. It's a firm ride (by way of comparison, my New Balance Minimus Wellness/Life shoes use a foamoutsole and feel cushy — in a good way for casual use but in a bad way for heavy squats).
Overall, where the Adipure Trainers really shine for mirroring the dynamic, natural foot is in the toe area. This is due to the toe pockets being snug against all of my toes. Even my littlemost toe feels closely wrapped by it's toe pocket. Maybe a bit too closely in my right foot. Or maybe these Adipure Trainers are actually working to realign my pinky toe (it seems that nearly three years of heavy toe shoes wear has yet to straighten out my gimp pinky toe — something likely more due to the roominess of the pinky toe pockets on VFFs than anything else).
Kudos to Adidas on their locked-on toe pockets. Locked on and still quite comfortable. Well done.
In my mind these are gym shoes by design (and that's straight from the horse's mouth, too), and that's how they should be evaluated. So how do they do in this context?
As good as you'd expect them to. I routinely do heavy squats and dead lifts. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger who was known to train fully barefoot, I usually train in FiveFingers. If you've ever squatted heavy in toe shoes (heavy for me is squatting 1.7x my body weight for a handful of reps), you know just how grounded you feel with so much weight on your back. Conversely, once you've gotten accustomed to squatting close-to-barefoot, you realize how unstable most shoes with elevated heels and foamy soles make you feel. I tried squating in the 14mm rear/10mm front New Balance Minimus Life shoes once and won't do it again because I felt too unstable and my even marginally elevated heel didn't do anything good for my posture. Thus, given the sole structure of the Adidas Adipure Trainers has a decent bit of foam in them, perhaps I should have wondered how they'd fare in this regard.
But I didn't. And the Adidas Adipure Trainers perform on par for squats — I feel rock stable in them (same for dead lifts) and would recommend them for this use just as much as a pair of Vibrams. The sole does not feel squishy at all for that matter, likely owing to the uppermost part of the sole design being firm and not foamy.
Where my routine workout ran into a little trouble with the Adipure Trainers — and this is a pretty unusual use-case — is weighted chin-ups. It turns out that having only a thin bit of fabric with no straps makes suspending 50-65 lbs via a dumbell between your feet quite uncomfortable with the Adidas Adipure Trainers. The KomodoSport Vibrams do a good job for this — standard Bikilas do not — by comparison.
As for plyometrics, walking about, or even sprinting, the Adipure Trainers do just fine. For most of these cases, your foot is working in such a forwardly flexed position — right where the Adipure Trainers have the most sole flexibility — that the Adidas toe shoes get to work with your foot and not against it.
The Adidas Adipure Trainers certainly look "nice." They are cleanly designed (few ugly seams) with flowing lines and a minimal amount of flare. I also love the black and red color scheme of the pair I have been reviewing, but I am biased by my alma mater.
And allow me to state the obvious: these are toe shoes, which look futuristic/weird and paradoxically non-natural — almost alien. How good are they going to look?
Well, I think some people will like the look of the Adidas Adipure Trainers. I certainly appreciate many aspects of the style: mostly the stripes and aforementioned color choice. These Adidas toe shoes have a strong athletic-gear look to them. The fabric of the upper reminds me of the types of synthetic, moisture-wicking materials I have on my workout shorts or a technical tee.
But could you pull the Adidas toe shoes off casually worn with a pair of cargo shorts on a trip to the store? Paired with jeans heading to a movie? I don't think so. And I say that fully believing that you can wear a pair of Vibrams casually; for example, Vibram Classics or Sprints in more neutral colorways with shorts; certain KSOs with jeans; Speeds in a variety of contexts, etc. I think it's just the shimmery fabric and the shine of the fabric paint. Looks good in the gym; not so much elsewhere.
Just my personal feelings, anyway. What do you think? Does casual fashion-worthiness matter for a gym-purposed toe shoe?
Overall, what do I think
I give Adidas props for bringing to market a five toed shoe design that is an original take on the concept (Fila, on the other foot, didn't exactly innovate with the Skeletoes — though props on their pricepoint). The Adidas Adipure Trainer performs well for it's intended purpose — working out. This is due to having solid flexibility in the front of the foot even as the bulk of the shoe is a bit too rigid for my taste and the heel just feels a bit loose. They are a quality toe shoe though — well-made with very good materials.
I suppose the real test is whether or not I'd wear them regularly (for workouts). And while I've been wearing the Adidas Adipure Trainers some 3x/week for workouts now for a couple months or so, I'm likely going to switch back to KomodoSports (or test out the VIVO BAREFOOT Ultras for weight lifting).
As you might guess, given my take on the Adipure Trainer looks, I've never felt the desire to wear these 'round town casually. The looks of them and the too-stiff overall feel of the shoe leaves me heading to other options in my closet.
I'd say that overall, Adidas made a solid product with the Adipure Trainers. They're thought through, well made, and don't show even a modicum of wear from my testing. Every stitch is still in place and no glue has come undone. For an estimated $90 (that's the word I've heard on the street as for starting price), the Adipure Trainers will last you awhile.
Let me wrap this up with a hearty "welcome" to Adidas. Welcome to the toe shoe industry. I've said it before and it deserves saying again, competition in toe shoes is a wonderful thing: it will push awareness of healthier shoes for healthier feet and result in better products for enthusiasts. These are good things.
If you're itching to break ties with Vibram's stranglehold on the toe shoe market, give the Adipure Trainers a thought. Or if you're a newcomer to the concept of a pocket for every toe — "foot gloves" as it were — then you could do a lot worse than the Adipure Trainers and ultimately you might just prefer the Adidas offering to a pair of Vibrams.
Where to buy
The Adidas AdiPure Trainer toe shoes are now out for sale (as of 10/27/2011). For now, I've only seen them for sale at Finish Line for $90 (Free Shipping). You can also use coupon code EXTRA60 to get $10 off (so after tax your order comes in under $90!). Check it out!
Here's a video review of the Adidas Adipure Trainer toe shoes (7:40):