I came across the Aguias Spartan 1 because of a post on the forums. I spent some time checking out the company's website, and I really liked the look of their shoe. It reminded me of a retro style athletic shoe with a minimalist twist. The people at Aquias were kind enough to send me out a pair of their Spartan 1 to test out these last few months. After spending some time with the shoe, I thought it was time to share my thoughts.
Aquias based the design of their shoes off of shoes that are made for the art of Capoeira. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Capoeria it is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music. The designers of the shoe figured anything that could stand up to the rigors of Capoeira training would also make for a good running shoe.
So just how good did their running shoe turn out? Read my thoughts on the Aquias Spartan 1 after the jump!
Aquias claims that the Spartan 1 is meant to be a running, gym, and casual shoe. Overall, I find it does a good job at all three. While this is not the most minimalist shoe ever created, it is a good balance between minimalist and "normal" shoes.
The Aquias upper is made mostly of a mesh material that is similar to the material used in the Vibram FiveFingers Speed. If anything the mesh is slightly more dense than the Speeds. There are a few leather accents around the toecap, laces, and the heel. The leather in these areas helps with rips caused by abrasion.
The Spartan 1 weighs only 8.9 oz per shoe. With sole thickness of about 3mm. The shoe features a no differential from heel to toe (and as such, is "zero drop"). I found the sole softens and gains flexibility as you break-in the shoe. After a week, I noticed that the sole was significantly more flexible than the first day. The tread on the sole is simplistic but efficient. I did not find myself losing any grip at all. On the contrary, I really liked the amount of grip these shoes provide. Also, they preformed well in a variety of weather conditions.
There is a bit of plastic reinforcement embedded around the heel of the shoe. Personally, I like this feature. I could see how some people might not like the rigidity. I did not find it to be too distracting and it seems to help keep the shoe in place. I imagine it would reduce the amount of blisters caused by heel friction.
The only real drawback of this shoe is the toe box. I personally feel that the toe box needs to be wider. Granted I have very wide feet and say this about many different shoes. I felt like my pinky toe was craving more wiggle room inside the toe box. I was able to put a pair of shoe stretchers inside and they helped loosen the area around the pinky toe.
One suggestion that Aquias gave is to size up 1/2 size from what you would normally consider wearing. They sent me another pair 1/2 size up, and I agree that the toe box is more roomy. People with narrow feet should not have any issues. I would compare it to some of the other minimalist shoes out there like the Merrell Barefoot Run series. The regular version not the wide version of the Merrells.
Bottom line: if there is one thing I would change about this shoe, it is the toe box. Adding another 1/2 inch or more of room around the pinky toe would make the shoe feel much more comfortable for those of us who crave toe splay.
How minimalist is it?
There is a decent amount of ground feel in the Spartan 1. I would say it is equal to or better than some of the Vivo Barefoot styles out there. While you might not feel every little crack in the pavement. You feel enough of the surface to feel like you have a good sense of proprioception.
The inside of the shoe is rather comfortable and can be worn without socks. I personally found the shoe to be a bit more comfortable with a pair of socks on. There is no insole inside the shoe. That means you don't have to worry about any built in arch support.
Most importantly you are able to keep your mid-foot strike in these shoes. I had no trouble maintaining a proper form while testing these out. I found myself able to run with the same stride that I have in a pair of my VFF.
Minimalist veterans striving for the most minimalist shoe possible might be slightly disappointed in the Spartan 1. People who look for a good balance between performance and comfort should enjoy these shoes. Newcomers to the minimalist movement that want to get their feet wet might find the Spartan 1 to be a good start.
The Spartan 1s have held up quite well over the past few months. They did get muddy during a walk in the rain last month, but I threw them in the washer in order to clean them. I used cold water with medium spin cycle. After the wash, I air dried out of direct sunlight. The shoes came out looking clean and new.
At $60 a pair, the price of the Spartan 1s is not bad either. That makes these an excellent option for people who don't want to bite the bullet and spend over $100 on some of the other options out there. Currently, they come in two colorways black or grey/red. You can buy them off the Aguias website.
If you pick up a pair of Spartan 1, Let us know. Leave a comment below with your thoughts.