It looks like minimalist footwear and toe shoes are starting to become rather mainstream. The fact that major footwear brands are starting to develop minimalist and toe shoes of their own design is proof that the public is starting to accept this type of footwear. Fila even stepped in to the ring several months back with their Skele-Toes four toed shoes. Justin reviewed that shoe and you can find the original review here. Incidentally, Vibram has filed a lawsuit against Fila for patent infringement.
While the original Fila Skele-Toes were a reasonable first step in to the market it left some things to be desired. Now Fila has taken what they learned from the first release of the Skele-Toes and refined some of the aspects of the shoe for the Fila Skele-Toes 2.0 release. I received a pair of Skele-Toes 2.0 not too long ago and I have been testing them out since.
For the most part they have improved on the majority of the aspects of the original design. However, it is not all improvements across the board. To find out what I thought about the Fila Skeletoes 2.0 keep reading after the jump!
Skeletoes 1.0 versus Skeletoes 2.0
I thought I would start out by comparing the original Fila Skele-Toes design to the new Fila Skele-Toes 2.0 design. The form factor is still pretty much the same. They still only have 4 toe pockets combining the last two toes in to one pocket. Fila calls this the “EZ-Slide” toe pocket. Theoretically, it makes it easier to put the shoes on.
The most noticeable difference between the Skele-Toes 2.0 and the 1.0 is the material they chose for the upper. The original Skele-Toes had a thick neoprene like upper that was very uncomfortable against the skin. I personally did not like the feeling of the original upper in the Skeletoes 1.0 it left much to be desired. In the Fila Skele-Toes 2.0 they used a stretch fabric that feels much softer and suppler against the skin. The new fabric is one of the biggest improvements over the previous version.
The second most noticeable difference is the design of the sole. The original Fila Skeletoes had a very thick and inflexible sole. It was too thick and did not flex enough with your movement. Fila has made efforts to change that with the Skele-Toes 2.0 design. Parts of the shoe have been released with an EVA like material that is more flexible then the previous version. Overall, the flexibility of the sole of the Skele-Toes 2.0 is improved over the original.
The last really noticeable change is the strap system. The previous strap system had several straps connected to the shoe in different locations. It has one strap for the top of the foot and two straps for the back of the foot on the Achilles tendon. The new Fila Skele-Toes 2.0 has a single loop strap that attaches to two points on one side of the shoe. Unfortunately, this strap design is a huge step backwards and really affects the overall performance of the shoe. I will talk more about my issues with the strap later in the review.
Fila Skele-Toes 2.0 Performance
So the form has changed when you compare it to the original but do those changes add or detract from the new shoe? For the most part the changes they made have been big improvements. The upper in the Fila Skeletoes 2.0 is soft and feels great against the skin. I was able to wear it with or with out socks for hours at a time and not feel like it was starting to irritate my skin.
When you compare the sole of the Fila Skele-Toes to other minimalist shoes it is still quite thick and inflexible. Compared to the KSO Trek the sole feels much thicker and less flexible. This could be a negative or a positive depending on what you are looking for in toe shoes. For everyday wear I feel like the sole is just too inflexible and stiff — you don't get a good enough ground feel when you compare them to other minimalist offerings.
If it is so inflexible and you lose so much ground feel then why would you want to wear them? I kept asking myself that over and over again. It then dawned on me that these are like training wheels for FiveFingers. The sole is thicker so people who are worried about too much ground feel can rest easy and the 4th and 5th toe pocket are combined to make it easier for people to get the shoes on.
Training Wheels??? Well yes, I could see these being a good option for someone who is interested in toe shoes but concerned about having too much ground feel or would like a thicker sole for the peace of mind. I have several friends who I have tried to get to wear Vibram FiveFingers (with varying degrees of success). I showed them the Skele-Toes 2.0 and a couple said they were more likely to wear the Skele-Toes because of the “extra protection the sole offers.”
There are also a handful of instances I could see myself reaching for the Fila Skele-Toes 2.0 over other shoes. For instance I could see myself wanting to walk on a rocky creek bed in these shoes. In that instance the lack of ground feel could be beneficial in case you misstep and land hard on a sharp rock. The extra sole in that instance could help you prevent bruising on the bottom of the foot.
I also enjoyed riding my bike in the Skele-Toes 2.0. The sole has ridges that gripped my bike pedal better than some of the FiveFingers soles do (this was especially when comparing the grip from the KSO sole and the Fila Skeletoes 2.0 sole). The extra ridges on the Skele-Toes really help you get a better grip on the pedals.
The biggest gripe I have about these shoes is the strap system. In my opinion the strap design of the Skele-Toes 2.0 is flawed if not broken. The strap material is very inflexible and kind of sharp along the edge. I cut myself once trying to tuck the excess slack of the strap in to the side of the shoe. My finger slipped down the side of the strap and I got small cut as a result.
I could not tighten the strap as much as I wanted because there was not enough Velcro on the strap. Meanwhile, the strap is also too long and has quite a bit of extra slack. Worst of all that extra slack is prone to just hang off the sides of the shoe. I did find that I could tuck the excess strap in to part of the shoe but it did not look very good. The excess slack looks really sloppy and detracts from the overall design of the shoe.
Functionally, the strap is connected to the shoe at two points on the same side of the shoe. Unlike the Vibram FiveFingers KSO the strap does not make a complete loop around the shoe. When you do tighten the strap on the Skele-Toes 2.0 it pulls on these two parts in an uneven manner. I did not want to run in these shoes because I could not tighten the straps down enough to make the shoe not slip. If there is one thing I would completely change about the Fila Skeletoes 2.0 it would be the strap.
The toe pockets also seem a little narrow when you compare them to some of the Vibram FiveFingers. One of my friends tried to put on the shoes but his toes were too thick to fit in the toe pockets and he had an easier time fitting in his toes to a pair of FiveFingers.
What would I change on the Skele-Toes?
The first thing I would change on the Skele-Toes is the strap (surprise!). I would completely redesign the strap and I would model it more after the Vibram FiveFingers KSO. I would also use a material that is not so thick and has more flexibility to it but is still strong. I would increase the amount of Velcro on the strap as well so you can secure it better.
I think they should keep the sole they have now because there are some people out there that like a thicker sole. I would suggest making a 2nd design that sells in parallel to the Skeletoes called Skele-Toes Light... or something. It should have a much thinner sole that is more inline with what people expect from minimalist footwear.
I would also change some of the styling of the shoe. I find the Skele-Toes styling to be sort of Juvenile. I would have thought they looked cool when I was a kid but now at 26 I find the design of the sole to be very tacky. Currently because of the aesthetics of the Skele-Toes I would limit where I would consider wearing them: you will never see me at the Opera in these shoes! On the other foot, I have worn the Speeds, and Bormio, and many other Vibram FiveFingers styles to the Opera.
Would I recommend the Fila Skele-Toes to someone who has several pair of Vibram FiveFingers? No, I would not. If you are already used to Vibram FiveFingers then the lack of ground feel with the Skele-Toes will probably annoy you.
These shoes seem to fill the gap that is between regular shoes and Vibram FiveFingers. Offering a less minimal experience than the FiveFingers but still significantly more minimal then most of the sneakers produced today. The price is also significantly less than most of the FiveFingers styles available (Note: if you can find FiveFingers on sale, then the pricing becomes much more competitive). This makes the Skele-Toes a good first pair to pick up if you are unsure about toe shoes and don't want to invest in a pair of FiveFingers.
If Fila keeps improving on their Skele-Toes line and continues to make changes like they did over the last version then Vibram could have some real competition in the toe shoe market. I look forward to see what Fila develops for the Skeletoes 3.0 version.
I'll wrap up my written review with an in-depth video review of the Fila Skeletoes 2.0 toe shoes (9:13). Check it out!
Where to Buy
The Fila Skeletoes 2.0 toe shoes are now out for sale (as of 11/21/2011). The size based on standard American sizing and can be found over at BirthdayShoes.com sponsor Action Sports Web for $59. Fila Skele-Toes have also been seen at your local department store. If you check them out, report back what you think here in the comments!