I was a relative latecomer to the FiveFingers game. My first pair were the Trek Sports, and most of those I came to own since then were still newer styles. As such, I never experienced the collective heartbreak that came from the discontinuation of the FiveFinger classics -- nor the elation that followed with the announcement of the new EL-X. Though I'm not a new FiveFingers user generally, I am coming at this revamped classic style with an untarnished perspective. Read on for more.
Justin already gave a very thorough and enthusiastic first look at these, so head over to that post if you're looking for specifications and style details. Tim beat me to it with a very thorough running review, as well. I agree with pretty much all of their observations. Plus the two of them took plenty of pictures already. Head over to their reviews if that's what you're looking for. Clearly a lot of us over here at Birthday Shoe were excited about the EL-X and wanted to review them, if only briefly and from as many angles as possible. Which is how I found myself tasked with doing some cross training in them. More specifically, CrossFit.
For perspective, my favorite running FiveFingers are SeeYas and my favorite ones for CrossFit are Komodo Sports. That hasn't changed after trying the EL-X in both situations, but I don't mean that as a negative towards the EL-X.
The thing about any slip-on is that you can construct it almost any way you want, but it's still a slip-on. As such, you're going to wiggle in it. Up until this point I've not tried any slip-on shoes that could handle most standard CrossFit movements. The EL-X, while not necessarily my preferred cross training shoe, really held its own. In both running and CrossFit, the EL-X felt at times like it was on the verge of slipping off. But it never did. Actually it never even came close. After a few weeks of it, the sensation of imminent slippage died down, and I recalled that when I first started running in SeeYas I would get the same sensation.
That said, any wiggle you feel is most likely about adaptation. Once you've worn them a bit, you start to trust them. That's a huge accomplishment for a slip-on shoe, and Vibram deserves some major props for that. It didn't matter what the movement was -- olympic lifts, box jumps, toes-to-bar, burpees -- the EL-X stayed put. It was impressive. The only days I disliked wearing the EL-X was when double unders were part of the programming. But that's true of all toe shoes for me, because I'm not the best in the world at jumping rope which means my toes and forefoot get whipped quite a bit. So in that way, the EL-X performed no better or worse than any other of my FiveFingers.
The area where the EL-X shined the most, though, was in its light weight. Don't underestimate this, whether you're a runner or a CrossFitter. I've done some training barefoot in the past and the EL-X is hands down the closest I've gotten to that feeling while still maintaining a little protection. Although the Komodo Sport remains my preferred CrossFit shoe, I do find myself craving still-lighter weight on some days and reaching for the EL-X. Especially when short runs are part of the programming.
I did find them to be ever-so-slightly snugger than my other FiveFingers. This may be intentional in order to compensate for the lack of any strapping or lacing system. It wasn't bad and didn't affect me personally, but if your usual FiveFingers size truly is so tight that even a hair tighter would be too much I'd highly suggest trying on a pair at the store before buying.
I know that this is a little more free-form than my typical review, but I wanted to be sure to get my $0.02 in on the EL-X. And really, it's quite a statement in itself when you've got reviewers clamoring to find some way, somehow to review it. It's a fantastic shoe. They've taken over as my primary quick-throw-on pair for walking the dog or most other quick activities. They may not have dethroned my primary running or CrossFit shoes, but they sub in easily and well for both. They're ideal for any mild athletic activity. Most especially, perhaps, I'd recommend them as a starting point for anyone interested in dipping their toes into the toe-shoe world without breaking the bank or stressing too much about which of the varying styles is right for you. If you're not quite to that point in your toe-shoe obsession yet, the EL-X may be where you want to start.
In short, Vibram hit a home run here in terms of creating an ideal and versatile entry-level shoe that truly represents their brand and the direction the company is headed.
Note: the Vibram FiveFingers El-X is $75 at TravelCountry