This may seem like a weird question, but my husband wants a new pair of slip on shoes to replace his Vivobarefoot Dharmas. I'm very anti-VBF due to poor quality control and customer service so I'm looking for a similar shoe from a better company. I know my Lems Primals slip on easily with the laces tied, but I imagine the cloth fabric has more give than the leather.
No problem! I wear a women's 40 in Jayas, which are the only pair of VFFs that I have at the moment. My feet are almost 9 3/4 inches long, and I got a 40 Boulder Boot. I have enough room for a pair of medium thickness wool socks but not a whole lot more. So...I'd say that their new styles run pretty true to size, though it took a couple of wears for them to really feel like they conformed to my feet. They definitely weren't quite as comfortable straight out of the box as the Primals or any of the Soft Star shoes that I've tried.
One other thing - I don't know if this is an issue for you but the new Lems styles definitely have less ground feel than the Primals or SS, so something else to keep in mind...
Would you consider the Vivobarefoot Mary Janes wide?
I have an old pair of VB Kali's (which are no longer made) from a few years ago and they're definitely wide, but since then their women's casual styles have gotten narrower and narrower, so unless you can find a pair of Kali's somewhere I'd recommend staying away from VB. Also, they have an issue with getting the upper properly glued to the sole, so the sole often tends to peel away. Not the greatest QC for such an expensive pair of shoes, even on sale!
On the other hand, I have a couple of pairs of Lems from the last few years, and they're all still going strong despite being abused and even thrown in the washing machine. There's one small spot where the upper is coming undone from the sole, and that was my own fault for accidentally washing them on too high of a setting. I would not hesitate to buy them full price if you can afford the upfront cost because they'll last you quite a while. FYI, I just got a pair of their Boulder Boots, which are apparently made on the same last as the Mary Janes, and they're not quite as wide as the Primals. Depending on the width of your feet it might be a bit of a stretch to get a pair of Correct Toes in them.
Another option is Soft Stars, which I actually think are more comfortable (more ground feel and super soft leather uppers). They seem to be slightly less durable than the Lems, though, so it's a trade-off. One thing - unless you have truly narrow feet, be sure to order a wide. They recently changed their sizing to make their shoes look more mainstream (which I'm not super excited about), so the new wide Mary Jane is equivalent to their old regular width. Good luck with your search!
Not sure if you're open to something that goes over the ankle, but the Lems Boulder boot in black is vegan - http://www.lemsshoes.com/Mens-Boulder-Boot-Black_p_102.html I got a brown (non-vegan) pair for hiking in cold weather, and they're pretty comfortable. Definitely not as much ground feel as other minimalist shoes I've worn, including the Lems Primals, but they have the same nice wide toe box, and my feet were toasty and comfortable all day wearing them in snow.
I just tried the VB Off Road Hi's, and yikes they're narrow! I even got the men's version, anticipating I'd need a little extra width, but they just don't work for me. Why the pointy toes?? I had flashbacks to before I started wearing minimalist shoes, when finding a pair of comfortable hiking boots (or really any other shoe for that matter) was a nightmare. I couldn't wait to get them off my feet after wearing them around the house for 10 minutes. They ARE very nice, well-constructed boots, but for narrow feet only! Too bad VB isn't making their boots with the truly wide, minimalist toe box found on styles like the Kali.
I think if you can get a higher rise minimalist shoe or boot you should be fine, especially with waterproof socks.
I think that's the best bet - I just ordered the Lems Boulder boot instead. There are mixed reviews on waterproofness, but I ordered up a size and figure at the worst I've already got a pair of waterproof socks sitting around.
Thanks for all the info, Yeti! I don't actually have my own snowshoes yet (I'll be borrowing a friend's this season), but I'll definitely take all that into consideration when making a purchase, and try the towel thing in the meantime if needed.
Luckily I don't have to deal with such crazy cold temps, either...I think the coldest temps I'm likely to encounter are in the 20's F. I've been hiking in slightly warmer weather in my Lems with waterproof socks underneath, so I'm hoping a minimalist shoe will suffice. I briefly considered some mukluks but can't justify the price given the climate I'll be using them in. Sounds like they're invaluable where you are, though! And that looks like an amazing place to be! I can't wait to get out in the snow.
I'm pretty sure the Vivobarefoot Off Road Hi would do a good job for snowshoeing.
Thanks for the suggestion! I don't know why, but I didn't even think to check into Vivobarefoot. How's the width of this style? I have a pair of Vienna boots and I find they're a tiny bit too narrow for me...not sure if that's style-specific or a more general trend in VB's sizing. Also, how do they fit length-wise?
I'm going to go snowshoeing a couple of times this winter, and then will probably take it up more seriously next winter, and I'm wondering if anyone has found any minimalist options in this department? I have a pair of Soft Star Phoenix boots that I've thought of wearing, but the leather is so soft that I'm worried the bindings will stretch them out. Also, they're not exactly the most form-fitting boots so my other concern is whether they'll stay put with snowshoes attached.
I also saw in an old thread that someone tried kayak boots. It sounds like an interesting option, but I've worn Icetrekkers over Lems before, which was tolerable for an hour but not something I'd want to do all day, repeatedly - the shoes just weren't rigid enough to prevent the traction devices from digging into my feet a bit. I'm worried that this would also be a problem with the kayak boot/snowshoe combo.
The only other alternative I can think of is to try to find the flattest, widest possible "regular" boots I can, but I'm not super excited about this possibility. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! Oh, and I'd rather not spend a ton of money at the moment.
My understanding is that walking or standing with your knees always bent overuses your quads, which can then lead to knee problems, which is one thing I'm assuming you don't want. Maybe you're confusing straightening the knees (okay) with hyperextending the knees (bad!). With the former, you still keep a slight micro-bend in the knee...it's barely noticeable but the joint has just a tiny bit more give to it. Whereas with hyperextension the joint is "locked" and a lot of strain is placed on the ligaments and other structures of the knee.
One way to tell whether you're overusing your quads - while standing, you should be able to lift and lower your knee caps at will by alternately contracting and relaxing your quads (if you get really good at it you can even do this in time to some music ). Also while standing, you should also be able to grab your quads with your hands and jiggle them back and forth. If you can't do either of these it means your quads are in a constant state of contraction, which is bad news for your knees and hips.
Now apparently it looks like I might have to order wides to keep that same fit but I am a bit nervous about it...I want to order a new pair of Dash's but am hesitant as being in Canada it can get pricey to ship back and forth.
Unfortunately I can't comment on the Dash's, but after wearing my new wide-width Merry Janes for a while now, they seem to fit exactly the same as my old regular-width Merry Janes. So, at least for styles that use that pattern, you're pretty safe. Maybe giving them a call would be the best bet.
And I totally understand about the shipping! I really love MEC's clothes (I actually have a 15-year-old set of long underwear from them that still look brand new) but only place an order about once a year because of the cost of shipping to the US.
VFFs are not exactly known for their consistent manufacturing, so no, you're not just imagining things. Even if the people in the store look at you like you're crazy, I'd say try on at least one more pair (if not more) of the same size if you're not happy with the way they fit! And that sounds like a BS excuse on the Vibram website. Soft Stars are also handmade but for the most part are made very precisely. I think it's just that Vibram uses cheap labor in China and doesn't have much in the way of quality control.
It is interesting, though, that your pinky toes are the ones being squished, as it seems more common for people to have too much space for this toe. Do you have extra long pinky toes? Are you sure you don't need one size up?
I love VFFs and other minimalist shoes for hiking. When I first started wearing them my feet would get a little sore on rocky trails but now I can wear them on any terrain for any length hike.
Sorry, can't attest to climbing though. It probably depends on the durability of the upper material (a lot of them are very thin fabric that would snag and rip pretty easily, at least on real rock...not sure about the gym holds). There's a style called the Trek that is now now discontinued, but would be a good option if you can find them on sale or used somewhere. Also, since the toes are separate, if you're standing on a really small hold I imagine most or all of your weight would be on your big toe, rather than distributed across the entire foot. Since you've been running barefoot for a long time maybe your feet are strong enough that this isn't an issue, but it sounds uncomfortable to me!
But yes, minimalist shoes in general are awesome and you should get a pair!
I know they changed, I'm just wondering why they made this decision. They don't say anything about width changes, either, which is annoying. The new regular-width Merry Janes that I ordered were nearly a 1/4" narrower than my old ones.