Vibram Five Fingers Jaya LR [Barefoot] Toe Shoes
Vibram is introducing a brand new style of Five Fingers for women in Spring 2011 called the Jaya LR (Also see the similar, zero-leather Jaya Five Fingers — nearest i can tell these two models are the same save for the leather bits). The Vibram Five Fingers Jaya LR appears to offer an excellent minimalist feel with a fashion-forward aesthetic and should be a great choice for women looking for a knock-around toe shoe for casual wear, travel, or fitness.
The technical specifications on the Jaya LR from the 2011 Vibram Five Fingers catalog:
"Sleek leather overlays and a feminine topline differentiate the Vibram FiveFingers Jaya LR. Don’t be fooled, this new model for Spring 2011 will stand up to high reps and grueling intervals—all in a foot-flattering design. The 5.5mm EVA sole makes the Jaya LR one of the lightest models in our collection. Strategically placed Vibram TC1 performance rubber pads provide grip and durability to this unique sole design. The Jaya LR can be worn for a variety of indoor and outdoor fitness activities requiring balance, agility and power. Machine Washable, Air Dry away from sun or heat source."
The Five Fingers Jaya LR features a newly designed sole that might be described as a cross between the ultra-minimalist soled Moc / Performa / Performa Jane and the standard Classic Five Fingers (or Sprint) sole. Throw in a dash of Honda ASIMO and/or albino alien and you get the Jaya / Jaya LR sole platform.
On a more technical basis, what makes the Jaya's new sole tech worth consideration is that it is mostly composed of flexible and lightweight EVA (as opposed to standard Vibram rubber). If you take a look at the Jaya sole (as in this photo), 95% of the white material you see in the sole is EVA. This is the same material you may have noticed gracing the arch portion of the sole on the Bikila (or the 2011 Komodo). What's interesting about EVA is that it gives readily under pressure — it's not stiff like the standard rubber used throughout Vibram soles. By building the Jaya LR's sole upon a foundation of EVA, you get a more pliable Vibram Five Fingers model (thus, this is why it's more like the indoor-only, uber-minimalist "leather foot gloves" — the Moc, Performa, and Performa Jane).
EVA isn't as durable as standard Vibram rubber, which is why Vibram has strategically implanted "pods" of Vibram rubber onto the Jaya LR sole — at the heel, forefoot (five pods) and at the ends of each toe — the grey ovals in the photos (And the remainining white at the tips of the toes is also standard rubber).
You can see just how little structure the EVA foundation provides the Jaya LR by taking a look at how it rests when laid flat on a table. Note how the Jaya LR sort of bows up from front to back: regular Vibram Five Fingers models simply lay flat front to back — probably because the rubber ways more or it just adheres more closely to the given mold.
The EVA is 5.5mm thick on the Jaya LR sole (at least in places; it doesn't look to be that thick across the entire sole and is pretty thin in spots like the arch and mid-toe, for example): this is thicker than the 3.5 mm rubber sole in standard VFFs. How this added thickness will impact ground feel is not yet understood. EVA isn't as stiff as straight rubber, so maybe the thickness doesn't really matter. I'd guess EVA also wears down and "thins" with use, so this might make the Jaya LR "break in" to being more barefoot over time. Also, how the pod/EVA portions of the Jaya LR will transfer ground feel is not yet fully tested.
Regardless, I like the concept of trying to create a more flexible — and lightweight Vibram Five Fingers model (the Jaya LR only weighs an ounce more than the Performa Jane).
The Five Fingers Jaya LR features a new upper design that rises higher on the foot, has no elastic bands to cinch (as with Classics) or straps to tighten (as with every other model). Looks like the extra coverage is enough to keep the Jaya LR on your foot!
Vibram Five Fingers Jaya LR vs. Jaya
The prmary difference between the Jaya LR and the Jaya is that the LR features leather stripes across the top, making it arguably more fashion-forward and lending it a more expensive look. Also, the Jaya LR doesn't have the heel cup ankle padding that you get with the Jaya. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so rather than get verbose, just hop over to the Five Fingers Jaya page and see for yourself (Note: the Jaya LR write-up is similar to the Jaya as both models share most features in common).
Does the Jaya fill a niche in the Vibram Five Fingers line?
No doubt a simple pair of Vibram Classics or Sprints can do anything the Jaya can do; however, these models weigh more and don't seem to allow as much foot flex/twist/bending as you might be able to get with the Jaya. The jury is still out until these models hit the streets en masse sometime in Spring 2011. For now, the Jaya has me intrigued.
Unfortunately, intrigued is all I'll be as only small-footed men will be able get the Jaya — it's women's only. Sorry guys.
What say you? Sound off in the comments here!
Photos of the Vibram Five Fingers Jaya LR in white and grey leather
The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers line-up (links will go live as the pages are up this week!)