SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers Initial Review
UPDATE October 4, 2012
Guess what? The SeeYa LS is now available!
Any day now the (new for Fall 2012) Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa LS will hit the shelves. When it does, you can expect to hear it here first — you might as well know that the SeeYa LS is here (as of 10/4/2012).
Built on the same ultralight sole as the SeeYa model that Vibram released Spring 2012, the SeeYa LS adds traditional laces and a wholly new upper. It can handle running, general fitness, and pretty much whatever else you want to throw at it.
What follows is an initial review of the SeeYa LS — I've been wearing and testing them for the past month though if you want a running-specific review, Tim will follow-up his original SeeYa review with an LS review soon.
In the meantime, read on for a slew of photos, intell, and how you can win a pair of the SeeYa LS when they release!
Here are the official marketing materials/specs on the SeeYa LS from Vibram:
Building on the concept of the ultra light SeeYa, the SeeYa LS offers the same performance and barefoot sensation of the original with the added versatility of a traditional sneaker. The updated, technically styled upper features a padded tongue and micro suede overlay ensuring a comfortable and snug fit. Minimal rubber thickness in the outsole and soft TPU midsole maximizes “foot feel” and flexibility, enhancing natural movement. The SeeYa LS provides excellent connection to the ground while protecting the foot. Machine Washable. Air Dry.
While the SeeYa LS FiveFingers share the same sole as the SeeYa, they're an entirely different beast. In addition to laces, materials have changed and structure has been added to the LS, which lend these toe shoes a wholly feel and fit. Before I dive in further take a walk-around of the LS via the product photos below:
The SeeYa LS upper is mostly comprised of two fabrics. The prevailing fabric that touches the top of your foot (it's black in my pair of SeeYa LS photoed here) is see-through and has a stiffness to it that is reminiscent to the fabric used on the Minimus Zero Trail. If you're not familiar with the MT00, the fabric feels technical. It has a structure to it and doesn't stretch. By contrast, the fabric on the SeeYa is incredibly stretchy (almost too stretchy).
While the base LS fabric is airy (you can feel a breeze through these uppers), the stiffness of the fabric disagrees with the top of my bare (sockless) feet — particularly where the fabric creases at the instep (on dorsiflexion) — but overall just feels a little coarse to my skin and unfortunately, it's what is touching your foot everywhere except the soles (which use the typical, soft Dri-lex, if I'm not mistaken).
The other fabric on the SeeYa LS is a synthetic suede (same as that on the SeeYa). This suede wraps around the ankle and over the middle of the foot. It's used by the tongue, as well. The tongue has a smidge of foam sandwiched between two layers of the suede for padding against the laces.
The micro suede adds just a hair more structure to the SeeYa LS, but Vibram went one step further. Nearest I can tell, they reinforced the suede up the backs of the LS (at the heel) and along the ridge that is at the top of the ankle (the fabric with the diamonds on it here). In combination, these fabrics give the LS substantially more rigidity — much more than the stretchy uppers of the SeeYa.
As far as the laces, Vibram opted for traditional laces on the LS rather than the speed lacing system with the pull tab used in many other performance models. I like laces I can tie, so this is nice. That said, I find it's a little harder to put on the LS SeeYas without untying them and loosening the laces due to the overall lack of stretch in the uppers.
You can see that Vibram went a little wild with a webbed painted design. I suppose it's subtle enough in the black/grey colorway. What's unclear is how well it will hold up and from an aesthetic standpoint, makes these toe shoes look a little too noisy for my taste. Imagine an LS SeeYa in red and blue — you'd have yourself some Spider-man shoes.
One final note, the fabric used for the toe sidewalls is a stretchy synethic material. It reminds me of the fabric used on some of the original Vibrams, but it feels softer to my hand — oo la la.
What's there to say about the SeeYa LS sole. It's the same as the SeeYa. Measured with some basic skinfold calipers, the thickness as the forefoot is about 7.5mm. Oddly enough, the thickness at the heel is more like 6.5mm. Are these negative drop shoes? It's not in the literature, so not sure if my measurements are off but I get the same readings on my SeeYas. Hmm ... at only a 1mm difference, I'm not sure it's very noticeable. Anyone else notice any difference how their biomechanics felt on switching to the SeeYa?
The SeeYa sole is comprised of a combination of rubber and TPU. The rubber is in grey in my pair and the TPU shiny black. This design reduces overall weight of the shoes and makes them more flexible. Take a look:
Mind, what is harder to see is what the TPU is doing when it's covered by the Vibram rubber. Thanks to a photo I took from the Vibram store in Boston of the SeeYa sole sans upper, you can see just that — the TPU is grey in this pic and the Vibram rubber black (Same sole viewed from bottom)
Really, the SeeYa sole is the most minimal available in the current (Fall 2012) FiveFingers line. You get more ground feel in them than Bikila-, Spyridon- or Trek-soled FiveFingers. Is it more minimal than the Classics and Sprints of yesteryear (now discontinued)? My gut tells me, "no," but it is close. I think the primary difference is that they use the TPU midsole, which just adds the slightest cushion to the soles, dulling some ground feel as compared to soles of pure Vibram rubber (such as those of the Classic and Sprint). I think the SeeYa sole is very similar to the ground feel you get with a pair of KSOs (You'll remember that KSOs have the 3.5 mm Vibram outsole and 2mm EVA midsole).
I used my SeeYa LS FiveFingers in plenty of everyday situations. For all day wear, they do fine and I never developed a blister from the creasing of the upper fabric in this application. While I hoped the fabric would break in and get softer here, it's yet to happen, and at some point, I just decided I'd wear them with toe socks to avoid the irritation (even if it didn't blister it was irritating!). Needless to say, toe socks fix that problem.
I never ran more than short distances in the SeeYa LS and will defer to Tim when he can give a running-centric review (Since he's completed an Ironman in SeeYas, I think he's substantially more qualified than me to review them in that capacity!). Stay tuned for that.
Used as a gym shoe, I like the SeeYas. They're great for traction on concrete floors My home garage gym can be a bit dusty/dirty, so it's nice to have something on my feet that will keep me steady while doing double 53 lb. kettlebell swings. The SeeYa LS is great for that purpose though the laces don't provide much of an advantage over the standard SeeYa in that application.
SeeYa vs. SeeYa LS (mini face-off)
Two criticisms levied against the single-strapped SeeYa were (1) that it could cause blistering at the point where the strap attached to the micro-suede on the inside of the foot and (2) the heel and overall fit felt a little loose. Leah had the blistering problem (noted in her review) and Tim noticed some looseness in his review.
I think Vibram made a strong attempt to tackle both of these issues with the LS. The upper seems markedly less stretchy in the LS (it's just not stretchy) and other elements were added to steady the frame of the upper on the SeeYa LS. On first blush, I think they improved the SeeYa LS over the SeeYa by making it feel like it will move around on your foot less. My only complaint is the abrasiveness of the fabric — which leaves me wanting to wear socks with them (something I'm not a fan of doing, personally, in my toe shoes).
So which is better? I think it has got to come down to personal preference.
I really like the softness of the upper of the SeeYas; I also like how easy it is to put on. I'm not a huge fan of it's strap, which doesn't do much for the fit on my feet. I also feel the strap is a point of rigidity that stands in contrast to not enough rigidity or "steadiness" when it comes to how the SeeYas fit around the heel.
Meanwhile, the LS seems more steady in the overall fit to my foot. It's more "locked on" than the SeeYa due to the laces and the more structure-lending upper. My gripe is just the abrasive fabric.
Forced to choose, at this point, I think I'd wear the SeeYas for any sockless application and switch to the LS for wear with socks — and since I don't think I'd make it long running in SeeYas sans socks without getting the blister problem, I'd likely opt for the LS with socks while running. Since I'm mostly not running in mine though, I find myself gravitating to the standard SeeYas.
I won't say much on aesthetics other than I wish Vibram would have gone with less webbing on the SeeYa LS. I like the overall look of them and the webbing sorta fades away to the eye save for close examination. But on a lingering gaze, it just looks like overkill and I don't know how well it will hold up over time.
Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder — particularly when it comes to toe shoes — thoughts?
Release and Giveaway
The giveaway has ended! See here for the release!
And as part of the upcoming release, TravelCountry is giving away two pairs of the SeeYa LS to two randomly selected BirthdayShoes email subscribers! So if you'd like to have a chance at being chosen to win a pair, simply be a subscriber to the BirthdayShoes weekly email digest by going here and signing up.
Why be a subscriber? Well, in addition to getting one weekly summary of recent posts on the site, you'll get to hear about special sales and deals on minimalist shoes. You can peruse some of these "deal" type emails here but previously I've blasted news like 50% off VivoBarefoots, $40 KSO FiveFingers (they're still for sale at this price actually!), and other really good deals that will help you stay sane.
The two winners will be selected at the time TravelCountry.com has the SeeYa LS in stock and ready to ship, which I'll announce on the blog and by email. So subscribe already!
Finally, you've got three other ways to increase your chances of winning:
I'll also select 10 winners to receive a free BirthdayShoes sticker! I know, I know, that's exciting!Good luck!
So if you can't tell, my reaction to the SeeYa LS to date is a bit of a mixed bag. I like the SeeYa soles well enough and appreciate the added structure of the SeeYa LS relative to the SeeYa. I'm not such a fan of the fabric of the upper as it feels against my bare skin — it just rubs me wrong even while not (yet) causing any blisters. Also, the lack of stretch in the upper is a bit of an adjustment to the feel of a pair of FiveFingers — this could make them not such a good candidate for folks with wide feet.
I'll be most interested to see what Tim thinks about them for running in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that!
What do you think?