Above is the men's Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento, leather loafer-ish-yet-casual five toe shoes we last buzzed about in the Fall (here).
In fact, the Sorrento has actually been available now for months—just not in the United States. And on that front, I'm sad to say that they won't be making it this way Spring 2013 (as hoped), either.
Bummer, I know.
I started wear-testing the Sorrento back in Fall of 2011 when the model was in it's pre-production phase (we glimpsed it way back in 2011 here); fast forward to this past summer when the Sorrento released in Europe, Vibram Italy was kind enough to send me a final production model, which brings me to today's review.
Why review the Sorrento if it's such a limited release model? Simple: I like it. A lot.
In short, Sorrento FiveFingers are comfortable, casual toe shoes you can knock around in day-in and day-out. Meanwhile, they look funky—but in a good way (not unlike the Speed FiveFingers), which makes them easy to wear daily.
And that makes for happy feet. And if you really want them but live in the U.S., well I'll see what I can't do to direct you to a retailer. And who knows, maybe like the Speed which didn't make it to the U.S. until about a year after I reviewed it on release in Europe, we'll see the Sorrento this side of the Atlantic some day in the future.
Now let's get to it. Read on for my full review!
The Shoes Get casual, Get comfortable.
Let's kick it off with the official write-up on the Sorrento from VibramFiveFingers.it:
Great for travelling, light walking or casual wear, the Sorrento is an ideal choice for the FiveFingers® enthusiast who wants to enjoy a barefoot-like experience while relaxing. The leather upper is perforated for breathability and has an elastic gore at the topline for a secure fit. Completely lined in leather, it feels smooth and comfortable against your skin.
At first blush, the Sorrento looks like a five-toed suede penny loafer. It's got a leather upper and a sole comprised of a main rubber component that ends with the forefoot and five rubber pods for the toes. A leather liner runs around the ankle and back of the Sorrento. Little punched holes in the suede upper over the instep aid in ventilation. Meanwhile, there is a removable insole that has a somewhat coarse canvas upper to it and is based on EVA foam.
Also, you'll want to note that the toe pockets are wrapped in fabric and not leather. This has struck me from the start as an odd choice by Vibram's designers. I can only assume that fabric just feels less constricting on the toes and is a little more breathable. The downside is that (and this hasn't happened in either of my pair, so knock on wood) you could potentially snag a front toe on concrete or asphalt and very easily rip a whole in the fabric. In probably 15 months of wearing them fairly regularly, this has yet to happen to me, so maybe my fear here is groundless.
Take a look at the Sorrento FiveFingers via these photos:
And here is some associated literature to the Sorrentos that ships with them—note that a suggested way to wear the Sorrentos is with the heel smashed down as a slip-on:
Now that you've got your bearings on these puppies, let's dive into how they perform.
A Semi-segmented sole.
The Sorrento features a unique Vibram rubber sole (One possibly reprised in the prototype called the Capri). The outsole is six parts—five toe pods and one main part for the rest. Note that while it appears that the arch portion is separated from the rest of the main outsole, it's not (as far as I can tell).
The separation of the toe pods from the main outsole makes for impressive toe flexibility—as in, probably the best of any FiveFingers save the discontinued Mocs/Performas/Performa Janes.
That said, the main body of rubber has a composition that feels stiffer than your typical pair of Vibrams. It's a dense rubber, I guess, but it's just not quite as flexible as the original-soled VFFs and certainly not as flexible as the most minimalist of FiveFingers like the SeeYas or the recently released El-X.
Ground feel is still very good as the soles are still quite thin overall compared to typical footwear.
As I mentioned above, the Sorrento has a removable insole. The insole isn't overly thick but it does have a curve to it (as does the sole) at the arch. While I hesitate to cite this combination as "arch support," it does press on your arch to some extent. If you have a very sensitive arch you might find this annoying. To me, it's pretty minimal (by comparison, a pair of Birkenstocks with true arch support make for a noticeable bump of pressure that's at least mildly annoying to my feet).
What's unusual about the Sorrento insole is that it has this canvas fabric upper—this is what touches your feet. Overall, the canvas isn't soft like the bottoms of most Vibrams. I'm not sure if I feel this is positive or negative. It's just different. It adds a lot of texture to the shoes that feels kind of nice on the bare foot. I sorta wish I could experience the Sorrento with a leather insole for comparative purposes, but I'll just have to take the Sorrento as it is.
In my wearing of the toe shoes, I've pretty much exclusively worn them without socks. And it should be noted that the leather upper feels great against my bare skin and the insole feels nice, too. There are very few real "seams" to the shoes, which is a huge win. Compared to other leather Vibrams, the Sorrentos have hardly any seams. My Bormios and Trek LS all have marked seams in the toe pockets—not so with the Sorrento!
The look. Wear'em with jeans.
I imagine the look of the Sorrento is something you might love or hate. Some might think, "A-ha! Here's my business casual toe shoe!" Well, maybe so. Maybe not.
For me, the sandy suede look just doesn't seem quite right worn with a typical pair of khaki pants. This is because (to me), the color is too similar to most khaki pants. If anything, they seem to work with a very light colored khaki or white-stone chino fine.
Where I found the Sorrentos shining from an aesthetic standpoint was with jeans. For some reason, I just really like the looks of these with a pair of jeans. If I had to speculate, I think it's because:
- Sorrentos with their suede uppers and barefoot styling look comfortable to the eye.
- Jeans are associated with comfort.
I frequently get approached by random onlookers about the Sorrentos—moreso than in other Vibrams. What's the deal? People want to know if they're comfortable because "They look comfortable!"
Yes, yes they are!
Worn with jeans, the Sorrentos have a casual aesthetic that just works. It works incredibly well for my day-to-day style, anyway.
As someone who has (almost) every pair of toe shoes ever made somewhere in my closet, there are only a handful of Vibrams that make it into a weekly rotation (if I can call it that). The Sorrentos are in my top two. My various colorways of Speed FiveFingers are the others that make the cut.
What I see with the Sorrento is the potential for everyday toe shoes to be a reality. I know at least a few of us want a dressy pair of toe shoes for work wear; and maybe the Sorrentos are just what you're looking for there. For me, my work attire is casual and to that end, it's hard to go wrong with the Sorrento (I've been feeling lucky for almost three years).
Probably the only drawback aesthetically to the Sorrento is that the suede is flesh-toned, so I have had at least a few double-takes from folks who thought I was actually barefoot. But what's new in toe shoe land? I guess the Sorrentos: even while toe shoes have become much more commonplace, the Sorrentos are seriously rare.
Conclusion: Comfortable, casual shoes make my feet happy.
Let's start wrapping this up.
Sorrento FiveFingers are great because:
- Let my feet be feet thanks to a non-constricting, foot-shaped last and a shoe design that lacks an elevated heel. I can wiggle my toes like crazy in these, too, which is awesome (upward dorsiflexion and downward toe flex—both work wonderfully).
- Comfortable! This goes with the prior-listed characteristics, but it's a nice plus to have a leather upper that feels nice against my bare skin. And that I can wear a pair of shoes without socks is also a huge part of comfort in my book.
- With a thin rubber sole, I get solid ground feel. While "barefoot shoes" are an oxymoron, I feel functionally barefoot in these. And that goes a long way for me.
- Aesthetically pleasing, easy to fit into my wardrobe.
As for problems with the Sorrento:
- I worry about that fabric around the toes ripping. Hasn't happened and hopefully won't happen.
- Incredibly difficult to get in the United States! The only way to get them is to find an international retailer that ships to the U.S. Be prepared to pay a lot of money for them.
When the dust settles, I really like the Sorrento as a FiveFingers model that I can wear everyday. These days, there are tons of options when it comes to barefoot shoes. That includes options for running and fitness and for everyday, casual wear. So with all these options, is there room for a five-toed casual shoe?
Whither fashion-forward toe shoes?
I know that I often wear toe shoes casually, but I also created a fan site for toe shoes! I'm not really your average FiveFingers fan, in other words. Faced with buying a pair of non-toed-but-"barefoot" casual shoes or the FiveFingers Sorrento, what would you choose?
See, I actually sorta dig the toes on the Sorrento. They make these shoes interesting to look at. They just seem natural, earthy, and they look comfortable.
The Sorrento FiveFingers are distinctive and assuredly a fashion statement. The question is: do people at large want to make that sorta fashion statement?
Could toe shoes ever become fashionable?
I'm skeptical they could—though it'd be fun if they did.
The biggest thing going for FiveFingers is that they are remarkably comfortable shoes that make you feel connected to your world in a way that isn't replicated by other minimalist shoes or sandals (my opinion). Why wouldn't you want that kind of connected-ness more?
So toe shoes for every day — well, I see them as a good thing. But what's it going to take to make that a reality? There have to be, for starters, more options available that look good. It's no coincidence that my top-two most worn VFFs on a day-to-day basis are the Speed and the Sorrento: it's because, in my opinion, they're the best looking, most aesthetically acceptable toe shoes yet to be made!
Will we get a few more options like them? I hope so. And maybe toe shoes will escape their niche-, awfully limited-use for fitness and running.
What do you think?