Justin recently reviewed the Speed XC Lite from a casual perspective with lots of information and photos. Given that the XC-lite is actually listed in Vibram?s golf category, this review focuses on the functionality of the shoes primarily from a golfing perspective. If you?ve ever golfed in FiveFingers, you know how comfortable “barefoot” golf can be. And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Read on for my experience with the Speed XC Lite. With more shoes entering the barefoot golf category, Vibram has finally started to advertise specifically to that market. There is now a golf section on their website, but it appears to me that they haven?t really produced any new designs specifically geared toward golf. It seems more of a rebranding effort as they label certain models for golf. Given the multi-use nature of FiveFingers, it?s not a surprise that people might use them for golf (as many of us have). Perhaps having them marketed for use in golf will get more VFF owners to try them out on the links.

The Look

Shown above with the two different lace colors that ship with the grey colorway.
Shown above with the two different lace colors that ship with the grey colorway.
The model I tested were silver and orange, and as Justin pointed out, the orange jumps out much brighter than it does in the stock photos. The XC Lites came with two sets of laces (grey and orange), and because FiveFingers stand out enough on their own, I went with the more subdued grey look for use on the golf course. The ?technical? look of the upper material definitely looks great, and although it doesn?t look like a traditional golf shoe (forgetting the toes of course), it certainly looks more golf related than other Vibram styles.

The Sole

It?s interesting to note a similarity among the styles Vibram lists as being best used for golf: they all have the Trek sole. I?ve previously mentioned that prior to the surge of barefoot golf shoes, any of my Trek-soled Vibrams were my go to for a comfortable ?barefoot? feeling round of golf. It makes sense that you want traction and the Trek soles, while not aggressively treaded, provide ample traction for someone who isn?t prone to over swinging. That being said, multiple other golf shoes I?ve tested do provide much more traction than the trek sole, but I never had a problem with grip and never slipped in the XC Lites. Some have questioned the use of the Trek sole over the more recent Spyridon. I am definitely curious how the Spyridon sole would feel with this new upper, but I have no issues with it as it is. I?ve always enjoyed the Trek sole and the now discontinued original Treks are still my favorite Vibram model. All this said, it is interesting to wonder why Vibram didn?t go with the more traction oriented (and thinner) Spyridon sole. Personally, I think it?s all about aesthetics and the lugged Spyridon sole might not work well for a shoe that is as much for casual wear as it is for golf. Plus the Trek has a bit more thickness to it and that little bit of extra EVA midsole does add some comfort when you?re hiking around the course.

Function

Despite the thicker Trek sole, they have great ground feel compared to other barefoot golf shoes. When I tested the Vivobarefoot Hybrids, I said they were ?the most barefoot feeling golf shoe I?ve worn.? That was primarily because Vibram did not technically make a golf shoe—FiveFingers have definitely felt more barefoot and are extremely comfortable on the course. My first negative reaction with the XC-Lites was that the leather heel cup felt restricting for the first couple days, as if it forced my foot forward as I walked. I?ve got too many Vibrams to count and they are all fine at size 43. But until I ?broke? these in a bit, the stiff heel felt like it really pushed against my heel as I rocked onto the ball of my foot. I couldn’t stop noticing it the first time I wore them, but by the time I golfed, the heel wasn?t a major issue (although I think about it each time I put them on). The upper is probably the most comfortable upper I?ve experienced with FiveFingers. The material and the fit of the upper is very different from the original Speed, and is a really comfortable stretch fabric. The only major issue I encountered was that my feet constantly felt a little sweaty. The upper is breathable, but I was always aware of the sense of wetness in the shoe. After my rounds, the bottoms of my toes were even on the verge of pruning. Not sure if this is just a personal issue with my feet, but I don?t recall the same level of moisture when wearing my Trek Sports. It probably didn?t help that I stepped in soaked grass occasionally, because these aren?t water resistant like their older sibling the Speed XC (which I haven’t worn). And, despite trying to avoid overly wet areas, I inevitably got water soaked toes several times. Despite the instant saturation, they were back to feeling just ?overly sweaty? in a few minutes. I can?t really knock them for this, because it was to be expected.

My Dilemma

After my initial tests at the range and local courses, I packed these with me for a round at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. I put the shoes on at the car and checked in at the clubhouse. The conditions were definitely ?moist? considering the perpetual state of fog over this portion of San Francisco. I already had the XC Lites on at the driving range when I had a change of heart. It was my first time on this course and it?s not the cheapest place to play. Having already had occasional issues with the wet toes in other rounds, I decided I didn?t want to deal with it this time and changed into other shoes. I don?t want this to seem like a huge knock on the shoes, because they are extremely comfortable. As I?ve mentioned before, the FiveFingers are as close to a barefoot feeling I?ve had while golfing. But the lack of water resistance can be a big detriment to the shoes depending on the conditions. Sometimes I don?t mind the occasional squishy toes, but there are definitely times where I don?t want to deal with it for 4+ hours.

Conclusion

The Speed XC Lite is a great looking and comfortable shoe. Overall, the XC Lite fits securely and feels like it is part of your foot, which is why I still think Vibrams are the most barefoot feeling I?ve had on a golf course. The trek sole gives plenty of traction and a little extra cushion to be comfortable on your feet all day. A major bonus is that these can (and probably should) also be worn as a casual everyday VFF. The lack of waterproofing could be a problem for some, but it?s no different than other Vibram options with the added bonus of a more comfortable upper. If you’ve ever enjoyed golfing in Vibrams or want to feel more barefoot on the course, then the XC Lite is definitely worth checking out. Already golfed in your XC Lites? How’d they work for you? [The Speed XC Lites can be picked up online for about $110 — Travel Country has them as does The Shoe Mart]