Sockwa is known for their ultra-minimalist approach to barefoot shoes. Sockwa, not surprisingly, takes a “sock-like” approach to their designs—their shoes take a sock-like design and add a simple, thin, flexible sole for durability.
Sockwa sent over a pair of the Sockwa X8 to review. How’d they turn out? Read on!
The X8 is Sockwa’s flagship minimalist shoe with a very thin sole, breathable mesh, and stretchy lycra tongue for security. Here’s what Sockwa has to say about the X8:
The Sockwa X8 is our best yet. The marriage of the breathable aeroprene upper to the sole is what makes it feel even better. Insulate and protect your feet while still feeling nearly everything beneath your feet. The upper is constructed of super breathable aeroprene with Lycra tongue for breathability and stretchability.
You can take a spin around the shoes here:
The heart of the Sockwa X8 is an incredibly thin, molded sole that is plastic derived and when combined with its insole brings the stack height to rough 3mm, which is an incredible feat of engineering in terms of thinness, proprioception, and groundfeel.
The sole features shallow hexagonal lugs, which provide a bit of traction for this incredibly thin sole.
Overall, if you are a minimalist junky with tough feet looking for the most minor of protection possible, the X8 might be a good choice for you.
While it may look like an aquasock, it works well for all kinds of activities, including hiking, running, and watersports.
I see the X8 as a looser, closed-toe Vibram EL-X of sorts. Both shoes feature thin soles with minimal treading and are secured through a simple stretchy mesh material.
In terms of their shape, the X8 might be a more versatile than the fan-favorite EL-X by nature of being a simple closed-toe design, rather than a five fingers style shoe. While I enjoy Vibrams, they do not always fit all toe shapes and sizes. Having a more standard toebox, such as in the X8, might allow for more people to enjoy the benefits of a super thin shoe for a variety of activities.
However, where I find the X8 to be a slightly more limiting shoe compared to the EL-X is in its sole shape and how it fits overall. First off, the toebox does run a bit narrow and my wide feet do press quite a bit against the sides on the interior of the shoe. There is no way that a wide foot like mine is going to splay as much as I would like, so keep your foot shape in mind when checking these out.
In addition, the bottom of the sole is molded! The X8 does not have a totally flat sole. Rather, it has a molded arch and heel section, which may be very comfortable for some, but uncomfortable for others; I’m in the latter camp.
If you have a high arch, this will most like not be an issue for you, but my flat feet were constantly reminded of the shape of the sole with every step.
Overall, the sole’s durability seemed to be adequate for all kinds of activities. You are not going to be jumping on jagged rocks with such a thin sole, but for beach and leisure activities, perhaps smooth roads, they would be excellent, provided you find a good fit with the shape of the shoe.
Fit and Materials
The X8 uses an “Ariaprene” upper and Lycra tongue. According to their website, Ariaprene is odor free, hypo-allergenic, and provides superior insulation. I would not recommend this upper for cold weather use, but it is fine for three season adventures. The stitching seemed well-done on my testers, but I would have preferred something more like the Vibram EL-X’s painted-on stretch layer, which is less fussy and very durable, at least in my own experience. I would be concerned with catching the stitching of the upper on bushes or debris, but they never failed me over the course of a few months of testing.
As stated above, the fit of the X8 is on the narrower side, so keep that in mind when you try yours. The boxes of the X8 have a great guide so you can size yourself very quickly (which is helpful because the X8 runs about a size small). I did wish that the upper was a bit tighter along the top of my foot for better security for fast movements, but for long runs and walks, it provided just enough of a secure feeling to enjoy, but I would have liked something that felt a bit tighter on my foot.
I was unable to do a downward toe flex with the X8. Because of how my foot sits inside, my toes simply curled within the shoe, rather than contorting the shoe with it.
The uppers were very breathable and with a smell profile that is much better than your typical EL-X over time. They also dried relatively quickly after kayaking. Sockwa does not actually label the X8 as a water shoe, but it would be a good shoe for river crossings, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
In a future X8, I would love to see a more rubberized sole, which would allow the shoe to feel stickier and more assured on a variety of surfaces and I would make the overall shape of the shoe much wider and completely flat. The X8 would fit a larger variety of feet this way and be completely zero drop as well. I found the molded sole to be a bit of a distraction to my enjoyment of the shoe.