Barefoot Shoes

SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers Initial Review

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 one retailer is already taking pre-orders with an expected ship date of October…

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 upper

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.

The sole

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. I do like all the colorways (color combinations) — particularly the grey/green/yellow (a little loud but I like it). 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! Availability and Giveaway: First things first, the SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers aren’t out yet (as of late September) but are expected to hit retailers early October. In fact, TravelCountry is already taking pre-orders on the SeeYa LS with an anticipated ship date of October 9th (men’s order page here | women’s here). They are priced at $99.95 (and ship free). 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 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:
  • Tweet this post! — you can click that link to auto-generate the tweet, or write your own so long as it has “@bdayshoes” and links to this post (so I can track!)
  • Share this post publicly on Facebook (has to be public so I can track it!)
  • +1 or share this post on Google+!
I’ll also select 10 winners to receive a free BirthdayShoes sticker! I know, I know, that’s exciting! Good luck!

Initial Conclusion

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?

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

23 replies on “SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers Initial Review”

I am excited about these, but blew my VFF budget on an old colorway of Classics from overseas. I can’t really justify these now, but would love to win a pair. I do not use Twitter, but have entered in the other possible means.

These look okay aesthetic wise and I am sad to hear that they are less comfortable barefoot and almost require socks to be worn. I am typically sock-less in all my VFFs. I still would love to give a pair a try because I really want to experience the See-Ya sole and I detest Velcro closures. I think these would be great for knocking around in. I prefer the traditional lacing systems like the Speeds over the elasticized cord on the other LS models. I think these will be a good product and can’t wait to get my hands on them, or should I say feet in them.

Good review!

Side note, is it just me, or does it seem like the toe pockets could be a bit longer? I may have long toes, not sure, but for me it seems like the toe pockets could be 50% longer

Yay for another awesome pair of vibrams that I won’t be getting because vibram apparently doesn’t like men with small feet.

As soon as I saw the initial announcement that these were coming out, I’ve been looking forward to them, especially since my Seeya’s have been for me what the sprints and classics were to almost everyone else. Thanks for keeping us updated, Justin!

Hope to win a pair! These look great and I like the black and grey color scheme. Can’t wait to hear about how they hold up for running.

i would just take the KSO’s sole
and mix it with the SEE-YA’s upper.
vibram keep coming with all these new
advnced soles but it all gets more and more “plastic” (yeah, i know it’s rubber).
it may sound weird but these new soles
seem “digital”.
true- it’s accurate and durable but to me,one single layered sole is the way to glory.
sure, look at your
OWN BARE FEET-your sole’s skin is one
ORGANIC PART.(connected to the rest of you, ofcourse.)
i sense big miss here-seperate parts of
the sole will lead to pressure points on your feet over time–where one organic sole will spread the shocks all all around, and above.
that’s only MY opinion-i love vibram’s
ksos and the trek sports-classic models
that are a must for barefoot adventurers!

I agree with jewel++. The ground feel/overall performance I get from the KSOs is better than the SeeYa’s because it evenly distributes pressure throughout the 1 piece sole.

I think a lot of people would be content in seeing the classic sole on new and lighter uppers.

Justin, thanks for the great review. While reading, I kept thinking about the KSO’s then read the comments only to find others were also thinking about the KSO’s. If you need to wear socks with the SeeYa LS, you will lose the weight advantage over the KSO. As for the SeeYa, if it doesn’t fit right, the slight weight advantage it has really doesn’t matter. In running, fit always comes first then weight. There is a lot going for the basic brilliance of the KSO. I understand vibram needs to keep it’s product line fresh but in the case of the KSO, I think they got it right the first time.

is 40 the smallest size for see ya or bikila? My feet size are almost 10 inches, like 9 3/4 on one and 10 on the other. see ya or bikila 40 is 10 1/4 inches. Will 40 work?

Jeremy, the only issue about having a one piece sole is there is no real “tread”.

Then you have the extreme tread that doesn’t touch the ground fully on pavement, such as the Trek sole.

Got my pair, so far I’m thinking these are by far my favorite pair of fivefingers out of the 2 dozen or so I own. The fit is dead on and they dont squezze my toes as the others do,so comfortabe that I could wear these all day. Gonna order a 2nd pair in another color!

I picked up a pair and love.
So very very light weight.
It’s too cold right now, but I can already tell that these will be even cooler than KSOs due to the ‘see through’ upper!
Arch feels a little more supportive than the KSO, as the new material is just a little more rigid. However, still gives freely to motion.

I think the shoe overall has more ground feel, and can we rolled up a little more easily than KSOs

The tread seems about the same as KSOs

Questions for “older” feet. I have some moderate out of line toes like from bunions? Will Vibrams work for me? If so, which would be best for my first pair? I like what I’ve read on the See Ya LS.

— this could make them not such a good candidate for folks with wide feet.

I can concur with Justin that these are indeed not a good option for folks with wide feet. I finally got a chance to try them on yesterday, and after quite a struggle to even get into them, there just was not enough flexibility in the upper and also not enough fabric, to cover my entire foot. I had bare skin showing on either side of the tongue. I had high hopes for these, and unfortunately they are not for me. None of my local retailers carry the non-LS version, so I have not had a chance to try those for comparison.

I’ve had the Seeya LS for about 2 years now (still wear them here and there even though they’re completely worn out a year ago). I really liked the fit and even the feel of the stretch fabric. At first they were a little chaffy, but I found after a while of breaking them in, this translated to more ‘feeling’ and actually desiring the net-like feel of the fabric. I don’t know how to describe it but it feels like it stimulates the skin and the underlying nerves in a good way, especially after the stiffness goes away. What I really enjoy is how airy they are, great ventilation for sweaty feet, along with the insole fabric that helps the skin on the bottom of my feet feel comfy. The heel feels great, perfect fit design there. The laces can be a little inconvenient as they like to untie themselves but this area where the tongue is and the ‘frame’ of suede that goes to the heel helps it feel more secure on my foot while feeling very light at the same time.

However, what I hate is how the fabric just doesn’t hold up for very long before becoming frayed and making holes around the edge of the sole (particularly around the side of the big toe and little toe on the other side, where all the foot bending occurs). I’ve had to glue them with shoe goo and that only works for so long before rupturing again. Also, the fabric between the toes is satin-like and not very durable whatsoever. It is the fabric between the toes on almost all of the VFF’s that I find to be their ‘achilles heel’, they just don’t hold up and are almost impossible to repair. I would love another pair of these, but only if the upper fabric wasn’t so easily worn out and damaged…and it seems there are none left with dark/subtle color schemes anymore anyway.

I recently purchased Seeya LS – I was forced out of my Seeya’s because one toe in each shoe broke through with a hole. Arghh!!!
I developed a blister immediately from where the shoe creases. Talk about stiff material that doesn’t give. The shoe size is fine since the shoes fits nicely… but it will cause a blister every time I wear them due to the seam from the laces.
I had no problem with the strap from the original Seeya – just tighten or loosen as necessary. I really am disappointed as I thought these would be similar.
I would pay for another pair of Seeya’s but cannot find in my size. (37)
After 2 weeks, blister has just healed. I may try to wear socks but that stinks. I prefer no socks…but I prefer no blister.
Give me the old Seeya any day of the week!!!!!

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