We announced a week ago that the Speed LR Vibram FiveFingers had hit the market via REI (see here) in what seems to be an exclusive, limited U.S. release. What is the Speed LR, you ask? Well, it’s basically a reboot of the all-black Trek LS FiveFingers that hit the market last fall (see our review of them here). I placed an order into REI to grab a pair of the Speed LR last week to photo and share with BirthdayShoes readers — so what follows is a first look at them. Really, I don’t feel a full review of the Speed LRs is necessary because they are so similar to the Trek LS. Just how are they similar — and different? Want to see more? Read on after the jump!

Take a look around the all-leather Speed LR FiveFingers

The Speed LR FiveFingers are meant for casual use. Sure, you could hike in them and I imagine running in them with socks would be fine though there are better options for both applications. The LRs feature an all-black kangaroo leather upper, traditional laces, and five toe pockets built on top of Vibram’s most aggressive FiveFingers sole — the Trek. The insole of the LR is mostly leather though it gives way to a felt-like material around the forefoot (why??). Unlike some other leather-incorporating VFFs, the LR wraps the toes with leather both on top and on the sides. The LR is almost entirely black with only small bits of grey accents — most notably on the lace eyelets and the leather that wraps the insides of the shoes. Finally, you’ll notice various bits of Vibram branding on the soles, the instep (stitched “Vibram”), the tongue, a rubbery Vibram logo at the heel, and wrapped around the ends of the laces. Given the branding is yellow, it’s hard to miss on these all black shoes.

Differences to the Trek LS

Many of you might be wondering what makes the Speed LR different from the Trek LS in all black — aside from the name change. Well, there are a few subtle differences worth pointing out (and for convenience, I’ve added at the bottom of this post a gallery of photos of the black Trek LS):
  • The Speed LR and Trek LS have a different lacing system — the LR uses round laces and opposing fabric eyelets in lieu of the metal grommet-style lace holes of the Trek LS.
  • The Speed LR has a less complicated tongue attachment point — the LR has a squared out wrap versus the rounded wrap plus extra bit of the Trek LS. Functionally, this seems to reduce the seams a little on the LR. It also makes for a slightly cleaner aesthetic.
  • The Speed LR has a flat black Trek sole vs. the camo grey and black sole of the Trek LS
  • The Speed LR has grey leather on the insole/heel-cup versus black of the Trek LS
  • The Speed LR has a little more marked Vibram branding — see pictures
  • The Speed LR is $10 cheaper with an MSRP of $130 vs. $140 of the Trek LS
And I think that’s basically it. When you add it all up, does it make the LR markedly different from the Trek LS? It doesn’t really to me. Some other LR adopters have said they find the LR a little more comfortable than the Trek LS. It’s hard for me to tell but my gut tells me the new lacing style may function slightly better as far as accommodating the instep. I’m curious what others think.

What’s the initial impression?

Not sure there’s a ton more to say. The new Speed LR vs. old Trek LS reminds me a little of going from the iPhone 4 to the 4S. Of course, I’m a stock Android guy so maybe that’s a bad analogy. Suffice to say that if you like the LR, you should know that only REI has them — and word is that’s not going to change. Given that the upcoming Speed XC has the same look as the LR, I wonder what other similarities they’ll have, but given the XC will be water-resistant with taped seams and multiple layers of fabric (it’s not leather), my hunch is it’ll be a pretty distinct beast from the LR. We’ll see — and soon, I hope. I’ll be sure to post news on the XC as soon as it breaks, so if you’re not already subscribed to BirthayShoes, get on the email list. Anyone out there grab the LRs, too? What do you think?

The old Trek LS FiveFingers in Black – PHOTOS