The Definitive Guide to Vibram Rubber Sole Types

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve taken a keen interest in what might be called “homegrown” minimalist shoes. By “homegrown,” I mean the types of minimalist shoes or sandals mostly being created by start-up shoe manufacturers like…

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve taken a keen interest in what might be called “homegrown” minimalist shoes. By “homegrown,” I mean the types of minimalist shoes or sandals mostly being created by start-up shoe manufacturers like Luna Sandals, Unshoes, Shamma Sandals, etc. Many of these shoes and sandals have been reviewed on this site!

These sandals and shoes frequently are built using Vibram rubber soles. And as it turns out, Vibram has made a number of different types of rubber soling materials, each having its own specific qualities and characteristics.

This can be a bit confusing for newcomers and in an effort to help clarify some of the differences, below is a “definitive guide” to the soles. It’s ultimately subjective, but should help you get a good feel for how things work in the Vibram sole world.

Generally speaking, more dense rubber soles are heavier. Each provides its own flavor of ground feel. More on the “barefootedness” question at the end.

Read on!

Density chart

[least dense] Morflex < Cherry < Woodstock < Gumlite < Newflex [most dense]

Note: The above chart is my own subjective assessment of density. Cherry is factually the most dense Vibram sheet material, followed by Gumlite and then Newflex. While devil is in the details, but the above chart is my perspective despite the actual density.

Vibram Morflex

Vibram Morflex as seen after some wear on a pair of Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers
Vibram Morflex as seen after some wear on a pair of Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers

Morflex “mouse pad” is a micro-cellular sole, with one-third the weight of rubber, but excellent resilience and a little bounce. The material can be equated to a very dense neoprene, slightly squishy and conforms easily to the shape of your foot. It has good grip and durability.

Morflex soles are typically flat slabs of foam/rubber with little-to-no texture (just the Vibram logo, typically). Excellent for road running, but not for off road use.

Vibram Cherry

Vibram Cherry as seen on a pair of Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Flats
Vibram Cherry as seen on a pair of Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Flats

Cherry is a rubber sole that has properties that combine some traits of Morflex and Gumlite. It does not feel as “airy” and soft as Morflex and features a “woven” texture that is grippier on floors than the other Vibram soles, but the depth of the weaves is shallow and is not very useful for trail and road use, compared to the more aggressively-designed Vibram soles.

Vibram Woodstock

Vibram Woodstock on the Earth Runners Alpha X
Vibram Woodstock on the Earth Runners Alpha X

Woodstock “jigsaw” is a bit denser than Morflex and is typically used in thicker soles of roughly 10mm or thicker. It conforms to your foot quickly and provides slightly better traction and slip-resistance.

Woodstock soles have a broken-up look to them, almost like tectonic plates. They are great for new runners thanks to the thicker sole and they have better traction than Morflex soles.

Vibram Gumlite

Vibram Gumlite on the bottom of the Bedrock Earthquake 2.0
Vibram Gumlite on the bottom of the Bedrock Earthquake 2.0

Gumlite “nubby” has the wear characteristics of rubber, but with half the weight. It has good durability and slip resistance. Gumlite features hundreds of small nubs for enhanced traction over other, smoother soles

Great all-around sole for road running and off road running with a good tradeoff with density, bounce, and comfort.

Vibram Newflex

Vibram Newflex as seen on the Gladsoles Trail huaraches (Also seen at the top of this guide in the Shamma Sandals Mountain Goat)
Vibram Newflex as seen on the Gladsoles Trail huaraches (Also seen at the top of this guide in the Shamma Sandals Mountain Goat)

Newflex “zig zag” has excellent slip resistance and durability. It has the greatest durability and grip among the soles (IMO). It is also the densest sole in the lineup, which means that it can be made thinner than other materials. Some sandal makers feature Newflex soles as thin as 3mm, though 5mm is more common.

Newflex is a great all-around sole; my favorite in the bunch–Thin, strong, comfortable, and sticky when needed.

Just how barefoot are these rubber soles?

The “Barefootness” question is really interesting. Groundfeel depends on thickness and sole material and can be interpreted in different ways.

Depending on your preferences, you may find denser soles or softer soles as providing “better” groundfeel.

Softer soles conform to your foot more readily (seeing your footprint in a sole is a beautiful thing!) and compress more upon impact, while denser shoes compress less and take much longer to conform to your foot. In fact, some sandalmakers that use Newflex will add leather or some other topper to provide some level of foot conformity on top of the tough sole.

Denser soles transfer more direct proprioception, but the compression of softer soles bring you closer to the ground upon landing and become thinner over time.

Denser soles are more “jarring” over hard surfaces and are great for keeping you light on your feet, while softer soles can take some of the impact, but provide less protection overall.

Personally, my favorite road running sole is Morflex for its slight sponginess and smooth texture, while my favorite off road sole is definitely Newflex.

Questions? Comments? Let me know below. And we’ll update this guide as necessary in the future!

By Jarvis

Minimalist ultra-marathon runner with flat dinosaur feet.

50K Ultra-Marathon Runner

Associate Dean

I hold a PhD in Political Science.
You can follow my photography adventures at and Instagram at

31 replies on “The Definitive Guide to Vibram Rubber Sole Types”

Man I wish I read this months ago when I was picking an outsole for our new boots out of Vibram’s huge catalog =P Great article!

In the end, I chose the zig zag Newflex as it was the best all-arounder, for similar reasons to yours =)

I do find the Cherry to be more dense, less flexible, and more durable than the Newflex though, in my experience.

Mountain Evan Chang,

Please share your shopping experience! I have looked at the Vibram catalog many times and have found their descriptions to be somewhat vague, which is why Justin and I put together this article.

This was written as my own subjective take on each sole material, given the different physical–objective–properties and their application.

While Cherry is, technically, the most dense–it’s basically the same TC-1 rubber that Vibram uses for their own soles (Thanks, Bedrock Sandals for that info)–I have personally found its use to be less versatile as Newflex and Gumlite and its function (due in large part to its tread design) to be less useful for off-road use, which makes it more on par with Morflex in terms of activities, properties, and application.

In my own experience and research, Cherry is used for road and casual shoes in the same manner as Morflex (usually 2-3mm for Cherry and 5-6mm for Morflex), so they are similar in terms of applications and activities, just not properties but the differences in the “usual” thickness applications of each evens things out a bit.

As anther example Woodstock is actually a bit soft when pressed, but it is usually used in thicker soles, so it works more as an all-terrain shoe than Morflex or Cherry because of its treads and thickness, which is great for new runners.

Between Gumlite and Newflex, I found that Newflex wears more evenly and its treads do not “cake” dirt as much as the little nubs of Gumlite, so that’s why I consider it more versatile, though from a compositional standpoint, Gumlite is the denser sole.


great post. Are you able to buy sheets of these soles on your own and not in bulk? I ask because I’ve been trying to resole shoes with these vibram soles and have not had any luck with shops carrying them.
I settled on resoling with birkenstock soles, which are flat and sort of similar to the Woodstock. I put them on a pair of Clarks desert Treks and it make them zero drop and it looks great. I plan on doing this to more shoes in the future so I can be a little more fashion conscious but still have zero drop shoes..


You can purchase materials from a number of locations, including Amazon, eBay and direct from Vibram, but these are all typically either large orders or big slabs of Vibram (a 35×11 slab of Cherry from Amazon costs 60 bucks, a bit too much for sandals) has more manageable sizes of material in terms of amount and price and they have a bunch of tutorials and what appears to be a helpful community.


Rubber soles do not allow for conducting, but Earthrunners prides themselves on having conductive sections, including the lacing systems and toe posts, that make contact with the ground.

We have many reviews of Earthrunners on our website. Check them out!


I am confused, are all these outsole based on rubber? If yes what type of rubber is best for outdoors?

Thank you

These soles are patented rubber compound from Vibram. Each has its own special properties and typical thickness, but I recommend Newflex and Gumlite for trails and Morflex and thinner cherry for road running.

Vibram’s TC-1 rubber (Cherry) is a good choice, as well as the foam/rubber mix (VLite) that they use for the Bikila EVO and V-Run is a great choice for roads as well.


Hi Jarvis,
I’ve been wearing barefoot style foot wear for a few years now. I’m in a search for a flat light weight sole that Absorbs shock and has reliable traction. I stand on hard floors and concrete/asphalt for hours. But I can’t go back to ordinary shoes. I’ve tried the vibram newporter sole and though it’s flat and has good traction, it lacks the shock absorbing properties. What would you suggest ?


My favorite road and walking-around sole is definitely Morflex.

The only catch is that it does not have any treading, but I never really noticed it as an issue on roads.

The next step up would be Woodstock, but I would recommend finding a thinner sheet as they usually are in the 10mm range. Perhaps cut off 1/3 to 1/2?

Then you have Newflex, which is denser than the other two, but still gives you a little softness. Usually in the 5mm range.

What about rubber toxicity? Especially from upcycled tires and any chemicals used in the sandal making process.

I have used the NewFlex on a pair of Luna Sandals for a year. Last summer I was putting about 50-60 miles on them a week for hiking and backpacking, with about 35-40 miles being on rocky trails mixed with dirt and good incline in the Columbia Gorge. They were far gripper on all surface in any weather than I ever would have thought. Seldomly slipping on anything wet or dry.
I do wish the sandal offered more moldability to my foot for better comfort and weight distribution.
Durability is great.

What sole will wear longer between the Woodstock and the Cherry? I cannot seem to find the former available for the life of me. It is not even mentioned in Vibram’s 2015 repair catalog.

Also, have you tried the Kletterlift? Both those and the Cherry sheets have positive reviews on Amazon.


I would say that the Cherry denser and would probably wear longer, all things being equal.
However, woodstock is used in thicker soles typically while cherry is used in thinner soles, so it really depends on your needs.

Kletterlift is more of a traditional boot platform and I have not seen it in minimalist shoes yet.

Hi! Thanks for a great article.
What is Vibram Geo? I think thats whats used by Softstar shoes according to their website for at least one of their shoes. I tried one of tbose in just 2mm thickness (though not 100 percent sure that one was geo since website doesnt say) and found it was too stiff for my feet to bend it. I have a small foot with high arch and perhaps just cant get enough leverage. So am looking at the different thpes of vibram to make sure i dont get the same thing- considering one that says its newflex. . Also, you show the newflex with zig zag pattern but when i was googling it i saw some selling sheets for soling that they said were newflex and had different pattern. They were 4 or 6mm. Any ideas on the differences? Thanks much.

Hi Sami!

The Vibram Geo sole is a typically resolable (replaceable) sole

You can read more about it in my review of the Softstar Shoe Hawthorne

I’ve seen it used in boots and lifestyle shoes with a stack height of around 8mm.

You can think of it as a slightly more aggressive version of Morflex. It has similar density (a shade denser) and better traction.

I also find it relatively stiff and not really for super flexibility.

Newflex is typically in that zig-zag pattern, but I have seen it in a cross-hatch pattern online. Personally, I have not used anything with this pattern and would highly recommend that usual zig zag design. If it is truly Newflex, that type of knit-like tread design will not be as good as the zig zag design for anything beyond road running.


I am wondering if Vibram soles containrubber accelerators. I am allergic to Carba mixwhich is an RA. Thank you
Anne Picogna

Hi there! I’m wanting to start making my own sandals and am looking for a material that will not only hold up in water, but also be a type of “earthing” sandal. Certain sites have alluded to the existence of a type of rubber that will transmit the earths frequencies and I’m wondering in anyone knows what I’m talking about? Got a family of five with three growing children so footwear needs to be affordable and healthy. Thanks for any insight!

Hi Paige!

I am not sure about any specific rubber that would work in the regard, but you should definitely contact the folks at Earth Runners, they are strong proponents of Earthing and make great sandals as well!

Hi Jarvis,

I ordered a pair of shoes from Prime Trotter after reading your great review, thanks for putting it together. I have some questions about sheet outsoles. I love the sound leather and hard rubber heels make on hard surfaces and want to mimic that on my resoleable zero drop shoes.

Do the soles on the Prime Trotter make much sound? My Softstar Hawthorne chukkas make a slight thock when I land just right going up stairs, but I want more volume. I’m not worried about traction as much becasue these are for dressier wear. Do you have a recommendation, Vibram or otherwise, for a louder resoling sheet?

Thank you!

Hi Allan!

So glad you liked the Prime Trotters review! I would say that the Prime Trotters have a louder sound than the Hawthorns. I think you’ll like that ‘thock more! In terms of soles, I think that Vivobarefoot shoes make a bit more noise than Vibram rubber soles and they have a nice variety of shoe models for sport and lifestyle.

I think that LEMS are also similar in that regard, but their soles are less dense, but thicker, so it might just be a wash. I like that Vivobarefoot and Lems have a wide toebox, those are not resolable though.

Carets shows definitely have a nice, traditional dress shoe noise in my opinion, but they use their own sole. We have reviews from Carets (and their former name, Primal Professional) on birthdayshoeshoes, so it’s worth checking out!


From what I can see, that listing is also known as the Vibram GEO sole by some shoemakers. It’s very similar to Newflex, but is a more “full” mold and you would have more material in the sole because there is more “empty” space in the Newflex mold because of the more aggressive tread.

When it says “40% lighter”, they are not referring to Newflex, but it is 40 percent lighter than traditional rubber soles. Vibram always compares their stuff to some mysterious “traditional” material and I wish they would provide more metrics and details.

Overall, Newflex is probably better for more adventure-type activities because of its lug design, but I find GEO/Super Newflex in more shows that are lifestyle-type shoes. For example, Soft Star Shoes Hawthorn dress shoe uses a resolable GEO sole, so super newflex might be better for some lighter and urban applications because it is a smoother sole, while Newflex is better for trails and hiking because of its tread design and being lighter.

That’s wonderful info. Very misleading that they don’t mean 40% lighter than Newflex! And I didn’t know that Newflex is the material used in Vibram Geo. That clears up alot. I don’t know why it’s so tough to find that simple info.
Where do you find the formal data on densities with regards to Cherry, gumlite, and newflex for example? I see hardness and abrasion resistance on Vibram’s site, but there’s no density consistently listed for materials, which makes it difficult to gauge the weight.


As with all things shoes, I wish that folks were more technical about how they go about things!
This is why I try to be as detailed and technical as possible in my reviews!

In terms of the data, it is all anecdotal; I am simply providing my own experiences with each sole and how to best utilize the material.

There will be some give and take, for example: cherry is slightly denser than Newflex, but Newflex has those lugs, so it is actually better for trails and outdoor activities, while Cherry is better for lifestyle shoes (but this, of course, does not prevent me from using Newflex sandals as my everyday sandals!)

Hi Jarvis,

I’ve looked at Vibram’s catalogue and I can’t find any Gumlite sheets. However, there is another product – Aircalla 8529 – that has nubbies like the Gumlite. Would you know whether they’re the same?


So i’m back two years later and about to give up on anything with Vibrim rubber. The one remaining thing to try is do you know any shoe that has morflex sole? Based on your description , perhaps that least dense spongiest rubber would work for me. After much playing around its the spongiest soles like allbirds skippers that work for me or if not ar leastb something with grooves cut in every which way (if only eg nike free sole was made with zero drop). Another question is any way for a novice to cut through rubber? Or perhaps dissolve the glue holding it on? Ive got a pair of saucony endorphin racers and would love to completely cut away the light blue rubber on the outersole leaving only the foam underneath exposed. Would also like to try scoring rubber to make my own flex grooves in shoes. Ive also had better luck with exposed foam soles no rubber but putting rubber in some places kills it. Eg saucony kinvara 10 almost good but putting dense rubber on big toe and heel ruins natural walking motion. Certainly if you know any entirely exposed foam lightweight shoe- i dont care about durability – , please pass that along too (hoka one one rincon model seems minimalist with exposed foam but has weird feature of a rocker which i dont like so have not tried ). Final question is does this mean i would also hate vivobarefoot? I was about to try primus lite but would that rubber give me same problem? Am i really the only one who has trouble bending dense rubber?? Have you come across this before? I wish i could design my own shoes and have someone bake them up. Thanks again for any input. I like your expertise and hard to find real info

Ps softstar now uses vibram omniflex rubber. I asked them for a sample. Looks better but i think still too dense for me Look forward to ykur input on my questions including hat models to try that use forflex.

Have you any experience with the Vibram SuperNewflex?

I have experience w/Cherry 4mm, but, not the Newflex. I also have experience with the sole of the Unshoe Feather (6mm stack height).

Hi! I have yet to see it being used in any models on the market, but I will keep a look out for Super Newflex in the future! Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *