I’ve recently received some scuttlebutt surrounding a new Vibram FiveFingers style for 2013 (not the dressy leather Capri toe shoes we saw last week). All the information has come by way of Robert Fliri. If you’re a fan of five toed shoes, you should know who Fliri is. He’s the Italian designer/inventor who conceptualized what became Vibram FiveFingers — check out this 2006 interview with him to read up on some of the fascinating history surrounding FiveFingers. You’ve already peeped the photos above. Those are screencaptures from an impromptu video interview shot recently in Milan, Italy. What are we seeing here? Obviously it’s a new Vibram FiveFingers design featuring a strapless, laceless upper. The sole design looks new, too. Meanwhile, is anyone else reminded of one of the original FiveFingers colorways — incidentally, the colorway of my first pair of Vibrams — grey with orange highlights and a black rubber sole?
Is what we are seeing here a reboot of the original Vibram FiveFingers Classic — an ultra-minimal toe shoe design for 2013?
I don’t actually know what model it is we’re looking at. I’ve heard rumored names that sound like a Classic reboot, but I’ve also heard rumors it’ll be called something wholly new. The name is irrelevant — what’s interesting is just what this model may do. And for that, you’re going to have to jump to the interview!

Interview with Robert Fliri on 2013 Prototype FiveFingers

Below is an interview between Max Delacy of Barefoot Inc. and Robert Fliri. The video was shot recently (May) on
  • Looking at a prototype — Fliri mentions they’re “working on it”
  • Fliri: “Really thin, thin sole. It’s a simple sole. It’s a simple upper.” Allows you to “Set it and forget it.”
  • Can offer it at a good price point. “I love to have a simple solution to get this natural experience and finally we can make this simple product.”
  • Max: “So it’s just a slip-on shoe is that right?” Fliri: “Yeah.”
  • Fliri: “Sometimes the simple is better for many purpose.” Can be used for general purposes (Fliri mentions running sprints in them in the morning without them falling off)
  • Fliri: “So it’s always trying to stay on the functional side … this is just function. It’s really flexible due to all the lines. It creates a good grip as it has many, many small edges to work on. It still has enough surface to uh guarantee a good grip on slick conditions and the best thing for me is that it’s really thin. I don’t tell you the thickness because I don’t want it copied before it goes to the market but it’s thin.”
  • Max: “When you look at it it’s funny it looks more aggressive than the original Classics but actually the same story is there. It’s almost like the siping has become a little bit more aggressive to give it more grip. But the same story of the the flexible siping by having all those cuts is still there.” Fliri: “This kind of design offers the benefits of being lighter [than the original sole] … of being more flexible … at the same time [providing] a good grip on the widest environments imagineable. … We love Classic so we tried to give some look elements from the original Classic. We love what we had there. Now we improved it.”
  • Max asks where barefoot is going in the next couple years. Fliri: “Well, it’s a tough one. Generally, I think my wishes … more and more people seeing this thing — barefoot, natural, minimalist movement — it’s a real thing is what it is it’s not a joke. It’s just deep reflections of what our body is able to do when we leave [it] alone with all our technical gimmicks. On the other hand saying that I hope people [are] smart to decide on their own how much they want to do and in which environment and activities they want to use because for somebody it’s racing and they race in FiveFingers and have fun. … so just find out [for yourself]. I don’t want to see it like … go natural and go barefoot its the only holy thing. That’s not true. … Just have fun with it.”

Screencaps of the Prototype 2013 FiveFingers from the interview:

What are these?

So while the name may be up in the air, there are a few pretty obvious standout features of these prototype toe shoes.
  • They’re incredibly flexible and thin-soled. Watching Fliri palm one reminds me of what it looks like to hold a SeeYa. The SeeYas are incredibly flimsy in the sole. Not sure how thick the rubber will be on these puppies, but I’m pretty sure it’s thinner than the original sole of the Classic/KSO/Sprint, which was 3.5 mm. Fliri mentions they’re lighter than the original Classic.
  • Despite the more aggressive looking tread, I’d actually be surprised if this new model didn’t provide even more toe dexterity and ground feel than prior FiveFingers models. I’m half-imagining that if the thickest tread makes the sole 3mm, then the thinnest part of the sole would be 2mm or less. That’d be pretty awesome.
  • The upper lacks straps or laces or bungee. Rather than using additional strapping mechanisms, it seems they’ve opted for a little more coverage (a higher “vamp” over the instep) to secure these to your foot. I’m also reminded a bit of the Adipure Trainer’s approach (Adidas’ toe shoes), which utilized a “paint on” material to add a little more tightness to the fabric upper. This would keep them highly functional without adding much weight.
That’s all I can really tell. Fliri talks about them being simple and functional but multi-purpose. I got my first Classics to run sprints in them — you don’t need the higher tech Vibrams to be active. So that’s an exciting aspect of these (though I’ve maintained that you can do most anything in all Vibrams, no matter what the overt “specialized” design my indicate). Oh and there was some mention of affordability. Could these be a low-cost pair of toe shoes? What would that mean? $60? $75? What? While this is some awesome scuttlebutt on a new pair of toe shoes from Vibram coming in 2013, it’s obviously not the whole story. And the story is likely to change further as they continue “working on it” and refining the prototype for mass production. Regardless, I’m really excited about these. I’ve wanted a reboot of the original Classic for a couple years now — something equally minimal and simple. I love the idea of a slip on, ultra-minimal pair of FiveFingers. I’ve actually been looking at my SeeYas as more of a casual wear VFF than a running VFF simply because they are so minimal, lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. These new prototypes look like they’ll be even better. So what do you think? Interested in a reboot of an old style of FiveFingers? What should these called anyway? Maybe they should be the “FiveFingers Fliri.”