Barefoot Shoes

Vibram FiveFingers Inventor Robert Fliri Talks Ultra-minimal FiveFingers Prototype for 2013

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 sho…

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.”

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.

18 replies on “Vibram FiveFingers Inventor Robert Fliri Talks Ultra-minimal FiveFingers Prototype for 2013”

Oh man yet another pair of VFF’s I MUST HAVE!! but now for the wait ugh…makes me wonder if these will be a UK release only??


I’d really, really doubt this would be a Europe-only release. Vibram’s only really done that for full-fledged new models when they’re really unusual — think about the high-cut women’s boots or the Rimini, Grado, or Sorrento. This looks to me like a model they might be hoping will have mass appeal.

I really like the more aggressive sole, but am not digging the higher cut (they are more KSO like on the upper than Classic like to me) or the apparent painting on upper. Why must Vibram insist on painting on the uppers on everything lately? It is anything but durable and looks cheesy IMHO. I wish they would alter the colors in a manner similar to the KSO Remix, rather than painting on designs that crack and peel off. I am anticipating the Laced See-Ya release and am actually more excited about that than I am about these, which is odd because I am a huge Classic fan. I doubt I would ever wear the reboot of the Classic for everyday/casual wear. If they fit snugly enough, I could maybe see myself buying them for a water shoe. It will all depend on the price point Vibram sells them at.

It’s about time!
I was jealous of the strapless Jaya design;
It’s nice to see them making a men’s model in a similar style!

I`m excited about the thinner sole, and the shoe looks wider, too. I agree with Leigh when the looks are concerned, and paint also hinder good breathing, even if it`s a thin layer.

@Leigh and @Dirk,

I’m fairly certain that paint is there to actually reduce the stretch of the upper material without adding another layer of material to the shoes — note how it wraps the ankle as well as the instep. This would constrain the stretch. It’d necessarily not crack for this to work in the long-term though, so I wonder how they’ll pull that off.

Wow these look great. I like that it covers more of the foot. I save showing skin there for the hottest days of summer. 😛

What I’m most excited for, however, are the more flexible toes while getting great tread. My KSOs left me wanting more downward flex in the toes after letting them be free in every other direction.

(Especially since I can curl my toes in my sneakers so it felt odd to give that up)

looks amazing

flexible, including more flexibility in the toes, like the pinky and such,
possibly thinner

and the higher cut is great so it stays on better for more activities, like sprinting, or moving laterally,

what sucks for me is that my kso’s couldn’t last as long as they should due to my big toes bent toward the center just over the rubber, and my second toes are crooked…dang it


I hope you are right. If it was an elasticized rubber of some sort, then I could see it being functional. If it is merely paint for decorative purposes, then I am not impressed. I hope there is a certain level of rigidity to the upper, or else I do not foresee these serving any purpose for me. I have never looked at a Classic and thought I wish this shoe offered more foot coverage. I often refer to Classics as the flip-flop of the VFF world and these do not seem to fit that bill. If there is some stability to the upper, then I would consider them as a water shoe, but not a daily wear shoe.

As long as they get rid of the annoying instep strap I’m going to buy them. I love the SeeYa, but hate the strap. I am thinking maybe $60-$70, but would not be surprised if they come in under the lower price point. I really miss the feel of the Classics, but do not miss the Achilles strap…

finally getting back to the basics… i’m actually tired of all of the versions coming out. just give me something simple!

Sorry I am a bit late to react here, but I can tell you from personal experience that these shoes ARE INDEED very flexible!
We give barefootstyle clinics in The Netherlands, and were asked to do just that by the Dutch Vibram FiveFingers importing company.
One of Vibram’s testers, Corrado Giambalvo was there too that day, and afterwards he showed us the same prototype
I could only hold it for a short while, but it was long enough to feel that it is incredibly flexible and thin.
It was very ‘soft rubber like’ and had little to no structure to it.
It wasn’t sre at that time (may 21st) if the shoe would make it to the market.
I am affraid that’s about all I know of it.

Hope that helps a bit!

Regards, Marc from

Well here I was considering a pair of the newest vibram releases, but I may be waiting annother year! I am trying out a friend’s and I definetly expected a more minimal feel.

I’d love to try these out. My only concern is that the outsole on the heels are a bit low. The outsole on the heels would help to stablise the feet from slipping backwards.

I’m sold… but ….
It needs the same strap as the KSO. This flat sole looks good. I run competitively and the foot needs to be secured. Don’t want to take chances with a paint on stretch design. Flat sole, thin and secure.

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