Barefoot Shoes

Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento Review

Above is the men’s Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento, leather loafer-ish-yet-casual five toe shoes we last buzzed about in the Fall (here).

In fact, the Sorrento has actually been available now for months—just not in the United States. And on that f…

Above is the men’s Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento, leather loafer-ish-yet-casual five toe shoes we last buzzed about in the Fall (here). In fact, the Sorrento has actually been available now for months—just not in the United States. And on that front, I’m sad to say that they won’t be making it this way Spring 2013 (as hoped), either. Bummer, I know. I started wear-testing the Sorrento back in Fall of 2011 when the model was in it’s pre-production phase (we glimpsed it way back in 2011 here); fast forward to this past summer when the Sorrento released in Europe, Vibram Italy was kind enough to send me a final production model, which brings me to today’s review. Why review the Sorrento if it’s such a limited release model? Simple: I like it. A lot. In short, Sorrento FiveFingers are comfortable, casual toe shoes you can knock around in day-in and day-out. Meanwhile, they look funky—but in a good way (not unlike the Speed FiveFingers), which makes them easy to wear daily. And that makes for happy feet. And if you really want them but live in the U.S., well I’ll see what I can’t do to direct you to a retailer. And who knows, maybe like the Speed which didn’t make it to the U.S. until about a year after I reviewed it on release in Europe, we’ll see the Sorrento this side of the Atlantic some day in the future. Now let’s get to it. Read on for my full review!

The Shoes Get casual, Get comfortable.

Let’s kick it off with the official write-up on the Sorrento from
Great for travelling, light walking or casual wear, the Sorrento is an ideal choice for the FiveFingers® enthusiast who wants to enjoy a barefoot-like experience while relaxing. The leather upper is perforated for breathability and has an elastic gore at the topline for a secure fit. Completely lined in leather, it feels smooth and comfortable against your skin.
At first blush, the Sorrento looks like a five-toed suede penny loafer. It’s got a leather upper and a sole comprised of a main rubber component that ends with the forefoot and five rubber pods for the toes. A leather liner runs around the ankle and back of the Sorrento. Little punched holes in the suede upper over the instep aid in ventilation. Meanwhile, there is a removable insole that has a somewhat coarse canvas upper to it and is based on EVA foam. Also, you’ll want to note that the toe pockets are wrapped in fabric and not leather. This has struck me from the start as an odd choice by Vibram’s designers. I can only assume that fabric just feels less constricting on the toes and is a little more breathable. The downside is that (and this hasn’t happened in either of my pair, so knock on wood) you could potentially snag a front toe on concrete or asphalt and very easily rip a whole in the fabric. In probably 15 months of wearing them fairly regularly, this has yet to happen to me, so maybe my fear here is groundless. Take a look at the Sorrento FiveFingers via these photos: And here is some associated literature to the Sorrentos that ships with them—note that a suggested way to wear the Sorrentos is with the heel smashed down as a slip-on: Now that you’ve got your bearings on these puppies, let’s dive into how they perform.

A Semi-segmented sole.

The Sorrento features a unique Vibram rubber sole (One possibly reprised in the prototype called the Capri). The outsole is six parts—five toe pods and one main part for the rest. Note that while it appears that the arch portion is separated from the rest of the main outsole, it’s not (as far as I can tell). The separation of the toe pods from the main outsole makes for impressive toe flexibility—as in, probably the best of any FiveFingers save the discontinued Mocs/Performas/Performa Janes. That said, the main body of rubber has a composition that feels stiffer than your typical pair of Vibrams. It’s a dense rubber, I guess, but it’s just not quite as flexible as the original-soled VFFs and certainly not as flexible as the most minimalist of FiveFingers like the SeeYas or the recently released El-X. Ground feel is still very good as the soles are still quite thin overall compared to typical footwear.

Removable insoles.

As I mentioned above, the Sorrento has a removable insole. The insole isn’t overly thick but it does have a curve to it (as does the sole) at the arch. While I hesitate to cite this combination as “arch support,” it does press on your arch to some extent. If you have a very sensitive arch you might find this annoying. To me, it’s pretty minimal (by comparison, a pair of Birkenstocks with true arch support make for a noticeable bump of pressure that’s at least mildly annoying to my feet). What’s unusual about the Sorrento insole is that it has this canvas fabric upper—this is what touches your feet. Overall, the canvas isn’t soft like the bottoms of most Vibrams. I’m not sure if I feel this is positive or negative. It’s just different. It adds a lot of texture to the shoes that feels kind of nice on the bare foot. I sorta wish I could experience the Sorrento with a leather insole for comparative purposes, but I’ll just have to take the Sorrento as it is. In my wearing of the toe shoes, I’ve pretty much exclusively worn them without socks. And it should be noted that the leather upper feels great against my bare skin and the insole feels nice, too. There are very few real “seams” to the shoes, which is a huge win. Compared to other leather Vibrams, the Sorrentos have hardly any seams. My Bormios and Trek LS all have marked seams in the toe pockets—not so with the Sorrento!

The look. Wear’em with jeans.

I imagine the look of the Sorrento is something you might love or hate. Some might think, “A-ha! Here’s my business casual toe shoe!” Well, maybe so. Maybe not. For me, the sandy suede look just doesn’t seem quite right worn with a typical pair of khaki pants. This is because (to me), the color is too similar to most khaki pants. If anything, they seem to work with a very light colored khaki or white-stone chino fine. Where I found the Sorrentos shining from an aesthetic standpoint was with jeans. For some reason, I just really like the looks of these with a pair of jeans. If I had to speculate, I think it’s because:
  1. Sorrentos with their suede uppers and barefoot styling look comfortable to the eye.
  2. Jeans are associated with comfort.
I frequently get approached by random onlookers about the Sorrentos—moreso than in other Vibrams. What’s the deal? People want to know if they’re comfortable because “They look comfortable!” Yes, yes they are! Worn with jeans, the Sorrentos have a casual aesthetic that just works. It works incredibly well for my day-to-day style, anyway.
As someone who has (almost) every pair of toe shoes ever made somewhere in my closet, there are only a handful of Vibrams that make it into a weekly rotation (if I can call it that). The Sorrentos are in my top two. My various colorways of Speed FiveFingers are the others that make the cut.
What I see with the Sorrento is the potential for everyday toe shoes to be a reality. I know at least a few of us want a dressy pair of toe shoes for work wear; and maybe the Sorrentos are just what you’re looking for there. For me, my work attire is casual and to that end, it’s hard to go wrong with the Sorrento (I’ve been feeling lucky for almost three years). Probably the only drawback aesthetically to the Sorrento is that the suede is flesh-toned, so I have had at least a few double-takes from folks who thought I was actually barefoot. But what’s new in toe shoe land? I guess the Sorrentos: even while toe shoes have become much more commonplace, the Sorrentos are seriously rare.

Conclusion: Comfortable, casual shoes make my feet happy.

Let’s start wrapping this up. Sorrento FiveFingers are great because:
  • Let my feet be feet thanks to a non-constricting, foot-shaped last and a shoe design that lacks an elevated heel. I can wiggle my toes like crazy in these, too, which is awesome (upward dorsiflexion and downward toe flex—both work wonderfully).
  • Comfortable! This goes with the prior-listed characteristics, but it’s a nice plus to have a leather upper that feels nice against my bare skin. And that I can wear a pair of shoes without socks is also a huge part of comfort in my book.
  • With a thin rubber sole, I get solid ground feel. While “barefoot shoes” are an oxymoron, I feel functionally barefoot in these. And that goes a long way for me.
  • Aesthetically pleasing, easy to fit into my wardrobe.
As for problems with the Sorrento:
  • I worry about that fabric around the toes ripping. Hasn’t happened and hopefully won’t happen.
  • Incredibly difficult to get in the United States! The only way to get them is to find an international retailer that ships to the U.S. Be prepared to pay a lot of money for them.
When the dust settles, I really like the Sorrento as a FiveFingers model that I can wear everyday. These days, there are tons of options when it comes to barefoot shoes. That includes options for running and fitness and for everyday, casual wear. So with all these options, is there room for a five-toed casual shoe?

Whither fashion-forward toe shoes?

I know that I often wear toe shoes casually, but I also created a fan site for toe shoes! I’m not really your average FiveFingers fan, in other words. Faced with buying a pair of non-toed-but-“barefoot” casual shoes or the FiveFingers Sorrento, what would you choose? See, I actually sorta dig the toes on the Sorrento. They make these shoes interesting to look at. They just seem natural, earthy, and they look comfortable. The Sorrento FiveFingers are distinctive and assuredly a fashion statement. The question is: do people at large want to make that sorta fashion statement? Could toe shoes ever become fashionable? I’m skeptical they could—though it’d be fun if they did. The biggest thing going for FiveFingers is that they are remarkably comfortable shoes that make you feel connected to your world in a way that isn’t replicated by other minimalist shoes or sandals (my opinion). Why wouldn’t you want that kind of connected-ness more? So toe shoes for every day — well, I see them as a good thing. But what’s it going to take to make that a reality? There have to be, for starters, more options available that look good. It’s no coincidence that my top-two most worn VFFs on a day-to-day basis are the Speed and the Sorrento: it’s because, in my opinion, they’re the best looking, most aesthetically acceptable toe shoes yet to be made! Will we get a few more options like them? I hope so. And maybe toe shoes will escape their niche-, awfully limited-use for fitness and running. 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.

22 replies on “Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento Review”

Over here in europe they don’t sell too good, as the run tight for people with a high arch… I threw mine in the washer and since then they are the most comfortable VFFs I got… Can’t wait for spring and shorts-time!

Thanks for the review on these! I sure hope they make it to the US!!! I would love to try them out!! I currently use Jayas as my casual wear because I love the flexibility of them. I have different trek-soled vffs for more rugged use. I know they are only in men’s sizes, so I hope they make a 39 or 40!!! I love that I can wear most women & men’s models of vffs!!! 🙂

You will have to put some links in for us that want to buy a pair. Awesome review. How would you say they do during a heavy day of walking around for 8 – 12 hours?

Hi there, this was a great read! After reading your blogs you have inspired me to start my own blog. My main goal is to inspire and provide advise to other runners Wheather it’s a question about back pain or barefoot running I am happy to answer them. Check out my blog, it would be amazing if you can make suggestions on how I can me it grow.
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Man… I really love all leather VFFs,
and as much as I *want* to love these- I just can’t.

I’m just *not* a fan of the loafer/moccasin styling.
If it lacked that fancy tonguepiece and the lines across the toes,
I would buy these in a heartbeat.

Oh well- I guess I’m just not the target market here.
I’ll just stick with my Bormios and Mocs 😉

A few months ago the vibram store in Boston put up a Facebook post about a limited sale of European VFFs. I called in and ordered a pair of Sorrentos and had them shipped. They are seriously the most comfortable pair of VFFs I own. I had a bad feeling they would never get a commercial launch in the US and I’m glad I ordered them when I had the chance. It is a hard choice between these and my speeds when I go out on a nice day.

@ Justin,
Just a quick FYI. The Sorrento did in fact make a very very short appearance in the US. The Vibram store in Boston had a very limited number of them and I was able to procure a pair from them. This was around October of last year or so. I had seen it on their FB page in an album called available in limited quantities. Maybe since very few people knew about it they may still have one or two pair still in stock.

I was loving it til the curve under the arch.

Pressure on my arch annoys the hell out of me, my KSO and Merrell are collecting dust because of their arch curve that they swear is not a support.

I too ordered a pair from the Vibram Store in Boston when they made a brief appearance last year. I really like the look and they are super comfy. They do get looks. I forgot I had to go to a funeral one morning and wore them to work. The funeral director did a double take and said he thought I was barefoot at first! LOL

these shoes look like two huge bandages…..especially when you’re
looking at them top-down.
it looks like vibram five fingers
have two groups of designers:
the sane and tastefull ones that made
the kso, treks, classics, el-x, spyridons
and the crazy tasteless group that
designed the clowny lontras, and probably
these badly designed sorrentos.
that’s only my opinion. democrats we are!!


Really comes down to personal taste, I guess. Lontras look great in my opinion though they have to be seen in person to really appreciate the aesthetic. I’ll take them over the Spyridons any day of the week. As for the Sorrentos, they really don’t compare to any of the ones you mentioned.

But sure, everyone has their own opinion, and it’s great to have options that appeal to different folks.

Hey Justin, I’m curious about sizing. I know you are a 10.5, 43 in most vibrams (You’ve mentioned in previous posts) but that’s for the USA models. Aren’t the Europe models a different sizing convention? What size are your sorrentos? I’m really interested in these, but I’m anxious about the size.


I have 44s in these photos but they’re a little too big (not sure why they sent me 44s either). If I had my choice I’d still take a 43 in these.

The sizing convention between Europe and U.S. is just that — a convention. The truth is that a Euro size 43 is exactly the same size as a U.S. 43. Weird right? It’s a difference of opinion, ultimately, between Europe and U.S. sides of Vibram.

Great review, Justin.

They sent you the 44s because the 43s would’ve been too tight, especially if you want to use the insole.

I bought my first KSOs following European instructions from Vibram, so despite the fact that the Vibram U.S. site says I should wear a 41 on all their shoes, I bought a size 42. They were absurdly comfortable, but having no other experience with Vibram, I thought they might be a bit loose. So I bought some KSOs and TrekSports in size 41. They fit extremely tight and can become uncomfortable, especially the rigid TrekSports. For this reason, when I ordered the KSO Trek Soft Leather in Europe I went with the 42, and I’m glad I did as they’re the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn in my entire life. They’re slightly loose, especially since it seems like one shoe is bigger than the other, but I prefer it to having my feet and toes squeezed and in pain. It doesn’t affect their performance or comfort, plus, they look awesome as a casual dress shoe.

On that note, Vibram really needs to get their act together when measuring. You can have two shoes of the same model and size and they’ll be different sizes. That is an extreme factory quality problem. Material build quality on the other hand is awesome as they’ll take a beating and still look great (years and loads of miles later, I can still wear my original KSOs, which despite a slightly worn sole, look great on top). Having said all that…

MY SORRENTO Experience

I loved your review and the photos convinced me I should get these so, considering Vibram FiveFingers are built by people who don’t seem to know what a ruler is and can’t measure to save their lives, I decided I would buy the Sorrento in the safer, bigger 42 size. WOW! Are they tight!!! My feet seem to want to explode in them, and I don’t have a high arch on the top of my foot. I lowered the back as it says in the box and I noticed my heel is at the border. If these were flip flops they would certainly be too small. I took the insole and stuck it to my foot to see if it was really my size and it’s a bit too exact to my sole. This is supposed to be for people with a 10.5 inch foot, according to their site. My foot is less than that.

After removing the insoles, they now fit, albeit a bit more snug than I would prefer, but they’re much more comfortable. Without the insole, the bottom of the shoe actually feels better and closer to what one would expect from Vibram, more barefoot as it may, IMHO. It’s actually quite nice, and the leather feels pleasant if a bit stiff.

Overall I found the structure a bit stiff, but I’m sure that will soften over time as I break them in. The sole is also stiffer, more like a Trek than a KSO, but better than the Trek due to the separate patches. The toe flexibility is great, though I still find that the original Sprint/KSO sole allows much greater flexibility allowing me to arch my foot and toes inward and have full free foot movement which I don’t have with any other model. I was looking for a pair to complement the Soft Leather KSO Treks and these are definitely it. They look awesome with jeans. 🙂

Anyway, just thought I’d share, and considering my experience, be glad you got the bigger size, Justin. 🙂


Thanks for the note — sorry they are so tight on you!

Incidentally, I originally did test a size 43 in the preproduction Sorrento and it was “just right,” so actually, I really do think I’d rather have the 43 than the 44, though in my case, both work well enough.

That said, sizing Vibrams is incredibly person-specific. It’s really not as simple as measuring foot length due to arch height, foot “volume,” instep height, foot width and who knows what else affecting the ultimate length of any given size of VFFs.

And ultimately, some models just don’t seem to fit some people’s feet — no matter what size you get (my wife is a good example of this).

@Justin, Thanks. I was a bit bummed at first, but once I took the insoles out was super happy. They’re not as comfortable as the Soft Leather Treks (which Vibram should take to the US), but they’re right up there.

As to the rest, I completely agree with you, and I have a number of friends who have had a lot of problems trying to wear Vibrams for all those reasons. My main issue is with their manufacturing and measurements. If the manufacturer says that the length of a shoe is 42 for a 10.5 foot and your foot is 10.5 then it should be long enough for your foot. If the foot is less than 10.5, then it should be longer than the foot. With VFFs, the shoe might say 42, but be closer to 41 or 43. It might be a perfect 42 on one pair and measure 41 on another or even differ from shoe to shoe. I’m talking about length here, not width or height, though those vary as well. Feet come in all shapes and sizes, but I think the advertised length should be the advertised length.

I mention the height in the case of the Sorrento because they’re not very flexible and feel a bit low even with my low foot height. But my main problem really is length, and that goes for all VFFs. If I buy a pair of Nike’s or New Balance or any other manufacturer’s size 42, it’s usually 42. It’s a manufacturing problem they seem to have and hasn’t been fixed for years. It’s my only gripe with Vibram really as they’re the only shoe I wear for years now and have about 6 pairs. If they’d fix that, purchasing would finally be easy, and you could purchase happily online without worrying about having to return the shoes because of a length problem.

Anyway, sorry for the long comments. Just wanted to chip in on the Sorrento, which l also love by the way (without the insoles, of course), having just received them. I actually bought them thanks to your review. I didn’t like the promotional photo all that much, but when I saw the ones you took and read what you wrote, I had to have them. They look exactly like your photos, which is to say, awesome! And they’re super comfortable, in my case, without the insoles (though the Soft Leather Treks still win the top comfort title for me).

Thanks for such a wonderful site. 🙂 Cheers!

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