Comment from: Mark [Visitor]
Mark

Interesting. I would compare the Hawthorne more to the Gobi as a casual dress shoe. The Porto, like the Lisbon, is a true dress shoe, comparable to the Primal Professional shoes. I would (and do) wear the Lisbon and PP with a business suit. I don't think I would the Hawthorne.

BTW, Vivo offers resoling on the Porto and Lisbon, but only in Europe as far as I know. Primal Professional offers resoling service on their shoes, which while not as flexible as the SoftStars, have a more minimal feel than the Vivo handcuts.

11/03/15 @ 08:01
Comment from: [Member]

Mark,

I compared the Hawthorne to the Gobi in the previous review, but the Porto is a better comparison because of the use of handcut leather, where they are in the market, and price.

You can get away with a lot in a business suit as long as you own it. I routinely wear the Vivobarefoot Mata, Jay, and Dharma for formal occasions, the Soft Star Bullhide RunAmoc, and the Hawthorne. Obviously, these photos are more fun semi-formal, but I have zero qualms about wearing them with a complete suit combo.

It's interesting that Vivo offers resoling on the Porto, but the Hawthorne can be resoled by most local cobblers using readily available Vibram GEO soles. Personally, I would have chosen Newflex or Cherry, but Geo works fine for these shoes (I would prefer something thinner and denser, myself).

I really like the false heel in the PP, but they look is a bit dorky (like the laced Anthony Alan split toe--while the Anthony Alan Loafer is pretty darn attractive).

We really appreciate the insights!

-Jarvis

11/04/15 @ 16:33
Comment from: Enoch [Visitor]
Enoch

Great review! Would you recommend any leather boots to wear for fall/winter? I've been researching, and while the best option I found was the Russel Moccasin Minimalist Thula Thula, it's definitely out of my budge. Any recommendations would be helpful!

11/05/15 @ 01:35
Comment from: [Member]

Enoch,

I highly recommend you check out the Kuuva 3
https://birthdayshoes.com/feelmax-kuuva-3-boot-review

That "minimalist" Thula Thula boot looks way to structured for my tastes, but I'm a minimalist die hard.

The Boulder from Lems is also a good option, but it's not fully leather. None of these boots, save for the Kuuva, are truly waterproof, so you will get some wet toes eventually.

-Jarvis

11/05/15 @ 06:44
Comment from: Doug [Visitor]
Doug

Thanks for this review. I've been drooling over a pair of Hawthornes since I got the announcement from SoftStar.
Your review reinforces my impressions of the 2 shoes based solely on their pictures. Although I didn't realize the Porto was so inflexible. I think it is enough for me to bite the bullet and spend the money on the Hawthornes. I don't usually spend so much money on shoes, but if I can resole them, that will significantly extend the time I can wear them.
I assume when you talk about them being the only minimalist shoe that can be resoled, you mean the only "normal looking" minimalist shoe. I have a pair of Runamocs that I plan on resoling in the next month or two. From what I can tell, they have the same leather soled platform that the rubber is glued to. And like you, I plan on getting a thinner more flexible sole put on these when I do it (they came with the 6mm 'trail' sole).

Thanks for the review and the detailed pictures.

11/05/15 @ 12:46
Comment from: Mountain Evan Chang [Visitor]  
Mountain Evan Chang

Hey Mark & Jarvis,

Wanted to jump in the conversation about resoling and shoe construction =)

The Lisbon is made with Blake construction.
The Porto is made with Stitchdown construction.
(source: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/collections/ranges/handcut)
The Primal Professional Fer and Zetone oxfords are made with Cement construction.
The Primal Professional boots will be made with Goodyear Welt construction.

Out of the 4, Goodyear Welt is the easiest to resole (although you'd still want to leave it to an expert =P).

That said, all 4 types are resoleable if you have the right equipment in the right hands. I guess it comes down to whether the brand wants to offer the service. I imagine most brands would prefer you just buy another pair.
I was very insistent that we provide a resole and restoration program for PriPro though, because I hate waste.

Now, the Hawthorne is really interesting! It appears to be a stitchdown construction, since the upper leather is fanned out like the Porto. And yea, having an outsole glued to a midsole means a local cobbler can cut off the old outsole and glue another one on. I decided against doing this because a leather midsole made things too stiff. I wonder how SoftStar was able to keep the Hawthorne so flexible? Looks like I'm getting a pair to find out!

P.S. Jarvis, you're not a fan of cap-toes? I love cap-toes. They look manly to me, like a shield. Nowadays, cap-toes are a style choice. But when they were first developed, they were exactly that: a shield on your shoes!

11/05/15 @ 19:38
Comment from: [Member]

Doug,

For me, the Porto's are too stiff. They are the stiffest "minimalist" shoes I have worn and would not be a buy for my own preferences, but there are some people whoa are more used to traditional dress shoes.

Resoling the Hawthornes would extend their life, but I am sure that the softer leather will eventually give out if you do not take care of them.

Perhaps Soft Star meant resolable "dress" shoe? I've always like the Runamaoc bullhide and I wear them for formal stuff, so I consider them a dress shoe.

Evan,
Very interesting stuff!

The Hawthorne is flexible because of the use of a Vibram Geo sole and a leather midsole. There is no hard wooden platform, like the Vivobarefoot Porto. It's just not quite made the same as other "dress" shoes. I'm a big fan of other Vivobarefoot shoes, which are super flexible, but just not quite the Porto.

Please check them out, I think you'll really appreciate them with your knowledge of shoe construction!

It's not that I am not a fan of cap toes, it's more of a shoe shape and how the laces come together kind of thing. I'm more of a slip-on guy, myself. I've never had a shoe slip on me with the way that I run.

I agree on the shield comment though, the cap adds a nice bit of ruggedness to the look.

-Jarvis

11/06/15 @ 09:07
Comment from: pris [Visitor]
pris

Jarvis, How flexible are the hawthornes compared to boulder boots?

02/15/16 @ 15:43
Comment from: Rollo [Visitor]
Rollo

Is the Porto going away? Seems the whole Handcut line is on clearance. Maybe they are bringing out new models.

I have said many times that the Porto is a fantastic shoe but the sole extending out makes an already wide shoe unbearably wide. Seems the SoftStar has the same issue. Also, I have heard the stiffness decreases a good deal with wear.

The pebbled leather on the Hawthorne is a deal breaker for me.

02/19/16 @ 21:51
Comment from: LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack [Visitor]  
LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack

Ummm... only one of these two are really acceptable alternative to traditional dress shoes.

Portos. They will likely still look great after years of use unlike Soft Stars that already look more like a pair of flimsy slippers once you take them out of the box. They can't even sit up straight by themselves.

This is precisely BECAUSE Soft Stars lack that thick premium leather and stiff sole that Portos have which will enable the shoes to still look the part 5 or even 10 years after you've bought them.

Please report back when you've worn both shoes for a solid year. Then we could see if there's a difference with our own eyes. Will you do this for me?

With a little TLC - and using insoles of course - you could probably wear Portos to your coffin because - as Mark was kind to point out - Portos too can be resoled, just not in US of A (as of now at least).

Granted, it won't be cheap but you won't find good dress shoes that are.

What is less expensive now doesn't automatically mean it will be less expensive in the long run as well.

You might prefer Soft Stars over Portos for now, but trust me, you'd end up paying a lot more than just a $100 difference if you wanted to keep using your Soft Stars as your go-to dress shoes for the long run.

And frankly, that is how we ought to be buying our shoes (among other things): for the long haul. Planet loves long haul, capitalism hates it.

There's a reason Portos cost what they cost, and the reason is quality through an through. You can run a block to catch the next bus, tram or metro and be okay, but they aren't meant to be your go-to running shoes. You know that just as well as I do, so why pretend otherwise?

Who the hell runs around in their dress shoes thinking they are meant for such activities? Short answer: no one (not even you).

Portos are just like ordinary dress shoes only better since they are ten times more comfortable to use 8-12 hours straight unlike any dress shoes I've come across.

An average well-to-do won't mind paying $1000 for the latest iPhone (when a $100 Android phone would do the same if not more) that s/he'll chuck away in a year or two but would get a stroke should s/he be expected to pay $200-300 for a pair of quality leather shoes that s/he could enjoy using for 5-10 years if not longer.

So, an average joe and jane buy a new pair of $20 shoes from their local Walmart instead (that cost 2 dollars to manufacture in some third world shit hole) every 6 months or so, all the while complaining how unbelievably low quality the materials and the labor these days are...

In the end the same people end up paying more or less the same price just without ever being able to walk in style and comfort on most days of their lives. More actually if you care factor in the waste of time and stress-inducing hassle of needing to continually shop around for those precious "bargains".

I can't depart from my Dharmas because they are - or rather were for now - the best damn shoes that I've ever had for a pair of shoes that weren't out of place just about anywhere.

I only finally managed to puncture both soles last year after years and years of horrible abuse. I did not spare them from anything, and I used them almost every day. Yes, even some winters.

I plan to plug the holes some day some how. They will probably never be puncture proof again - although kevlar fabrics don't cost that much (and samples cost mere dollars) - but applying some DIY rubber coating shouldn't be too difficult of a task. It's not brain surgery after all. And if it doesn't pan out, hey, no sweat, just order a fresh pair of boots. At least you gave it a shot. I feel like I owe my shoes that much. Just to give it a go and see if they still got some life left in them.

My, my, I'm getting all poetic now.

Anyways, I'm shit out of luck since folks at VBF can't be arsed to bring Dharmas back (and I've asked them nicely more than once) - only the recently introduced poor man's substitute, Mata, which won't get any love from me.

Truth be told almost everything else in my Dharmas seem to be more or less disintegrating by now after all those years except for the leather which still looks awesome (I did apply dubbin now and then).

Well, apart from the fact that the leather simply isn't thick enough so it is now permanently showing the shape of my toes, rendering the shoes no longer passable for more formal occasions.

But all in all Dharmas were fantastic value for money while offering unsurpassed comfortability - and versatility.

I have high hopes that my Gobi II Hopewells will give me years of service too, and with a thicker leather (even though it hurts my left foot's toe now like hell but I know won't in the future) I believe it shall - while sparing me from those awkward toe imprints.

Naturally I would have bought Portos instead - they look phenomenal and much more "professional" then Gobis of course - but unfortunately they didn't have my size when I simply had to have a new pair of shoes ASAP. Such is life.

So, yeah, I don't have to think twice which shoes will be my next big investment - if only VBF will continue to offer them - which, as argued, is far from certain since most people will never buy shoes that cost much more than $100-$200. Tsk-tsk.

PS. All leather shoes take time to adjust to one's feet. The thicker the leather the longer it will take. That's just the way it is. To pass hasty judgments before shoes have even broken in is the same as not giving them a chance in the first place. Please give them the love they deserve and they should love you back forever (if they are well made to begin with, that is).

My two cents.

02/20/16 @ 14:13
Comment from: Rollo [Visitor]
Rollo

LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack:

I love the Hopewell Gobi II as well. Keep in mind though, the soles may wear out and the shoe is still vulnerable to collapse. USe shoe trees or stuff them with wrapping paper after each use ti keep the shape. This is essential for barefoot shoes especially.

Warning...The Hopewell Gobi is out at Vivo. Could be years before they come back. To be safe, I just got the last pair of tobacco Hopewells on earth at Planet Shoes. I have them stored in the closet for when the current pair wears out.

02/22/16 @ 22:17
Comment from: [Member]

LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack,

I LOVE the Dharma shoe that Vivobarefoot released a handful of years ago. It's still their best lifestyle shoe. I've owned just about all of their shoes at one point and my pair that I bought in 2012 is still kicking.

Their MATA replacement lacks the flexibility, leather feel, and the sole is less durable. My pair of Jays had an unfortunate puncture after a chance encounter with a stray nail...

I wished that I bought a half dozen Dharma's back in the day. They are not available anywhere.

The Hawthorn is resolable and I would expect it to last a very long time. However, the Porto's do feature a sturdier leather, so they will scuff less overall. However, the Porto is far too stiff for my tastes. A minimalist shoe should be flexible and these are within the reach of a traditional dress shoe.

Looks are in the eye of the beholder, and while I think the Porto's are the better looking shoe, the Hawthorn's are a nice-looking shoe in their own right.

I never said that any of these are supposed to be a go-to running shoe, but the ability to actually run in them says a lot of their minimalist credentials, which translates to greater benefits including comfort and enjoyment. I've had to run around during many graduations, wedding shoots, and other events and it is GREAT to have a nice-looking shoe that moves with you.

If there is time during the busier summer months of reviews, I can provide an update.

02/23/16 @ 09:43
Comment from: LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack [Visitor]
LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack

Hey y'all and thanks for feedback.

I don't mean to start a silly fight here or anything like that - I do appreciate your in-depth reviews (I would not have bothered to comment if I didn't) - but you did actually say that you found Portos "impossible" to run around with.

Now, unless Portos really are that much more rigid than Gobi II's, I can't see how this could be the case. They are shoes after all: people should be able to run around with any odd pair of shoes - or they're wearing something entire different on their feet rather than shoes or boots.

Granted, "running around" isn't the same as running. However, the impression I got was that you'd quite happily use Softstars for running too (something that I'd personally never do unless I had to), but I guess you don't then?

A simple yes or no will suffice.

As a side note, I could easily run a mile or two even in my old heavy pair of Dr Martens if push comes to shove. But I really, really would not ever want to...

Would most definitely love an update if you could find the time to do it. As we all know it's one thing to hear something from someone and other thing to actually see that something with our own very eyes.

I still hope you love your Softstars, and I hope they will last you a long time. That's all that matters in the long run.

Take care man/men, and soldier on! :)

03/01/16 @ 02:05
Comment from: LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack [Visitor]
LeatherLovesYouLoveItBack

Oh, I only forgot the most important thing I meant to say.

If you don't make an entry in your calendar one year from now (super easy in this day and age) to take a couple of pictures and post them online - which would prove even the worst naysayers wrong - chances are that you won't.

C'est la vie: there will always be something else - even much better things - to do. Always. Only you can decide what it is that you want to do.

Bye for now.

03/01/16 @ 02:13
Comment from: [Member]

LeatherLovesYouLackItback,

The Porto's are impossible to run in and therefore were too stiff for complete walking enjoyment as well. I like to have lots of flexibility with my shoes and I found the Porto's to be too stiff--basically "normal" shoe stiff.

I write my reviews with a variety of consumers in mind: The minimalist die hards (like myself), the middle-folks, the transitioners, etc. I wrote the positives and negatives of each shoe to represent different shoppers.

In reality, the Soft Star Hawthorns are too stiff to run around in as well, but they are far more flexible than the Vivobarefoot Portos.

I never said that I choose to run in any of my dress shoes, but there will be times where I have to make a dash somewhere. In these situations, it is beneficial to have a flexible and comfortable shoe--all of this translates to walking around flexibility and comfort.

If push came to shove, I would happily run in any of my preferred dress-like or lifestyle shoes. Specifically, the Vivobarefoot Jay, Dharma, and Mata as well as SoftStar Bullhide RunAmoc, and Tune V2. Others, such as the Gobi, are a bit too high in the collar for true comfort, but they are pretty good, but not perfect for walking around.

Again, this is from the die hard perspective. Regardless, it is not a stretch to consider that a well-designed minimalist dress or lifestyle shoe would have all the benefits of any other minimalist shoe. The primary differentiator is mostly cosmetic--the look of the shoe is what makes it lifestyle or dressy in my opinion. The resolable option is a advantage, but I would have preferred lower stack height. Most of my vivobarefoot shoes are only 3mm and have held up for at least two years or more.

If you are interested in an update in a year (depending on how much I use I get out of them), that is not a problem.

-Jarvis

03/01/16 @ 13:16
Comment from: Mark [Visitor]
Mark

Wow, I didn't know these comments were still going. LeatherLovesYou, the Vivo hand cuts are MUCH stiffer soled than anything else they make. The hand cuts are really very much like a traditional leather soled dress shoe with the heel cut off. You wouldn't want to run in them, especially if you are a forefoot striker.

04/06/16 @ 23:16
Comment from: Rollo [Visitor]
Rollo

New Portos are out and what a let down. Full rocker heel and rough pebbled leather just uglied up a nice shoe. And still, it is way too wide for a dress shoe becuase of the sole extending out.. Darn, this company drives me crazy.

04/16/16 @ 17:39
Comment from: [Member]

Rollo,

Yeha, Vivobarefoot is hit-or-miss sometimes, but I appreciate that they are a full-line minimalist shoe company. I love their other lifestyle shoes and they are one of a few minimalist shoe makers for ladies. I am not sure what they were going for with the Portos. I feel that they tried to move towards a more conventional dress shoe and went too far.

Otherwise, they have been doing some good stuff in my opinion.

04/17/16 @ 12:03
Comment from: Mountain Evan Chang [Visitor]  
Mountain Evan Chang

Hey Jarvis, I got the Hawthorne! I know you were curious to see my thoughts on them, so here they are: http://chronology-lg.com/blogs/news/114946820-research-notes-soft-star-shoes-hawthorne

04/19/16 @ 13:34
Comment from: [Member]

Evan,

Great review!

It's great to see a review written by someone in the field of shoe construction and design!

I love that you admitted to tripping a few times ;)

I definitely learned a few things from your review and will keep that knowledge in mind for upcoming reviews.

04/19/16 @ 14:32
Comment from: Gerrad [Visitor]
Gerrad

So,I know this is no longer relevant. Any comparison between the Hawthorne and the Porto version 1 is obsolete, since Vivo has changed the Porto. But I just got a pair of Hawthornes today, and they blow the Porto away, because the Hawthorne is insanely comfortable. Love the Porto, don't get me wrong. But the Hawthorne is just a better barefoot shoe. Less dressy? Not to my eye. I tried one foot with the Hawthorne, one with the Porto, then put on some suit pants. I see nothing wrong with the Hawthorne as a dress boot. Will hold up? I don't know. I do know the Porto sole has let me down after just under a year. I have two pair, black and brown. Both soles have broken down in different areas. They leak in wet weather. And I'm suppose to travel to Europe to get them resoled? Again, I love the leather, and they've aged to be very comfortable as a shoe. But the sole is stiff and they are not walking shoes. I'd never take them to travel. After 3 hours with the Hawthorne, I'd wear them anywhere for any length of time. And the leather is beautiful.

05/12/16 @ 00:11
Comment from: [Member]

Gerrad,

Thanks for your thoughts!

05/12/16 @ 08:45
Comment from: Alex Søndergaard [Visitor]  
Alex Søndergaard

Great blog, great post!

I got the first iteration of Porto, when sole was not still fully covered with a rubber coating. Big disappointment.

Stiff, and the leather sides not covered by ruuber developed holes in less than 20 miles. Incredible.

Furthermore, this company drives me crazy. They never stick to their tried and true designs. They just keep making random changes. Current version of Porto is incredibly ugly and feels wrong.

Why not developing a core set of models and iterating them to perfection instead? Barefoot customers are not fashion shoppers. And besides, from a fashion point of view Vivo is nothing special...

I hope we get more Russell Mocassins and more RunStars.

05/24/16 @ 16:23
Comment from: Rollo [Visitor]
Rollo

Do you know if the Hawthorne is wider, narrower or the same as the Porto? Every time I post about the Porto I complain about the sole sticking out, making the shoe wider than I can stand. I was hoping the Hawthorne would be different. Gobi IIs are perfect for me. Wide enough and still not clown-like.

07/22/16 @ 10:39
Comment from: Mitchell [Visitor]
Mitchell

I was sold on softstar because of there flat footbeds.
Unfortunately, they can not seem to make two pairs of shoes alike.
Out of five pairs (dash runamoc) ordered over time, the first was perfect and still has a bit of life, the second had twisted leather and the replacements (3rd) were a completely different last shape - the sole separated from the upper even though the nubs on the vibram sole are still fresh, the fourth had leather folded over itself between the sole and the horizontal stitching below the lace eyelets, the fourth and fifth (ordered together) had so much leather that the tongue buckles when lacing with any tension.
Each pair except the first has looked to be made by a trainee.

11/17/16 @ 12:17
Comment from: [Member]

Mitchell,

Softstar makes many of their shoes by hand, so some variation will occur.

I highly suggest that you contact them and I am sure they will make it right.

I have never had a bad experience with Soft Star and am a big fan of their work.

11/17/16 @ 12:51
Comment from: Mitchell [Visitor]
Mitchell

jarvis,
Softstar does respond, but the first time I had to send a pair back, although they replaced them, they contended that they couldn't tell that the leather was twisted over the forefoot so much that it pushed the right foot off of the footbed.

My point in posting here is that it is not upstanding to send out flawed product to a customer, hoping that the customer will just keep them, especially in light of the fact that they are making the pair of shoes for the purchaser.

We can't accept child labor practices, but we can observe that those children are skilled, whereas, five out of six pairs made by 'elves' (self-deprecating and demeaning and apparently an excuse) being flawed is an embarrassment at best.

11/17/16 @ 14:15
Comment from: [Member]

General update: After a year of casual wear, the Hawthorne has held up quite well. The leather used in the Hawthorne is very similar to the full grain leather used in the RunAmoc Bullhide, but because the sole is standard rubber instead of leather, there is less splitting and cracking.

My bullhide runamocs are going to need replacing, while the Hawthorne is still perhaps about 6 months from needing to visit a cobbler--resolability was one of the Hawthorne's selling points. I will probably go for a Vibram Newflex sole, when the time comes.

12/21/16 @ 10:28


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