Invisible Shoe Smack Down

Posted: August 14, 2011 in Reviews, Running

As I’ve mentioned in several different posts, I have been testing both the Original Invisible shoe DiY Huarche with the Cherry Vibram soling, and their new, not so DiY FeelTrue™ Connect soling. My mother originally surprised me with the Connects and Steven,  from Invisible Shoes, was kind enough to send me a large DiY kit of the original soling material for a direct side by side review of the two models. So, over the passed few weeks, I have been putting both models to the test, trying different lacing styles, different running surfaces, distances, speeds, etc to bring you all my definitive answer as to which model is the current king of their lines.

Before I get to the review, I’d like to take a small moment to applaud Steven Sashen on his amazing customer service, and his willingness to allow customers to VOCALLY and personally express their opinions of his product directly to him. I’ve spoken with Steven on the phone, and oddly enough, if you call their customer service line chances are that you will actually speak to him yourself. That’s certainly something that is missing from today’s tradition shoe stores. How many you can call and speak to the owner of Nike or Reebok or New Balance using the customer service number??? Yeh, I didn’t think so. So, thank you Steven for being such an awesome voice and face for your company and providing the minimalist community with a top notch product.

Back to the review:

This is a from the top shot of my Connect Invisible Shoes. No, that’s not a lacing option that is offered by Invisible shoes. After trimming my original laces for one of the ultra minimal tying methods listed on the invisible shoes website, I decided that I wanted to use the slip on method that is a popular choice amongst huarche wearers…Alas, I had to make a run to the hardware store and buy some new cord. I actually prefer my colors to the straight black that my mother had ordered, but that’s just personal opinion. Also, these shoes were ordered for a 12″ foot, and my foot measures in at just under 11 1/2″. So, they had to be trimmed down to the proper size. As you can see, my “artistic” cutting skills are on par with those of a kindergarten student, but I think that gives the huarches a more DiY appearance than the already cut template that the shoes arrive in. You’ll also notice that the ankle holes are pre-punched for you. This is supposed to be the anatomically correct placement for them, and I found them to be almost identical to the placements that I made for my original DiY soles. For any of you that own the original cherry vibram, you’ll notice that the top of original shoe is textured. I found this troublesome for my first few runs and walks wearing the originals and I definitely prefer the smoother footbed of the connect soling.

This is a from the top picture of my DiY cherry soled huarches. I kept the traditional laces that were provided with the kit because I had already settled on the slip on tying method. I also feel like my cutting skills improved with this batch, particularly if you look at the shoe on the right. However, they are still not as good as they would have been if I had asked one of my nieces to cut them out for me. As you can see, the cherry vibram sole seems to have molded to my foot slightly more than the connect sole has. I think this has to do with the squishier feeling of the cherry vibram sole.

The soles are the same thickness, but the vibram sole, due to the barely there tread, is completely solid throughout the sole of the shoe. Where as the tread of the connect sole is far more aggressive than the cherry sole, and allows for a completely different ground feel. The vibram sole, on the left, appears to have a tread on it, but I’d call it more of a design than an actual tread. I find the treading actually comes from the vibram logos that are printed on the bottom of the sole. While it may not seem like much, the sole provides incredible traction in both wet and dry conditions. I never felt insecure or unstable on the original sole. However, the treading of the connect, on the right, is a completely different animal. It is best described as alternating chevron arrows. At least, that is what I think of when I look at it. This tread allows for increased flexibility of the sole, without giving up grip or security. The two soles give great ground feel, but I can’t help but believe that the connect sole provides the superior ground feel between the two. It feels almost as good as being barefoot. As I’ve stated, the two soles are of the same thickness, but when comparing the two side by side while running, I felt that the original sole was just clunky compared to the connect. I believe this might be due to the “toe spring” that invisible shoes added to the new soling material. No, this isn’t some super powered spring action like in traditional shoes. All it manages to do is keep the toe of the sole closer to the foot. This eliminates the flexibility and slapping issues that were a small complaint of the original sole.  Another improvement to take note of is the inclusion of a small heel cup on the new soling material. Another complaint of the original sole was that runner’s heels would tend to slide off the back of the shoe. Invisible shoe took that to heart, and added a very small heel cup to the new sole. For me, after getting the lacing dialed in on both soles, I never had to worry about my foot slipping in either direction. However, it is nice that they’ve added the cup to the new soles for folks who may have an issue with that.

Now to the meat of the most important part of the review. What do I think of the two for running? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer, and I don’t have a 100% clear winner. I will say this, for running on the road, the connect is foot and ankle above the original model. However, for heavily technical trails, I found the FeelTrue™ rubber to be a little too flexible and thin for my tastes. Yes, I know they are the same thickness, but the soling material of the original sandals just seemed to be better up to the task of running a really technical trail where large sharp rocks are at every step. However, this is not to say that I don’t believe the 6mm contact model wouldn’t hold up perfectly on very technical trails. I just believe that I preform better in the original sole on the trails, and that is the niche that my original sandals have found themselves in.

On the roads however, there is no denying that the connect is where it is at. These shoes provide such outstanding ground feel and they stay secure on the foot even in the wettest of conditions. Also, I never could find a rhythm when I would run on the roads in the original shoes. The shoe always felt clunky and heavier than the connect, and I’d often find myself finishing runs barefoot simply out of frustration. Oddly enough, I never had that sensation when running on trails in the originals. I always felt perfectly comfortable and in sync when running over uneven terrain. Perhaps it is just flaws in my form, but I don’t truly believe so.

My final verdict of the two shoes is that the connect is a truly superior model for almost every application. Only on truly technical running trails did I find it to be inferior to the original model. This is also not to say that I believe the originals would be superior to the 6mm contact model. I also believe that if you already own the original soles, you would be doing yourself a great disservice by not ordering their new models. Although, for what it is worth, I do find the originals to be more comfortable simply for walking around town. While I find the original soles to be a good all around product, I believe the connect soling to be superior and would be my first pick if I had to order them again knowing what I know now. I hope that this review has helped any of you who may be on the fence about what huarche to order, and I hope that it provides Steven and the entire Invisible Shoe company with many more satisfied huarche owners.

Until next time,

Puff

I also included some photos of my clumsy making of the original shoes:

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Comments
  1. Alan says:

    A great review, Aaron! Thanks for posting it!

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