Vibram FiveFingers. Don’t believe the Signa hype.
I was curious about Vibram FiveFinger shoes that keeps popping up in stores and web stores. I own a couple of Vibram-soled shoes. Many which I can swear by. From RockPorts to UGG which have outlasted other shoes I own. If you haven’t heard about the FiveFingers, these are basically extremely light ninja-like shoes like those of the dorky fingered socks.. except made of more durable material and a sole to cushion your feet from the impacts it receives from various form of exercises and activities. They make these for distance running, trail running and just daily use too. In favour of the weightless ergonomic look and since I do tonnes of dragon boating and stand up paddling, I kinda got my eyes set on one of their products which markets specifically for water activities.
There are various kind of shoes you can wear while doing water activities. Most of these would be neoprene based from 2mm to 5mm for various weather conditions. These are good but it usually gets pretty hot and sweaty when you’re wearing them in the peak of summer. This design however are derived from scuba diving or snorkelling as they cool you down when you’re submerged in water. But when you’re staying on ground exposed to hot sun or winter’s weather, it can be pretty unbearable. Then there is the netted top material aqua-shoe that’s sprawling the market with a thick polyurythane sole underneath. Even though they work for its purpose, you tend to however lose your sole senses due to its thick unflexible soles. Despite all the comfort claims, this shoes make your toes and feet completely senseless; like having on gum boots when you want to feel the grass under your feet. If you catch my drift.
When in water, and on a paddle board, you want to feel connected to the water. Many will either go bare feet as it gives you that connection while you’re applying pressure on the deck of the board whilst paddling. On a dragonboat or SUP in summer weather, barefeet feels great but you don’t want to step off the board into old deck splinters or unexpected sharp rocks. And for us who trains on fresh water, these murky water sometimes makes your feet slippery during the power phase of your stroke. You’re transferring the full weight of the paddle to the bottom of your feet and the last thing you’d want it to do is slip.
Less about paddling technique, back about the Signa shoe and its advertising claims.
Whether kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding or simply walking the rocky shores all summer, the FiveFingers® Signa is the shoe for you. The segmented Coral outsole made of Vibram® TC-4 Plus rubber ensures ultimate grip and protection in the water and allows natural foot flexion when swimming. Small perforations in the sole encourage water drainage, minimize weight, and speedup drying time. The upper is built with a combination of synthetic and abrasion resistant fabrics to protect the foot. The Signa is finished off with a structural hook and loop strap for a secured fit. Machine washable. Air dry.
So I bought myself the Vibram FiveFingers Signa in January 17, 2015. I decided on these vs the TrekSport which also claims to be water specialized design due to its breathing sole. Water in – water out. Quick dry. It takes a bit of practise to get these on and off your feet. As advised, you should choose the proper size that allow your heel to firmly seat in the heel cup and for me this was one size smaller than the normal shoe size I wear. So in general, if you’re like me wearing a 44 you’d want to get a 43 to have a proper snug fit. So Jack is happy with his shoe fit. But through time and putting it to its paces, that’s where it becomes less desirable. Jack is starting to not like it.
After less than six months of use (2nd June 2015 at the time of writing) the shoe is starting to break apart. The first to snap off was the rear loop. You have to understand the snugness of these shoes when you try to get them on. The thing just decided it’s had enough and snapped off exactly where the stitches are. It was a perfect rip. Like that of a postage stamp. This was just the first of many other failure symptoms to come.
The following week during my SUP race here in Netherlands, I thought the shoe had a less snug feel. A closer look unveiled that the rubber seal which connects the sole to the upper synthetic material is also torn. I’m beginning to doubt that this shoe was ever tested on and off water for this length of use. But 3x a week and about 2 hours average each time is not too much I think.
And the rest just starts to fall apart. The glue adhesive on the bottom of the toes have also started to give way and if you look closely to the upper synthetic material, it has started to tear in various places. It may be made for water, but I think its just not weather-proofed. This shoes dry fast but it feel like the materials used couldn’t withstand the repeated wet-wear and dry over a repeated period – of I say 6 months.
So now I am at a loss of whether the shoe was well worth the $90 I paid for when it starts to deteriorate after 6 months of use. I wear them on average 3x a week for my dragonboat and SUP trainings. Nothing extreme like jumping rocks / running distances what so ever. To make matters slightly more complicated, I got these in Florida during my travel and I doubt the retailers in Netherlands would even want to bother with my issue on this shoe even if they stock them here on the shelves. But one thing for sure, I’d be more wary to look for feedbacks on this water-claim Signa shoes before giving them your hard earned money.
If any of you know where I can get this fixed, replaced or warrantied, do direct me to the right pls. I twittered about the torn loop once on Twitter with @FiveFingers tagged on it but never got any response from them. Too busy selling I guess.
— rastAsia (@rastAsia) May 4, 2015
Needless to say. It might be the last time I look into FiveFingers as a watersports wear. I was sceptical when I got it, and despite the great feel it gives, the sudden wear and break down on its material and build makes it an undesirable product for its claimed purpose. I guess I’m back to the old smelly neoprene boots when I hit the water. At least they can take the 5 year beatings without a problem. Don’t believe the hype. And don’t fall for false marketing.