Thursday, February 7, 2013

All Weather Adventure: VFF Speed XC Review

Vibram Five Fingers Speed XC

Finally back to a shoe review!  I've been meaning to get to this one for a bit, but with the holidays, work, school, and my first marathon, I've been a bit busy!

Today's review is of the VFF Speed XC released last fall.  This is the third VFF shoe I've tried, after the VFF Flow and VFF Spyridon.   And, each of these shoes, while sporting the iconic five finger toe sleeves, are quite a bit different.

First of all, the Speed XC's are noted on the VFF website as being a trekking and after sport shoe. I read this as being more of a multipurpose and casual shoe.  And, based on my review, they really do fit that mold! But before I get into my impressions, here are some stats and fact about these.

 First of all, these were built to handle cold and inclement weather. The upper is comprised of several layers with taped seams that provide water resistance and warmth.  Also, compared to the other VFF's I've tried, these have a healthy sole and foot bed in them. With a 4mm eva midsole, a 4mm outsole (see above), and a lining, I'm guessing these are in the 8-10mm range for stack height.   Also, you can see the sole has a more traditional shape to it, coming in at the arch area. The upper has a one-piece construction (integrated tongue), with standard lacing versus any velcro strapping

Guess I could have rinsed them off first.. :-) 

When looking at them side by side with the Spyridon and Flow, you can certainly see the more formed fitting shape, versus the sasquatch-like wide sole of the Spyridon.  Consequently, the Speed XC's certainly have more of a "shoe" feel to them when wearing, versus more of a second-skin type feel of the thinner and more flexible models.


One feature I really liked about the construction of this shoe was the interior.  Vibram did a great job of keeping the seams minimalized and the overall feel inside very smooth.  I had a harder time wearing the Spyridons without socks due to some of the stitching, but I didn't have that problem in the Speed XC's.  Very comfortable to wear sans socks.




So, I managed to put the Speed XC to a variety of tests.  First and foremost was a run up the Manitou Incline, followed by a run down Barr Trail... by now you know the drill!  First run in them as around 20 degrees F out, and a fair amount of snow on the ground.  I combined the XC's with a pair of mid-weight Injinji toe socks, and I stayed quite warm, even while running on snow and ice.  Granted, I'm still a wimp with cold, and I know a lot of folks that would run in these conditions barefoot.. but I'm not there... yet.

Traction was pretty good, especially coming down the trail. Not as good as the Spyridons, but I attribute that to a sole that was a little less flexible so I couldn't wrap my toes around the various features of the trail as well.  I had no problems staying dry either. So, as a trail running shoe.. not bad, although I would choose the Spyridon for serious trail runs over these, although they wouldn't be as warm.


Now, on to other applications!  I had a great opportunity to put them to use at a weekend event sponsored by UpaDowna (Up a mountain, down a beer), a local non-profit with a focus on outdoor education, and simply just getting folks out there and moving.. .such a great group!  I recommend checking out their website and Facebook pages!

Sorry.. getting sidetracked again.  Anyway, at this event (which the boys just loved), we got to sled, snowshoe, and ride FAT BIKES!  If you haven't heard of fat bikes before, they are simply awesome. They were supplied by The Hub Bicycle Shop in Colorado Springs, and it was my first opportunity to try one. With the huge balloon tired and superb gearing, these bikes were amazing. The sensation of floating while pedaling across 6 inch deep snow was so cool.  Anyway, the Speed XC's proved to be terrific biking shoes!


And not just biking, the XC's worked awesome in a pair of snowshoes.  This was the first time I had tried snowshoes as well, and the boys and I had a blast.  Finally, I got my share of sled runs in as well!

So.. .my overall impression of the VFF Speed XC's is that they are very well suited for hiking/trekking and playing around in the snow as I did.  A great multipurpose shoe that I also wore as a casual shoe on several occasions.  As a hard core trail runner, I would spot them below the Spyridons, but they performed well for snow/cold conditions.  A better fit for snow running looks to be the new Lontra's, and hopefully I'll get a chance to review those for you as well before the winter is over... which around here could always be awhile!

For me, the biggest drawback was that they didn't have the same "feel" as my other VFF's...  with the thicker  and more structured sole and upper, they had more of a shoe feel than I am used to.  If you are looking to transition to VFF's, but aren't comfortable with a super minimalist feel, these may be a good fit for you. Especially if you are looking for an all around trekking shoe that you can wear for just about anything in just about any weather.

So.. again, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know!

I'll leave you with a photo of the sunrise I took the morning I went up the Incline in my Speed XC's..

Happy Trails!

Jeff
http://barefootinclined.com





6 comments:

Matt Gawlowski said...

I wouldn't be surprised if that's the first time VFF shoes have been used with snowshoes...that's an unusual combination! ;)

Jill said...

Oh gosh, the top of the Incline at evening is absolutely stunning!!

I went to a "minimalist" shoe after my foot from hell injury, but just need some cushioning for my old, cranky feet (been a runner now for 37 years - yikes)... maybe these would work for a shorter run for me. Thanks for the review. Oh, and I didn't get up the Incline on Monday...I was on my deathbed (or bathroom floor hugging the toilet, take your pick). Hopefully after Moab race.

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