Gear Review: Vibram Five Fingers Classic Fresca

by Editor on July 11, 2012

I am 62 and have run barefoot off and on all my life in a number of situations and on various surfaces, recently especially forest trail, beach, and concrete. I run and walk in spurts with my dog at least five times a week and cover from one to five miles per day. My walking and running are done either barefoot or in minimal tennis shoes—the thinnest I can find that I’ve worn lengthily enough to fit comfortably. I’ve never had shoe gloves but have wanted to try them. I plan to use the Vibram Five Fingers Classic Fresca  for running, snorkeling, yoga, and walking, including sightseeing and hiking at geological sites. I race only with the dog (who wins) or my husband and grandchildren (who lose).

The Classic Fresca is the prettiest thing I’ve ever had on my feet. At first, my biggest concern was that I wouldn’t want to wear them in any situation where their pretty lemon-lime on white swirls could get scuffed or soiled. Lovely to look at, they are also a pleasure to wear: lighter than my minimalist shoes and feeling like a second skin, especially around the toes. I agree with Jordan Flowers comment that “Vibram has stripped away all of the unnecessary weight to produce a shoe that you barely know you are wearing.”

Even my five-fingered toe sox feel less part of me.

Design

The first thing I checked on the Frescas—after noting that the stylish chartreuse matched my jacket—was the tread. I still do a bit of rock scrambling and plan to wear these shoes on trips for sites like the Sedona vortexes and beach rocks while snorkeling. The tread looks perfect to keep me from slipping while allowing me to flex around irregular footing.

The soles are only slightly thinner than my Island Magic water shoes and have the same full sole treads—including the arch area. With the Vibram’s snugger fit, I expect they will stay in place far better. (I’ve already realized I’ll have to purchase another pair to devote entirely to beach wear.)

I have a really high arch, so the lack of arch support is never an issue for me…just excess weight in a shoe. To affect an arch strike for me requires stride-centering on a fist-sized rock.

The Fresca’s upper is lightweight material with stretch but strength—rather bathing suit like. The medial vamp is cut and edged like a woman’s scoop-neck and nearer the toe bases for an, ahem, glimpse of interphalangeal cleavage?

The heel strap is a nice addition with a cord through the vamp edging to snug or loosen the fit. It’s fastened with a thumb-sized Velcro-backed rubbery piece at the heel.

The sole on the back of the toe pockets is a bit thicker than I would choose optimally, and I’d also like them a bit narrower, but I have nothing to compare to. Perhaps, no shoe gloves are like that.

Fit

I was sent size 42 based on measurements, and they fit like paint on a wall. The proportions of the shoes seem designed to have that slick “bathing suit” fit—with the exception of the point where the back of the upper connects to the outsole at the heel. There’s a small amount of “play” along the sides of that part, but this has not caused me any problem in running or yoga stances.

Style

I assume all the Frescas are chartreuse, goldenrod, and white swirled—reminiscent of the also classic lemon-lime drink. Their design is frankly feminine, and I’m toe-tally good with it. So far, the comments I’ve gotten, even from the 15-year-old grandson, have been on how attractive they are. I plan to push the envelope a bit, as I’d like to have this level of comfort at my teaching jobs, in the mall, at restaurants. This is the first running arrangement I’ve ever seen that looks pretty enough to wear with a dress—except for, of course, bare feet.

Road Test

I have eagerly awaited trying out toe gloves. The Vibram Fresca Classics are my first experience with those, so some of my impressions may apply to the class of shoe.

My first decision was to pay attention to the directions on the attached card to wear the shoes for only one or two hours at first. Though I’ve used Yoga Toes extensively and worn separated toe sox, I decided to be cautious because 1) I have a hammertoe—middle toe left foot and 2) I had just dislocated my little toe on the left foot. (I caught it in a shoe left underneath the edge of the couch, out of view.)

For those reasons, I was apprehensive even about getting into the Vibrams, but found that their stretchy fabric allowed me to slide fingers into the toe compartments to ease in the injured toe and to straighten out the hammer. A wonderful after effect of wearing the Frescas was that the hammertoe lays better for hours after I’ve worn them. They seem to work better than the Yoga Toes that I wear for between 30 and 90 minutes a day. I was hoping this might happen.

After a couple of days of increasing the wear time, I felt reassured that the initial comfort of the shoe was going to continue in many uses.

I did a yoga session including poses that require flexibility and non-slip in a foot covering. The Frescas were even better than bare feet for the Crane and for holding seated posture against a door where the tread performed like superglue. I held the posture for about three times longer than in my previous attempts bare foot.

Next, I did a two-mile walk run on a hot day and found that the Vibrams were—again—the best thing I’ve ever had on my feet. The material dispersed heat and sweat beautifully. I found the weight of the sole allowed tiptoe running. I didn’t have to fight with a stiff arch area to keep from having heel strikes.

My next trial was running in spurts in grass where I found I didn’t slip. In my minimal thin sole tennis shoes, even a slightly damp grass could send me skidding. This is a big benefit because, when I run on grass, there are often hills and holes that can trip me. I felt more certain of my sense of the anomalies in the ground with these shoes.

Finally, I tried the Frescas on one of the most daunting kinds of foot use I do: lengthy walking with standing. I took my grandchildren to the zoo and spent six hours seeing EVERYTHING. By the end of the day, I was telling strangers that I didn’t have any blisters, swelling, or hot spots. When I got home, the shock was not to NEED to remove my shoes the first thing. I still haven’t entirely processed this since I’ve most often ended trips like that shoes in hands—preferring to walk on any kind of surface rather than continue to be trapped in a shoe. I was comfortable for the whole time in the Frescas.

My experience of the Vibram Fresca Classics has been so good that I’ve added more running/walking/standing time without intending to do that.

Pros:

  • Thin
  • Light
  • Breathable
  • Feel like a second skin—with better tread!

The Cons:

  • A bit of play on the sides of the heel
  • The heel Velcro can sometimes catch against things, like the other shoe when crossing the legs, but it’s not a big deal

Last Impressions

I love the Vibram Fresca Classics. Even with a recently dislocated toe, the toe compartments are comfortable but strong enough to re-align my hammertoe, the sole is flexible, and the look is cute. The moment I saw them, I fell in love. The moment I had them on, I was already planning to buy another pair!  I can’t imagine a better shoe for the majority of things I do.

~Ariele M. Huff 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Stan Hill January 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Hello I just want to tell you the your shoes look really good on you. I would to buy a blue pair for my wife 40th birthday. I was wondering do you know of some good sites? Also when wearing them do you feel sharp rocks.

Kelly June 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I like the Frescas. I do like the Jayas much more. They just fit my feet better. I guess my feet are wide and for some reason, the right Fresca feels a bit tight over the top of my foot, whereas the Jaya feels a bit looser. What’ s nice is that these styles are on clearance now :)

Ariele February 1, 2015 at 1:24 am

Stan: Hadn’t looked at this for a while so I missed your question.
REI has Frescas and you can get them online too.
Ariele

beverley mackenzie February 26, 2015 at 2:26 am

Hello, I have just bought my first pair of Classic Fresca. The minute I put them on and walked in them, thet felf comfortable. I kept thembon for 2 hours, walking in the CBD of Wollongong. Hopefully I haven’t over done the first wear….lora id tingling going on, and won’t know until tonight! I love them (they’re not as pretty as yours) and I will wear them around the house, standing for hours ub the kitchen, pilates and walking.

Ariele October 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

Yes, you do need to go easy the first couple of times with how much time you spend in the toe gloves. I’m sure you’ve acclimated really well by now.

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