Jordan Flowers – I am primarily a road runner. I shoot for 30-40 miles per week, consisting of 4-7 per day during the week and a 12-18 mile long run on the weekends. I do nearly all my running in a pair of Vibram Bikilas and have just recently started looking for something less padded. I try to get into a race at least once a month during the Spring and Summer months. I ran my first two marathons this past winter, one in my trusty Vibram Bikilas, the other in the New Balance Minimus Road.
Jordan reviews the Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa, a recent addition to the Vibram line-up.
The SeeYa is definitely a road running shoe. This shoe has a look and feel that is similar to the Bikila, which up until now was my absolute favorite road shoe. It’s also one of the lightest minimalist shoes I’ve ever tried on, with huarache sandals being the only thing I’ve ever worn that weighs in lighter than the SeeYa. Vibram has stripped away all of the unnecessary weight to produce a shoe that you barely know you are wearing.
You can’t help but compare this shoe to the Bikilas.The tread is very similar. The sole is not completely smooth like some early Vibram models, but has a small amount of simple tread pattern which helps with grip on wet surfaces.
The most noticeable difference between the sole of this shoe and other Vibram models is that the typical soling material does not cover the entire bottom of the shoe. Instead, the arch section of the sole is cut away and replaced by a rubbery material designed only to absorb impact from sharp objects. The theory behind this design is that the arch should not be striking the ground, so added material in that section is just extra weight.
The upper is a single piece of thin fabric. Again, it’s much thinner and lighter than the material used on other Vibrams. This material is more like a knit mesh and when held to light, it’s so thin you can see right through it. That being said, it does not feel weak or overly stretchy – it holds its shape surprisingly well.
Even the strap has been redesigned for a lighter shoe. It is extremely thin and flexible. It connects on either side of the shoe to a felt-like material that forms the outside of the shoes and the heel cup. This model does not have a heel strap or lacing system, so it is extremely important to make sure you buy the right size. There is not much room for adjustment.
Lastly, there are what appear to be rubber splatter paint strips across the top of the shoe and on each of the toe pockets. They are not thick enough to provide protection from major sharp impact or gouges, but should help shield the foot a bit from brush, weeds, and other small debris that may be encountered on the road or fairly clean, flat trail.
The sizing is very similar to the Bikila and the Spyridon. I wear a 44 in all three models. I was a bit concerned that the thin fabric upper was going to leave the shoe feeling sloppy. However, the shoe stays in place quite well provided you maintain decent running form. If I push off or twist my gait, I can feel my foot shifting around in the shoe a little, but not so much that it raises any concerns.
The pair that I have been testing is blue and grey. The design is sleek and simple. They don’t scream “Hey, look at my feet”, like some of the more aggressive models. Of course, the FiveFingers are still a bit of a visual oddity when you come to a race and a significant number of people or staring at your toes. I do wish there were a few more color options, but that is just a personal preference. (I like to buy all of my shoes in red.)
I have been looking forward to these shoes since the first photos were released months ago. I love my Bikilas and the SeeYa looked like the next logical step in moving toward a “barely-there” running shoe.
In fact, I was so excited about these shoes that I left myself in danger of significant disappointment. Not to worry, the SeeYa is all that I hoped it would be.
My first test run of three miles felt completely natural. No pain, no rubbing, no hot spots. Just three easy treadmill miles. Only one thing really stuck out in that first run. I was amazed by how thin the material was. Sweat and moisture seemed to disappear quickly and my feet stayed quite cool. It was very comfortable, almost like a running sock.
My second test run was four miles on paved road. Again, no blisters or hot spots – only some minimal friction from the forefoot strike. Toward the end of the run, I could tell that I was pushing off just a bit, which was causing some discomfort. The sole and tread on the SeeYa are thin enough that you still receive decent ground-feel and feedback. A lighter strike and shorter stride quickly alleviate most of the discomfort.
This last weekend, I finally took them out for a half-marathon distance training run. There were a couple of large hills, but 80% of the run was flat and fast. I did wear a pair of Injinji socks, which I typically do for any run over 10 miles. I don’t know that I needed them, but I like having that extra layer of protection against blisters and irritations.
I pushed the pace for the first half of the run. I stayed well under my target race-pace and it seemed almost effortless.
The SeeYa is a shoe that makes you want to run. It has literally renewed the joy and addiction to distance running.
The second half of the run was slower and I coasted back home. The last few miles were a bit of a chore and my legs were spent, but this is normal for me as I am just now ramping up my mileage for a couple of Spring-time half-marathons.
- Good ground feel
- Minor foot shifting
- Not a multi-purpose shoe
If you run on the road and liked the Bikila, you will love the SeeYa. I’ve already put well over 50 miles in these shoes and I anticipate running hundreds more. The only road races where I might consider another shoe are those with long patches of gravel or steep downhill stretches. For 95% of my races, these are perfect. Vibram just keeps getting better.