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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > VIBRAM Furoshiki shoes > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Vibram Furoshiki Shoe
Review by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: January 29, 2019
Field Report: March 15, 2019
Long Term Report: June 9, 2011
the Vibram Furoshiki ready for duty
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy backpacking, hunting, fishing and kayaking. I enjoy hiking with family and friends but also hike solo occasionally. Most of my hiking has been in the Southeastern US. I hike throughout the year but actually enjoy late fall or early spring the most with some winter hiking mixed in. I don't like the hot and humid weather of summer unless I can escape to the mountains where it is cooler. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability to a degree. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food and water.
Initial Report: January 29, 2019
I would classify the Vibram Furoshiki as a minimalist shoe but it is unlike any minimalist shoe I have ever tried, and I have tried several. It has no laces but is not a sandal or slide. There are defined toe and heel areas on the shoe. It relies on wrapping both sides up and over the foot and fastening them at the heel on the opposite sides with a hook and loop system. This wrapping (for lack of a better term) is made up of a combination of rubber material (like the sole) and a thin elastic material. The rubber part starts out almost like the side tread on a mountain bike tire but quickly turns into narrow strips that thin as they move away from the sole.
The sole is a thin layer of very sticky rubber with a diamond-like tread pattern. There is no separate insole but the inside of the shoe where an insole would be is lined with a cloth like material. The sole also wraps around the heel slightly and as mentioned above, to a small degree up both sides of the shoe. Here is a closeup of the sole pattern and a few more of the shoe.
sole of the shoe
side view of the shoe
rear view of the shoe
Here is what the manufacturer says about these unique shoes
"Inspiration from Japanese tradition of wrapping, carrying and holding objects in cloth.
Improved for 2018! Sleeker, more stylish fit. More functional design. Better Sole Construction.
Multi-fit with anatomic shape and Vibram grip offering a stretch upper to fit perfectly.
Now Sized uniquely to Men and Women Specifically.
Easy on, easy off – take Furoshki anywhere. Before and after your activity, wrap and go!
Low density Vibram outsole for weight reduction.
Material Construction: 28% Elastane (Stretch Rubber / Lycra), 72% PA (polyamide & nylon)"
One last point, these shoes are pretty light and can be rolled up in a very small package. In fact they came in a small box and were inside a stuff sack in the box. The stuff sack is basically made of the same materials as the shoe itself. There is a rubber tread across the bottom and the sides are made of the same thin elastic as the shoes have, minis the rubber strips. To give an idea of compact-ability it was easier to measure the box which is approximately 4 inches tall, 5 inches wide and 6 inches long, or 10 x 13 x 15 cm.
the storage sack with the Vibram Furoshiki inside
Vibram came out with the Five Finger toe shoe several years ago and I have worn them extensively hiking and kayaking. I love how they feel and they are probably the closest to going barefoot as any shoe made. The one complaint I had with them was getting them on. This is where the Vibram Furoshiki shines. Short of a slide, the Furoshiki are about the easiest shoes to put on I have ever worn. The way the shoes can be rolled up into a compact stuff-sack also means they could serve as a camp shoe while backpacking for those who prefer a sturdier shoe while hiking.
Fit and trying them out.
The fit of these shoes is great. I ordered a size 45 Eu (11.5 - 12 US) based on information provided on the website. The toe length is perfect but the toe pocket is a tad small for my liking, however, after wearing shoes several times and at least 25 miles (40 km) on various surfaces, I haven't had any issues related to my toes being squeezed. It’s just a personal preference and probably stems from wearing sandals and going barefoot so much. I normally save all field testing related information for the Field Report but I’m inclined to share my early observations. Honestly, when I first saw the shoes and the short videos they used as advertising I thought they might be intended as a more casual or around town shoe. However, based on a couple of short hikes with a loaded pack I believe I will be able to use them as my primary hiking shoe during the test. I will say that the materials used for the sides and over the toe/forefoot area do not appear to be intended to withstanding a lot of abrasion. I’ll keep a close watch on that and try to avoid much bushwhacking. I have worn them with low top Fila sports sock which are a nylon, polyester and lycra blend, and slightly thicker than a dress sock but still a pretty thin sock. My very first observation is that the ground feel of these shoes is terrific! I could feel small rocks, twigs and even the nearly gone last years burrs from a sweet gum tree I walked under. I could feel the irregularities of the ground when walking over frozen areas, like when I stepped on a few frozen horse tracks.
The first time I wore them extensively was at work. According to my fitness watch, which is pretty accurate, I ended up walking 7.33 miles (11.8 km). This was mostly on concrete floors and asphalt. I also climbed 18 flights of stairs. The next day I was off and after a nap I put the shoes on. I then went to Lowe’s, worked on some plumbing, and took a 2-mile (3 km) road walk. I ended up walking a total of 6.38 miles (10.27 km) and climbing 11 flights of stairs. The next day we had snow flurries and it was very cold and windy, but by afternoon the sun had melted the snow. I went for a 2-mile (3 km) hike with a fully loaded backpack (30 lb or 14 kg) and ended up with a total of 3.85 miles (6.2 km) and 14 flights of stairs for the day. On the hike it was 29 F (-2 C). My toes felt a little cool at the start but they were fine by the end of my walk. This hike was on a trail around the bluff behind my house. The trail is covered in leaves, has plenty of stick, rocks and roots, not to mention, steep areas and places where the trail slopes to one side. There were a few icy patches but I was using trekking poles. I later discovered my mistake but on this hike the shoes felt a little loose in a few places, especially at the heel when I was hiking up steep hills. I could feel my foot move to the side a little on the side slopes, but they never felt insecure enough to really bother me. However, a few days later I hiked 2.7 miles (4.4 km) with the same pack load, only this time I went down the mountain. On the hike back up I kept expecting my heels to slide inside the shoe but they never did. I knew they slid the last time so I was perplexed. I found a rock I could sit on and loosened my right shoe wraps slightly. As soon as I hit another steep section my right heel started sliding up and down in the shoe. I soon found another rock so I could tighten the wraps back properly and the shoe was fine again. Apparently I will need to make sure I tighten them sufficiently when I expect to hike on steep slopes. And honestly, there is not any difference in the feel of the shoe when slightly loose when hiking on fairly level ground. I'll end with a little advice for anyone trying the Furoshiki (or any minimalist shoe) for the first time. Build up mileage slowly. I'm used to minimalist shoes and even walk barefoot a lot but it takes time to build up the foot muscles and toughness needed for this type of shoe. This concludes my Initial Report.
Field Report: March 15, 2019
Test Locations and Conditions
It has been an extremely wet year so far. Temperatures have been fairly mild most of the time but ranged from around 20 F (-7 C) to as high as 72 F (22 C). I’ve worn the Furoshiki on about a dozen day hikes that were from 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) and about twenty road walks of 2 or 3 miles (3 to 5 km) with my wife. Trails have been wet and slippery at times but surprisingly, not very muddy. I wore them with pack loads as high as 40 lb (18 kg) and as light as a jacket with a water bottle. I managed two short over night hikes of 4 miles (6 km) each. I’ve still worn them to work where I usually end up walking at least 5 miles (8 km) in a 24 -hour shift. I’m sure I’ve walked well over 200 miles (322 km) in the shoes so far.
hiking up a steep hill with the Furoshiki
Field Test Results
I am impressed with the performance of these shoes. I say that because they appear to be flimsy, especially the stretchy part that goes over my arches and fastens at the heels. I did find the limit of the shoes, or maybe better put, the point at which I noticed the shoes were not quite as stable under load. My first few hikes were with a light day pack and I went up and down many steep areas. As I noted in my Initial Report, as long as I made sure and pull the wraps tight, my feet were very stable inside the shoe. Traction is extremely good and the ground feel is second to none compared to any minimalist I've worn.
I’ll try to describe how they performed with heavier loads. I have been hiking with a heavy pack just for exercise occasionally, and when I went up to 40 lb (18 kg) it felt like the shoes were lacking in the support I really needed. However, I never had a failure, and to be honest no real issues with my feet slipping or feeling like they were about to explode out of the shoe. I also noticed I was not stepping as high as normal and had the toe catch and turn under slightly a few times. By turn under I don’t mean the sole rolled under but my toes went over the lip that connects to the stretch fabric that makes up the toe area of the shoe. It happened mostly in grassy areas but occasionally while in the woods. Look closely and you can see my left toes are riding over the front lip a little.
I went for a short overnighter of 4 miles (6 km) on February 5th. I had already completed several day hikes with light and moderate loads so wanted to see how they would perform with a real load. Even thought it was a warm night I carried a lot of extra water and gear to make my load heavier. My pack weighed 32 lb (15 kg). I hiked around the bluff which isn’t quite as tough as hiking to the holler but still has plenty of short steep sections. It had rained earlier in the day so the trail was very wet. I used my trekking poles and didn’t have any issues with my feet sliding. However, my feet got pretty wet, more so than I would have anticipated with just trail runners. After setting up my hammock I ended up going barefoot for the rest of the night. I did try to slip on the Furoshiki for a bathroom break but discovered they were not real easy to slip on seated in my hammock. Luckily, it wasn’t real cold at only 54 F (12 C) but it would have been nice just to slip on the Furoshiki. The next morning I put them on while setting in my hammock with socks on but it was still more difficult than I remembered at home from the couch. I was hoping they would be a lot easier to get on than traditional shoes. For one, the area my toes need to go in are not very defined and it was hard to just slide my feet into the shoes. Secondly, attaching the inside wrap was much easier than tying shoelaces but the outside one is more difficult to reach. To be honest, I already knew this part from putting them on at home. Thirdly, I’m not real flexible and my hammock seat is not real stable so I just found it harder than I expected. And lastly, I found that trying to put them on barefooted was harder than when wearing socks, despite the socks making my foot slightly bigger, mostly because I didn’t have to worry about a stray toe catching as I slid my foot under the toe area.
My next several uses were on day hikes. As I mentioned above, I sometimes carried a heavy pack. I went as far as using a weighted blanket to get one load up to 40 lb (18 kg). However, I often went with a very light load in a running vest, though I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination. In my opinion a light load was ideal for wearing the Furoshiki. I also would carry a hammock and put it up a few times on some of my longer hikes. I was pleased to find I could safely put my feet inside the hammock without fear of damaging it. Unfortunately, the heel rubber wraps so high that I found my feet would not slide easily in the hammock. I settled on just letting my feet hang off the edge of the hammock which proved to be very comfortable.
My last overnighter was on March 11th. I hiked 4 miles (6 km) total and carried about 25 lb (11 kg). I had no issues with my feet feeling insecure in the shoes. I ended up getting a small rock in the shoe somehow and had to stop and remedy that situation. I actually thought my sock may have gotten bunched up somehow because this is the first time I’ve had anything get under my foot. I have had a few twigs get caught in under the wraps occasionally but even that is rare. It was cooler with a low of 43 F (6 C) so I carried my Crocs for late night bathroom breaks. No biggie but I was really hoping the Furoshiki would be easier to slip on. Which reminds me, slipping them off is extremely easy. I can do it while standing up. I just press the toes of one foot against the heel of the other and press down while pulling up the heel of the foot with the shoe on it. This might seem like a bad thing and they would tend to accidentally slip off but I've never had any issues with the shoes coming off unless I wanted them off. Of course after pulling them off this way I would undo the wraps before putting them back on.
That’s all for now, stay tuned for my Long Term Report in a couple of months from now.
Long Term Report: June 9, 2011
The Furoshiki were great on the wet rocks down in the holler
Testing Locations and Conditions
The weather during the last couple of months has been mostly mild but did see some rather hot and humid days as well as a few rather chilly ones. It has rained a lot but there were lots of sunny days mixed in. I wore the shoes on several more day hikes in the woods but did cut back due to spiderwebs and ticks. I did wear them on at least a dozen more road walks with my wife and on two more overnight hikes. I continued to wear them at work, going to town, church on Wednesday night and around the house. The one place I didn’t wear them much was biking other than a couple of times to try them out. Even on my bike with big plastic pedals I found I like a shoe with a stiff sole. Anyways, no biggie as I don’t think Vibram had biking in mind when designing these shoes. My overnight hike on May 13th covered about 4 miles (6 km) and my pack weighed about 28 lb (13 kg). The high was around 81 F (27 C) and the low was around 66 F (19 C). My last overnighter on June 3rd covered about 4 miles (6 km) and my pack weighed about 35 lb (16 kg). The high was around 88 F (31 C) and the low was around 61 F (16 C)
ready for a short break during an overnight hike
Long Term Test Results
I have been impressed with just how well these shoes work as a backpacking shoe. I won’t say they were perfect as there were a few negatives, but overall they have held up well and allowed me to enjoy my hikes with a close to barefoot feel with little concern of stubbing a toe or cutting my foot on a sharp root or rock. The traction was also excellent, which was a little surprising given how smooth the tread on the bottom of the shoe is. Even on my day-hikes with heavy loads up to 40 lb (18 kg) I found the shoes supportive enough. On thing I have noticed on my last several outings was that the tips of the side panel pulls started to curl out a little. I think the material has stretched ever so slightly and when cinching them down tight the hook-and-loop patch was actually going quite a ways past the receiving end. This meant there wasn’t a lot of contact between the respective patches. The good thing is they never pulled loose. Another slight negative was how slow drying the shoes were. I usually end up getting my shoes wet when hiking in the holler. On my last overnighter I waded several times before dark but didn’t turn in until 11 PM some 4 hours after the last time I was in water. My feet looked like prunes and the shoes were still very damp. They were not much drier by morning but my socks had managed to dry.
As I noted in my Field Report, I couldn’t put them on easily while sitting in my hammock. After the first night I didn’t even attempt to put them on when I got up for nature breaks. I didn’t carry slip on shoes so just went barefooted. On this particular trip I put the Furoshikies on the next morning while sitting in the chair I had carried. I got them wet (already damp) again crossing the creek and they were still very damp when I got home. I could smell them so decided to give them a bath. I first rinsed them off outside with a garden hose and then ran a few gallons of lukewarm water in a small bucket and added a few squirts of dish detergent. The water turned very dark despite the fact that I had just rinsed most of the dirt etc from them. I’m not sure if from trapped dirt I may have missed or from the dye in the material. Anyways, I rinsed them in a fresh bucket of water and the water was clear. I then put them on the deck rail in full sun. They were dry by sundown about 7 hours later and smelled much better.
My last and still biggest complaint about the Furoshiki shoes is how the toe guard will get flipped off the toes. It still mostly happens when I’m walking in tall grass. Unfortunately, it happened in my yard right before I mowed it and in the nearby pastures just about anytime. On my last backpacking trip I went around the pasture to avoided the tall grass completely but decided to take the pasture shortcut coming home and it happened a couple of times as a walked the short distance from the tree line over to the gravel road. I was picking my feet up too. I wonder if I had gone one size smaller if this might not have happened, but honestly, I feel I have the correct size. When I’m on the trails in the woods this never happens unless I happen to misjudge a pile of leaves and drag my toes a little. During all my testing I don’t think it happened more than two or three times anywhere other than walking in tall grass. I think either eliminating the toe guard completely by just making the entire top portion out of the same stretchy material already on top of the shoe or making the rubber part deeper would help tremendously.
In case there is any doubt, I really like the Furoshiki. They are super comfortable and surprisingly sturdy for such a light weigh minimalist shoe. I don’t think these would be my first choice for a multi day backpacking trip but they did just fine on the short overnight hikes I used them on. They are light enough to carry as a camp shoe but since they are not the easiest to put on I am hesitant to use them for that purpose. I am more about just slipping my feet inside a slide type shoe when I need to and these shoes require a lot of bending over to get them on and fastened. I do plan to continue wearing them as a casual shoe and they are great for doing exercise in. One final note, I got a lot of comments when wearing these shoes. Several folks commented on how comfortable they looked. Some asked if I was just wearing socks? I wore them to my chiropractor for an adjustment after pulling my hamstring and he was fascinated by them. He picked them up and folded them and commented on how light and flexible they were. I told him all about them and that he should get a pair. He didn’t reply yay or nay but I got the feeling he was considering them. He asked the website I was testing them for as I left the room.
This concludes my testing of the Furoshiki shoes. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Vibram for this testing opportunity.
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Read more gear reviews by Coy Ray Starnes
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