The most noteworthy feature of the uppers is the molded split toe design that separates the big toe from the rest of the foot. I found this design to be quite comfortable for walking around, but somewhat problematic while running. Basically, when my foot flexed forward, the TPU at the base of my big toe and second toe created a pressure point that caused some chronic discomfort. My hope was that there might be a breaking-in period after which the material would soften or my foot would get accustomed to the feeling, but unfortunately neither of these things happened.
A fully adjustable and removable nylon strap helps secure the foot inside the upper. The strap has neoprene padding which sits very comfortably against the muscle tendon – and of course, the back of the heel remains open, just as it did on Achilles’s suit of armor. As far as ease of use goes, the straps prevent you from sliding your feet into these like you do with a pair of flip-flops, but it’s a far simpler process than tying a pair of laces on huarache-style sandals.
In general, the styling of the Achilles results in an outstanding fit, as the front of the sandal doesn’t catch on the ground, the footbed stays relatively close to the bottom of the foot, and the ankle strap prevents excess lateral movement on top of the footbed. However, proper sizing might be an issue for some users, as the Achilles is made in S-M-L-XL instead of the customary numeric sizing. Each letter size encompasses two number sizes (for example, medium equates to size 43 and 44), which means that some folks might find them slightly roomy or slightly snug. If they’re too big, you’ll probably drag part of the heel footbed behind you when stepping forward, and if they’re a little tight you risk rubbing your toes against the front of the TPU. Having said that, I’m a pretty true size 44 and the medium sandal fits quite well.
Another clear strength of the Achilles is the outsole, which is a mere 3mm thick, and is completely flat with no support mechanisms. The sole is puncture resistant and uses VIVOBAREFOOT’s trademark hexagonal tread pattern for traction. It’s an ideal combination of lightweight flexibility with enough protection and durability to take on virtually any activity. Even though I’m not running in my Achilles very often, I have no doubt that the outsole would be the equal of the VIVOBAREFOOT running models – primarily the Evo and Neo – that I use for all conditions on every kind of terrain.
Overall weight of the Achilles is 6.5 oz, which is more than many “slab of rubber and piece of string” styled sandals, but significantly less than VIVOBAREFOOT’s standard running models. (It’s also almost identical to the weight of a pair of Vibrams.) Just like the outsole, the weight represents a nice compromise as well, maintaining the lightweight feel of being barefoot with the minimal structure necessary to ensure long-term functional use.
Finally, the price of the Achilles is also a nice middle ground between the cheaper, less durable minimalist styles on the market, and the high-end performance models that some companies (VIVOBAREFOOT included) stick on their “better than barefoot” creations. The sandal retails for $60 from the VIVOBAREFOOT website .
*Product provided by VIVOBAREFOOT
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