By Tina Dubois
We are pleased to review the original version of the Sockwa (new models are due to be released mid-2010) for the Living Barefoot Minimalist Shoe Review Series. The barefoot feel and the lightweight material of these shoes is second to none in the minimalist shoe market. The Sockwa is really little more than a sock with a slightly more durable sole. I believe that there is no other barefoot alternative product that is as truly minimal as this one.
With the right size, the Sockwa is an incredibly comfortable slipper. The sole and upper material is stretchy in all directions for plenty of wiggle room. The upper is made of two types of material: the sides, heel and toe being made of neoprene, while the top of the shoe is made out of a thinner, breathable and incredibly stretchy fabric. The seams are all flat so your feet don’t feel them at all. As long as the shoe is big enough that the seams on the bottom of the shoe are outside of the weight-bearing areas of the foot, you can barely feel that the shoe is even on your foot. The elastic band surrounding the ankle is also extremely stretchy and does not interfere with the movement of the foot or ankle at all.
Each size L Sockwa weighs 1.5 ounces or about 43 grams. I don’t think there is anything lighter on the market. In terms of weight, once the shoe is on, it feels no heavier than a regular sock.
Flex / Sole
The sole is made of a stretchy, textured neoprene material. As there is no rigid structure to the sole, it flexes as any fabric material does. It provides a modicum of protection while walking on sharp objects.
Support / Insole
As there are no rigid materials used in the construction of the Sockwa, there is no support whatsoever in the shoe. There is no insole included with the shoe.
The barefoot feel of these shoes is phenomenal. The sole provides a little protection from sharp objects you may step on, but that is all. Your feet will feel absolutely everything that you step on just as if you were barefoot except the really sharp edges will be slightly muted.
The slightly textured neoprene sole does not provide very much grip. This is not a problem on natural surfaces, but on smooth, man-made surfaces you have to be careful about the way you walk so that you don’t slip. If you are used to a barefoot gait, this should not be a problem but if you are not, a little extra care will be needed in the beginning.
The neoprene on the sides, heel, and toes is not breathable at all. The fabric covering the top of the foot is completely breathable. I found that my feet did get a little hot in extremely warm temperatures, but for temperatures near an average room temperature, my feet were quite comfortable.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
Although the stitching of these shoes is impeccable, the choice of material may lend to a lack of durability if these shoes are worn on rough surfaces for extended periods of time. The Sockwa was designed as a beach shoe and the intended purpose was for sandy beaches, so for this purpose, the material is perfect. They were not meant for walking on concrete, asphalt, rocks, or man-made surfaces so cannot be expected to last long on these terrains. For short periods of time, however, their superb barefoot feel merits at least some time trying out these surfaces, if bare foot is not an option.
The neoprene material is somewhat water resistant but the seams and the fabric upper are not. Therefore, if you walk in any amount of water, your feet are going to get wet.
Sizing is very important to the comfort of these shoes. I have tried a medium and a large size of Sockwa and found that the large was more comfortable because the seams attaching the sole were not under the weight-bearing areas of my foot. While wearing the medium, I found that these seams were very uncomfortable to the sole of my foot as the sole of the shoe was not quite large enough to extend beyond the weight-bearing areas of the soles of my feet. The large, therefore, is my size of choice and is not too large in other areas to compensate for the larger sole. I generally wear a size US 8 shoe for comparison.
The original Sockwa can be found for $20 USD on the Sockwa website. This is an excellent value for a minimalist shoe as long as you don’t intend to wear it on rough surfaces for extended periods of time where its long-term durability may be compromised.
The style of the Sockwa is much like a neoprene slipper or a loose sock. It has a simple, very minimalist design. A great aspect about Sockwas is that they come in a myriad of colors and patterned designs.
As there is no rigid structure to the Sockwa, there is no break-in period required.
There is no pre-treatment shoe care required of the Sockwas. They can be machine-washed and air dried if they get dirty or smelly.
Sockwas provide about as much warmth as a thick pair of socks. For added warmth, you could wear a regular pair of socks with them.
The potential uses of the Sockwas depends on how long you would like them to last. If you limit their use to indoors or the beach, as their intended purpose, they will last a very last long time. If you would rather wear the Sockwas anywhere, on any type of terrain, they will not last as long as the neoprene sole is not meant for prolonged use on rough surfaces. If you want to run in them for a little added skin protection, the rougher the terrain, the shorter they will last.
They are, however, ideal for packing with you on any barefoot excursion where you may require shoes at some point. They are extremely light and foldable and perfect for just such a use.
The intended purpose of the original Sockwa is for the beach and sandy surfaces; for this purpose, they are an excellent minimalist shoe option. They are wonderfully comfortable and resemble a neoprene slipper with no rigid structure. Their barefoot feel is phenomenal.
If you are looking for a more durable, long lasting minimalist shoe for all surface types, the Sockwa is probably not a good option. Fortunately, Sockwa is releasing a new model, called the Amphibian, which answers the desire for a more durable minimalist shoe. We look forward to reviewing this new model when it becomes available.
To purchase the original Sockwa or to check out the new models coming out shortly, go to the Sockwa website at http://sockwa.com.
As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.
Should you have any questions about our review process or would like your product reviewed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us using our contact page.
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