By Tina Dubois
The Flows are my favourite Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) model to wear in cooler temperatures. Like all other VFF models, they are comfortable, form-fitting, and have amazing barefoot feel. The Flows are long-lasting and the grey upper/camo sole have a unique look to them (which does garner many comments from strangers). They are perfect for colder weather running as well as almost any kind of water sport.
Please keep in mind while viewing the pictures that these shoes are over a year old and have been well-loved and worn often.
Like all FiveFingers, the Flow is a glove for your feet. They are extremely comfortable, as long as you have the correct size. The unique stitching, both on the upper and attaching the insole to the shoe, is different than the stitching on other VFF models and continues to allow for full freedom of movement of the feet. The two-strap design makes the fit easily customizable for loose or tight wear. Because the upper material is thicker than the KSOs, the toes can feel squished upon first trying them on, although the neoprene material does loosen with wear, and the squished feeling becomes less noticeable. As with the KSOs, I do forget that I’m wearing them after a few minutes.
Each size W39 Flow weighs 5 ½ ounces or 156 grams. They are the heaviest of my collection of FiveFingers (although I cannot compare them to a pair of Treks in my size). While wearing them, the weight is completely unnoticeable.
Flex / Sole
The sole of the Flow consists of a 2 mm EVA footbed, which provides extra thermal insulation and protection from rough terrain. I do notice a difference in ground feel between the Flows and KSOs where the Flows feel slightly thicker, a definite plus in colder temperatures or on cold ground. The sole is also flexible in all directions just like the other models of VFFs.
Support / Insole
There is no arch support in the Flow. The insole is a thin, slightly-cushy material that is stitched to the neoprene material of the upper. Even without socks, I cannot feel the stitches or any break in the smoothness of the interior of the shoe where the neoprene meets the insole. This insole is definitely thicker than that in the KSOs, which separates the foot from the ground a little further, thus protecting the feet a little more from both rough terrain and colder ground temperatures.
Compared to other VFF models, there is slightly less barefoot feel because there is thicker material between your foot and the ground, which helps in cooler temperatures. Compared to conventional shoes, the Flow is phenomenal in its barefoot feel because of the extremely flexible and form fitting sole.
The Flow upper is made of 1.2 mm neoprene, which is not breathable. If your feet sweat, they are definitely going to stay wet. This is a considerable drawback to this model in warmer temperatures, however, their intended purpose is for cooler temperatures where some of the other models might not be well suited. If your feet sweat in those cooler temperatures and then get cold, the dampness exacerbates the cold and your toes can get pretty uncomfortable.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
I definitely have no complaints about the quality of materials or manufacturing. My Flows are over a year old, have been well-loved and worn, and other than a few dirt stains on the strap, still look pretty new. All of the stitching has held up incredibly well and the neoprene itself still looks spectacular.
There is an extra covering of harder material on the big toe, on the in-step of the arch, and on the lateral side of the heel. I don’t know what this material is or its actual purpose, but I imagine that it is designed to help protect the neoprene upper material from wear. The part on the big toe even has a cut-out that allows for added flexibility, if you’re able to bend your toe that far up; a thoughtful detail on Vibram’s part.
Although one might think that the Flows would be more water resistant than other VFF models, they are not. If you step in any kind of dampness that is over 2 mm in depth, your toes will get wet. Water seems to seep in between the sole and the neoprene along the edges of the toes first. It can be a bit shocking at first until the warmth of your feet warms up the water.
Unfortunately, the Flow loses points in the grip department. If there is any kind of snow or ice on the ground, the Flow slips all over the place. They are a fine shoe choice and have adequate grip for concrete, asphalt, grass, or trail as long as it is snow- and ice-free.
I found that the same size of Flow that I wear in the KSO was too snug on my toes so I chose one size larger. The added room allows me to wear socks comfortably as well as being cosy without socks. I found that the Flows were initially pretty tight on the toes when they were brand new but have since loosened and I no longer feel any uncomfortable tightness there or anywhere else on my feet.
The Flow costs $90 USD on the Vibram website. I think this is a reasonable price for this model considering how well it has held up to a year of wear as well as its continued long-lasting potential.
I love the style of the Flows. If you want a more inconspicuous look, they currently also come in all black as well as the grey with the camo sole. I have had more comments from strangers when wearing this model than any other VFF model I own, though, probably due to the yellow accents on the sole.
The Flows don’t need a break-in period like conventional shoes but I found that the neoprene around the toes did loosen somewhat with frequent wear.
I have never treated my Flows with any kind of shoe protector. I have machine washed them many times with no problems at all. Although I usually wear socks with them, they still smell like they did when they were new when they come out of the wash.
The 1.2 mm neoprene and added thickness of insole make the Flows the warmest of the VFFs. I wear them in temperatures ranging from -5 to 10C or 20 to 50F. Any colder than that and my feet get very cold (although my feet are generally cold and not hot), whereas any hotter than that and my feet sweat unpleasantly.
Vibram recommends the Flow model for cold weather running, light trekking, climbing, cayoneering, sailing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, surfing, and flats fishing. The recommended trend is obviously towards water sports for this model. They are my favourite colder temperatures running shoe. Anytime the outside temperatures range is in those mentioned above, I love to wear the form-fitting comfortableness for the Flow.
The Flow is a superb edition of the VFF line-up. Although their use may be limited to cooler temperatures, whether in the air or the water, they perform most excellently within their preferred temperature range. They are an incredible running shoe for cooler temperatures, as long as there is no snow or ice. They are no more water resistant than any other VFF model but they are much warmer than the KSOs. They are also comfortable both with and without socks. I am extremely happy with my Flows and am grateful for them any time I go running in cooler temperatures.
To purchase these shoes, visit the Vibram FiveFingers website at http://www.vibramfivefingers.com.
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