Is this a law-suit waiting to happen?
By Al Gauthier
It is impossible to review Fila Skele-toes without the inevitable comparison between Vibram FiveFingers. The Skele-toes are, after all, a modified FiveFingers look-alike product. I have no doubt that the intent of this shoe was to cash in on Vibram’s success. Even a small percentage of sales would be a significant cash grab for Fila. I should be clear that Fila has not contacted us to review these shoes. I can find no mention of the shoes on the Fila sites as of yet, and there is, therefore, no official claims of use for this product. I understand Fila is undergoing a large billboard campaign at the moment around the USA to push these new shoes. So are Skele-toes a real competitor? Should someone who wants a pair of FiveFingers get a pair of cheaper Skele-toes? Read on…
The upper is neoprene-like material while the outsole is made of a stiff rubber sole. As we have not been in contact with Fila we do not know the exact materials used. The throat is wide and elastic and incorporates a loop forward and aft to facilitate easy access. Hook and loop fasteners secure the heel on either side and an additional hook and loop fastener is used forward of the throat. Although the mechanism is far less effective and sophisticated, this system is somewhat similar to the FiveFingers Sprint system. The inside of the shoe is soft and provides a pleasant enough environment for the foot. The last is foot shaped and the toe box is wide. So far, so good.
In what I imagine is an effort to avoid legal action, Fila has combined the smallest two toe pockets into one. To hide the real reason for this design “feature” they have labelled this area “EZSLIDE” right on the shoe. I can’t deny that it is easier to put this shoe on than a FiveFingers shoe, but I don’t prefer it. The stiffness of the sole material lets this shoe down. While it is more flexible than a traditional shoe, it is not nearly as flexible as it could be (and I would argue should be). While the last is indeed foot-shaped, it is in fact so stiff that while standing, the curved area that cups the ball of the foot keeps the toes elevated in the air! It takes considerable effort and concentration to touch the ground with my toes. While walking, I am required to roll over this contour creating an odd sensation and significantly detracting from the usability of the shoe. Had a different material been used for the outsole, this would be a very different review.
Skele-toes are beautifully wide. They would be comfortable even for a very wide foot. The design of the shoe may be a problem for those with narrower feet. Whilst FiveFingers utilize a strapping system that pulls in the shoe around the arch and thus conforming well to most foot sizes, Skele-toes has a strapping system that is external to the upper of the shoe. The strapping system surrounds the shoe rather than being incorporated into it. The stiffness of the outsole and this poor design would mean that a narrow-footed individual would be unable to appropriately adjust the Skele-toes for their feet.
Designed in the shape of a foot, the sole is a reasonably flat surface with inlayed and slightly elevated grip patches roughly in the shape of foot bones. The ball of the foot gives way to a slightly elevated toe area. The rigidity of the sole and the non-flat design lead to elevated toes when standing.
The outsole is stiff—really stiff for a shoe of this design. While Skele-toes do provide an anatomical last, a shoe of this type needs to be flexible enough to conform to the shape of the wearer’s foot. Even with the weight of my body, the sole does not flex enough for my toes to touch the ground. (see the photographs) The most significant flexibility can be found on the second and third toes. The largest toe is far more difficult to move and the combined toe pocket for the smallest toes is almost completely inflexible. To create a shoe that has such resemblance to FiveFingers and to have such a lack of flexibility is a very confusing design choice.
While Skele-toes are not heavy, they are not as light as most minimalist options.
Support / Insole
While the contour of the arch is present in most minimalist footwear, the rigidity of the Skele-toes arch makes these shoes an arch-supported shoe. There is some compression of this area but there is far more support in the arch than is ideal for a minimalist product.
The raised toes, stiff construction, and comparatively thick sole makes for a completely non-barefoot like feeling while wearing these shoes.
The material used for the outsole is grippy enough for most surfaces. Trail running would be best done in a product that had more significant grip.
The neoprene-like material of the upper does not breathe well. There is no other ventilation. The throat is loose, however, and does let some air in to cool hot feet. Overall, these do not breathe well.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The materials used are not the high-tech materials often found in products like this. The quality of the construction is ,however, excellent. We could find no faults.
Toed shoes are very much an acquired taste. If you like FiveFingers, you may also like Skele-toes. The black on black design we tested was a little more subtle compared to the vibrant colors often found in FiveFingers products.
Because of the materials used, Skele-toes do seem to be resistant to water. Heavy rain and puddles left my feet dry.
Skele-toes seem to run true to size. They are wider than average and have no significant adjustment for width; those with narrow feet may find them a little bit too roomy.
Skele-toes are cheap! There, I said it. The MSRP is set at $60USD but I have seen these for sale for between $39 and $45USD. The materials used are not expensive and the design overall is poor. Despite the inexpensive price, they are still not good value.
There is no break-in period for Skele-toes. As with any shoe we believe that they should be comfortable right out of the box.
The synthetic upper is thick and warm. For those with cold feet, these will provide a warmer environment than most other minimalist products.
When a shoe is so poorly designed that standing alone is troublesome, it is difficult to recommend suitable activities. These are most certainly more of a lifestyle shoe and probably not all that suitable for significant activity. The strapping system does not hug the foot tightly enough for running.
Fila has created a product that is clearly an altered copy of Vibram FiveFingers. Perhaps it is karmic that despite the appearance, Fila Skele-toes do not provide the same level of quality, comfort, or fit. The outsole is too thick and far too inflexible. The shape of the last leaves your toes suspended, the arch provides support, and even standing and walking do not feel right. These shoes feel nothing like Vibram FiveFingers and are really no competition. The low price of these shoe will lead many to try them—we live after all in a price-driven society. Before you buy a pair, go and at least try on FiveFingers and Skele-toes. The difference is significant and the choice will be easy. Should FiveFingers be concerned? Not at all.
The kind people at ActionSportsWeb.com donated these Skele-toes for our review. If you are interested in buying a pair, or if you want to see what else they have to offer, visit the site: http://actionsportsweb.com/brands/Fila-Skeletoes.html
What do you think? Would you buy Skele-toes? Have you already bought a pair? Do you like them?
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.
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