By Tina Dubois
Review of the Jambu Bare Feet Designs Barefoot Vegan – A Stylish, vegan casual slip-on for women
It is certainly an exciting time to be a minimalist footwear reviewer. Several new companies are starting to offer minimalist designs with never-before-seen ideas in an ever increasing market. One of these newcomers is Jambu, a division of Vida Shoes International, with their Bare Feet Designs. Jambu offers three models in this line: the Water Ready, the Sport-Sider, and the focus of this review the Barefoot Vegan. This is a uniquely styled flat suitable for casual spring and summer urban adventures.
I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable these shoes turned out to be. The inside of the stretchy upper is soft with unobtrusive seams. The criss-cross lace is designed in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the movement of the foot or rub in any uncomfortable ways. The Velcro attachments on either side of the lace allow for a customizable fit that should accommodate most foot shapes, even those with very high arches. After walking for over 30minutes, I had no hot spots or uncomfortable rubbing anywhere on my feet.
When the Barefoot Vegan first arrived, I thought they looked a little narrow but the design turned out to be very accommodating for my average width feet. The upper is quite stretchy and the toe box has plenty of room. The laces have plenty of room to allow for high arches while still allowing the shoe to feel securely attached. The arch area of the shoe is a little on the narrow side but the outsole that wraps around the inside of the shoe does not feel obtrusive or supportive. The upper stretches widely enough for my metatarsals to properly splay while walking. This shoe should fit narrow and average width feet well but may be a little snug for extra wide feet.
Sole / Flex
The outsole is made of rice husks and natural rubber. It wraps around the toes and heel a bit to provide added protection from collisions. It is quite flexible under the toes and midfoot but not at all flexible under the heel. I have no way of measuring it, but I feel like there is a bit of a heel to toe differential; I’d guess it’s between 1.5 to 3 mm. I am insanely sensitive to a positive heel and, although I noticed this shoe has one, it’s not that different from the Kigo Curv.
Each size women’s 8 shoe weighs 5 ¾ ounces or 163 grams. This is definitely acceptable for a minimalist shoe and feels very light indeed while walking.
Support / Insole
The outsole doesn’t provide any support to the arch but does hug the arch, probably in order to provide added structure to the shoe.
The insole is thankfully removable as it is in no way a minimalist design. There is a big padded area in the heel area, which is extremely noticeable and raises the heel even further off the ground. It is attached to the footbed with Velcro, which attaches to an extra piece of fabric sewn into the footbed, and was easily discarded. The Barefoot Vegan is far more suitable as a minimalist shoe without the insole and the footbed is definitely comfortable enough to not need any additional material as the seams all lay flat.
As there is great flexibility in the fore- and midfoot of the outsole, in these areas, there is adequate barefoot feel. However, because the heel is so stiff, there is no ground feel through this part of the shoe.
The Jambu “All Terra Traction” pattern is a neat and feminine design feature and provides very good grip on man-made and natural surfaces without feeling noticeable underfoot. I find this is a fine line for shoes with grip and the Jambu succeeded well at this challenging aspect of minimalist footwear design.
This is where the Barefoot Vegan shines! These shoes are wonderfully breathable. The mesh upper allows plenty of air to pass through and the rest of the shoe is open. I’ve found these cool enough to wear in warm summer weather (for Alberta that is).
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
Other than a couple of stitches letting go in the footbed, these shoes are well-made without any obvious defects. The upper materials in the Vegan design are animal friendly, meaning no leathers are used. The outsole is made of 35% natural rubber, 10% rice husks, and the remainder being styrene butadiene (SBR) to add abrasion resistance and durability. After several long walks on concrete with the Jambu shoes, there is little wear in the outsole, mainly in the sharper edges grinding down a bit.
The packaging is advertised as being 100% recycled. The shoes are wrapped inside the box in biodegradable corn bags, which can apparently be compostable in addition to be reused for other purposes.
The Jambu shoes fit true to size in length. They should fit narrow to average width feet well but may be a little snug on wider feet in the midfoot area.
Online pricing for the Jambu Barefoot Vegan is about $99 USD. For this uniquely styled, casual shoe, it seems to be a comparable price to their competitors in the Kigo and VIVOBAREFOOT lines.
I like the unique design of the Jambu Barefoot Vegan. The criss-cross laces add a lot of flare to these shoes. They are simple but colourful shoes and come in grey/pistachio, tan/coral, and pink berry. They are attractive flats for shorts, skirts, or pants.
There is no break-in period required for these shoes. The stretchy upper is soft around all the edges that make contact with skin after several outings, has held it’s shape well.
Like most shoes, they are probably not suited for the washing machine but washing in the sink or with a damp cloth should remove most dirt.
These are casual flats appropriate for urban walking adventures. I would not recommend them for trails as the low profile upper would easily allow debris in the shoe.
The Jambu Barefoot Vegan is an exciting new arrival to the casual women’s minimalist shoe market. It has incredibly unique styling with the criss-cross lacing and contrast stitching. When you remove the unnecessary and non-minimalistically designed insole, it has a slight positive heel but probably no more than 3 mm. It should fit a narrow or average width foot well but may be snug on a wide foot. They are tremendously breathable and perfectly suited for hot spring or summer urban adventures.
For more information on the Barefoot Vegan and their other Bare Feet Designs, take a look at the Jambu website.
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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