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Sunday
Jun232013

Freet Footwear Review

I like shoes. I really do. Which, given that I now only like minimalist shoes, gives me something of a conundrum. (Ignoring the no-buying thing, which is even more of a conundrum for a shoe-lover!)

For me, a minimalist shoe needs to be zero-drop, wide in the toe box, preferably no toe spring, and a thin, flexible sole. Ideally, the shape should mimic the shape of my foot, which is actually pretty straight up to the end of the big toe. 

My current running shoes have 400+ miles on now, but do (if I'm being really picky) fall down in a couple of those areas: they don't really have the same shape as my feet, and the thicker, 5mm trail sole is really a little too thick for me. A third issue is that really, I ought to face up to the fact that even after beating them on a broom handle they are too small. This has kind of shown up in some pain in the joint in the big toe on my slightly-larger left foot.

I need to find a pair to both train and run in for the WDW marathon next January. While I love the look of the Soft Star Moc3s, the shipping and import duty really bumps the price up. So when I saw the Freet Footwear 4+1 Barefoot shoe advertised (at a very reasonable price, I might add), I couldn't wait to try them. 

Freet Footwear 4+1

I was dead excited when they arrived. They are a really nicely made shoe, light, good strong-feeling upper. The velcro makes them easy to get on and off, and only having a separate big toe makes them significantly faster to get on than Five-fingers.

Freet Footwear 4+1

And look! They do mimic the shape of my foot pretty well. I mean, other than that big old gap between my big toe and the rest.

Freet Footwear 4+1

A lovely, grippy sole that would make your footprints look like a gorilla. What's not to love?

I really wanted to love these shoes. I really did. But there were, for me, a couple of things that meant these went back into the box and got sent back to Yorkshire.

They clearly do have a slight issue with size. I consider myself to be a UK size 5, which would be a European 38. I am questioning that slightly, as I've had to order a 39 in a few shoes now, but still, I have never been larger than a 39. So I ordered a 39. Before they shipped, I got a lovely email confirming the size that I'd ordered, and telling me they run a size small. I said thank you, and that I had already added a size. Sadly, it seems I should have ordered 2 sizes higher. The big toe fitted pretty well. A little snug width-wise, but I have pretty wide big toes and the material would have given a little with time. The problem was the second toe, which was wedged up against the end of the shoe. 

How could that be? My second toe is no longer than my big toe, and the 4 toe pocket starts out no shorter than the big toe pocket! I think it's that big old gap. My second toe sits further to the outside of the shoe than expected, and comes up against the end where the third toe ought to be.

That's not a deal-breaker. I'm not a size 40 shoe in any other make I have ever found, but it's just a number so I could have been. But the deal-breaker for me was the toe spring.

Freet Footwear 4 1

(Forgive the fuzziness - it's surprisingly hard to take a photo of a gap.)

When I'm standing around barefoot, my toes do not curl slightly upwards. I don't think yours will either. I'm not quite sure why shoe manufacturers like to include this little bit of upward curl in their shoes - I'm sure there's a reason, I just don't know it. For me, it means I will spend the vast proportion of the time I spend in these shoes when I'm not running pushing my toes against that spring. I will drive myself loopy trying to get my foot flat. As I was rather hoping that the next pair of shoes I bought could also be worn with jeans before or after a run, this meant these were a no-go. 

I had fabulous customer service from them, and as I said, I really really wanted to like the shoes. Sadly, they just weren't for me. If you are less picky about the toe spring, and like Fivefingers other than putting them on, these are definitely worth a look. Just heed the warning about the size!

For me, I've gone back to Vivobarefoot. "The One" apparently. In a 39, because that's what size my Evos were.

"The one"

Guess what? They are slightly too big...

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Reader Comments (2)

Have just bought some Freets & there is virtually no toe spring on mine! You're right about the sizing though - you need to order a couple of sizes up.

August 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHF

Hello,
Sorry if my english is not perfect but I am french.
I have the 2014 edition of the freet 4+1 (size issue corrected), in size EU 41 (my standard running shoe size), and the size is the good one. I do not feel the toe spring when the shoe is put on, the foot naturally pushes the sole downward.
I love these shoes but I would just notice one minor issue concerning small toes pocket :
The big toe is near to the end of the big toe pocket, no problem on that point, but the small toes are really far from the end of their pocket ! So much that the littl toe is just out of it : it doen't really disable to run correctly, but I guess traction would be better if small toes were in their appropriate pocket which includes a specific outsole more grippy at this position.
Why does the small toes pocket have this strange shape ? It is too much horizontal, while it should be inclined backward, are human foot is, no ?

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBareFootRunner

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