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May 19, 2011

New Jinga Original Shoe Review

When I first delved into minimalist shoe reviews a couple of years ago, one of the companies I had the most fun learning about was Jinga.

I suspect that’s because I have a soft spot for small companies who manage to do everything right: those who build unique, high-quality products in the most socially conscious manner possible, and give back to their communities in meaningful ways.

Jinga is a Brazilian company that combines all those things – think of them as the South American equivalent of Soft Star or kigo – along with a healthy dose of the joyous, artistic flair that defines Brazilian culture. There’s a one-word Portuguese colloquialism for this kind of exuberant, creative rhythm of life: ginga, the spelling of which was tweaked just slightly to provide the company name.

NEW Jinga Original shoe

I explained the company’s background and social calling more extensively in my review of the original Jinga shoes, which were primarily designed as dance shoes but serendipitously gained some traction in the burgeoning minimalist community. Their shoes underwent a major facelift this spring, and the new style is a significant improvement in nearly every aspect – that is, aside from one sizeable drawback for running which I’ll describe shortly.

(One other quirk is that the new models are still called Jinga Originals - but for the purposes of this review, "original" will refer to the older style. Entendeu?)

Super flexibility: one shoe curled in the other

Best of all, the primary features that make Jingas so attractive to minimalist fans are still there: the shoes weigh less than 150g each, and they’re completely flexible in all directions. There is a cushioned 2mm insole that is removable, leaving a mere 4mm of outsole between your foot and the ground.

Removable insole; mesh and synthetic leather upper

Construction of the uppers is noticeably more durable this spring, with a more structured mesh and synthetic leather combination than the previous model. There is more lateral stability thanks to strategic placement and increased size of the synthetic overlays on either side. Previous Jingas would collapse something like a slipper when your foot was out of it; the new ones retain their shape better and therefore have more of a shoe “look” this year.

There’s a little bit more padding around the ankle collar and throughout the upper on this new model, and since there wasn’t a weight tradeoff to increase the structure or comfort, these changes are definite improvements. The uppers feel more comfortable against bare feet than their predecessors, and Jinga now crafts the shoes in separate mens and womens styles to provide a more natural fit.

The new models don’t compromise Jinga’s Brazilian flamboyance, either: I picked the white and gold shoes for review, which are actually one of the more subtle of the company’s line of color combinations in both mens and womens styles. If you’re looking for shoes that will blend into the crowd … well, maybe you can pick the all-black ones. Otherwise, Jingas are designed to let your colors fly.

So far, everything’s a bonus on the new models … but here’s the major change that is indeed an improvement, but also something of a limitation:

A brand new outsole, made from TPU instead of the original PVC material.  It is substantially more durable and protective than the original, but maintains the same degree of flexibility. You’ll also notice, however, that it’s practically polished smooth; that design is intentional, and reflects Jinga’s primary calling in the footwear market.

Jinga shoes were originally created as dance shoes, intended to help you get your Capoeira on when you hit the dance floor in Rio. From a dance standpoint, the new outsole is a remarkable improvement: the smooth surface is ideal for gliding across a hardwood floor, while maintaining just enough traction to help you stop easily, turn quickly, and twirl, um … more twirlingly, I guess.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t exactly translate well to going out for a trail run. Instead, Jingas can be your everyday casual shoe, whether you’re walking around the neighborhood or going out with a group of friends. Despite the outsole’s appearance, it has good enough traction on concrete, asphalt, or carpet that you don’t have to worry about slipping. And if you happen to step into a club on your way home, you’ll be ready to dance the night away.

One final point to note about buying Jingas is that they’re not available for sale in North American stores. You can shop for them on the Jinga website, where they retail for 55 pounds – which, thanks to a wretched US dollar, will put you out 90 bucks. American customers can purchase from the website, but the checkout program doesn’t convert your charge to US dollars until after you’ve confirmed your purchase. I’d love to see Jingas enter the US market more effectively in the near future, because they’re the kind of product from the kind of company that it feels good to support.

And if they can help me dance a little bit better, that would be a pretty cool bonus.

*Product provided by Jinga
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

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Kohhal 5/20/11, 1:14 AM  

How is the toebox width, they don't look particularly wide?

Donald 5/20/11, 7:50 AM  

I'd say they're a standard width in the toebox - not as wide as VivoBarefoot or Merrell, but not uncomfortably narrow, either.

CJ 5/20/11, 12:42 PM  

I had a pair of the originals with a lower-case o. Dug the style, but wore holes in them pretty quickly.

I think they're much better served as a walking around shoe vs a running shoe.

@Kohhal, I found them a bit narrow, but (1) I have a wide toebox and (b) the upper has a lot of give, so it's not necessarily constricted per se. YMMV.

LaneB 7/29/11, 10:15 AM  

I just got these shoes as a minimalist casual shoe to wear to work. They are super comfortable like slippers. I am worried about their durability though, the soles seem to be slowly separating from the uppers.

Width: I have a medium width toe box, not too wide, not too narrow, I would say a "B." These shoes have a lot of give and fit my feet very comfortably. They are wider than they look. But my boyfriend, with a very wide toe box, has to stick to something like Vivo or Merrel.

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