When the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo was introduced this spring, it filled an important gap in the company’s adult lineup by providing a high-performance running and general athletic model at a more affordable price point than the flagship Evo model that preceded it. Likewise, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids models fill an important gap in the company’s children’s lineup – but in this case, it’s for a slightly different reason.
|VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids, lace-up version|
Although they’ve long been on the forefront of children’s minimalist footwear, VIVOBAREFOOT’s kids product line historically consisted of scaled-down versions (the company calls them “Mini-me” versions) of the adult models, most of which are styled for casual or formal use.
For example, I’ve made several references to how my youngest daughter adores her Oaky shoes and wore them for everything from climbing trees to running in track meets, but the fact remains that those shoes (which to our dismay are no longer available) were a scaled-down version of the Oak, which is one of my everyday work shoes. This led to one of the most memorable predicaments of our previous school year, when my daughter’s phys ed teacher repeatedly kicked her out of class because her shoes weren’t “athletic-looking.” That situation ultimately got resolved, but it was a headache that I would have rather not had to deal with.
|VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids, Velcro version|
All of which is a long way of saying that I’m very happy to announce that VIVOBAREFOOT finally has a dedicated children’s athletic shoe in its lineup. The Neo Kids and Neo Velcro are variations on a similar theme: Mini-me versions of the high-performance Neo shoe that have all of the minimalist features kids need, along with colorful sneaker-like styling that they love. And they come in a package that should be suitable enough to pass the “athletic-looking” test from even the most stringent gym teachers.
Best of all, at the end of this review there’s a coupon code to make the Neo Kids available at a nice discount for this week only – but before we get to that, let’s talk some more about the shoes.
My daughters are no strangers to VIVOBAREFOOT footwear – in addition to the aforementioned Oakys, they’ve tested the Mary Jane-style Pally as well as the now-extinct Aquarius – and they’ve been wearing both versions of the Neo Kids for most of the current school year. They’re obviously very familiar with the structure and function of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, and if you’re similarly familiar with the company, there’s nothing about these new models that’s going to surprise you; they’ve got all the features you admire, and very little to nitpick about. Accordingly, we’ll run through the important specs in somewhat rapid-fire fashion.
Both models have a 3.5-mm outsole which is puncture-resistant and completely flexible in all directions. Traction on the outsoles is slightly slick in wet conditions, but otherwise perfectly adequate for pretty much every outdoor activity kids will encounter.
There’s a removable 3mm insole, meaning that total standing height is either 6.5mm or 3.5mm. Removing the insole also increases the roominess inside the upper, which effectively adds another half-size or so for growing feet.
Our modus operandi with VIVOBAREFOOT kids shoes is to buy them somewhat big (a half- to full size) and wear them with insoles until the shoes start to get a little snug. At that point, we remove the insole to allow for a bit more growth and increase the lifespan of the shoe. Even with doing that, your kids will almost definitely grow out of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes before they wear them out. In fact, you can probably hand them down to a sibling, repeat the insole in / insole out process all over again, and still not break the Neo Kids down.
Just as in the adult Neo, the kids versions have a low profile around the ankle to allow full range of motion. There’s just enough padding around the collar to provide comfort but not too much to add excess bulk. The sockliners are soft enough against the skin that both of my daughters prefer to wear their Neos sockless.
Weight of the Neo Kids is slightly different from laced to Velcro versions, but not significantly. The laced version weighs in at 128g, while the Velcro is slightly heavier at 133g. Removing the insole decreases weight by about 6 additional grams per shoe.
Like all VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, both of the Neo Kids models are completely flexible in all directions, allowing the foot to bend and flex in any way it wants to. Above all other aspects of minimalist footwear, this flexibility is probably the most important feature for children’s shoes – and it also happens to be the one that VIVOBAREFOOT excels at. Even compared to outstanding options like Vibram and Soft Star, VIVOBAREFOOT’s outsoles are the best in the business at combining ideal protection with complete flexibility.
As the names imply, the main distinction between the laced and Velcro Neo Kids models is in the uppers. The laces version is exactly the same as the grown-up Neo, while the Velcro version has two straps for easier entry and exit. Both versions feature breatheable mesh material over the same amount of surface area, so there shouldn’t be a comfort or ventilation difference associated with the different styles.
When I reviewed the Aquarius shoe this summer, my main criticism was that the upper had too much synthetic leather material and not enough breatheable mesh – so I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that VIVOBAREFOOT has remedied that problem very nicely with the Neo Kids.
As mentioned earlier, both styles of the Neo Kids have very kid-friendly styling, and there are a few color options of each one to choose from, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a pair to go with your little angel’s best outfits. VIVOBAREFOOT’s Neo Kids shoes normally retail for $75 from the company website, but for the next week you can get them at a 20% discount using my coupon code.
Between now and November 14th, enter coupon KIDSRNR20 at checkout to receive 20% off any style of VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids shoes. The code isn’t active on any other styles, and you have to log into the website (by entering an e-mail address) to receive the discount. Here are your links:
VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids lace-up style
VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids Velcro style
Go take advantage of this discount opportunity while it lasts, and thanks very much to VIVOBAREFOOT for providing it!
*Products provided by VIVOBAREFOOT
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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