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December 6, 2011

Soft Star Merry Jane Review

There’s nothing like closing out a good year on a high note … and this month, Soft Star has released a new moccasin that’s really the icing on the cake to celebrate a very impressive 2011.

Obviously, for me the Soft Star highlight of 2011 was running 100 miles in my RunAmocs – but setting aside the whole minimalist running phenomenon for a minute, Soft Star accomplished something else quite extraordinary this year: they made it possible for all of us to wear moccasins to work.

First it was the RunAmoc Dash, which was ostensibly created as a running model – and which I wear-tested for 50 muddy miles in March – but was quickly adopted by office workers who realized the smooth black leather option looks remarkably like a traditional office shoe – except, you know, without the heel and midsole and stiffness and narrow toe box or any other evils of modern footwear.

Unfortunately, this only benefited Soft Star’s male clientele, so in order to achieve workplace equality, the next logical step was to develop a work-friendly shoe for the ladies. And with that, the Merry Jane was born.

Soft Star Merry Janes!

But before we get to the details, two quick notes about the name: yes, that’s the correct spelling, and no, I don’t really like it*. I mean, it’s kind of neat right now with the holidays upon us and all, but I suspect these shoes will get especially popular in the summertime - and it might seem kind of odd to order something in July with a product name that sort of sounds like Christmas. But perhaps that’s just me being quirky – because aside from the name, there’s not a whole lot to complain about with Soft Star’s new Mary Merry Janes.

(*Apparently I’m vastly outnumbered, because when Soft Star took a poll on their Facebook page, people overwhelmingly loved the name. Just one more reason for me to dislike Facebook.)

From a functional standpoint, the coolest thing about the Merry Jane is that they’re equally suitable for a professional setting, casual use, or good old-fashioned child’s play. The stock colors are black and chocolate brown, either of which can easily complement formal office attire. However, if you’re like the girls in my family, you can customize your colors to show off your personality a little bit.

For example, you can make the heel color different from the toe color, as my wife did with this pair that kind of reminds me of a lipstick container, or you can go with some eye-catching options …

… such as this pink model my oldest daughter wears. She’s the more “girly” of my two daughters – the one who loves dolls and enjoys nurturing people (mostly her father) with massages or baking cookies – but she also likes to catch people’s attention. So it didn’t surprise me at all that this was the color she picked.

My youngest daughter is perpetually sunny and cheerful, so the lemon option she chose fits her nicely as well. She’s also the adventurer / explorer of the family – and this color just screams “I can’t wait to get these things dirty!”

Remember what I said about child’s play? Soft Star’s Merry Janes are also available in youth sizes, where the stock colors are fuchsia (the pink pair above), platinum, and black. Construction of the adult and youth versions is essentially identical … which reminds me that we really haven’t started the spec rundown yet.

Like most Soft Star mocs, the Merry Jane consists of a two-part leather upper – but in this case the midfoot area is scooped low to create the classic Mary Jane styling. The adult version weighs in at just over 4oz on my kitchen scale, although weight will be somewhat variable depending on the size – regardless, these will certainly be among the lightest shoes in your collection.

One primary departure from normal Mary Janes is that the strap doesn’t really buckle into place; instead, it’s attached by Velcro to make for easy on/off – a convenience feature for adults, and an extremely helpful feature for little fingers when you’re rushing to make the school bell in the morning. If you prefer, you can also remove the buckle completely for a more casual look.

The interior lining of the uppers and the insole consists of soft suede that all of my testers reported feels quite comfortable against bare skin. There isn’t any traditional insole or footbed with these shoes – just a suede layer on top of the outsole in a simply minimal, back-to-basics arrangement.

For the Merry Jane outsole, Soft Star went with the same Vibram outsole that is used on their adult Rambler, which is designed for durable outdoor use. The outsole is 5mm thick, which combined with the suede insole lining gives the Merry Jane a total standing height of approximately 7mm. It is also fairly soft, and over a period of several days it will mold slightly to your foot for a practically custom fit.

More importantly, the outsole is completely flexible, allowing your foot to bend and flex in any direction necessary. Encouraging natural foot movement has been Soft Star’s specialty from the very beginning, and it’s great to see that as the product line expands, they haven’t lost sight of this most critical element of shoe construction.

So despite my objection to the name, I’m really a big fan of the Soft Star Merry Janes – because they look cool, they’re extremely versatile and functional, and they are as minimal as minimal can be. Best of all, my wife and daughters all love wearing them – and anything that gives the ladies in my life happy feet is highly valued in my book.

If you want some happy feet of your own, here are your links from the company website:

Soft Star Merry Jane women’s version in black – prices starting at $75.

Soft Star Merry Jane women’s in chocolate brown – starting at $75.

Soft Star Merry Jane youth version in fuchsia – starting at $54.

Soft Star Merry Jane youth in platinum – starting at $54.

Soft Star Merry Jane youth in black – starting at $54.

*Products provided by Soft Star
**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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Nathan Veldhoen 12/6/11, 11:02 PM  

Man they need to make those for Guys, I would rock those for sure!

Gretchen 12/7/11, 5:07 PM  

Oh, so totally SOLD! ;)

And, yeah, don't be such a grinch about the name. Those colors look pretty merry to me for any time of year.

Donald 12/7/11, 7:18 PM  

Nathan: You can custom-make all those colors (and more) with the Rambler or most other Soft Star models too!

Gretchen: You know I'm not happy unless I can find something to be unhappy about :).

Anonymous,  1/1/13, 9:45 AM  

Sweet! I'm like Nathan, a guy too that would wear these! in brown or black! I love them!

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