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June 25, 2012

Soft Star Vegan Moc3 Review

When I was younger and more idealistic, I experimented a bit with vegetarianism.  I’ll save you a long backstory by just saying that ultimately the experiment failed.

Perhaps my biggest obstacle was that no matter how many “meat substitute” foods I tried, nothing hit the spot quite like a good old fashioned burger.  I suppose the lesson could be made that if you want to replace an ingrained habit, you had better do it with something that looks and feels like the real thing.

A similar argument could be made for veganism, which until recently I had associated much more with diet than with footwear.  Some of my increased awareness came courtesy of a training partner of mine who has developed a passion for animal activism – and when he recently asked me about what kind of vegan footwear I’d recommend, I knew this was an angle I should probably look into.

Soft Star Vegan Moc3

Coincidentally, Soft Star had been looking into the same issue recently, and earlier this year released the Vegan Moc3, which I’ve been testing for the past couple of months.  It’s an interesting move from a company who trades almost exclusively in leather products, and presents a notable corollary to the premise I mentioned above.  In this case, if you want to offer a realistic vegan alternative to a well-established product, you better do it with something that’s comparable from a quality standpoint.

In that regard, the Vegan Moc3 is a resounding success: it’s a 100% vegan version of one of Soft Star’s most uniquely dynamic shoes, and doesn’t sacrifice any of the comfort or performance features of the original.   

Vegan on L, leather on R

For more detailed background on its predecessor, you can check out my original Moc3 review.  A synopsis would read like this: the Moc3 is a super lightweight form-fitting sock / moccasin hybrid that fits like a glove and has the best ground feel of practically any minimalist shoe I’ve tested.  It’s ideal for anything from casual activity to running on roads or groomed trails, with extreme flexibility to let your foot function absolutely naturally.  

In design and function, the vegan version is exactly the same thing.  My preference is to wear them for general outdoor use or for road running, but on technical trails I like the increased protection of my RunAmocs

The slip-on design makes it ideal for stashing somewhere handy if you’re going primarily barefoot but might need to throw something on your feet every now and then.  I keep a pair in my car in case I need to stop at the local market - or in case I want to grab a quick pic at a scenic overlook somewhere in Yosemite - and they’d be great for barefoot hikers to tuck in a pack in case they encounter rougher than expected trail conditions.

Both the vegan and regular Moc3 are constructed of a 4-way stretch material called Breathe-o-prene, an odor-resistant fabric that pulls moisture away from the skin to help keep your foot dry.  The difference is that instead of a ventilated leather outer layer, the Breathe-o-prene is layered twice on the vegan model.

Another material difference is present on the interior: for the regular Moc3, Soft Star uses a thin leather insole, but on the vegan version it’s a soft synthetic fabric.  Both versions are equally comfortable for wearing sockless, with minimal irritation from seams or any points of surface pressure.

Otherwise, the two models are exactly the same: they are low cut around the ankle to maximize comfort and range of motion …

… and have an extremely thin 2mm Vibram rubber outsole welded onto a flexible bottom fabric.

Because it’s a virtual equivalent of the original, the vegan Moc3 has the same potential drawbacks: the Breathe-o-prene is prone to running a bit warm, and there’s no adjusting the fit if you happen to be between natural sizes.  The only subtle performance difference I would anticipate is that without a leather outer layer, you give up a bit of upper durability with the vegan version – but unless you’re doing some extreme bushwhacking or similar off-trail excursions, this shouldn’t be a major deterrent.  

More importantly, the vegan Moc3 wasn’t intended to be an upgrade – it was meant to provide an attractive option for vegan consumers to shop with a clear conscience, and without compromising anything in terms of quality.  When there’s no dropoff in value or utility, the decision to choose an alternative product becomes quite easy.  What’s even better news for vegan fans is that in this case, exercising your morals doesn’t come with a higher price tag. 

The Vegan Moc3 retails for $94 from the Soft Star website, which is the exact same price as the Original Moc3.  

*Product 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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Chloe,  6/26/12, 10:34 AM  

I clicked over from Jason Robillard's blog when I saw the title of your post on his sidebar.

I looked into Soft Star shoes a while back but because there was no vegan option, I dismissed it.

Do you know if they make kids' sizes in the vegan version?

Donald 6/26/12, 5:05 PM  

@Chloe: no kids Moc3 options that I know of, but Soft Star has some other vegan kids options on the website- definitely worth a look.

Rosa Michelle 6/28/12, 4:53 AM  

I love these. Bottom to Top, they seem great!

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