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November 26, 2012

Soft Star Youth Dash Shoe Review

Here’s how you know you’ve got a versatile shoe: when you can wear it for a 100-mile trail run through the mountains in the summer, and your daughter can wear it as an everyday school shoe in the fall.

Thanks to Soft Star Shoes, that scenario isn’t much of an exaggeration.  By now my exploits running Leadville in my RunAmoc Dashes are well documented, but the other development in the Dash story was the release of a youth version this fall.  It’s essentially the same model as the grown up model, with a few kid-friendly design tweaks.  My 9-year-old daughter has been putting them through the paces at school and at play, and they’ve quickly become one of her favorites.

Soft Star youth Dash

For the most part, the design and construction of the youth model are similar to the adult Dash smooth, with a solid leather upper and wide toe box in front to let the toes splay.  Both fasten the midfoot very securely in place …

… but the youth version uses a Velcro attachment rather than the traditional laces found on the adult Dash.

The youth version also features an elastic band around the ankle collar to keep the heel in place.  When I first wear tested the adult Dashes, my primary complaint was that the heel seemed to slip out of the collar fairly often*; this band prevents that same issue from happening to little heels.

(*Soft Star made some modifications and eventually came up with a shape that hugs my foot better – it’s not perfect, but obviously good enough to get me through all my ultras.)

Also around the heel area you’ll see an extra layer of leather padding to improve comfort.  The back side of the heels have reflective accents to help keep little feet visible in low light.

My daughter wears her Dashes almost exclusively without socks and hasn’t had any complaints of hot spots or discomfort.  A thin boar skin insole serves a dual purpose of providing enough grip to keep the foot from sliding around, and feeling soft against the skin for added comfort.

Just as with the adult versions, youth Dashes are available with a 2mm street outsole or the more knobby 5mm trail outsole.  For an added cost you can order the leather outsole that’s an option on some Soft Star models (and popular with fans of grounding).  The outsole material above is exactly the same as the one I use for my ultras, so I don’t have any concerns about its durability.  We decided to go with the thicker 5mm option because it’s more comfortable for extended use, and traction is significantly better on a variety of surfaces that most kids encounter. 

Of course, the thicker outsole doesn’t make the shoe any less flexible, as the entire thing can be rolled up or contoured just like any of Soft Star’s footwear.  They allow young feet to move and stretch as though they were barefoot, with the added benefits of modest protection and a fashionable flair.

Youth Dash shoes come in two standard color options: the chocolate and nutmeg combo that my daughter chose, or a more feminine purple and shiny violet option.  (My daughter’s never been much for gender conformity.)  As with all other Soft Star models, you can design your own color schemes for an additional cost.

Although they are technically moccasins, the youth Dashes are built to handle activity just like the grownup versions.  My daughter wears them for P.E. class, all over the playground, and for pretty much any outdoor activity she encounters after the school bell rings. 

Soft Star’s youth Dash shoes retail for $78 from the company website.

*Product provided by Soft Star Shoes

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