Although it might seem strange thing to say about a line of footwear that’s just a handful of years old, one of my initial judgments about Vibram’s latest trail model is that it has quite an impressive heritage. Both its name and design symbolize achievement – and fortunately for the FiveFingers Spyridon LS, the finished product doesn’t disappoint on either count.
|Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS|
First, the name: the FiveFingers Spyridon is named after Spyridon Louis, victor of the first Olympic marathon in 1896. Vibram has gone this route before, naming its Bikila road shoe after the man who won the Olympic marathon barefoot, and the Spyridon is an equally fitting moniker for its new trail running model. In case you’re wondering, that first Olympic marathon wasn’t contested on pavement, but on dirt trading paths and dusty farm roads winding from Marathon to Athens - so the Spyridon implies that it’s made for running on dirt, and built for high performance.
And that’s the second element of heritage that the Spyridon embraces: it takes a lot of the design aspects of Vibram’s previous running models, and combines them with new innovations that are quite impressive considering the minimalist framework under which they’re constructed. You’ll see echoes of previous FiveFingers models here, but the Spyridon truly stands alone in the FiveFingers lineup – and with that, we’ll get to the review.
|Bikila on left, Spyridon on right|
It’s tempting to think of the Spyridon LS as the KSO Trek 2.0; after all, that model debuted in 2010 as Vibram’s dedicated trail runner, and it featured innovations such as a thin leather upper and a slightly knobby outsole for increased durability off-road. While the Spyridon boasts more upgrades to bolster its toughness, it’s actually a closer descendant of the Bikila’s design elements in terms of overall fit and comfort. Sounds like a great combination, doesn’t it?
The most noticeable upgrade is the outsole, which features the most aggressive tread that Vibram has ever offered on FiveFingers. As you would expect, the lugs are directional to improve push-off in the forefoot and braking in the heel, and they help maintain stability quite well even in thick, sloppy mud. Traction is also very stable on gravel and loose dirt, even on steep slopes.
Layered just behind the outsole – and visible through a small window on the instep portion - is a heavy duty molded polyester mesh layer that functions as a flexible rock plate, providing additional puncture resistance and dispersing sharp impact across a broader surface area. At 3.5mm thick, the outsole is one-half mm thinner than the outsoles of both the Bikila and KSO Trek.
What’s remarkable about these two innovations is that they provide a significant improvement in traction and impact protection without compromising any of the minimalist specs that Vibram is famous for. At 3.5mm thick, the Spyridon LS outsole is a half-mm thinner than the outsoles of both the Bikila and KSO Trek, and the overall weight of 6.8 oz is almost equal to the 6.7-oz Trek (but one ounce heavier than the Bikila). Best of all, the rock barrier doesn’t limit the shoe’s flexibility, and only marginally compromises its ground feel.
Above the outsole, the Spyridon has a non-removable 3mm EVA footbed, making a total standing height of less than 7mm. Fit of the shoe is comfortable all around the foot, with seamless interior construction, a soft interior lining, and just enough padding around the ankle collar – all taken straight from the Bikila blueprint. I frequently wear these sockless, but my preference is to use socks if the weather is cold or if I plan to be running for more than 90 minutes or so.
Fit is further dialed in with an elastic lacing system (first introduced on the Bikila LS) for customized tension across the midfoot. In my opinion, this is one of the best innovations Vibram has made in the past year, and I’m happy to see the “LS” tagged onto the name “Spyridon” with this shoe – one of those heritage points I mentioned at the top.
Like the Bikila, the Spyridon LS upper utilizes Coconut Active Carbon for breathability and odor control, but the fabric is slightly thicker than either the Bikila or the thin leather KSO Trek – making it a little better for warmth, but not as good for ventilation. Vibram’s fabric uppers have historically been more prone to punctures than the super-durable kangaroo leather, but in my testing I haven’t had any problems – although I should add a disclaimer that I haven’t done a whole lot of rugged bushwhacking in to give the uppers an extreme test.
What I have done is log about 150 miles on fire roads and single track, on groomed and technical trails, in dry or sloppy conditions, and I’ve had a hard time finding trails that the Spyridon LS can’t handle. It combines the best of Vibram's design and construction elements to date, and is a worthy successor to the ever-increasing Vibram heritage of minimalist running shoes.
The Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS retails for $120 from TravelCounty.com.
*Product provided by Vibram
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