Reviewed by: Abide Date Product Reviewed: 05/07/2011 Product Type: Footwear Here is a quick review of the Vivobarefoot Neo that was generously provided to me by Planet Shoes. If you are in the market for minimalist shoes make sure to check them out, they have a ton of eco friendly minimalist running and dress shoes. Before I get into the actual review here is some background about me. I mostly run barefoot. I would say less than 20% of my runs take place in shoes. When I consider buying a shoe I essentially want one that can do everything decently. It doesn’t need to excel at everything just be capable of most things. I basically don’t want a closet full of shoes that can only be used in certain situations. Alright enough about me let’s move on to the Neo. I broke up my review into categories to make reading easier and I gave each category a grade using an A-F scale. Aesthetics: These things look good. The color combinations are simple and they look like a normal shoe. You might even call them plain. Perfect. They go well with jeans but not shorts (then again do any shoes go well with shorts?). I prefer the way they look sockless but that may just be a preference built from barefooting. A Design: Terra Plana really must have listened to the feedback from minimalist runners while designing this shoe. They finally built a bona fide minimalist shoe that is, dare I say, normal. The quality of the shoe is readily apparent and even after quite a bit of abuse you can barely tell I have worn mine. They come with a removable memory foam insole and a finished footbed for those who don’t want any additional cushioning. The sole thickness without the insert is 6mm (according to my fancy wood clamp caliper) in the front and back, so they are a zero drop shoe. The sole is fairly hard and inflexible initially, but it does soften up with use. In addition they have a pretty hefty toe spring; however it doesn’t affect me while running. There are a few issues I have found about the design of the shoes. First the upper is made out of airmesh and microfiber, the product description claims that it keeps your feet cool and dry. My experience was exactly the opposite my feet felt hot and moist. I live in a hot climate so light, breathable uppers are important to me; in a colder climate this wouldn’t be an issue. My second concern is caused by the area where the microfiber connects with the airmesh directly above the toes. When my foot bends it feel like it is being poked by that connection. I wore the Neo’s sockless for a run and after 2 miles I took them off and had two blisters on the top of my feet where this connection rubs. With socks it is not as irritating but you can still feel friction. I would assume over time the microfiber would become more pliable and not be an issue. The last item that is troublesome is the sole, for some reason they designed the sole of the Neo to round up prematurely around the edges. Normally this is fine as long as the flat part of the sole extends enough to cover the entire foot. The Neo however curves up too early and essentially my foot falls inwards when weight is pressed over the ball. This feature doesn’t affect me as much when I am running, but it does when I am lifting weights. It feels very awkward when squatting and I will not wear them in the gym. C Fit: Finally a shoe with room, this shoe is made for barefooters. The Neo is a wide shoe from the heel forward, not just in the toe box like other minimalist shoes hitting the market. The lacing also allows for more flexibility in how loose or tight you want to the shoe to fit. Your foot can really function appropriately in the Neo. The one negative is that I have to wear socks or else I get blisters. A Performance: Even though the sole (without the insert) is only 6mm, the ground feel isn’t great. This may also change over time as the sole softens up with use. The grip is good on asphalt and concrete in wet and dry conditions. The Neo’s are on the heavier end of the spectrum for minimalist shoes and it is noticeable on longer runs. I mainly use shoes when I do combination workouts of running and lifting. The curved side of the sole really impacts my usage of the Neo, which is unfortunate. If it wasn’t for this issue, and/or if I only used them for running I would give them a B. C Comparison: My two go to shoes are my original Vibram FiveFingers ® KSO and my homemade huaraches I always compare new shoes back to them. Neither is perfect but both have great qualities with few flaws for road running. So how does the Neo compare? I would place it as better than the huaraches but slightly inferior to the KSO. The fit, durability and aesthetics of the Neo are far superior to the KSO and huaraches. The Neo’s comfort and performance is worse than the KSO but equal to the huaraches. Overall the Neo is the second best minimalist shoe I have found. To help others here is a chart in which I grade each type of shoe, so you have an idea where the other two stand on each characteristic. Conclusion: I think most barefoot runners would be very happy with the Neo. Overall it is a great shoe for running and deserves a solid B grade. My only recommendations for changes would be a flatter non curved sole and a lighter more breathable upper that did not have a material transition over a joint. Thanks again to Planet Shoes and be sure to check them out!