To it seems a bit counterintuitive that in the minimalist shoes community most of the attention is on running shoes. The reason is that no matter how much time you spend running, you’re likely to spend more time not running, that is working, doing chores, chasing buses and so on. So, why not cuddle your feet and your whole body all day long? During the past few years I tested a lot of different minimalist shoes (Vivobarefoot, Merrell, Vibram, Xeroshoes, etc.) and came to the conclusion that the best casual minimalist shoes for men are the Xero Shoes Hana and the Vivobarefoot Gobi II. Let’s find out more about them.
Hana’s rustic canvas upper, friendly look and Huarache sandals-inspired look make these shoes perfectly appropriate for casual occasions. On the other hand, Gobi II (especially the obsidian ones) with their stylish leather upper, soft shapes, and elegant look make them totally suitable for occasions where a business casual kind of dress code is required. With these two shoes you can cover pretty much any possible situation you might find yourself in: apple picking with your friends, job interviews, special dates, leisure walks in the park, office jobs, concerts on the lawn or in fancy theaters etc. Also, the color selection for both models is such that you won’t have any problem finding the ones that suit your dress style the best (Hana: Black/rust, Black, Carob and Burnt Olive; Gobi II: Brown and Obsidian). Overall, top comfort, protection and quality. Let’s learn more about them.
Xero Shoes started their adventure in the minimalist shoes world with barefoot sandals. The natural evolution was a closed-toe shoe: that’s how Hana was born. What Xero Shoes designers were able to achieve during this transition was to retain the sandal-like feeling on foot and I mean, not just under your foot but also all around it.
Hana are so lightweight (about 8 oz/ 225 g each) and the upper is so soft (yet, sturdy) that you literally forget you are wearing them. It happened to me a few times that I felt the urgency to look at my feet to make sure I still had my Hana shoes on (!). Unlike most shoes that after a few months of regular use you’re ready to toss them, I’m now at my third pair of Hana in 7 years. Consider that I walk at least 10 miles a day.
On top of this, with a 5.5 mm rubber FeelTrue® outsole in combination with a removable 2 mm insole, you have a great feeling of the ground as well the freedom to decide how close to the ground you want to be.
The use of lightweight and flexible materials make the Hana perfect for travelling too, as you can roll them up and stick them in your backpack or suitcase without worrying about them taking up too much space or getting ruined.
Being inspired by Huarache sandals, the Hana are characterized by heel/instep straps that besides being eye-catching are also functional. In addition to regular laces, you can utilize these straps to adjust the degree of tightness around the hind foot and mid foot. This comes in very hand if you need to make small adjustments to counterbalance the natural, yet very small stretch the canvas might show over time, or even more important, if you decide to wear the Hana either without socks or with very thick socks.
Pricing, customer service and warranty
At a list price of $79.99, the Hana, one of Xero shoes’ best-sellers, are certainly shoes that you will not regret buying, which is also proven by a rating of 4.7 stars based on 1415 reviews on Xeroshoes.com.
Another thing I could never stress enough is Xero Shoes’ extremely responsive and friendly customer service which after a while gives you the feeling of being part of a big family.
Just like any other Xero shoes footwear, the Hana are guaranteed against manufacturer defects for 24 months from the date of purchase and have 5000-mile warranty: basically, if you manage to wear FeelTrue® outsoles down to less than 1mm thick at the ball or heel of the foot (not an edge), then Xero shoes will allow you to purchase a new pair by applying 60% discount. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know any other shoe company that offers these kind of warranty.
1) The Hana are not rainproof. Nevertheless, not long ago, Xero Shoes introduced a “rain-friendly” upper: the way it works it that by simply pre-treating the Hana with a water-resistant coating, you can make sure that any water splash will quickly slide off. You might need to reapply the coating once in a while.
2) If you are male and have very skinny feet, you might find the Hana man too wide. I have had male friends that in order to overcome this problem, opted for the Hana women which are slightly narrower. Women with wide feet won’t have the opposite problem as the Hana are already quite spacious.
The Gobi II is defined as a classic minimalist desert boot, in virtue of his shape and the material of the upper that consists of high-quality and incredibly supple leather that gets more and more supple over time. The result is a soothing and gentle glove-like feeling all around the foot and the ankle, that doesn’t reduce at all the freedom of movement. On the contrary, it gives a sense of extreme comfort and security. Gobi II, as well as all other Vivobarefoot models, have a patented puncture resistant sole, carrying an hexagonal honey-comb inspired design. This is just a wonderful and unique feature that allows your feet to experience a level of freedom and sensitivity that I’ve never found in any other shoes so far.
If you want to go almost barefoot by removing the 3 mm anti-bacterial cork insole, you will be left with 3 mm of a special V-sense rubber sole that really does an excellent job at stimulating the thousands of nerve endings under your feet, while having a surprising durability considering its thickness. I would recommend these shoes (as well as their sibling shoes, RA II mens) especially for situations where a certain level of elegance and uniqueness is required but also when you want to give a touch of sophistication to a more casual outfit. Gobi II are lightweight (10.3 oz/ 290g) and very bendable, therefore perfect for travelling when having a limited space at your disposal.
Pricing, customer service and warranty
In general, Vivobarefoot footwear stands out for the incredible level of attention to detail and materials, and a drive towards elegance. This is reflected by the price of its shoes that in the case of Gobi II is $150, also in virtue of its leather upper which gives a precious and stylish look to the shoes.
According to both my personal experience and more than 5000 reviews and 4.5 stars on www.uk.trustpilot.com, Vivobarefoot offers superb service, reliability, and responsive customer support.
Not too long ago Vivobarefoot introduced a 100-day trial to all orders, which means that you can purchase multiple models, sizes and colors, try them for up to 100 days and get a full refund for the ones you want to return. On top of this if you refer friends and they make a purchase, they’ll receive €30 off and if their order is at least €30, you’ll also receive €30 on your next order (find out more here for EU and here for USA).
1) The leather upper is more delicate than non-leather shoes. This implies that you need to take care of the leather without abusing it more than it’s supposed to. This way, it will last very long. You might want to use a water-proofing and protecting coating (Liquiproof Premium Protector is my favorite: EU or USA) and make sure to wash off salt deposits if you happen to walk on salted streets or on sandy beaches. Just very regular maintenance of leather shoes.
2) If this is your first pair of minimalist shoes, I recommend that you keep the cork insole in for a few weeks before deciding to go almost barefoot. Especially without the cork insole, the barefoot-feeling is highly enhanced and you need to get your feet used to the newly-acquired freedom. If instead your feet are already used to minimalist shoes, this is absolutely great.
For many years I looked for shoes that wouldn’t make my feet hurt, that would be stylish enough to be worn in almost any occasion and that wouldn’t be a rip-off. After many years wearing them, I can certainly say that both the Hana and the Gobi II meet these standards.
The best part of wearing them every day is that you will be able to re-discover the pleasure of walking, while making your feet and your body stronger and healthier than ever.
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