Invisible (Xero) Shoes 4-mm Connect Review

MeaganReviews, Shoe Reviews3 Comments

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Brand: Invisible Shoes (now Xero Shoes)

Name: Connect

Color Options: Black sole with black, brown, royal blue, forest green, royal purple, red, lime green, pink, or white laces

Weight: 3.7 oz for a men’s size 9

Drop: 0 mm

Other: 4-mm thick sole; FeelTrue rubber outsoles; nylon/polypropylene laces; kits come with a hole punch for creating the toe hole for lacing; also available in the 6-mm Contact

Price: $30 for the Connect Kit ($25 on sale); $50 for the Connect custom-made sandals ($40 on sale)


Overview

Invisible Shoes are the brain- (foot?-) child of Steven Sashen, of recent “Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say” fame, who began selling the huaraches after seeing the great demand for them by other members of his barefoot running club.  Today, they are one of the most popular, and least expensive, huarache options currently on the market, and Steven is, without a doubt, one of the most passionate people you’ll ever interact with regarding the barefoot movement. My Invisible Shoes, which came unassembled in the 4-mm Connect Kit, I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit, had been sitting on our breakfast bar since they arrived back in January (shout-out to Steven Sashen for being one of the first people to take a chance on Technically Running for shoe reviews – we know it has been a long time coming!). That is, until a few weeks ago, when I finally decided to trim them up and put in the laces to take them along on a trip out west to do field work.  Initially, I put off assembling them into wearable huaraches because it was too cold to wear them outside anyway, and then I didn’t have a tool to punch the toe hole with (note that the kits now come with that tool), and then…well…I got lazy. That’s not to say that it was at all difficult to assemble the shoes from the kit. It took only a few minutes to trim them to fit my foot, punch the hole for the lace to go between my toes, and tie in the laces (for pictures of this process, check out the gallery below).

Anyway, enough excuses! I am here now to say that it was definitely to my own detriment that I did not assemble and begin testing these shoes sooner, because I seriously love my Invisible Shoes. I have done all but sleep in them since I got my laces tied on the day I “made” them. Of all of the minimalist/barefoot shoes I own, the Invisible Shoe Connects have the most barefoot feel, are one of the most versatile, and are one of the most comfortable! In the past few weeks of walking, hiking, swimming, and running around in them, my feet have gotten stronger and I’ve been able to use them to really work on my running form. I’ve also developed a lovely huarache-lace tan, and have gotten the chance to educate many people on the barefoot shoe movement who have noticed my (nearly) Invisible Shoes. If you don’t own a pair already, you really have nothing to lose at $30 (on sale for $25 right now) for a kit of your own, or $50 ($45 on sale) for a pair of custom-made sandals. Really, just go buy a pair and then come back and read the rest of my review. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here. :-)

Performance

Enjoying the view at the top of Stahl Peak!

In terms of testing, I’ve really put my Invisible Shoes through the ringer, but I’ve come out the other side loving them even more than when I started. From half-marathon training runs on pavement, to a cross-country train ride and 13-hour drive (believe me, being able to sit comfortably in shoes for >30 hours at a time is a bigger deal than it sounds), to an 8-mile-hike (distance = round-trip) up a hot, dusty trail ending at a mountain peak at 7400 feet above sea level, these shoes have performed beautifully. My feet feel truly free when I wear my Invisible Shoes, and really get me thinking about what it means to feel more connected to the ground beneath me. I also love that these shoes force me to pay attention to my form when walking or running, and to think about where I place my foot each time it lands.

The performance of the Invisible Shoe Connect is excellent in all areas of activity, except, perhaps, swimming, where they do flop around a bit, making kicking feel a little awkward. When I run, they provide a great check on my form, because if I hear the soles start to make too much of a slapping sound, I know that I am getting lazy with my form and not being light enough on my feet. The tread on the sole is relatively aggressive considering how thin they are, so I don’t worry about slipping at all. With the tread and the ability to bend and flex my foot easily around obstacles, I felt steady on rocky trails when hiking and on slippery rocks when walking into the lake. The soles are also very durable, and Invisible Shoe offers a 5000-mile-warranty on them. After having them on my feet almost constantly for over a month, I have noticed little to no wear, apart from a few of the chevrons (v-shaped lugs that make up the tread pattern) on the bottom being worn smooth on my heel and the ball of my foot (each chevron normally looks a bit pitted when it is unworn). I think it would take me a very, very long time to actually wear through one of the lugs and the laces also seem to be holding up fairly well, so far.

Comfort/Barefoot Feel

Although I would now consider my Invisible Shoes one of my most comfortable pairs of shoes, I have to admit that it did take a couple of weeks of adjustment to get them to that point. There were a few reasons for this. First, it took me several tries to get the laces tied to that “just right” amount of tightness. Actually, to clarify, it took me one try to get my right foot correct, and about a thousand (give or take 990ish) tries to get my left foot comfortably laced. Second, the nylon/polypropylene laces were a bit stiff (this is very much a relative term) starting out, so they initially generated some uncomfortable rubbing between my toes. It took about a week or two for them to soften up and stretch a little (and perhaps a little bit of callusing to happen between my toes) to get them to where they were completely comfortable. Now I barely notice them when I am standing or sitting in the shoes, and they firmly, but comfortably hold the soles to my foot when I am moving. My only gripe with these shoes in terms of comfort is that because they are held to your foot by the laces and due to the open nature of the shoe itself, it is relatively easy to get small rocks stuck in between your foot and the sole. Not a huge deal, but it is fairly uncomfortable and you have to stop and pull the sole away from your foot to shake the rocks out.

 In terms of the barefoot feel offered by Invisible Shoes, they are almost unparalleled in the minimalist/barefoot shoe world. The soles of the 4-mm Connect are very flexible, and, obviously, very thin. What they offer, essentially, is the bare minimum of protection for your feet. For me, this means that walking on, for example, a gravel road is just bearable, but believe me, you still feel every rock! My feet have definitely gotten noticeably tougher and stronger since I started wearing my Invisible Shoes. I should note that I did experience some blistering on the soles of my feet the first couple of times I ran in these shoes. This is likely due to a combination of needing to work on being lighter on my feet and needing to toughen up my feet a bit after running for a while in more cushioned shoes like the Altra Intuition. It certainly cannot be blamed on the Invisible Shoe topsole, which features a lightly textured surface that is both soft and grippy at the same time.

Aesthetics

Nothing like being able to dip your feet right in the lake after a long hike, shoes and all!

True to their name, Invisible Shoes are very unobtrusive, and in more ways than one. Not only do they have that “barely there” feel on the soles of your feet, but with just a thin lace to keep them hanging on, they are “barely there” on top of your foot, too! Of course, the laces are offered in a wide variety of colors, from neutral ones like brown or black, to fun, bright-colored versions, like my pink ones! There are also many different tying styles available for these shoes, several of which are featured on the Invisible Shoes website, with helpful YouTube videos for learning how to do each one. I chose the Phoenix Flower tying style because it allowed me to conserve the leftover lace after tying, so that I have enough lace to re-tie the knot on the bottom of the sandal multiple times when it eventually wears through. It is also a great lacing configuration because of the cute design of the “flower” on the top and the fact that the sandal is slip-on/slip-off using this style. The “cute factor” leads me to another great aspect of the Invisible Shoes, especially for female wearers, which is their versatility in terms of where you can wear them. Sure, these sandals can look sporty, but also pair well with a sundress, or, add some sparkly beads to the laces, and I’m sure they could pass as dressy sandals, as well!

Pros

  • Incredible barefoot feel – very close to the “real thing”.
  • Very durable soles that feature a 5000-mile-warranty!
  • Cute and wearable for many occasions.
  • Versatile — from hiking to running to swimming, Invisible Shoes will go the distance.
  • Provide hours of fun experimenting with different lace configurations.

Cons

  • Nylon/polypropylene laces take a little bit of wear to break-in and may not end up being comfortable for everyone.
  • Not the best footwear for gravelly surfaces.
  • Laces will need to be periodically re-tied and eventually replaced from breakage of the knot on the bottom.

Summary

Every review I write forces me to take a closer look at the details and features of the shoe I am writing about, and I have to admit that, at first, considering the simplicity of the Invisible Shoe, I was afraid I wouldn’t have as much to say as with other, more complex shoes! Clearly, that was not a problem! Behind what appears to be the most simple and basic shoe out there lays a lot of thought and hard work by Steven Sashen and his team. Every detail of the shoe, from the aggressive chevron tread to the delicate shaping of the sole meant to help hold it to your foot, was obviously very carefully planned. If you are looking for a more authentic barefoot running experience, but don’t want to actually go barefoot, you should pick up a pair of Invisible Shoes. If you are looking for a sporty- or cute-looking summer sandal, you should pick up a pair of Invisible Shoes. If you wear shoes, you should pick up a pair of Invisible Shoes. I hope you will love them as much as I do!

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MeaganInvisible (Xero) Shoes 4-mm Connect Review

3 Comments on “Invisible (Xero) Shoes 4-mm Connect Review”

  1. Renrag

    Thanks for the review. My wife and I just saw them on Shark Tank, and my wife fell in love with them. Does the knot bother you?

    1. Meagan

      We were so excited to see Xero Shoes on Shark Tank–it’s one of our favorite shows. As you could probably tell from my review, I totally love mine. Regarding the knot, it doesn’t bother me at all. When I tied my laces on, I made sure the knot was flipped forward so that it was in between my big toe and second toe, instead of underneath the ball of my foot. Also, I used a match to slightly soften/melt nylon so I could flatten the knot by squishing it with pliers. This also helps the knot stay put and not fray. If she gets a custom pair, the good folks at Xero Shoes will do this for you.

    2. Michelle

      They have a video on their website about an alternate way to make the knot if the knot does bother you, but I would give it some time for you to get used to the shoes before you decide that they are bothering you… I love the shoes. Wear them all of the time =)

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