Sandals, socks, and toe shoes are just some of the types of footwear I never thought I would go running in prior to our introduction to minimalist shoes (not to mention going completely barefoot). Just two years later and I’m going out for runs in all of the above, and now I can add 2 mm thick running moccasins (Soft Star Moc3s to be exact) to the list. Soft Star may look familiar to those of you who are long time Technically Running readers, since Meagan did a review of the RunAmoc Dash about a year and a half ago, but the Moc3, which is one of their newest models, has little in common with the Dash. In fact, both models are so different that they could almost be confused as being made my different companies! Point being, while moccasins might bring to mind some of the simplest shoes ever made, Soft Star does a remarkable job at making a wide variety of moccasin styles for many different uses!
Brand: Soft Star
Name: Moc3 RunAmoc
Color Options: Black, Red, White, Blue
Other: 2mm stack height
When reviewing running moccasins, it can be a bit hard to come up with the right words to describe them, considering there’s not really anything else like them on the the market. The only shoe I can think to compare them to is Sockwas, and most people have never heard of those, either. So, I end up stuck having to explain everything in vivid detail just to get my point across. For our purposes, I’ll try to be as brief as possible, but I won’t make any promises.
Moving on. From a stride and ground feel point of view, the Moc3s are everything anyone could want in a minimalist shoe, and if we’re being more specific, a “barefoot shoe.” This shoe, much like Sockwas and Xero Shoes, is the closest you can get to being barefoot without actually being barefoot. With a 2mm stack height, rest assured that the Moc 3 will allow you to feel every crack, rock, pebble, and twig on your running route, thus encouraging you to run with better form, and strengthen your feet. Another one of the greatest selling points of the Moc3 is the ease of putting them on your foot and packing them away for long trips. With no laces and no need for socks, all you need to do is get them on your feet and hit the pavement.
Some of the major criticisms I have for the Moc3’s performance are directly related to the materials used to construct their interiors. The Breathe-O-Prene technology Soft Star uses for the insole is supposed to be moisture wicking and odor-resistant, but, what I’ve discovered is that either I sweat too much for the fabric to do the job, or the moisture wicking doesn’t work over longer distances. The biggest trouble I’ve had when running in these shoes is that as my foot begins to sweat, the fabric loses it’s grip and allows my foot to slide around inside. This is manageable for a short period of time, but the second you go down a small hill the sliding becomes painful due to the substantial seam on the inside of the shoe where the vamp meets the sole. Imagine riding in a hot car, after swimming, when the seat belt rubs against your damp sticky neck. Now imagine you can’t move the seat belt out of the way to escape the rubbing and the car is driving down a bumpy dirt road at 50 miles per hour. What I’m trying to get at is that wet material of any kind and skin don’t mix well if any rubbing occurs, and especially if there’s any seams involved. To say the least, I’ve never had blisters quite like my Moc3 8-mile-run.
I know what you must be thinking, why not try socks? Well, I went there, and it did solve the rubbing problem. However, it ended up creating another major issue. I couldn’t keep the shoes on. You see, since the inside of the shoe is so plush and the insole is also neoprene, cotton socks slide even worse than skin. I found myself enjoying the ride and the overall Moc3 experience, except that after about 10 strides I would have to stop and re-adjust the back of the shoe because it would begin to fall off, a process that would repeat throughout the entire run. This could be my fault, as I may just need a smaller size (or need an adjustment to the tightness of the back of the shoe, which we found is possible because of Soft Star’s awesome customer service), but they seemed to fit perfect on my feet. I think a small velcro adjuster on the heel, or some other form of tightening mechanism would help to solve this issue.
Comfortable, practically feel barefoot, next topic? Kidding! I’ll elaborate. When wearing these shoes in a more casual setting, they often feel reminiscent of a pair of thin-soled slippers. The inside of the shoe is plush, soft, and feels great on your skin; the vamp is lined with a soft fabric and the sole is of a soft neoprene that, as I mentioned before, could use some tuning. The outside is made of a perforated leather to maximize breathability, which, for the most part, is successful. As soft and as comfortable as they are, though, I’d be doing everyone an injustice if I only talked about the good parts of wearing them casually, considering this is a running site. I feel as if the plushness of the shoe doesn’t translate well when wearing them for long runs. Unfortunately the soft fabric walls only add to the aforementioned rubbing problem. The sole is super thin, so they certainly aren’t for the faint of heart (and will require a substantial amount of conditioning if you are newer to minimalist running). As the Moc3 is similar to the Sockwa in regard to barefoot feel, this is the closest you’re going to get to barefoot without actually being barefoot. If you’re a trail runner and have never worn a thin soled shoe, don’t expect to order these and be able to go for your usual distance run. These shoes will require some transition time!
If you’re looking for a shoe to fit in with the crowd, or one that isn’t going to draw any attention, then go get a pair of FiveFingers. Nothing will draw more attention to you, when running, than a pair of running moccasins. Madison, WI, as we’ve mentioned before, has a very strong fitness community, so when going out for a run, you’re likely to pass runners, walkers, families, skaters, and bikers. That said, I’ve received more weird looks from passerby’s in Soft Stars than I ever have when going out without any shoes at all. To call these shoes intimidating, or even beautiful, would be untruthful. They aren’t pretty. Frankly, they are some of the uglier shoes I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, but, to me, that’s really part of their appeal. There’s also something magical about the materials they use, and the overall experience you have when running in Soft Star’s shoes. Wearing a pair of Soft Stars is like transporting yourself back into your childhood. The moment they are on your feet you can remember the days as a child when you would run out of your house, wearing only your socks, with your mother right behind you ready to yell to get back inside on put on some shoes.
- Ground feel – Very few shoes can tout this level of ground feel. Nothing is similar to this.
- Ugly – I don’t care what anyone says. If you’ve worn FiveFingers before, you understand what I’m talking about when I call this a pro. Let your freak flag fly and own up to the magic that is Soft Star.
- Casual comfort – I have my complaints about them for running, but these are plush and comfy when they are just sitting on your feet. They are great for travel, perfect for chores (especially if you need to run outside frequently), and fantastic for a quick walk around town.
- Not sure how else to put this, but these shoes are magical! My first jaunt around town in Moc3s reminded me of the time I first wore FiveFingers. These shoes transport you back to a time of innocence, and will give you the need for adventure.
- The neoprene insole, for someone who sweats a lot, doesn’t work as intended.
- Maybe my sizing was off, but I think a sizing adjustment mechanism of some sort would make for a great addition. This would help limit any sliding, and would stop the shoe from coming off if wearing socks during a run.
The Moc3 is very different from its predecessors (the Original and the DASH), and is one of Soft Star’s newest additions. I love Soft Star as a company, and I think they have a wealth of knowledge, and a ton of very strong designers who work on their team. However, I think the Moc3 has a few flaws that keep from being as good as it could be. If something could be done to limit the slippage on the neoprene insole, and increase the tightness of the heel to keep the shoe in place, these shoes would steal my heart.
Steve is an Executive Recruiter at Robert Half Executive Search in Madison, WI with a business degree in Information Systems and E-Commerce from the University of Toledo. Steve loves spending his time away from work; running, gaming, watching movies, checking out new social networking tools/sites/start-ups and blogging.