Someone Has to Answer for Vibram’s Toe Wetsuit

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Okay, okay, it’s become cliche to rag on the ultra-divisive Vibram FiveFingers (read: toe shoe), but with Crocs considered cool and Birkenstocks becoming the norm, there’s still one type of shoe deserving of some ribbing. Hell, Merrell is as stylish as ever so there’s little to bellyache about otherwise.

To be fair, Vibram’s new V-NEOP is arguably the easiest FiveFingers to digest, even for those still squeamish about toe shoes. Standing atop a retooled XS Trek rubber outsole, the V-NEOP is intended to be a bit more hip than the granola-y styles of yore. The shoe’s got some notable technical specs — including a water-resistant neoprene upper, odor resistance, and intelligently spaced felt insulation — to go along with its muted palette, but it’s hard to say whether the new silhouette is going to convert anyone not already on-board with the FiveFingers design, despite the V-NEOP’s spiffy on-model shots.

The thing is, the FiveFingers is just a love it or hate it (or really hate it) kind of shoe, with the uncanny valley appearance all but guaranteed to keep many shoppers at arm’s length. The V-NEOP appears to be ideal for explorers tackling uneven wet terrain and kite surfers seeking extra grip, but that’s about it. ACRONYM designer Errolson Hugh could probably get a fit off, but he’s the exception that proves the rule that most fashionable types will not be up to the FiveFingers styling challenge.

If any brand could reclaim once-unfashionable items, it’s be Balenciaga, probably. The luxury house already dropped a very wild Vibram toe shoe of its own design, but the one-off design was better for pearl-clutching headlines than mainstream acceptance of the marmite shoe. Admittedly, there’s likely some crossover appeal with fashion-forward folks willing to push the envelope, but the FiveFingers’ core audience is always going to be trekkers and sporty types who depend on it for all-day comfort.

If you consider yourself among those adventurers, the V-NEOP shoes are available on Vibram’s website and its stores in Milan, Montebelluna, and Boston for $130. If these aquatic toe shoes tickle your fancy, move quickly. The limited edition drop is likely to sell out in hours.

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