Thursday, 2 October 2014

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon MR Review

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon MR ready to get muddy
Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of testing the latest trail and mud running specific model by Vibram FiveFingers; the Spyridon MR. The aggressive 'mountain bike tyre' tread pattern, coupled with the letters MR, which stands for 'Mud Runner', immediately let you know that this has been designed with the minimalist, natural trail runner in mind. Following on from its very popular and proven to be trail worthy predecessor, the Spyridon LS, I am glad to say that not too much has changed in the re-styled Spyridon MR. For those of you already accustomed to wearing a pair of FiveFingers, or any trail, mountain and fell runners out there looking to transition to a more natural running form, this is definitely a review that is worth your time reading! You may also want to check out my 'First Impressions' review of the Spyridon MR before reading on by clicking here.

So, grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit somewhere comfy and let me tell you a few good reasons why a Vibram FiveFinger Spyridon MR should be in every trail and mud runners selection of shoes.....


Like a mud-ready, grippy and light glove for your feet, trails are no problem for these

A few things worth knowing about the Spyridon MR
  • Designed for the minimalist trail runner and obstacle mud runner
  • 3D Cocoon Technology moulded into the sole for lightweight trail protection
  • 4mm sole thickness of MEGAGRIP Vibram rubber
  • 3mm polyurethane insole with anti-microbial Drilex Sockliner
  • Speed laces give an excellent, custom and secure fit for a variety of foot shapes
  • Canvas style polyester uppers give an excellent wrap-around fit, good durability and a rugged design
  • 360 degree lug pattern gives an excellent multi-directional grip over a variety of trail terrains
  • Weight around 190g per shoe
  • Machine washable to help keep them clean

Comparison with the Spyridon LS
During my original review of the Spyridon LS I completely fell in love with trail running in Vibram FiveFingers. Finally, Vibram had designed and manufactured a high quality trail specific shoe for people wanting something more natural feeling but grippy and protective. Since then I have run countless miles in my original Spyridon LS with no real problems other than the limitations of my own body. Upon receiving the Spyridon MR I was concerned that some of the things I loved so much in the original LS version would have changed or been replaced. Thankfully, what I discovered is that the Spyridon MR is more of an updated and re-styled LS. The sole unit is exactly the same, and the only real differences are a different looking and slightly improved fitting upper. The original LS were very tight fitting, allowing little adjustment with the speed laces. The new Spyridon MR have more scope for a wider variety of foot shapes and sizes. I actually have to tighten the laces now!


The original Spyridon LS after two years use!
You can't get a more natural shape of shoe than that!
Natural Running technique
It is essential to use correct technique and form whilst running. This applies to road or trail, short or long distance, people new to running or long-term runaholics. Correct technique enables an efficient form, reduced injury rate and faster, longer and more successful running experiences. So how can a pair of FiveFingers help? Too often, modern running shoes, with their built up heels and high levels of cushioning, not to mention their odd un-foot-like shapes, lead the runner to adopt bad habits and an incorrect running gait. What follows is a concoction of over-striding, heel-striking, slow cadence, bent hips and head chasing. Ever see a runner slouched over, staring at the floor and clumping along the trail or road? Not good! But not everyone who wears FiveFingers will suddenly look like an elite runner. It is still possible to run badly in Vibrams and I have seen it all too often. But, correctly trained and educated in how to run naturally, and aware of what bad habits to look out for, while allowing sufficient time to transition properly with time for your body to adapt and strengthen, running in FiveFingers can certainly have very positive effects on your running technique. The natural foot position and toe-splay, zero differential, minimal cushioning (and therefore maximal proprioception) and the very low weight of the shoes can allow your body to run unhindered and as nature intended. You could just run barefoot, but as I have previously stated, "I like to wear a shoe that allows the natural biomechanics and feel of running barefoot, whilst also providing good grip and some basic level of protection for the foot from the environment." The Spyridon MR fit this requirement perfectly.

Freedom:
For me, running is all about freedom. We all need to escape our everyday lives from time to time. When you have learnt the skill of running naturally and you put on the Spyridon MR to head out on the trails, you are instantly aware of a greater level of freedom than experienced in other shoes. I have often wondered why this is, and I have put it down to the fact that your feet are able to really feel the terrain beneath them, maximising proprioceptive feedback to the brain and enhancing the running experience. When you are 'more connected' with the environment around you, you feel lighter, faster, more present, aware, and part of your surroundings. The only way to properly understand this is to try it for yourself! If you haven't run in a pair of FiveFingers before, when you have adapted to wearing the Spyridon MR on the trails, you will experience a new level of freedom on your runs.

They look even better when you get them muddy
Strength and conditioning
Many runners and athletes train barefoot or in minimalist shoes to help strengthen their body. If you want to condition a part of the body, you have to load and use the muscles correctly to initiate the strengthening process. One way that off-road runners can try to strengthen their lower limbs is to strip away all supportive shoes and devices and focus on correct, natural running technique in a suitable pair of minimalist running shoes. If you are out on the trails, mountains or fells and looking for this kind of training partner for your feet, look no further than the Spyridon MR. Don't expect just wearing them to do all the strengthening for you. Remember to learn to run correctly, use them in conjunction with a good stretching and strengthning program and listen to your body and allow time for it to adapt!!!

Secure fit with speed lacing and soft canvas uppers
Quality
I have always been surprised at the durability of Vibram FiveFingers. A lot of minimalist running shoes, especially ones designed for trail running, can have a shorter than average lifespan. So far with the Spyridon MR, they show no signs of premature wearing. If the Spyridon LS are anything to go by, these new Mud Runners should last ages. My original LS are still going strong after two years of regular use on the trails. Even the grip is still in excellent condition. I always wash my shoes after each run in warm water, rinse them under the tap and air dry with newspaper inside. Once in a while I machine wash them on a cold delicates cycle in a trainer bag. I have never had any quality issues with FiveFingers, and I expect the Spyridon MR to follow suit!

Multi-directional lug pattern with 3D Cocoon Technology
Grip and Protection
All I really want from my trail running shoes is good grip, a basic level of protection for my foot from the terrain and a comfortable ride. When taking into consideration that this is a very minimalist trail shoe, and therefore will not have the same level of grip as a traditional fell shoe, the same level of protection as a cushioned trail shoe or be as comfortable over harsh terrain as an ultra-distance racer, it still impresses me immensely. The grip isn't really comparable to other trail and fell shoes because your toes are able to independently grip into the mud themselves. You are doing a lot of the work in this shoe, not just the tread pattern. Having a greater level of proprioception makes you more aware of what you are running over, and where to put your foot. Feeling the ground allows instant feedback to adjust stride, direction and power to avoid slipping or falling over. I have been more than happy on dry and wet grass, mud, gravel, hard-packed dry trails and even road sections and pathways. As far as an all-rounder is concerned, this is an excellent contender. 

A fantastic all-rounder, the Spyridon MR can cope with anything
Final thoughts...
This is a trail shoe that knows exactly what it is. It is not a half-hearted attempt at being a minimalist shoe, or claiming to allow natural running despite having characteristics of a traditional running shoe. This is an all-out, pretty much 'barefoot' minimalist trail running shoe that allows a natural running experience. Although it is aimed at trails and mud runs, the Spyridon MR is happy whatever terrain you want to run over. It stands in my mind as a perfect all-rounder and strengthening tool for the whole body, but especially the feet and calves. The Spyridon MR is just something else, something different, and in a league of its own. That is why every dedicated trail, mountain, fell and mud runner should have a pair of these. You may well need time to allow your body to strengthen before running an ultra in them or even flying around a muddy 10k race, but I guarantee you will love the freedom and difference they make in your training and racing if you run correctly in a pair of Spyridon MR's! 

To get hold of a pair of Spyridon MR, or even to check out the various other FiveFinger models available from Vibram, check out Primal Lifestyle - the official distributor of Vibram FiveFingers to the UK.

I would love to know what you think! If you have any questions or experience of the Spyridon MR yourself, feel free to comment below in the comments section!

Happy running everyone,
CavemanClarke

9 comments:

  1. Hello Caveman,
    thanks for the awesome review.
    Did you put them on a scale ? Protectionwise, I love to run in Merrell´s Trail Glove, how does the Spyridon compare with them ?
    Thanks & best regards from Austria !
    Wolfgang

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    1. Hi Wolfgang. On the scale they are around 190g. Very light for a trail running shoe. I would say the Merrell Trail Glove offer similar protection underfoot but more on the uppers. However, they are very different shoes so there will be big differences. It depends whether you want more of a shoe or more of a very natural running experience? This would depend on terrain and distance and personal experience. Its up to you!

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  2. Hey Caveman!

    I'm a new viewer to your site. Very informational, and appreciate the reviews!

    I'm currently looking for my next pair of Vibrams. (The only thing I can run in, and don't hurt my joints everywhere). I'm 6 years wearing nothing but unless I'm at the office, and currently starting training for a 12K race in early May (Bloomsday, Spokane, Washington, USA).

    I have never in 6 years owned a better shoe...that said, I've never owned more than one pair at a time either. I tend to find the best all-arounder for everyday life and wear it until it dies. My Classics died at 1,200 miles. My KSO's about the same or longer. Both have been retired to treadmill duty.

    What I'd like to know though, is would these be ok on a road race? I'm going to do 3/4 of my training on blacktop, and the rest around large parks, which is generally why I got the KSOs originally, for the offroad. The 12K is a road race however.

    I use my Vibrams for everything. I mean, everything. Grocery shopping, baseball, the lake, the beach....everything (I don't wear them to bed with my wife though, but do camping!).

    I have an interesting problem come winter and spring though...snow and rain and slush! My other thought was the new Bikila EVO WPs as an all-arounder. That said...they seem nice for part of the year, but potentially overkill for warmer months. I don't need hot, sweaty, blister ridden feet running, or for casual use in the summer...and I'm just not sure the water proof nature will allow for cooling off...nor will the high top of it (looks like it would dig in). That all said, a purpose built Vibram runner I don't think would be good for casual wearing either.

    I'm at a bit of an impasse as you can see in finding the next great Vibram for me and my purposes. Suggestions are appreciated, even if they are outside the two gloves I've mentioned!

    Thanks!

    Sam

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sam, apologies for the late reply, I have been away recently.
      I would not suggest the MR for road use, I would go for a Bikila or Komodo sport of whatever style you prefer. These are purpose built for road surfaces and will cope well. The Spyridons have aggressive studs that will quickly wear if worn on tarmac. If you have already got something new, what did you go for?

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  3. I tried a pair of spyridon mrs on today. Too stiff. I like my old komodos. Great for road or trail and flexible. I never have had trouble with grip or protection, but I also run true barefoot. You get some grip from foot flex and toes.

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  4. That was an absolutely amazing review. Just what I was looking for!

    Just one question. How do they feel when you are going downhill? I'm a bit concerned about steep terrain and downhill running...

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  5. Cman
    nice review....I live in North Wales and I do a combination of walking and running on the Anglesey coastal path which means DEEP mud and slippery, soggy and grassy fields. The mud here has an element that, in the right conditions, makes it as slippery as ice! Any experience in such terrain in your area?
    also, wondering about the warmth factor for these windy, wet cold shores?
    All the Best, Greg

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  6. The soles of my Spyridon MR are already worn after less than two months. I am 68 years of age, not a runner, just a walker, and walk some 5 tot 10km per day. Quite disappointing!

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    Replies
    1. even more disappointing: I have mailed Vibram USA..no reply.

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