In February I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek of some of Joe Nimble’s SS17 range and couldn’t resist trying a pair of their flexToes. (You can view the full Spring / Summer catalogue online here).
It’s only recently that Joe Nimble have been on my radar and I’m not quite sure how I wasn’t aware of them before as they are certainly one of the bigger barefoot brands out there.
Joe Nimble’s beginnings goes back more than 30 years and their focus is very much on creating shoes that allow for freedom of the toes. Therefore, if you’re a fan of wide toe boxes and zero drop heels this brand is definitely worth a look (note that some styles are designed with a slighter narrower sole than others so do check the details before ordering).
Not all of their styles are to my taste (although, to be honest, I think I’d probably say the same for almost all barefoot brands) but they do have a really wide range. Their current Spring / Summer line has 13 lifestyle options for women (with multiple colourways) and another 13 more performance focused styles.
The brand also gets a massive thumbs-up from me because they actually have pictures of people wearing their shoes rather than just product shots on white backgrounds. Anyone who has ever bought shoes online knows how important this is and unfortunately so few barefoot brands do it.
Right, back to the flexToes…
… They’re are available in three difference variations in the upper fabric:
I went for the black textile version as I really liked the airiness of the fabric and because I also seem to have a thing for black shoes (I blame it on the fact that they’re low maintenance and also because they usually appear smarter, which is often needed in barefoot styles).
I would describe the flexToes as a mid hi trainer rather than a hi top as the topline of the shoe doesn’t quite come over the top of the ankle and there are only 4 rows of eyelets for the laces. They also sit snugly against the ankle when laced (similarly to a Converse All Star) rather than being a chunkier hi top style (like a Nike Air Force 1 for example). This thinner style can be a bit trickier to wear and if you’re feeling a bit stuck I’d recommend reading Steff Yotka’s article How to style high top sneakers.
I find that the flexToes are most flattering with a show of skin between the bottom of your trousers and top of the shoes. Also, to avoid looking as though you have skinny ankles and large feet it’s best to wear a trouser that isn’t skin tight at the ankle, or to simply roll your jeans to add some volume.
Alternatively, they look great with a 3/4 length sports legging for a to/from the gym athleisure-type look.
The flexToes are lined to the bare minimum and are therefore incredibly airy. This means that they are very much a spring / summer trainer in my opinion (as I hate getting cold feet) and you can even wear them without socks on a warm day. However, as it’s still only March in the UK, I’m yet to try this myself but they are so breathable I wouldn’t imagine you would have any problems with getting hot or sweaty feet.
I’ve found the flexToes to be true to size and love that they are also available in half sizes. If you are concerned about what size or fit is best and are ordering online, you can always speak to a member of their team who can advise you (on 0808 169 6005 if calling from the UK).
I often find that new shoes take a bit of wearing-in at home to avoid them rubbing but didn’t find this was the case at all with my flexToes. As mentioned above, the upper is incredibly minimal which also makes the entire shoe very flexible and I think this is partly the reason that they are so comfortable as they don’t feel like they are restricting movement of the foot in any direction.
The fit of the flexToes is incredibly roomy both in the toe box and mid-section of the shoe. Although I have quite narrow feet I didn’t have any problems with feeling like my feet flap around in them as it is possible to lace them tightly and was really amazed at how comfortable they were with so little cushioning when I first put them on.
Although I do love the minimal look of the all-black style, I sometimes find them a bit much when I’m wearing black and grey on top (which I often do) and therefore decided to try out a few different laces. I also find that the flexToes laces were slightly too long for my liking as the bows end up being a bit too big and floppy at the sides of the shoes.
My favourite style of lace to wear with them is a Mr Lacy Ropies, however, these only come in a long length – designed for shoes with 5-7 rows of eyelets – whereas the flexToes only have 4 rows of lugs.
After a bit of googling ‘how to shorten laces’ I came across Ian’s Shoelace Site that has tons of information on shoe laces, including a page on 21 Ways to Lace Shoes with Lugs, and one of these methods, called Double Back Lacing, can be used if you’re using laces that are too long – thank you Ian!
Although the bows are still big, even with a double knot, because of the chunkier look of the laces I actually really like this look and have kept them in since I discovered this technique.
Other than my Mr Lacys Ropies, I also played around with a couple of different colours. I’m a sucker for an occasional bit of colour coordination and think that laces are a great way of incorporating it into an outfit. Here’s how they look with a grey (OK, I know it’s not really much of a colour but you could go for something with more of a pop too). I think a Ropies lace with black and red would look great also.
Other than giving a shoe a new look, laces are also a great way of sprucing up a pair of shoes that are looking a bit worn. Although, another great thing with black trainers (and especially those with black laces) are that they are very low maintenance in terms of upkeep.
As for the shoe lace lengths, the original flexToes laces are 98cm, the grey above are Mr Lacy Runnies (90cm designed for 3-5 rows of eyelets – just about right in my opinion) and the Ropies are 130cm and designed for 5-7 rows of eyelets.
I always have high expectations for how self-proclaimed barefoot brands should score against the barefoot markers and am pleased to say that my first experience of Joe Nimble shoes has scored very highly.
Heel – 5/5 with a zero drop (as across all Joe Nimble shoes)
Sole – 4/5 the flexToes have a 4mm Vibram rubber sole which is very flexible in a number of directions (made even more so paired with the lightweight upper). However, it doesn’t have the most ground feel (compared to, say, a soft soled moccasin) as there are sections of the tread which are slightly thicker than others. There is also a removable 4mm insole which is very comfortable if you prefer a little cushioning and I think is nicer left in if you are doing a lot of walking on hard, flat surfaces. I’ve actually left mine in as the fit is so roomy on my rather narrow feet that I feel they are a bit loose without them.
Toe – 5/5 I’m pleased to say that the flexToes definitely lived up to Joe Nimble’s promise of providing toe freedom and are extremely roomy in the toe box.
Upper – 5/5 the lacing system that runs up to the ankle means they hold very securely (even with my rather narrow ankles)
Although I chose to go with the vegan version of the flexToes, the textile upper does make them feel more on the casual side and I therefore don’t feel that they’re quite an everyday trainer. Also, due to their snug fit against the ankle, they are not the easiest of shoes to style from a lifestyle point of view.
That being said, if you’re looking for a mid-top style these certainly are a great barefoot option and are extremely comfy.
I would recommend to take a look at the full Joe Nimble range as it’s a real treat to find a brand with such a wide variety on offer (along with images of people actually wearing the shoes!) and you’re guaranteed a very barefoot experience across their styles.
Thanks to Joe Nimble for providing a pair of flexToes for this review