Not so minimal review
GoSt PaleoBarefoots® Pronativ
Performance, the fun bit. Minimal shoes have to be as light as possible. The lighter the shoe, the more efficient the running will be. Does this take into account how flexible the shoe is? The Pronativ are very flexible and I found that they did not hinder my gait in any way. And once wearing them, I did not notice the weight.
In muddy conditions they performed very well. They provide good grip and I experienced hardly any slipping.
The company state on their website that they give good grip on ice and snow. I have not had the opportunity to test them on snow and ice, so no comment can be made.
A note on maintenance: After a run, to clean them, there are several options. Wash them under a tap with soap. They can go in the dishwasher. Also, they can go into the washing machine if they are put in a wash bag. I tried all these methods and they all work very well. I hang them to dry next to my boiler. The metal does oxidize and turns grey but as they are so easy to clean this is not a problem.
I was expecting a fair bit of noise from them while running. Once running the forest trails this turned out not to be the case. This is because the mesh is far softer than it looks.
This is where they really excel. You can feel everything as if barefoot. As it is a mesh and not a solid covering you are able to feel the ground: Hot, cold, wet, rough and smooth through the soles of your feet. Running through water is a great experience.
Without the fear of hitting something very sharp that you would not see through the water, you are able to completely relax and enjoy the experience and, of course, the water runs straight through them.
Pronativ are very near barefoot, they gave me confidence to run along very rough terrain. I’m able to run with a very relaxed posture, which is very important when running. I’m can look around more and enjoy nature and my surroundings instead of looking two feet in front of me. They give very good feedback, every detail on the trail can be felt, but the Pronativ just take the edge off, making my runs very enjoyable; I have the barefoot simulation but without the fear of hitting anything that would cause too much harm to my feet.
One particular thing I like about them is eachpair of PaleoBarefoots® Pronativ come with a serial number stamped into a plate which is attached on the outside of the shoe.
As the company website stresses, these have been designed and manufactured to be used on natural surfaces. They are not suited to hard smooth surfaces; they are not intended for road running. As such my review has been primarily based on running trails, with only a small amount of testing done on the road.
Pronativ are unique. I think they are like Marmite - you either love or hate the look! I personally love them. They are certainly different to anything I have worn before. I was not conscious of them looking unusual, although as a barefoot runner I generally take no notice of the looks!
The overall fit is good. The quick release lacing system is excellent and works very well. To wear them, just loosen the lacing and slip them on. Pull the lace tight and use the toggle at the back to lock the lace in place. The lock works very well and after several hours of wearing does not come loose. I found I preferred to keep them tight so they felt more secure, but this is my personal preference. As they are so flexible there is no problem with them restricting your foot’s natural mechanics. The two different styles of socks that are supplied with them can be worn if you are worried about rubbing and looking for a bit of comfort, but I don’t think they are necessary. The manufacturers may be worried about rubbing around the ankle and top of foot and therefore included the socks to add more comfort. I was concerned about this – metal against skin just sounds a bad idea, but my fears were unfounded as I was surprised at how comfortable they were. Also, there was no rubbing which I had expected to happen! After a run of about 2 hours I was left with a slight red indent – possibly from having them too tight, but this soon wore off and caused me no concern.
They do feel tight across the toes and after much adjusting of the lace, this did not improve. This maybe because I’m not used to wearing shoes. Once out running I did feel - and could see - my toes spreading through the mesh and there was no feeling of tightness. Generally, the feel and fit around the toes is strange at first, as well as the tight feel round the top of the toes, while at the same time the front has a loose feel. I think this is because the mesh is so flexible that you notice it - it is unlike any other shoe. I wonder if they would benefit from separate toe compartments like Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs)? But once running, this is not really a problem.
I have Morton’s toe – my second toe is longer than my big toe. On one run, I developed a small blood blister on the end of my second toe, only on one foot. It caused no problem and it has not happened since.
A note about size: I take a size UK 12. I was sent two sizes (11 and 12) and I found the 12 to the better fit. I could wear the 11; I just had the lacing a little looser.
The quality of these shoes lives up to what you would expect from German manufacturing. They are of a very high standard, the Audi of the minimal shoe market! The mesh that is used in the construction of these shoes is made from stainless steel wire with a diameter of 0.55mm. The outside diameter of each ring is 4mm. There are about 134,700 rings per m². It has a very smooth finish, far smoother than I imagined. Each ring is able to move individually.
I was sent a sample of the mesh in the form of a keyring. So I decided to conduct an experiment to see how strong they really are. I placed the sample on a sharp stone and hit it several times – hard – with a heavy hammer until I broke through! I was able to break a few rings in the mesh. I can reliably inform you that the mesh did not unravel, but only made a small hole. This would have been very severe for the foot if I had been wearing them! The kind of force it took to break it would not happen while running - if it did, your foot would shatter before the mesh would. I now have complete confidence in the strength and durability and I’m confident these will outlast any shoe by many years, if used on natural surfaces, which is what they are designed for.
After doing about 100 miles in them on very rough trail runs, there is hardly a mark on them. I have been treating them very hard and can find nothing wrong with the build.
My first impressions were: The shoe is well designed, interesting and I can’t wait to try it. They have a kind of medieval knight look about them. They really are in their own category and can’t easily be compared to conventional ‘barefoot’ shoes.
Just out of the box, my first impression was the weight – they feel heavy for a minimal shoe. They are far softer than I imagined and extremely flexible – more flexible than a sock if that is possible. They come in a very nice tin box and are supplied with a pair of Lining Socks and a pair of Ankle Socks. There is an option for the Running Socks as well. In addition, a user guide is included which basically tells you to take things slowly if you are not used to being barefoot, which is very good advice.
Trying them on and walking around the home – carpet and laminate flooring - was disappointing, but they are not intended as a house slipper! They are for use outside and on natural surfaces, not hard, smooth, polished surfaces. Once I tried them on my local trail, my feelings towards them changed quite considerably to those of sheer pleasure and enjoyment.
This is a hard one! The price, which was taken from their website on 13th June 2013, was €191.60 (excluding 19% VAT and shipping) which at first glance is quite shocking. After taking a few things into consideration, though, the cost is actually quite good. Firstly, the cost of the mesh is around €500 per m². Secondly, there is a considerable amount of time taken to manufacture the shoes into the finished item. Thirdly, the quality of the build is excellent. Finally, I see no reason why these should not last a lifetime if they are used on natural terrain as intended. My running friends have joked with me that I can write them into my will so I can pass them down to my son!
As you can probably tell, I’m very taken with the Pronativ and would highly recommend them. For all barefoot trail runners these are a must. The combination of excellent barefoot simulation and being very flexible make these perfect for trail running - as near to barefoot as you can get. I would urge you all to try them - they really are a very well thought out shoe by somebody who clearly understands barefoot running.
I find it hard to find much wrong with them. They do oxidize and become covered in a grey soot which does rub of onto the foot, but it is easily washed off the skin with soap and water. Cleaning the Pronativ is just as easy.
The Pronativ would suit VFF users as they cover the whole foot. They would also appeal to Xeros/Luna users as you get the open foot feel.
The weight will be an issue for some people, as I thought it would for me, but having run in them, I found this not to be a problem at all. They are not like any other minimal shoe which you can tuck into your shorts for emergency use; they are more for wearing for the whole of the run. You can carry them, one in each hand, but this is not ideal. If an accessory was produced that could attach the Pronativ securely to running shorts, that would be very useful.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reviewing these PaleoBarefoots® Pronativ. They are a great deal of fun and I will certainly be using them for occasions when the ground is too rough for barefoot and when there is a lot of mud, for the extra grip they give.
I’m sure this company will be a big player in the barefoot/minimal shoe market - with a product like the Pronativ I have no doubt.
Tested by Ian Hicks