The most telling detail of this VIVOBAREFOOT Kids Neo Shoe review is that the boys, Milo (5) and Archimedes (3), don't demand to take their shoes off when they wear their Neos. I think they forget they have them on. Barefoot is their preferred state and I have to cajole them to put shoes on when the time comes that they need them. This tells me that they are comfortable in the Neos.
Kids Neos are the mini version of the adult Neos that I reviewed in the spring after I was given the opportunity to try on all of the Spring 2011 shoes in the vivobarefoot NYC Store. The Neos were an awesome fit. So much so that I wore then for the first time for 32 miles and had zero adverse affects from running in brand new shoes. Check out my review of the adult Neos here.
The roll-it-up-into-a-ball-test is amusing visually but it is extremely useful in deciding if the shoe will allow your foot to move as it is meant to. A shoe should take the cues from the foot and not the other way around. The Kids Neo is a flexible shoe that has a 3.5 mm puncture resistant outsole. It's thin enough for being able to feel the ground and yet there is enough protection for tromping through the woods or any other adventure they find themselves having.
They also have a 3 mm removable and washable insole. I have been leaving the insole in the shoe. Although this does reduce the amount of proprioception/biofeedback, it also protects the foot from the cold seeping into the shoe from the ground. Minimal shoes worn in the cold months when you are not moving around vigorously mean you are more prone to cold feet.
Hydrophobic mesh is the material for the upper on the Neos. Although not water proof, they do keep the water out if not submerged.
I chose the Neos with laces as I have found that velcro doesn't hold up to kid use the way a laced shoe can. With laces you can also use a Yankz kind of lace for easy on and off. Wide kid feet are comfortable in the Neos with plenty of room for natural splay. The soft upper allows for movement and the lacing can be customized depending on the foot. This is another reason I chose the laces.
The shoes seem to be winning in the battle between kid play and shoe durability! The boys wear them everywhere and these are their shoes they wear every day unless its snowing. Tree climbing, puddles, mud, toe dragging because it makes a fart noise on the sidewalk, have all been tried and the Neo have done a stellar job holding up.
Running, jumping, climbing, and all other play has been supported by the great traction the Neo's provide. This light weight zero drop shoe is one of my favorites and I love that the boys, who are also runners, get to wear them too. They are starting on the right foot....yeah, I know... with strong feet that are allowed to move they way they should. Its amazing to hold a Neo in one hand and a typical kid shoe in the other and see how incredibly heavy and substantial kid shoes are. The Neos are a fantastic alternative.
Whats the only downside? In my opinion it would be the cost. Otherwise the shoes meet all of the criteria I have for shoes that I myself would wear and the kids like them too from what I can surmise. They Kids Neos run $75. Considering how fast the boys are growing and how fast they grow out of shoes its a tough call to decide on shoes that support good form and especially since they are developing their form now for all kinds of movement, and the cost.
I am happy and confident that Milo's pair will be in good shape to hand down to Archimedes.