Xero has made my favorite footwear for more than six years. (I’ve bought – and reviewed – Xero’s original do-it-yourself sandals and their DIY Contact sandals, and soon I’ll add the prefab Amuri Ventures.) Sadly, though, sometimes I need to wear actual shoes – due to social expectations or the weather. So I’ve worn through a succession of “barefoot”/zero-drop/minimalist shoes from Nike, Merrell, Vivobarefoot, and Skora. But I always lamented that none quite had the salutary feel of the Xeros – if only they made closed-toed shoes!
Now they do – the Ipari Hana. So I bought a pair, and I’ve worn them for almost three months. Mostly I’ve walked on sidewalks and floors, but I’ve also trod across grass and desert and run fairly fast for several minutes (across an airport). Because they’re not waterproof, I haven’t worn them in a downpour or snow, but I have tried them in light rain. In the near-freezing cold I wear them with thick socks and a thin thermal insole from Vivobarefoot, and my feet feel surprisingly comfortable.
My short review is this: thanks to its sole and styling, this is now my preferred shoe. Here are the details:
No pain. The most important question for me is whether my plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendon pain recurs while I’m wearing a particular shoe. The answer here is no. These injuries develop unless I’m in zero-drop footwear (or bare feet).
Look good. This brings me to styling. I like the look of the Ipari Hanas. I wish that I could choose black-on-black, but I wore the black-rust combo while making a professional presentation and received no odd looks or comments. Anyway, the only competition is other zero-drop shoes, and the affordable ones tend to look more informal and often outlandish. Vivobarefoot offers the exceptions, but these are much more expensive, and the uppers on three styles of shoes that I’ve bought from this company deteriorated almost immediately.
Feel good. As mentioned above, I loooove my Xero sandals. But the Ipari Hanas don’t feel like covered sandals; they have too much structure for that. They feel like shoes. (The most sandal-like, minimal shoes I’ve worn are the Merrell Vapor Gloves, which had other problems.) In a way this is good: the Ipari Hanas seem sturdy, and I can’t find any premature wear, except …
The soles are the same as on some Xero sandals. This means that they’re thin, tough, flexible, and wonderfully grippy – even on wet surfaces. It also means that they’ll wear down faster than Xero’s original, Vibram soles. Indeed, despite a “5,000 mile sole warranty,” the tread on one of my heels is already worn down, after walking much less than 500 miles. (The warranty requires that the purchaser pay 40 percent of the list price plus shipping, so it’s not quite the ganga that it seems at first.)
Nonetheless, I love the sole because it’s about as flat and wide as they come. Thus, my footfall is quite similar to walking barefoot. Because the sole and insole are thin (not cushioned), the shoe is quite flexible, too. The one downside to these nice features is noise.
The upper is relatively roomy, especially in the toe box, and it’s adjustable via lacing – but only to a certain extent. My skinny foot might benefit from a little more tightening. A soft liner graces the interior, but I wear socks and thus don’t feel it. The upper has no signs of deterioration after two months, unlike the Vivobarefoots and Merrells I’ve owned.
Runs small. The Ipari Hana ran short for me by a full size (measured 11, even though I used both of their online sizing-guides) – especially with winter socks.
To wrap up: I like the Ipari Hanas quite a bit. Their design makes them quite versatile and as close to walking barefoot as I can get in a shoe.
Disclaimer: If you visit Xero Shoes using one of the links from this blog and then order one of their products, I’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds. I’d like to think that this hasn’t affected my review: I truly bought the shoes, wore them extremely frequently, and plan to buy another pair when these wear out.