The new shoes from Olukai bring together two hot trends in the sports world: minimalist footwear and stand-up paddleboarding.
The Maliko is a split-toed design — the big toe gets its own sleeve, separating it from the other four piggies and giving your foot more flexibility than a traditional shoe. Think of it as a gateway for people who don’t want to commit to the FiveFingers cult. But like Vibram’s twinkle-toes, the Maliko bears all the hallmarks of a barefoot-inspired shoe: a zero heel-to-toe drop, low weight, and an extremely flexible sole.The split-toe design frees up your big toe to help you keep your balance on whatever slab-like, ocean-going vessel you’re using to get rad.
And yes, this is also a water shoe, or an “aqua adventure” shoe, which is a fancy way of saying its powers are best experienced when windsurfing, paddleboarding, bounding across wet sand and rocks, or any other flavor of beach-combing shenanigans. (All of Olukai’s products are inspired by the Hawaiian lifestyle, and this is the company’s first foray into minimal footwear.)
The upper is made up of breathable, abrasion-resistant mesh (you know, for scrambling over sharp coral) and its slim outsole wraps up around the foot and toebox for a bit of added protection. Drainage ports in the arch help the shoe dry quickly if the waves creep up on you, and the insole is removable. The quick-release lace system lets you kick your shoes and shake out any sand you accumulate — an inevitability given the low cuff.
The split-toe design frees up your big toe to help you keep your balance on whatever slab-like, ocean-going vessel you’re using to get rad. During a few hours I spent stand-up paddleboarding while wearing the Olukais, the extra flexibility of the liberated big toe did indeed help me stay upright, while the slightly suction-cuppy tread held fast to the board. I experienced no slipping whatsoever, and the shoes dried off after about 10 minutes of walking around on the shore. They’re a bit snug with the insole attached, but they felt great without the insole, and they provided great traction and a good amount of protection (for a barefoot shoe) when navigating the wet rocks during an impromptu cliff-jumping session.
Olukai is a premium footwear-maker that emphasises the craftsmanship and durability of its products, and the construction of the Maliko reflects this. The attention to detail in the interior stitching is exemplary — the insole is stitched to the outsole all around the shoe except where the drainage ports are, allowing water to escape that much faster. The stitching is tough, and I feel confident the shoes will survive years of hikes, waterfall leaps and paddle journeys.
They may not be for everyone. The shoes are snug, and the heel cuff rubbed up against my Achilles tendon. (The issue disappeared when I removed the insole.) And aesthetically, the split-toe pocket is an acquired taste. But if you dig the ninja look, these will be right up your alley.
WIRED Excellent drainage. Durable exterior protects against scuffs from rocks and coral. Removable half-length insole for variable support. Speed laces let you easily kick them off to knock out sand.
TIRED Tight fit with the insole. Low cut lets sand and debris in. The “camel toe” jokes get old in about two minutes, but you’ll hear them constantly.
Article by Billy Brown (c) Product Reviews - Read full story here.