|By Hank McComas|
In every pair of Mion shoes, stamped on the bottom of the shoe is the proverb "The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good". With their two new models, the Current and Flood Tide water shoes, they have created shoes with some good features. But they are not perfect. In fact they have some problems, but they are good shoes and show promise. You will need to decide if their good features outweigh the problems to justify a buy or whether you continue to search for the perfect shoe. I don't know of anything better at the moment for a kayaking shoe.
I tested these shoes on a weekend at the Atlantic shore and during a week on the rocks of Georgian Bay. When I prepared for my Appalachian thru hike in 1999 I tried several different pairs of shoes before deciding to walk the 2166 miles in a pair of water shoes from Adidas "Feet You Wear" line. They were the best long distance hiking shoes I had ever used. They worked admirably as water shoes too. Unfortunately, Adidas changed them the very next year and for the worst in my opinion. They were discontinued in the second year. So sad. I bought three pairs of them and now I have worn all of them out. My first two pairs were good for 1250 miles and 1500 miles of Appalachian trail and preparation hikes. I have been looking for a new pair of shoes that would replace them. So far I have been disappointed with most of the ones I have tried, particularly the Teva Gamma.
The specifications and features of the new shoes looked interesting. I was eager to evaluate them. The bottom line of my testing was that overall they performed well with no problems that would preclude a purchase. But there were some annoying problems, which hopefully may get fixed some time in the future. So I am still looking for that perfect shoe.
MiōnTM , pronounced My Own, is a new company on the technical shoe scene, being just a couple of years in the business. Its founder is Martin Keen. This name may be familiar to many as Keen shoes and sandals are popular in many stores all over the country. MiōnTM 's distribution is much less extensive. They are targeting what they term the amphibious market - the athlete whose daily pursuit of adventure is on land and water. On their website they state they provide " the tools amphibious athletes need to help them on their journeys. Our shoes are designed, developed and constructed to take you wherever you take them. We aspire to make the most innovative, technically advanced footwear on the planet." They are confident in the capability of their shoes and back it up with a 30 day satisfaction guarantee. Buy 'em, try 'em and if you do not like them, send them back. They spell out the return procedure explicitly on their site.
Like many shoe manufacturers today, and particularly those who manufacture products for the environmentally sensitive market, MiōnTM is trying to be green. They have created a label that they are promoteing for the industry. It allows consumers to judge the relative "greenness" of the product. We would note that they manufacture their product in China as most shoe manufacturers do. That is hardly a country that is big on environmental regulation or use of renewable energy (China is building one coal fired electric plant per week.), not to mention that yet again a manufacturer has gone overseas and not built in our country. One hopes that they are using what influence they have on the Chinese contract manufacturer to be clean, but it is hard to know what is actually occurring.
While their proposed labeling system includes a rating on efficiency, how much material winds up in the shoe compared to the amount of material used to make it, it doesn't include any indication of how much recycled material is in the shoe. I suspect that is because there isn't any. Also I would think that with these shoes being made of a rubbery plastic and nylon they are a big petroleum user. To be fair MiōnTM is trying to mitigate their green limitations in China with offsets for the energy used making the shoe by using Terrapass and green offsets and by using renewables in their American distribution facilities. Clearly they are trying and are attempting to mitigate their environmental impact.
When we sent our invitation to several manufacturers to provide a shoe for our evaluation, MiōnTM was the only manufacturer to respond. Their response was not only positive but fast and reliable. This engendered a good feeling about the company from the start. They shipped two pairs of shoes on time, the Current and Flood Tide models. They have the following impressive feature list...
Building a good amphibious shoe is very hard. Building the perfect one may be impossible. An amphibious shoe must be comfortable when walking and comfortable for sitting for hours with ones heels pressed on the bottom of a kayak. It must be sturdy to abrasion from sand, rocks and fiberglass. It must grip dry dusty soil and wet slimy rocks. It should protect the foot from pointed sharp rocks, little bits of gravel and cactus spines. It must dry quickly and withstand repeated wettings and drying in hot sun. It must not fall apart when immersed for hours in water daily for weeks at a time. It should fit the foot properly and not be a threat to the health of your heels and ankles. Oh yeah, its got to feel and look good too!
As versatile as it is functional, the Flood Tide features a removable High Performance Bootie that is water repellant, fast drying, and allows water to flow through quickly. Because it also protects from sand and scree and features a low-profile Gripstick rubber outsole for traction, it is the perfect shoe for kayakers, boaters, and amphibious athletes who demand versatility
Miōn's iconic original, the Current Sandal, is the standard for comfort by which all performance sandals are measured. Its customized comfort comes courtesy of Miōn's Ergomorphic™ footbed, while 360° lacing enables a personalized fit. (men's size 9: 12.5oz)
| ||Ergomorphic™ Footbed: An anatomically shaped removable footbed with a layer of Ergomorphic™ foam that customizes to the shape of the wearer’s foot after approximately 12 hours of use, resulting in a personalized fit.|
| ||Sculpted Super Structure: Each Sculpted Super-Structure rib wraps around the foot in critical areas to keep the foot in place during static and dynamic conditions and to provide coverage and cushioning. The result – a protective and personalized fit to match the user’s foot characteristics and width.|
| ||Super Structure Cord: One piece cord made of either climbing-grade rope or extremely strong Kevlar® cord that spirals around the Sculpted Super-Structure, resulting in the wearer’s ability to customize a precise fit based on the demands of their activity.|
| ||Wet/Dry Traction: Ultimate traction on wet and dry surfaces with a unique outsole design that features a proprietary Quad-Cut™ siping configuration and Gripstick™ rubber compound.|
| ||Ultra-lite: Wet or dry, Miōn™ footwear is designed to be feather light.|
| ||100% Water Compatible: Miōn™ footwear does not get wet like leather or fabric footwear. Most of our styles literally cannot absorb or retain water.|
| ||Amphibious Liner: The Flood Tide features a removable amphibious bootie that delivers wind resistance, water resistance, and a high level of breathability. The Flood Tide Bootie also features a low-profile Gripstick Rubber outsole for traction on wet and dry surfaces.|
My first impression of them when I pulled them out of the boxes and removed them from the little mesh bag they each came with was they the looked very much like Keen shoes. Not surprising since Martin Keen designed them. I guess they forgot to get a non-compete contract when Keen Shoes was sold. The name of the new company has some interesting implications there as well.
Even though I don't own a pair, I am favorably disposed to Keen sandals as they seem to have some appealing characteristics, although they always seemed a little clunky. The MiōnTM shoes suffer a little from the same duck like wide toe box that the Keens have, but not as bad.
The second thing you notice are the ribs that wrap up from the sole of the foot. They look like ribs of a skeleton or a shipwrecked boat. I think they look kind of cool, with a much more sculpted look than the Keen sandals.
Then there is the lacing which is most unusual. There are no lose ends on the laces which are a very strong double layer climbing grade nylon or Kevlar cord that wraps clear around the shoe in a continuous loop with an easily operated button lock. The shoes are easy and fast to put on, a feature Tri Athletes will appreciate. Just step into the shoe and use one hand to push the button lock on the cord and pull toward the rear to tighten the lace. Fast, simple, and reliable. No velcro to ice up or get filled with leaf litter, very reliable in the water and very light. There might be some possibility of snagging them in a foot peg as the tightening loop sits away from the shoe, but no more so than conventional laces. Only no lace shoes would have any advantage here. I tried to purposefully hook them on my pegs but was unable to cause even a temporary problem. I think this worry is not justified.
I was warned by the press representative that the shoes tend to run a half size to a full size large, i.e if you normally wear a 10 you should order a 9 or 9 1/2. I don't understand this. I think that the shoe size designation should represent the shoe size you need and there shouldn't need for a translation made by the buyer. I think this is one of the things they should fix. Anyway I wear a size 10 street shoe. I use a size 10 1/2 shoe for lone hikes because of swelling. The shoes I received were size 10 and they were a little too large. It is probably important to try the shoes on at a store to determine which size you need as the sizing on the box is not accurate.
The soles of the MiōnTM shoes are rounded and siped with a grippy rubber material. I reject all hiking shoes that do not have a rounded edge on the sole. Shoes with sharp edges are dangerous to the ankles. There is no opportunity for recovery on a misstep or badly placed foot on a rock when a shoe with a sharp edge goes from a its stable position on the bottom of the shoe to the only other stable position which is 90 degrees on the side of the foot. Especially when carrying a backpack, even an ultralight backpack as I had on the Appalachian trail, a rounded edge will give a slower rolling response to an uneven surface than the quick snap of a sharp edged shoe. Low top shoes have no ankle support so a rounded edge is absolutely required.
Two rows of little blue dots go down each side of the sole. I don't know if they have any function, as do the blue dots on the top of the shoe which anchor the lace cord and tighten the laces. I think the ones on the bottom are merely decorative. MiōnTM says the blue spheres represent our blue water covered planet. I guess that is the sculptor coming out in Mr. Keen.
In this respect the MiōnTM shoes are the best I have ever tried. Their foot beds are REALLY comfortable. The sole of the shoe is a thick spongy material with good shock dissipation and protection from the rocks even though there is no shank. The sole is thick enough to effectively cushion even the rocks of Pennsylvania. They are not like a hard Vibram sole that will protect you from every rock on a hard platform allowing you to stumble down the trail running into every obstacle on the trail. You will have to look where you put your feet to avoid the fatigue your foot will develop with all the flexing that such a softer sole will be subject to. But I have always hated the hiking style of heavy high top boots with thick sides kicking into roots and rocks with complete disregard. You can hear these types of hikers coming for hundreds of yards. They always have on hideously large and heavy packs and spend most of their day in camp. With the open design, these shoes will not protect from the cactus spines of the American southwest or Baja, requiring some care there as well. They should allow long days with big miles even though they are of average weight, coming in at 12.5 ounces for a size 9 men's shoe (23 ounces per pair). That is not an ultralight shoe as you can get racing flats at 5 or 6 ounces, but these shoes have much more protection than a flat has. There are several low top hikers that come in at around 16 ounces a pair (HiTec). Considering the minimal construction of the uppers I would have hoped for a lighter shoe, but I guess the thickness of the sole adds to the overall weight.
The bootie is not what I would term water resistant. Water passes easily into and out of the bootie. It is a little slower draining out and I suppose that means it comes in a little slower and therefore may be term resistant applioes but I don't think that term accurately describes what these liners actually do. What they do do is stop the scree, pebbles and coarse sand that one often has to deal with at the shore and on the beach. While the weave of the bootie is not tight enough to stop the fine particles of Colorado river silt or the finest quartz of a Virginia Atlantic beach, it does stop the coarse grains that get into many shoes and irritate your foot. These booties do an excellent job of that with a tight seal around the ankle that keeps the junk from coming in. The slower drain means a longer pause before bringing your foot into the cockpit of you kayak. The Current, which does not have the insert, drains immediately.
The bootie is thick and provides some warmth. This is good in the fall and winter and bad in the summer. For really cold paddling, the design of the Flood Tide would allow you to wear them over neoprene booties in place of the insert.
Because the bootie is thick and not waterproof, your foot will be wet inside the shoe in the kayak. The Current and the outer part of the Flood Tide dry almost instantly. That material appears to be hydrophobic. The water just rolls off. Shake them, set them in the sun for ten minutes and they are completely dry. This is a great feature for a water shoe or a hiking shoe. The materials here are far superior to the Adidas shoe and the drying time is incredible. The bootie does not dry as fast, being made of more traditional material. This somewhat reduces the utility of the bootie as a camp shoe as it will be wet once you have landed. Who wants to pad about camp in wet shoes? They do dry overnight in reasonable conditions of some sun or wind and medium humidity. The Flood Tide outer shoe is too wide to use without the bootie for anything but a camp shoe on flat ground.
Another possible problem with kayak use is that the shoe has a very square and somewhat bulky toe box. This is good for rock protection when going down the trail and they are well designed for that purpose. But the large size might provide problems for kayakers who need to get their feet into the cramped quarters of a kayak foredeck. The extra wide Flood Tides are particularly problematic. I have a high volume expedition kayak that will accommodate size 12 shoes so I had no problem with fitting them in. But if you have a low foredeck you need to test them.
The bottoms of the shoes are made of a sticky material for grip on wet rocks. On Georgian Bay's smooth granite, which actually has pretty good traction due to the crystals in the rock, they performed well, even when the granite was wet. But under the water, the granite is covered by a layer of algae and it is very very very slick. Getting out of the kayak onto this surface can be a comedy or a tragedy depending on whether you get hurt when you fall. On this surface these shoes were of no help whatsoever - only slightly better than bare feet. I know of no shoe that can take on these conditions, with the exception of felt bottom boots found on waders - an impractical selection for kayakers. I did not have a chance to test them on just regular river rocks so their traction there is unknown.
On sandy and small stones on the trail, these shoes have very good traction with little tendency to roll or slide. In mud they have problems because the soles are too smooth. The mud fills the cuts in the sole and the bottoms become essentially smooth like moccasins. That is what I liked about the Adidas shoes I used on the Appalachian trail. They had knarly bumps and indentations on the side of the shoe that gave traction even in the deep mud of Maine. These knobs were so large and extreme they made the shoe strange looking which might have limited its sales appeal and led to its quick demise. I sure do miss those shoes.
The toe cap of the shoes is big enough to cover and protect the toes from bumps and scrapes but it is not s%^t kicker style of footwear. The rubber on the cap is flexible and if you drag your foot over a rock, the cap can actually roll off the foot leaving you pinkies exposed. A quick reset gets you on down the trail.
The other feature that is required in a muddy environment of kayaking is a shoe that will stay on. With the laces tight the Current sandals will stay on in all but the deepest oolite and pelican crap ooze of the Everglades. The Flood Tide with its insert bootie is more subject to coming off in the really deep stuff as the bootie will give a little and is inherently a looser fit. Neither is as rugged as the NRS Y shaped strap for keeping the shoe in place, but it is certainly good enough for all but the knee high plunge into the sticky stuff.
The lacing system is quite unusual. It even has an instruction manual that comes with the shoes. What was the last time you had to be taught how to lace up your shoes? In any case, read it as it is not immediately obvious how these bad boys work. Once you get it adjusted to your foot with the right proportions of lace in each area, the mechanism is fast and easy to use. The tightening loop does tend to tighten the inside top rib more than the outside one. This led to a problem when I first used the Currents on a hike. The top rib was too tight and the cord or the slot for the cord quickly cut through my skin to create a small raw spot on the inside of my foot near the ankle. Nothing serious just unpleasant. I learned to adjust the lace mechanism with both hands to draw up equally on both of the top ribs or to readjust the cord keeper to tighten the outside rib more and the inside rib less. This helped quite a bit, but the inside top rib still rode a little high on my foot and was positioned right where a small bone in my ankle flexes out with every step The pressure there caused a slight bruising which I am sure with time would toughen up and not be a problem. It would be better if the problem weren't there at all and maybe it can be adjusted in later models. Care and perhaps a little duct tape would keep the cord from sawing through the skin. Perhaps MiōnTM will fix that too.
The Ergomorphic inserts are very comfortable and give the shoe a feel better than a pair of Crox, but they do cause a problem of their own. The surface of the insole has a slimy feel and is a little slippery when wet. This isn't a large problem either but the feeling is a little annoying and it is bothersome to be slipping a little inside the shoe. This can be reduced by tightening the laces more but I could not eliminate it. This might also have been caused by the shoe being a little too large. I probably needed the 9 1/2. The smaller size might also have made the top inside rib further down on my ankle and eliminated the bruising problem as well. I will have to try a pair sized a bit smaller.
The inserts on the Current model, which are removable, make the bottom lip of the heel cup too low. On steep inclines the heel tends to settle backwards and be supported by the flexible rubber on the two sides and upper portion of the heel pillar. This is different from every other shoe you have ever had on where the support comes on the bottom edge of the heel cup. It just feels weird - like there is not enough support in the shoe, although this is not actually the case. But it is hard to ignore at first. Removing the insert deepens the heel cup lip and eliminates this problem. The Flood Tide with its full coverage insert does not suffer this problem although the soft and thick nature of the bootie does make it move a little inside the shoe. Again a smaller pair might help this problem as well.
The soft, minimal and open design of the heel cup and brace make this shoe a dream for sitting on the bottom of the kayak or on the foot pegs. It is as more comfortable than any water shoe I have ever tried and gives complete protection from the stress of resting the back of your foot on the bottom for 12 hours a day.
The shoes held up well in the abrasive environment of Georgian Bay granite, showing no signs of wear in the admittedly brief ten days I spent there.
So here is the summary. MiōnTM has made a good shoe but not a perfect shoe. There are a few niggling problems, none of them serious enough to disqualify either shoe. I would have liked a different surface on the insert that was less slippery and a bigger heel cup lip. Some of these and other issues might disappear with the next half size down and a tighter initial fit. I would have liked bigger lugs on the sides of the sole. I wouldn't recommend using these in heavy mud on hiking trails. I would have liked them to be lighter and have a shank, so I am dubious about using them for long distance hiking.
If you can get these shoes into your kayak, I would recommend either one of them as a great kayaking shoe. They have the features and capabilities that are needed. Their absolute minimum drying time is a wonderful feature. They have the right stuff to let you hike when you get to shore as long as you are careful where you place your feet. If you have a lot of pebble, grit or coarse sand in your area, go with the Flood Tide. If you paddle in cold conditions and need more rock protection for your neoprene water socks, the Flood Tide would be great. Otherwise the Current is a great choice, especially without the Ergomorphic insert. With the inserts, these shoes are the most comfortable shoes made. With the 30 day satisfaction guarantee, you have nothing to lose.
Oh and get the light colored two tone shoes. They look sharp.
See Teva Gamma water shoe review.....