What is the best zero-drop, minimalist, barefoot, Primal, Paleo, thin, flexible, ergonomic, and wide toebox dress shoe? That you can wear to interviews, work, the office, weddings, funerals, clubs, and other formal events?
The Vivobarefoot Lisbon vs the Carets Fer v3. A comparison review. This is the ultimate showdown.
We'll be covering every little detail, starting from the bottom-up, and inside-out.
Outsole (& Midsole)
The Lisbon has a leather midsole, and a (primarily) TPU outsole. The midsole is likely a traditional leather sole (i.e. very stiff, unlike the super-soft leather midsole on the Soft Star Hawthorne). Despite the outsole being TPU, they managed to make it look VERY similar to a traditional stacked leather outsole. The outsole is flat though, and to me it's very clear that there's something "off" about these "dress shoes."
The Fer has no midsole, and a PU outsole. The outsole utilizes Chronology's patented hollow heel, so you get the look of classic dress shoe, but the health and comfort of a zero-drop shoe.
Both outsoles are synthetic, so they'll have better traction than leather outsoles. However, I would bet money that the Fer has better slip-resistance due to its slightly deeper tread.
Outsole (& Midsole) winner: Fer.
The Lisbon has a leather footbed.
The Fer has a leather footbed over a thin layer of Poron cushioning. Not only does the Poron make the shoes more comfortable, they also slip around less.
When you combine a hard sole, a slippery leather surface, and a roomy toebox like the Lisbon (and also like earlier versions of the Fer), your foot tends to move around inside the shoe a bit too much as you walk. The Poron allows your foot to sink in just a little bit, instead of sliding around.
Insole winner: Fer.
The Lisbon is made with Blake construction. It's the preferred method of Italian dress shoe makers. Compared to the Goodyear welt construction favored by British and North American dress shoe makers, Blake allows for a thinner lip to the outsole, and a more flexible shoe. Also, visible stitching is often used as an indicator of quality.
The Fer is made with cement construction. The sole is not stitched to the upper, and I've actually had 2 customers return shoes because they consider visible stitching as a necessary indicator of quality. But, the only construction method we can think of to use with our patented hollow heel is cement. And adding stitches to our shoes as they are made now will ruin their resoleability.
Construction Method winner: Lisbon.
The Lisbon, being Blake construction, can be resoled, given the right equipment in the right hands. They do offer a service, but only to European customers.
The Fer, being Cement construction, can be resoled, given the right equipment in the right hands. We offer our services to customers around the world.
Resoling winner: Fer.
Both the Lisbon and the Fer are made with full-grain cow leather.
The Lisbon is vegetable tanned. Vegetable tanning is more environmentally friendly, both in production and disposal, and has a more varied and organic look. The leather however is stiffer, and susceptible to water damage.
The Fer is chrome tanned. Chrome tanning does use harsh chemicals, unfortunately. The leather however is softer, more uniform, resists water damage, and is just overall more durable.
(For more about vegetable vs chrome tanning, here's a great article from Carryology.)
Leather winner: tie. Depends on your preferences on the above.
The Fer is definitely more flexible, due to the Cement construction and the softer chrome-tanned leather.
Flexibility winner: Fer.
Cut and Sew Quality
They're both really good at 9 stitches per inch.
Cut and Sew Quality winner: tie.
The Lisbon has round waxed cotton shoelaces.
The Fer has elastic shoelaces that look normal but turn your lace oxfords into functional slip-ons.
Shoelace winner: Fer.
The Lisbon is an open-lace blucher derby. This is regarded as less dressy, but it's easier to make, and fits a wider range of feet. But, even laced as tight as possible, they're still a little loose on me. I have to add tongue pads to make them comfortable.
The Fer is a closed-lace balmoral oxford. This is regarded as the most formal of styles. They're harder to make, and doesn't fit as wide range of feet. However, I've never had a return because the laces were too tight. And if the laces are too loose, tongue pads will easily fix it.
Shoe Style winner: Fer.
The Lisbon is a plain-toe.
The Fer is a cap-toe.
Toe Style winner: tie. Depends on your preference. Luckily, we offer a plain-toe shoe, the Zetone.
The Lisbon has a wide toebox with a decent taper, although most people would still consider them too clownlike. There isn't much vertical height to the toebox, and I think that makes it look them look even wider.
The Fer has a wide toebox, but not as wide as the Lisbon. It has a sleek taper, although I've even heard some consider these too clownlike as well. There is a tasteful amount of vertical height that makes the shoes appear more narrow and also feel more comfortable (you can wiggle your toes inside).
Toe Box winner: tie. Depends on your foot anatomy and preference.
I am comparing a EU 40 Lisbon against a US Men's 7 Fer.
One shoe of the Lisbon weighs 11.38 ounces (323 grams)
One shoe of the Fer weighs 10.78 ounces (306 grams)
Weight winner: Fer.
When the Lisbon debuted, their MSRP was $330 USD. They're as low as $150 USD on Amazon right now. I read somebody say that he never pays anywhere near full price on Vivobarefoot, because they always go on steep sales eventually.
The Fer is $350 bought new, as low as $300 if you preorder early, and can be had for as low as $175 if bought used or factory-second through our official Outlet Store.
Price winner: Lisbon.
Return Policy, Warranty, & Shipping
As of 2018 Feb 24, if you purchase your Vivobarefoot on their official website, they offer a 100-day Trial that allows you to return worn shoes within 100 days for a full refund. This must be "activated" by creating an account and checking a box, but is otherwise free. Otherwise, it's a 28-day return window by default, and they must be unworn with all the original tags and packaging. If you buy from Zappos, that's extended to 365-day, but they still must be unworn with all the original tags and packaging.
Quality warranty: 6 months
Shipping: Free shipping and free returns to the USA, UK, and certain European countries. Outside those countries, they can't generate prepaid return labels, so you will have to get your originals back to them. I couldn't find details, but I don't think their replacements are shipped for free.
If you purchase your Carets on our official website (here!), we offer a 365-day Test Drive that allows you to return WORN shoes within 365 days for a FULL REFUND.
Quality warranty: 365-day
Shipping: Free shipping and free returns within USA. Outside the US, we offer a discounted shipping rate of $27 to anywhere. We can't generate prepaid return labels outside the USA, so you will have to get your originals back to us, but replacements are shipped for free.
Return Policy, Warranty, & Shipping winner: Fer.
How do they look with a suit?
Finally, I wanted to answer this question that I see often in comments: How do they look with a suit? I set the camera at an angle similar to how someone else would see your shoes while you're wearing them.
Who's the winner here? I'll let you be the judge of that =)