Review: Soft Star Moc3 (Part 1)

I’d like to introduce you to a brilliant piece of technology – the Soft Star RunAmoc Moc3s. Like all really good technology, they’re very simple in design and very effective in practice. Two thumbs up, five gold stars, and stuff like that. The Moc3s are winners!

I’ve had my Moc3s for a couple of weeks now, and have used them for everything from everyday wear to road and trail runs. I’ve even tried them with socks, an unusual piece of kit for me. They’ve performed well, felt good, and held up well. I must say that I’m impressed.

The idea behind this review, as I said in my previous teaser post, is to look at the fit, comfort, and feel of the Moc3s, and assess them accordingly.

The Shoe

Moc3, top and bottom

Moc3, top and bottom

For all that the Moc3s look like slippers, and fit with a somewhat loose feel, they stay on – all the time, whether walking, running, or climbing and descending hills. At the same time, they don’t bind at all, anywhere on the foot. The elastic bits on the each side of the shoe are just tight enough to allow for a very comfortable fit. The front and back of the “mouth” of the shoe keeps it from slipping off. As for seams, well, they’re unnoticeable, even without socks. There are only two seams inside the shoe, one along the length of the inside of the upper (along the top of the foot) and another, short one at the back and bottom of the heel.

The Moc3s are exceptionally flexible, and offer remarkable groundfeel. Neither my VFF KSOs nor my Xero Shoes huaraches come even remotely close. To find out exactly why, well, I ran on as many surfaces as I could find, and paid a lot of attention (even more than usual) to my form, my posture, and how close the ground actually felt. The results were literally amazing. Not quite barefoot, to be sure, but very, very close.

To find out why, I asked the folks at Soft Star to tell me more about the composition of the Moc3 sole.

Turns out that sole is really a composite. There’s the 2mm thick Vibram rubber, of course. Behind that, though, is a 0.7mm thick layer of abrasive-resistant and scuff-proof Toughtek, to which the Vibram sole is glued. The side of the material facing the outside of the shoe is coated in a very thin textured specialized neoprene rubber. The other side is a100% polyester stretchable knit fabric. Next is a 1mm thick natural suede innersole. Total thickness of the three-layered footbed is ~3.7mm.

Now comes the real magic!

The cutout shape of the 2mm Vibram sole is sorta kinda like the imprint the sole of your wet foot would leave. It’s designed to give the foot as much natural movement as possible. The specific cuts and openings in the sole are in places that would allow the feet and toes to bend the most, so that the foot can roll naturally through landing and liftoff. As Mike Friton, the Moc3s designer, has said, “Your foot doesn’t mold to the shoe, the shoe molds to your foot.” That makes me a very happy runner. The reason I run barefoot is that I want to feel the ground. The Moc3 offers almost the same feeling.

The Moc3 uppers consists of a layer Soft Star’s LITE perforated leather, for protection and breathability. My Moc3s are black, as you can see in the photos, but they’re also available in blue, red, white, brown, and fuschia. Black and blue are stock colours. The latter four colours are custom, and come at a slightly higher cost. Behind the leather is a Breathe-O-Prene liner, which provides a moisture-wicking and odor-resistant interior.

Redefining minimalist - and minimal

Redefining minimalist – and minimal

The overall result is something very light (5 oz or 141 gms – I know, because I weighed them myself) and almost unbelievably flexible.

Wiping the Moc3s with a wet cloth got them mostly clean, even after a couple of muddy trail runs. I wouldn’t put them in a washing machine, but you could probably hand-wash them and let them air dry.

I’ve worn mine every day for the past two weeks, and – quite remarkably – they still smell like new leather. I know that’s because of the tanned, perforated leather and the Breathe-O-Prene stuff, but it still seems like magic.

Anyway, I’m happy to live with the result.

Testing

Everyday Wear

Moc3 stylin'

Moc3 stylin’

As mentioned above, I’ve worn the Moc3s every day since I got them, barring a couple of days when it’s rained heavily.

That means almost all the time, all day long. I’ve worn them at work, and I’ve worn them when I’ve done errands. I’ve worn them inside the house, and I’ve worn them outdoors. I’m almost always barefoot at home, but I’ve found myself forgetting to take them off once I got home from the office, from grocery shopping, from a visit to the local Y. That’s how comfortable they are.

And they still smell new.

Road and Track Running

Moc3s for the road Running is what I wanted these shoes for, and running is what they’re designed to do. To make a long story short, the Moc3s did the job, and they did it brilliantly. I took them out on a number of my usual routes, which means suburban streets and sidewalks. Some of those surfaces are older than others, so my routes give me a lot of surface variety – fairly new (and smooth) asphalt, some chipseal, some old, gnarly sidewalks, some sidewalks with twigs, small stones, and even a little rock salt left over from the winter.

How did that go?

Extremely well, thanks! Lots and lots of groundfeel, all the natural foot movement I could want, and just a little bit of protection. 2mm of Vibram sole isn’t much, so I still found myself picking through the debris when I had to – but that’s partly just barefoot habit. (As I found out when got to the trails, I needn’t have worried.)

I also took the Moc3s to the indoor track at my local Y. That was a real treat. I’ve wanted to get on this track for a while. It’s short (200m), and it’s painted concrete rather than Tartan, but it’s a nice track, with cool little banks on the turns, and nice views of the outdoors at each corner. But the folks at the Y, in all their dubious wisdom, won’t let me run barefoot on it. “Hygiene concerns,” they say. “Safety concerns,” they say. So it didn’t take me long after getting my Moc3s to spend a couple of mornings doing track time. And it worked brilliantly. As I’d found before with my huaraches, I got some real footslap sounds with the Moc3s when my form was off. But that’s a good thing, because it means I could use sound to modify and improve my form. Having done that, I found I was moving very nicely around the small loop. In fact, on one of my Moc3 track runs, I found myself doing a tempo pace that was unusually quick. Checked the lap count, checked the watch, calculated again, and decided that I’d run more quickly and smoothly than I normally do. Check another one up to the Moc3s!

Trail Running

After my first trail run

After my first trail run

Now, this was new to me. I’m a pavement guy, and always have been. Until I got the Moc3s, I’d never run a trail at all (though I’ve done lots of hiking and trekking, here in southern Ontario, in the Canadian Rockies, and in the Himalayas). But I’ve had a burn to run trails for a few years now. So I took me and the Moc3s to a local conservation area trail for a couple of runs, and I got trail. Gravel, hardpacked dirt, big stones, little stones, puddles, and, on one run, lots and lots of mud. I ran flats, I ran climbs, I ran descents, I even ran some gnarly technical bits. And it was splendid.

I got wet and muddy, the Moc3s got wet and muddy, and I finally got a glimpse of what my trail-running buddies having been raving about for years. Once home, I wiped the Moc3s off with a damp cloth and set them out to air dry. A couple of hours later, they were completely dry. Not only that, they held their shape. And they still didn’t smell!

In these past two weeks, I’ve kept up my barefoot runs as well as testing the Moc3s. That’s partly because my feet need to feel the ground, and partly because I’m training for a half marathon that I’m going to run barefoot on May 5. But I’m keen to get back to the trails. So keen, in fact, that I’ve registered for my first trail ultra, the Vulture Bait 50K, which takes place on October 19. I’ve also scouted out some longer and more challenging trails I want to get to, and which I’ll try as the summer progresses. I wouldn’t have done any of that were it not for the Moc3s. That’s a big move forward in my journey as a runner.

What Next?

What does the future hold for me and my Moc3s? As indicated above, more roads, more trails, and my very first trail ultra. (For everyday wear, I’ve just ordered a pair of Soft Star Original RunAmocs for that.) I can’t think of any better ways of saying “I like the Soft Star Moc3s. I like them a lot!”

The Moc3s cost US$94.00, with optional colours, as I mentioned, coming at a slight premium. That’s good value, in my opinion. I’ve got a pair of beautifully designed, hand-made running shoes that work on the roads and the trails, and that also double as excellent every day footwear. Doesn’t get any better than that.

I’ll follow up with another review of the Moc3s, which will look at how they’ve done in the long run. (Yes, I know. The pun was intentional.) Stay tuned!

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26 comments

    1. I haven’t done any real running in the Original Mocs. I use them more for walking. But, on the very short runs I’ve done in them, I experience them as a looser fit. Probably quite acceptable, though, once you get used to that. I’ve seen and read of lots of folks running in Originals, up to and including marathon distances.

  1. Happy too in my RunAmocs 🙂 I use them for trail running too : you can grasp rocks (good traction), slide on leaves, and have a good speed thanks to the precise foot laying. Sprain impossible because of the ground feel and immediate reactivity.

      1. I’ll add just a little note about the total lack of adherence in the mud – but it’s part of the charm of the RunAmocs 😉

  2. Thanx for the very informative review 🙂

    I have been working on transitioning to barefoot running and Paul suggested I heck out your site 😛 I currently run in something similar to the Soft Star Moc3, it’s also a kind of a slipper. I love it for dirt roads and trails but I find it painful to run long distances in them on the pavement. Perhaps I need to work more on increasing my cadence and making my steps lighter so that I’m not hitting the asphalt with as much force.

    Best of luck at the Mississauga Half 🙂 I’m racing that as well 😀

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nadiya. You’re just used to a different kind of running from dirt roads and trails. Running barefoot on pavement is actually easier than on soft surfaces (complex reasons, which I won’t go into here). Try running with short strides and a high cadence. One barefoot guru suggests running as if the road surface is a hot stove, ie, touch it as quickly and lightly as possible. Thansk for the good wishes for Mississauga. If you’re interested, I’ll be meeting up with some friends prior to the start, and would love to see you there. We’re going to be at the parking lot of the Coliseum movie theaters (on Rathburn, just west of the race start area), from 6;30 to about 6:45 AM. Hope to see you there!

  3. Hey Alan, great review! Were you able to run right away in them or was there a bit of adjustment period? Have they started to mold to your feet yet? I’m still happy with my VFFs but I’d consider trying these once I wear them out

    1. No adjustment period needed at all, Peter. The Moc3s were perfect right out of the box. They’ve begun molding to my feet a bit, but I can already see how that process will continue. I’m keen to see what they’ll be like by, say, the end of the season. I think you’d like them very much.

  4. Hi Alan
    I was just talking about ordering a pair and am a bit concenrd about size. I fall between a US 8 and 9. I prefer my Vivobarefoots a bit smaller and more snug. I am worried that if I oreder a 9 they will flap about a bit. I know that you can’t advise me on my own size but how was the sizing for you?
    I am glad you posted, sizing has been the only thing stopping me getting a pair.

    1. I’d say go for a 9. My understanding is that the Moc3s fit differently than the Vivobarefoot. They may feel a fit looser, but that’s more a matter of them “draping” (not the best work, but the best I can come up with) around the foot. Soft Star has a very generous return policy, as long as the shoes are undamaged, so it shouldn’t be a big issue – aside form the waiting – if the sizing isn’t spot on.

    1. Delighted to hear that, Anurag! If you haven’t tried minimalist shoes or barefoot running (which I think is the case), take the transtion process slow and easy. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’d be happy to advise.

      1. Thanks Alan! I tried barefoot running a few times in the past 3 months. Longest distance has been around 5K. I have noticed that my calves ache a lot more. Any idea why that is so?

      2. That’s to be expected, Anurag. When you wear traditional running shoes, your calves tighten with each step you take, because the heels of those shoes are higher that the forefoot. (That’s why minimalist shoes are called “zero drop,” because there’s no difference between the forefoot and heel height.) When you switch to running barefoot, your calves are going to stretch back to their normal configuration. The feeling goes away after a short time. Until it does, keep your run distance below 5K, and take a day or days off to ease the hurt. Be patient, and all will soon be well.

      3. Awesome! Thanks for the info Alan. Sounds like I need to be patient with this transition. What do you think about alternating between shoes and barefeet? Doable not stick to one path only?

      4. My feeling is that alternating between barefoot and shod, while probably not doing any harm, is counter-productive. The more you run barefoot, the better your form, your method, and your conditioning will be. Best approach would be to take the time to nail down running barefoot, then wear shoes (eg, the Moc3s) when the circumstances require or suggest their use, such as rough surfaces, cold weather, or trails. That way, you’ll carry your good barefoot form into your shod running.

  5. Alan:

    As usual, a beautifully written and very informative piece.

    I’ll definitely be checking these out, because if my friend Alan says they’re good, they HAVE to be!

    Best,

    T

      1. Absolutely. I’ll probably purchase a pair in the next month or so. They seem like they would work well for CrossFit, running, the Spartan Race and MMA. I’m excited! So much so, I forwarded your article to a friend of mine that is a Beachbody coach and fitness consultant. I told her she should also consider subscribing to your blog. ;^)

        T

  6. Keep us posted. Very interested as I run in 5 finger Vibrams but tried some minimalist Merrills. Too constrictive. Too cold in NE Wisconsin this year for the 5 fingers when it’s below 20 F.

    1. I used to run in my VFF KSOs in temperatures down to -10C (14F). They were cold, though, possibly because of the separate toes. I’ve run in the Moc3s down to about -5C (23F0, both with and without socks, and been more comfortable than with the VFFs. That said, though, I also am able to run barefoot at temps down to about -5C. 🙂

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