Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Long-Term Test: Shimano M088LE Shoes vs. Hobbit Feet

Lo, it was way back in ought-thirteen that I first introduced you, my wide-footed reader, to the Shimano M088LE shoe. And alas, I did promise to report back, so report I shall.

I'm sorry to say that while all my initial praises of the shoe (not ugly, nice and wide) did pan out over our two-year test period, I was not thrilled with their durability. Sure, the soles don't look all that bad for a shoe that's seen a couple years of commutes, hike-a-bikes, farmer's market runs, and whatnot:

But the uppers didn't fare so well under the incessant pressure of my knobby toes:

(For the record: That's my FINGER demonstrating the "aftermarket ventilation" -- even my toes aren't that freakishly prehensile.)

The mesh (probably nylon?) on these shoes seems to be vulnerable to wear and ultraviolet exposure. What started as a small abrasion (the sort of thing you'd expect to get on a shoe designed for mountain biking) degraded fast, until I had a the custom pinky-toe window shown above.

Further proof comes from the instep of the same shoe, in the seam between two fake-leather sections held together by the same mesh material. No initial abrasion here (the "leather" bits keep it pretty protected), but the mesh got brittle and failed anyway:

Had this instep hole been the only blowout, it wouldn't have been a deal-breaker (you can hardly notice it unless you're wearing white socks or sticking your finger through the hole), but the pinky-toe blowout was already well developed at this point.

It looks like the successor to the M088 (the M089, also available in wide) wraps the fake leather up over the Pinky Toe Danger Zone a bit more, so maybe it's less prone to abrasion-induced blowouts... but I still fear for the structural integrity of that mesh material once it's been through a few soaking/sunbaking cycles.

So, great shoe for fit, but not tough enough, in the eminently valuable opinion of one random internet babbler. I'm currently trying out a wide shoe from Bontrager, so check back in 2017 to see how that one's holding up.

(Obligatory disclaimer: I buy all my own shoes with my own money and put them through a rigorous battery of unscientific testing known as "wearing them". No illicit bribes were exchanged for this opinion, though if you follow that link to the M089 and buy it on Amazon, they tell me I might make a couple nickels someday. I won't hold my breath.)

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