The Best Barefoot Dress Shoes: Vivobarefoot Lisbon vs Chronology Fer

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 Chronology Fer. 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. 

 

Insole

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. 

 

Construction Method

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. 

 

Resoling 

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.

 

Leather

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.

 

Flexibility

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.

 

Shoelace

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.

 

Shoe Style

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.

 

Toe Style

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.

 

Toe Box

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.

 

Weight

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.

 

Price

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.

 

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 =)




Mountain Chang
Mountain Chang

Author



4 Responses

Mountain Evan Chang
Mountain Evan Chang

June 29, 2016

@Mark, hmm that’s a shame. Their old sole had a great traditional stitched leather look!

@Keith W, I’m thinking of turning the Zetone into a Derby in version 5!

@Mats, http://shoelacesexpress.com/elasticdress.asp

Mats
Mats

June 25, 2016

Where can you find elastic laces that look like normal laces? I’ve only been able to find lock-lace kind of elastic laces when searching the internets. That’s fine for my running stuff, but for casualc wear I much prefer the old school, normal lace look.

Keith W
Keith W

May 03, 2016

Frankly, the Libson sole is entirely too hard, thin, inflexible. Humans were never meant to walk long distances over flat rocks, IMHO. Vivos are so thin and hard, that when wearing on the modern man made surfaces ot this moder time, the mimic walking over flat rocks. All Vivo hand cut shoes are the hardest syles they have.
I’m just hoping for a less formal, derby perhaps, shoe from Chronology-LG

Mark
Mark

April 18, 2016

They’ve changed the Lisbon! Looks more flexible, but less dressy. Perhaps they are ceding the traditional end of the spectrum to you.

http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/handcut-lisbon-mens?colour=Black

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