Review: Jingas as minimal running shoes.

It has been about 18 months since I decided to try a pair of Jingas as replacements for my Brooks running shoes. I was interested in barefoot style /POSE running so sought something thin, flexible and cheaper than Vibram Five-Fingers. Jingas are actually salsa slippers, but fit the bill very well as they are completely flat, have no midsole and a very flexible, hard-wearing outsole. The company also has a nice ethics and community involvement programme that is worthy of your purchasing support; and the shoes come in multitudes of funky colours to bring some Brazilian flair to your wardrobe.

I have used these for sprints, gravel trails, and runs for up to 2 hours. They are fine; and provide a fun, cheap, ethical solution for those seeking minimal footwear but I wont be using them again as running shoes for a number of reasons.

Fit: They are very narrow, and although soft enough to accommodate my foot, my toes could not spread naturally and I felt this impact my running. Also, the lacing tends to hold over the midfoot, rather than locking the ankle. I always felt I was running in the front of the shoe.

Durability: The sole is very hard, which probably makes spins and dance moves easier, but could be slippy on the street. Luckily, the style of running required negates this issue and I used these on the iced up streets of the big freeze. The bigger issue is the clipping noise of the sole on the pavement. I sound like a horse going down the street, and it is very hard to use ‘how quiet you are running’ as an indicator of technique. As you can see, the soles have virtually no wear after maybe 400 miles (about a third of that on gravel trails).

Unfortunately, the mesh uppers and leather-like sections do not fair so well. The pleather cracked quite early-on and has been mostly a cosmetic issue. My wide foot pushed the mesh into pavement and gravel, wearing through it very quickly. Again, this looks bad /hardcore but also lets small bits of debris in and traps them… this normally falls off your bare foot.

The mesh also smells pretty gnarly and is hard to clean, and even wearing casually, walking on wet ground will quickly have water seep into the low mesh.

To be fair, the structure still holds the protective sole on my foot and I don’t doubt I could still get more miles out of them, although some worn bits are now causing calluses so their retirement is imminent.

To be doubly fair, it should be noted that Jinga have just made some revisions: there is now a mens version (previously unisex) that has a wider forefoot. The sole has also been modified to extend slightly around the bottom of the shoe. This should provide some extra protection for the upper from wear and wet ground. I would be tempted again for some colourful, packable summer slippers, but not for running.

It’s starting to heat up so I’ll be back to more barefoot on the warm, dry days, and may make my own leather slipper for wet days when it is a bit harder to see the glass. For the trails and ultra-marathon it’s currently a decision between forking out for Inov8 F-lite’s or Merrell Trail Gloves….

edit: Merrell Trail Gloves it is! UK 9.5 was unavailable but the 9.0s appear to be okay. Initial impressions are positive – great fit, wide forefoot, quieter…

3 Replies to “Review: Jingas as minimal running shoes.”

  1. Wow, they really were tested to destruction! The barefoot thing is definitely interesting, but I think its ludicrous the prices some manufacturers are charging for their “barefoot technology”. Hats off for trying something a bit different!

  2. The production runs are probably small; pushing the cost up, but there really is less to the shoes.
    I guess it is a boutique market and they are still cheaper than ‘normal’ running shoes in most cases… but it is painful to be forking out £80+ for something that may only last a year. I’d be happier if I knew the workers were getting decent wages and conditions like at Jinga, but it’s an unknown with most companies.

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