Top positive review
A decent minimalist trail running shoe, with minor issues
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 May 2020
Overall, these are decent barefoot style running shoes. If you want to try out minimalist running and don't want to shell out for a pair of Vibram Five Fingers or Vivobarefoot, these are a very good way to test the water.
The first three photos here are the shoes brand new before I'd run in them. All the rest are from 2 months after purchase, with approximately 125 miles of trail running done in them.
Bit of background: I've run in minimalist shoes for about 8 years now, mainly VFFs and early iterations of the Merrell Trailglove, before they ruined them. VFFs are my preferred shoe, the V-Trail 1.0 I found excellent except for the fact the toes disintegrated after about 4 months (my previous pair lasted 4 years). I was reluctant to buy into the V-Trail 2.0 due to this short life and quite a few negative reviews.
So I was looking for an alternative and I kept seeing these Saguaro shoes on Amazon and thought I'd give them a try. Even if they only last 4 months I'd be saving money over the Vibrams.
First the basics, these shoes have a large toe box which lets my feet spread out as much as they need to. The sole is thin and flexible - more flexible than the VFF V-Trail 1.0. It's zero drop and has no padding and no arch support. These are all good things!
They feel cheaper than VFFs, the upper is a sort of stretch fabric like you'd find on a water shoe, very synthetic. Any detail you see on the upper is purely aesthetic - none of it gives any sort of shape or support to the foot covering - it's a thin, plastic film that adheres to the fabric. The ankle collar is unpadded, but there is a peice of slightly thicker material that covers the inside back of the shoe where it cradles the heel.
The laces are elasticated with a quick-tightening mechanism that works fine. A few reviews have noted that the covering for the lace ends comes off. I have not found this, mine are still firmly attached but I was aware of the tendancy before I got them and have avoided pulling on it.
When I first put them on, two things jumped out at me. Firstly, ground feel is very good. I took out the insoles as I do with all my barefoot shoes, I doubt they'd last long anyway. The second thing is that the fit is much looser than I'm used too. VFFs glove the foot, they're very shaped and the laces ensure that the shoe doesn't move on your foot. The Saguaro's cannot match this. The upper is too insubstantial, the laces are just pulling on that stretch upper fabric. If you tighten them too much, the fabric will gather up as you can see starting to happen in one of my pictures. It took some getting used to, and I'd still prefer a more fitted shoe, but I did get used to it and don't really notice it (although I do notice some things that may be a result of it - more on that later).
My first run I did 3 miles and I wore socks. I don't normally wear socks when I run in minimalist shoes but I wanted to get a few miles in without worrying about any rubbing that might occur. This went fine, the shoe has a good grip for trail running. I run a lot of woodland trails, a lot of Forestry Commission gravel roads, some grass, some sand. The shoes coped with all of these and felt grippy. I was aware that my feet were moving slightly inside the shoe. With a VFF, the shoe feels like an extension of your foot, with the Saguaro it feels more like you've got a rubber flap hanging off your foot - which in effect you do. I don't want to make it sound like I was sliding around inside the shoe, it's a very small amount of movement, not enough to make you feel unstable or unsafe. But it's enough to build up a bit of friction heat under the sole.
On my next run I went sockless and discovered the first real limitation of the Saguago. There was no rubbing around the upper, and with bare feet I felt a bit more secure inside the shoe but the fabric under the foot is not very comfortable to run on. My sole skin felt sore after this run, hot and friction-burnt. I could also see after the run that the fabric under the midfoot was wearing already. This is all probably due to the fact that the shoe is not fully fitted and is moving around a bit under the foot.
Since then I've run in socks and have become very used to the feel of the Saguaro's. 125 miles later, I have to say I've been very impressed with the way they've held up for such cheap shoes. The sole looks good, the upper remains well attached and they perform the same as on that first run. Some of that plastic detailing has cracked and split but its all cosmetic. Inside the shoe that spot under the ball of the foot has worn through (see photo).
I've done runs as long as 18 miles in these without any problems developing that weren't there after 3 miles. If you hit stones, it will hurt, if you tread on a thorn or a nail, it's going to puncture the sole and go into your foot. VFFs have a little more protection in this regard, particularly in the arch which is vulnerable to bruising if you catch a stone wrong in the Saguaro's but if you're aware of your running surface, as you should be, it happens very rarely.
In this review it may seem like I've focussed on the negatives, but minimalist shoes are a bit like that - you want the shoe to feel like its not there so a positive is really just an absence of negative. To that end, for £30 - these shoes are actually really good.
I've come to them from years of running in more expensive shoes and found them to be more than adequate most of the time. If you're considering trying minimalist or barefoot style running then this is a much cheaper way to get into it than risking £100-odd on a big name brand, and you'll quickly find out if it's for you or not.
I fully expect to get at least another couple of months out of these, based on current wear indications, they will probably last longer than my last Vibrams. At which point I may replace them with another pair. I've noticed Saguaro now have a shoe that looks like it has reinforcements from the sole to the laces which ought to result in more of a 'hug' around the foot. (https://www.amazon.co.uk/SAGUARO-Barefoot-Minimalist-Non-Slip-Breathable/dp/B084FV85N9/) If this solves the problems I've had with this shoe, it may become a firm favourite.
It's now October, 7 months after I bought these shoes. I've run in nothing else since. Surprisingly, they're still going strong - the sole is good, the upper is still well attached and these have well over 500 miles of trail running on them now. For durability they put recent Vibram Five Fingers to shame. The footbed covering wore away ages ago and I put the insoles in to avoid grating my soles on them. The insoles have squished down considerably so they don't add much stack height, just a bit of comfort.
One issue I have come across is when they get wet, they don't dry quickly. The shoe gets heavy and 'hangs' off the top of your foot a bit which isn't great. I don't know how they're going to content with the English winter. Again I'm hoping the newer design with the plastic lace holes that extend to the sole might help hold the shoe on the foot better. Only reason I haven't bought a pair of those yet is because these are still fine.