In this blog post, I take a look at the Oesh shoe. This shoe is not really a running shoe and is certainly not suitable for trail running on terrain like the Ridge Run. Nevertheless, this shoe has potential merit as a shoe for those suffering foot troubles. Let’s face it, most of the time spent in shoes is not while you are running. The Oesh shoe may be suitable for wearing at work and home especially if you have to walk or stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
This year, I am spending the months of November, December and at least part of January (depending upon when ski conditions in Montana improve) in Florida. Compared to Montana, Florida has a lot more concrete and paved surfaces. Homes and buildings in Florida (at least along the east coast on the barrier islands) are built on a concrete slabs. This is because of ground water and potential flooding from hurricanes. In years past when staying down here, my feet start aching from all the hard concrete surfaces. Hence the Oesh shoe. I thought I would give them a try and see if I could avoid the abuse to my feet that my feet usually endure when living down here.
A Pro-Pronation Shoe
The Oesh shoe is a shoe that allows the foot to naturally pronate. This is what makes this shoe unique. The Oesh shoe is the opposite of a medial posted motion control shoe. In fact, the medial side (inside) of the sole is just a hollow cavity. The sole of the shoe consists of a carbon fiber plate spring that is folded over (hinged) along the lateral (outside) of the sole. This creates a carbon fiber sandwich that is open and when compressed allows the foot to pronate or roll in as the plate flexes.
This concept turns the old school of thought of motion control upside down. I’ve never had much success with motional control shoes. I found running in motion control shoes to bother my knees and eventually lead to Iliotibial band friction syndrome.
Other than being a little narrow in the toes, the Oesh shoe has a roomy and comfortable fit. It is straight lasted. This may contribute to the sense of narrowness especially on the medial (big toe) side at the toes.
The Oesh shoe is a heavy shoe. Here is the weight chart from the Oesh website. For a walking shoe or a work or dress shoe, the heavy weight is not noticeable. For a running shoe, they are heavy and feel heavy. The thick upper along with the carbon fiber plate contribute to the shoe’s weight.
These are good looking shoes. They are entirely appropriate for wearing in all but the most formal environments. They would be fine in semi-formal office, school and work settings.
The outsole is fairly smooth and is appropriate for indoor surfaces or dry outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or paved roads. These are not a trail shoe.
Presently, Oesh only offers shoes in women’s sizes 7-11. I wear a men’s size 10 in most shoes and sometimes a size 10.5 (Hoka Bondi B) or a size 9.5 depending upon the brand and model. The women’s size 11 fits me just fine.
Although I do not consider the Oesh shoe a running shoe, I’ve tried a few 40 minute runs in them. I ran on paved roads and the concrete bike trail along the Florida coast. The first thing I noticed is the clop clop noise they make. They sound like a horse clopping along a cobblestone road. I’m not sure if the sole of the shoe is causing the clop noise or the compression of the carbon fiber plate sandwich. Either way, the noise is hard to prevent unless you run gingerly with an unnatural gate. Maybe as the shoes get more miles on them, the clop noise will diminish.
After running for 15-20 minutes my toes become numb. The lack of cushioning probably causes this as the initial impact force is rather high in these shoes. I’ve also experienced this type of numbness in other shoes like the minimalist New Balance MT101 when running on hard surfaces such as paved roads.
I’ve even experienced this numbness not only when running, but also when using an elliptical trainer. In my experience, your feet eventually toughen up and no longer get numb.
There are some customer’s that have successfully used Oesh shoes for running, but personally, I do not think they make a very good running shoe. They feel heavy and slow. They are also stiff – both the upper and the sole. In my opinion, the Oesh shoe has the most potential as a therapy shoe for situations where you have to walk or stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
A PF (Plantar Fasciitis) Therapy Shoe
When researching the Oesh shoe you will come across lots of ancedotal claims that they prevent foot pain for those suffering from PF. I would have to somewhat agree. That is the case for situations of walking or standing on hard surfaces, but not for high impact activities like running.
When running, my heels got just as sore in the Oesh as they do when using traditional running shoes.
I did notice that on the Elliptical trainer, my heels did not get as sore in the Oesh shoe as in my other running shoes. Remember, Elliptical training is quite different than running. It is load bearing, but low impact.
My first pair of shoes had a flaw with the lace loops. One of them was not attached well. Upon my first time using them when tightening down the laces to get a snug fit, a lace loop pulled out. Oesh replaced my shoes quickly and kindly and sent me a prepaid shipping label to return the damaged pair.
Oesh expressed a little frustration with the factory in China that makes them. Supposedly this Chinese factory is known for quality and makes other brands such as Asics. Upon close inspection, I’ve noticed glue residue on the sole indicating manufacturing sloppiness. The sole is glued to the carbon plate and it does not take much force to peel them apart and de-laminate the sole. I’m curious to see just how long these shoes hold up.
I find it tragic that a small startup American shoe company has to go to China to get their shoes manufactured. Just another symptom indicating that the American manufacturing base is all but dead.
Whether you blame free trade, hyper government regulation of business, taxation, organized labor driving up labor costs or the synergistic combination these; there is now a situation in America where it is more attractive to go elsewhere to manufacture, like China, instead of America.
The Oesh shoe is expensive. Full pop retail is nearly $200.00. Occasionally, a pair will be sold on eBay at a significant discount. With the Oesh shoe, you are paying for novelty of technology.
What I Would Change
- Get rid of the lace loops and use traditional holes in the upper for lacing.
- To make the shoe more suitable for outdoors, use a flexible membrane to cover up the opening on the inside of the shoe. This would prevent debris such as dirt, sand, rocks, leaves, twigs etc. getting trapped between the carbon plates.
- Give the outsole a little more tread definition giving the shoes more traction.
- Make the upper thinner, lighter and more breathable.
- In addition to offering more sizes, maybe there should be different models of stiffness of the carbon plate. Regardless of foot size, doesn’t someone weighing 200 pounds needs a stiffer plate then someone weighing 100 pounds?
The Oesh shoe has merit as a therapy shoe for those suffering foot problems such as PF. It is most suitable as an indoor shoe or for outside on surfaces that are hard, dry and clean like sidewalks.
I can see it being of benefit to those that have to spend long periods of time on their feet at work. It may be okay as an indoor workout shoe, but I found them to not work very well for running.