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    V1, V2, V3? A Comparison of Our Oxford Versions

    UPDATE 2016 March 10: We have a new comparison guide. See


    Now that we are getting close to receiving Version 3 of our barefoot dress shoes, I thought it would be good to make a comprehensive overview of how each of the 3 versions differ.

    If you’re browsing our newly-launched online outlet store, this will help you decide between getting a lightly used V1, a lightly used V2, or pre-ordering a new V3.

    The first and most obvious difference will be…

    The Leather

    Leather Looks

    We launched our brand with Version 1, sporting a leather called Sensuous. I chose this leather during a visit to Seidel Tannery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I asked them to give me their softest, most supple, full-grain leather in black. This was it. At the time, I saw the Primal Professional as a comfort shoe that happened to be dressy, so I wanted a leather that would be comfortable right out the box.

    As time went on, I started to see the Primal Professional from the other direction, as a dress shoe that happened to be comfy. It sounds like semantics, but it really makes a difference in how you go about designing the shoe, and what the shoe eventually becomes.

    From this new point of view, I found that the Sensous leather on V1 was *too* soft. It oftentimes couldn’t hold the “structured” look that is expected in dress shoes. Sensuous leather also caused some manufacturing issues for our shoemaker. We needed a new leather that fit our new needs, as well as solve our manufacturing problems. We found one: Trek leather.

    The leather used in V2 has a more structured and dressy look than the leather used in V1. V3 will feature the same leather as V2.

    Leather Feel

    Unfortunately, the structured look of V2 leather comes at a small cost: some break-in time.

    V1 is typically comfortable right out the box. V2 can be comfortable right out the box. But realistically, expect to take up to 3 days to break them in before the leather is comfortable.

    In the context of dress footwear, however, 3 days is nothing. A traditional goodyear-welted dress shoe with a thick leather sole can take months to break in. 3 days of discomfort is a small price to pay for better looks for the remainder of the shoes’ life.

    Upper Pattern

    Our upper pattern stayed the same from V1 to V2. Between V2 and V3, we made two changes to the upper pattern.

    First, for those who felt the sides were hitting their ankles, we lowered the cuff. Second, for those of you with low-volume feet, we modified the area over the instep, so that the shoes can lace closer to your foot.


    These appear to be simple changes but it still took a couple iterations until I was finally happy with it. 

    Other Features

    Gusseted Tongue

    Glen Van Peski, who did an early review of a prototype on Toe Salad, mentioned that it would be nice if the tongue was attached at the top, so that he didn’t have to hold it every time he put on his shoes. This feature was implemented in V2 and will stay in V3.


    Our shoelaces on V1 and V2 were a flat waxed cotton. This made them stay tied and tight really well, but could be snaggy in the eyelets. Our new waxed cotton laces for V3 are round, which offers the following benefits:

    1. They're easier to lace through the eyelets
    2. They stay tied just as well as the old ones
    3. They will resist fraying even longer than the old ones
    4. They catch more light and look dressier

    Not only are the new round laces for V3 better than the flat laces in V1 and V2, but they are THE best dress laces I've ever come across.

    Cut-and-Sew Quality

    Thanks to a new cut-and-sew supplier for our uppers, V3 is a big jump in quality from V1 and V2. It will feature tighter stitching, as showcased in this photo. 

    Poron Cushioning

    V3 features a thin layer of Poron cushioning. Sounds blasphemous, right? But it’s working great! First, some backstory.

    I was first introduced to the idea of cushion when Justin @BirthdayShoes reviewed Xero Shoes’ Amuri Cloud. Steven Sashen @Xero Shoes is a true barefoot connoisseur. So when he released a sandal with EVA cushioning, it piqued my interest. 

    Months later, in August, Andrew @LEMS Shoes gave me a call. He had just read our newsletter introducing our new V3. I had given him a pair of our V2 shoes, and he had some feedback on that, too. One thing he recommended was making things softer underfoot. 

    If Steven and Andrew are both saying a bit of cushion is the way to go, I had to check it out.

    We tend to think of cushioning in the context of thick, marshmallow-like, traditional running shoes. This has a number of issues. First, the heel stack throws off our posture and form. Second, that much foam cuts off proprioceptive feedback and groundfeel. Third, EVA is not very durable, so when that much material gets pounded over and over, it will degrade, change shape, and cause even more posture and form issues (see an example on The Gait Guys here). 

    However, if you’re using a thin layer, everything changes. First, we’re still zero-drop, and there is no heel stack. Second, soft foam actually allows quite a bit of proprioceptive data to come through. Third, it’s so thin that even if degrades, the relative change is negligible. 

    For us, using the more expensive high-performance Poron over EVA means that our cushioning will last much longer.

    Another benefit that I’ve found is that Poron counteracts the slight slip that is inevitable when you wear smooth socks over a smooth leather footbed. It allows your foot to sink in just the slightest, keeping it in place.

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