In a sea of new products at the 2017 edition of the OutDoor Friedrichshafen sports fair, it was the Naglev Unico shoes that somehow stuck out for me.
Impressive Shoes, Somehow
It may have helped that I saw the Naglev Unico presented at a press showing of new products. Even there, though, they were basically just new shoes from a small Italian startup.
All impressive enough shoes, somehow, that I remembered them and got to talking with Naglev over the summer.
Funnily enough, it was just while I was on Hainan, towards the end of my wife’s and my summer visit to her parents in China, that Naglev agreed to provide me with a pair of these shoes.
“Funnily,” because I got them delivered straight from the factory in China…
Full disclosure, to make it obvious: Thus, I received these shoes for free, for testing/reviewing purposes. No money changed hands either way; I remain independent in my reporting and free to give you my own impressions, without any instructions or even just influence.
The Naglev Unico Construction
It may have been my interest in technical / performance men’s wear that made me notice the Unico.
The shoes are, in their general appearance, built in a way reminiscent of traditional hiking/approach shoes with a low cut. Consequently, they are rather heavy and solid shoes, not exactly made for running.
At the same time, the Unico have a fashionable two-tone sole, with a Speedcross-like lug profile. With that and the comfortable cut, fastpacking and even some running is far from impossible.
Most noticeably – if that is something you notice – the upper is made of a Kevlar weave, constructed as one piece.
This makes for a sleek (at least in my opinion) look, and it makes the upper waterproof. Some rubber-like overlays give the upper additional support and contribute to the looks.
The lacing is by a sturdy (thin climbing rope-like) lace running through cord loops extending out through the upper.
(This lace is extremely durable but one of those requiring a double knot to not slip open by itself.)
Liner and Insole
Quite unlike most such heavier-built shoes (except for some of the Arc’teryx footwear lineup), the Naglev Unico have a sock-like liner perfectly enclosing the ankle. The lower part of that inside the shoe is made with sheepwool.
On the bottom inside, finally, lies an insole made of leather, with coconut fibers underneath.
Materials and looks all well and good, but shoes need to work as shoes.
There are times I manage(d) to feel something of hot spots on the very outsides of my big toes when wearing the Unico. The shoes are not extra-wide, but should give most feet (toes) enough room.
That effect is, rather, a combination of the shoes being built so sturdy around the toes (and all around) and my feet just having some issues. No matter which shoes I wear, I would feel something of that.
The usual applies: These are shoes, so you will want to try out how they fit and work with your foot size and shape.
The Naglev Unico still remain one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes – for everyday travel and hiking wear – that I have.
Sneakers like the Icebug Now4 they aren’t, but then, I would not want to wear those to go, not just through town, but also up in the Alps – or other places.
With the Unico, I have gone many places.
My Use Experience with the Naglev Unico
Here is where I got convinced of the quality of the Naglev Unico, in all the places I went with them as my “unico” – unique, only – shoes.
On Hainan, I already started wearing the Unico like that, on Haikou’s hot asphalt and sandy beaches.
Next up was Hong Kong, and the Unico saved me from wet feet in the tropical downpour in which I decided to run around, take photos, seek out matcha desserts.
Last day in Hong Kong, I got the chance to hike up to the Lion’s Rock, over wet roads, typical Hong Kong trails, rocks and roots and polished-tile paths.
The Unico proved themselves fast and grippy enough to even tempt me into some running (even if they don’t have the lightest weight, they are built well for that). Only the wet polished tiles were slippery, but that’s something I’ve also experienced in other places and with any and all shoes so far.
Back in Austria, I wore the Unico a lot in my everyday life, and came to only think more strongly that they are one of the best-looking shoes (to go with “technical” clothing) I have seen to date.
When I went to Japan – to hike the Kumano Kodo and to “get at home” in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo – I again took no shoes but the Unico with me…
By now, after all that, issues naturally show:
Some of the wool lining at the heel rubbed/pilled off quite soon.
It has made absolutely no difference I can tell, however.
The sole has lost quite a bit of its rubber, to the point where some of the black main material has begun showing.
That sort of wear is to be expected, given the hundreds of miles I have covered in these shoes, but I do want to mention it.
All the more as we will see about that: I have reported these issues back to Naglev, and at this year’s Outdoor trade fair, we will see if we can get the shoes re-soled. (They also offered to let me send the shoes back, but since we will all be at the Outdoor trade fair, it is too convenient to do/try it like that.)
That would be excellent as I a) haven’t yet even mentioned that their name, Naglev, comes from “Natural Glocal Evolution”, the three words they are looking to orient themselves on. (More on that, probably, from the Outdoor Friedrichshafen.) And b)?
The upper may have collected some dust into its weave; it seems to me that it is now a bit lighter in color (except when it gets wet) than it used to be. That is absolutely the only issue I see with this major part of the shoes, however.
Even the lacing, which I wondered about, shows no signs of wear and tear at all.
The insole has begun to show its age/abuse. When it is taken out – as I did for the video review – it’s clear how much my toes sweated into the leather and how much the coconut fibers got moved around.
Still, in all but constant wear (like I did in Japan), these materials do work as intended. They not only deliver a comfortable feeling, they also provide some moisture regulation and keep the shoes non/barely stinky.
Of course, when you live in the shoes for a while, there will be odor. It has disappeared again after airing them out, like with no other shoes, however.
After this year-long, intensive wear-test in a range of conditions, I am happy I was initially impressed by these shoes.
Innovation is hard to come by (or too easy, in all that’s constantly being promised anew by the big players); finding outstanding shoes from new producers is all the more interesting.
You will have to see if you like the looks and find yourself comfortable with the weight and shape of the Naglev Unico – as with any shoes.
For me, they have been working really well.
In terms of fit and performance, and in the way they combine with my interest in (and practical use of) “performance” pieces which are technical in some way in order to be durable, what I consider good-looking, and usable for all the conditions and situations I will find myself in.
Further information and shopping options are easiest to get directly on the Naglev website.
The shoes are available in a men’s and a women’s version, by the way.