Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Review: Initial Thoughts

Vivobarefoot UltraI have a confession to make – I like my Crocs. Mine aren’t the real thing – they’re cheap knockoffs bought for $10 at Target – but for kicking around the yard or walking the dog at night, they really are quite comfortable, and few shoes have as wide a toebox. What’s more, they seem to be virtually indestructible. My kids are also big Croc fans, and given the choice, my son would wear them exclusively when shoes are required (he pretty much does, save for gym days when he must where sneakers). Given the poor shoe options available for boys, I view Crocs as pretty much as good an option as is out there (until I get him some of the Merrell Barefoot kids shoes that just came out – I have high hopes for those).

I will also admit to having considered, on more than one occasion, the idea of running in my Crocs. My kids do it all the time, so why can’t I? Well, I’ve never had the guts to actually try it outside, but when I first saw the VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra, I immediately thought: “Now is my chance!” Like Crocs, the VIVOBAREFOOT Ultras are one of those shoes that people will either love or hate. They’re made entirely out of EVA foam, and they are porous in the same way that Crocs are full of holes (wonder if I can get some TP Ultra Jibbitz…). Are they ugly? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I for one kind of like them (I’ve lost all concern when it comes to the appearance of my footwear).

VIVOBAREFOOT UltraVivobarefoot Ultra Medial

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra (sock liner installed)

VIVOBAREFOOT is marketing the Ultra as a “light-weight barefoot amphibious running shoe.” I would concur with this categorization. They are most definitely lightweight, with my size 41 pair weighing in at only 3.8 oz (without the tongue or insole). They are very much barefoot-style shoes, as the thin (6mm), zero drop sole provides excellent ground feel. They are also amphibious, as the EVA construction combined with the open upper allows them to shed water really well (I ran twice in them in pretty heavy rain). The fit is great, very much like my VIVOBAREFOOT Aqua work shoes (my current favorite work shoe). The forefoot is really wide, and the speed-lace system allows me to secure them to my foot in a way that cannot be done with my Crocs.

Vivobarefoot Ultra Top

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra (sock liner installed)

Vivobarefoot Ultra No Liner

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra (sock liner removed, tongue not installed)

Vivobarefoot Ultra Sole

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Sole

In addition to the main EVA shoe, the Ultra also comes with a sock liner that can be inserted into the shoe (see photos below), as well as a tongue that can be attached if the sock liner is not to your liking. The sock liner is made of a neoprene like material, and it has a puncture resistant sole. The sock liner is problematic for me as it is very constricting – the fit is completely different from the shoe itself (wish I could get a size 42 sock liner for my size 41 Ultras). I found the sockliner to be uncomfortable and overly narrow in the forefoot, to the point that it squeezes my toes together. Don’t think I’ll be using is much, but that’s not a major concern as it really isn’t necessary. Disergard all of my commentary about the sockliner – I’m an idiot and ordered my Ultras 2 sizes too small, no idea what I was thinking! They do still fit well without it though…

Vivobarefoot Ultra Sock Liner TopVivobarefoot Ultra Sock Liner Sole

Ultra Sock Liner (upper and puncture resistant sole)

My main reason for buying the Ultra was not to use it as a running shoe, but rather as a summertime kick-around shoe (essentially a zero drop replacement for my Crocs). For that purpose, they are going to work out great – they are extremely comfortable, and easy to slip on and off. Despite my intended purpose in buying them, I couldn’t resist the urge to try running in them. I’ve now done two runs in the Ultras – 4.25 miles at 7:29 pace, and 5 miles at 7:18 pace (both with the tongue inserted, but not the sock liner). The first run was sockless, and overall it went pretty well. It was wet and rainy out during the run, and I intentionally ran through some puddles to see how they would handle them – great shoe for running in wet conditions! The two major issues I had were a hot spot that developed behind my big toe on one side (could be that I didn’t cinch that one tight enough), and the fact that the open upper allows sand and road debris to get into the shoe.

The next day I tried running in them with a pair of Smartwool socks on foot, and it felt much better. The socks seemed to help prevent any sand that got in from irritating my feet. I was able to push the pace under 6:00/mile for brief stretches on both runs (had the dog, so couldn’t really cut loose for too long), and my form felt great. As I said, ground feel in these shoes is excellent.

All in all, after several days and a decent amount of wear, I’m pretty happy with this purchase. I foresee wearing these a lot this summer, and probably doing the occasional run in them as well (the sand/debris issue is my biggest concern, and I have other zero drop options that take care of that). Overall, a worthy, though a bit pricy, upgrade to my Crocs!

MSRP pricing for the Ultra is $90, and they can be purchased at a variety of places on-line (I could better justify the price if the sock-liner actually fit well or if I was smart enough to order the right size shoe for myself! – see above). The Ultras can also be purchased from Zappos with free shipping, or directly from VIVOBAREFOOT.com by clicking the banner below:

For alternative reviews of the Ultra, check out:

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra review by Tuck at Yelling Stop

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra test run by Harry H. at My Tree of Life

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. Dominiquederooij says:

     When it comes to comfort and functionality, I am with you, beauty is no issue.  Besides, I don’t think they look that bad.

  2. Marie Krochmal says:

    Thanks for the review! I went ahead and bought these and they arrived today. The sock lining on my left foot is just too narrow, do you think I can expect it to stretch? The right one fits nicely but snug, and they feel great when wearing only the outer shoe.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I gave up on the liners in mine, way too tight. The outer shoe fits great though.
      Sent from my iPad

  3.  Pete,

    Thanks for the post.  When running in them, did you notice any slipping within the shoe when sockless?  It would seem that the interior of the shoe (without the liner) could get slippery when the foot sweats.  Love the look of the shoes!

  4. Pete, I was wondering if this would be a great recovery shoe?  I’m looking for a minimalist shoe just to lounge around in after a long workout.

  5. Kato1kalin says:

    You bought the shoe for the same reason I did for a summer knock around. Did you run into how much noise the shoes made? Just walking around the shoes squeak to a point were I cant see wearing them around town and they squeak even more with the sock insert out. I love the shoe its my dream shoe (except for the sole!!!) But the noise is a deal breaker for me.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Strange, I haven’t had noise issues.

      • Kalin Bucholz says:

        Strange right back at ya.  You dont have any squeaks at all when you walk around, its quite? I have squeaks like flip flops like the rubbing between skin and rubber. Maybe i got defects?

  6. Charlie Gleason says:

    Would my foot slip around if I used them on technical trails?

  7. I just ordered a pair of Ultras through onlineshoes.com.  They also sell the EVO.  Through 5/30/11, you can save 20% with code: 1SUN.

    Has anyone tried these shoes while kayaking or boating?  I’m excited to try them in and around the water.

  8. David Henry says:

    Just ordered a pair from shoes.com and the 20% worked…got them for $68…not bad, now just hope they fit good :).

  9.  I’m not surprised that you got that hot spots while you ran.  It just seems like that EVA would really wear on parts of your foot due to its stiffness.  Is the upper more or less flexible than the uppers on Crocs?  They would be great around the house and lawn as you intend to primarily use them, though.

    • Pete Larson says:

      It’s really not stiff at all. The hot spot was on the bottom of my
      foot, rubbing on the little nibs on the sole I think.

  10. Hi,

    I have a doubt regarding barefoot running shoes.

    Is barefoot running shoes going to help over pronators or flat foot runners to gain more stability while running ?

    What is the use of bare foot running for runners with wrong running movements?

    Thanks

    Nigel.

  11. cody r. says:

    heck, it even looks like you could run in the sock liner alone…

  12.  My sister has been running in Crocs (with toe socks) for years!

  13. Hello Peter, do they come true to size?

Speak Your Mind

*