Vivobarefoot Ultra

I was excited to try these shoes out. It’s features were very appealing: fantastically light (113 grams), super thin sole (6mm), waterproof and won’t break the budget (about A$100).

It’s one thing to read that a pair of shoes weighs a measly 113g but to actually hold them is astonishing. The design is straightforward with a light, protective outer shell and an internal neoprene sock that can be removed from the shoe. This I assume is to give credence to the ‘amphibious’ capabilities of the shoe. The outer shell and sole has a nice straight last, is very flat (aside from a slight raise at the toes) and has the nice wide toe-box that is typical of vivobarefoot shoes. Unfortunately (and this was repeatedly mentioned to me by colleagues and friends) the outer shell resembles a Croc shoe. Personally I thought they looked better than crocs and if this was to be the only criticism of the shoe, then I can live with that.

However, I had more pressing gripes with the Ultra; the neoprene sock. When I first put it on, I thought it was a good comfortable fit but functionally it has proven to be the Ultra’s only downfall. What’s the point of having a shoe with a nice wide toe-box, something that gives your toes and forefoot plenty of room to splay, feel the ground and then put this sock inside it which squeezes your toes together and prevents the splay from happening?

I have fairly narrow feet as well, so I imagine that that this problem would be more pronounced for those with wider feet (I can already imagine the outrage in Sydney’s barefoot hobbit community). The squishing of my toes was most noticeable on downhills or when ramping up the pace. The other problem with this inner sock is that it limits your foots ability to breathe, so it’s not perfect in terms of thermoregulation and its certainly not furthering the cause of non-stinky feet.

I am aware that the shoe has been designed to be used either with the sock in the shoe, just the sock (apparently puncture resistant) or just the outer shell. Just using the outer shoe seems ideal to me and I would use these shoes in that fashion, however the sizing goes off the inner sock, which means if you’re just to wear the outer shell, its simply too big.

All this aside, the shoe is functional, well priced and enjoyable to run in. You get a great appreciation for the feel of the ground you are running on, without it being painful and the flat, straight design certainly helps facilitate a good forefoot strike. On a personal note, I must admit I did thoroughly enjoy finding the biggest puddles around (due from the seemingly never ending Sydney rain) and splashing my way through with all the delight of a kid in gumboots.

In summary an excellent idea for a shoe with some real promising designs, which has been let down by a fundamental flaw in the appreciation for the natural motion of the forefoot/toes when running.

I was sent these shoes from the Nature Shop Footwear website. They were prompt with delivery and the whole ordering process was very easy, even when I ordered the wrong size. You can see these shoes, and many others at:

By Sam

BM in Sport and Exercise and BA in International studies (German Major) completed at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Master of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney.

Interests: I am an exercise enthusiast full stop! I play or have played football, tennis, basketball and dabbled in waterpolo and underwater rugby! Recent sporting interests are cycling and barefoot running! I also love watching all codes of football/rugby.

Physiotherapy: Due to my interests in sport and health I am fascinated in human movement and physiology. In addition to musculoskelatal physiotherapy I’m also interested in neurological (stroke, brain injury and spinal cord injury rehab), and cardiopulmonary (heart and lung function and rehabilitation) physiotherapy:

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