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Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Review: Initial Thoughts

Posted on May 20 2011

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

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