Review of VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra

Published by RunningPoint on Wednesday, 06 Jul 2011 15:56 EDT

I have been interested in trying out some VIVOBAREFOOT shoes for quite some time, but have been wary to blindly order shoes on the internet since there is no place close for me to try their shoes on before I purchase. When VIVOBAREFOOT offered to send me a pair of shoes to test and review I was very excited. I decided that since they were nice enough to send me a free pair of shoes, I should go for a model that I normally would not purchase. I love to run in sandals but the idea of a zero drop, fully molded foam, waterproof running shoe quite frankly piqued my interest so I jumped on the chance to get a pair of the VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra. After a great initial impression, I set out to take the Ultras through the paces of daily life with me which involves standing for 40+ hours a week at work, chasing kids after work and on the weekends, and of course running in the mountains of Western North Carolina.


I opted for a pair of the black and yellow Ultras since I am not a big fan of white shoes and because I thought the red may not quite be appropriate for wearing to work. The first time I put them on, I was impressed at how well they functioned as a casual shoe. I tried all 3 setups for the shoe: sock liner in, removable tongue in, and completely stripped down with no tongue or liner. I personally prefer the combination of no tongue/no liner both for casual wear and for running. This means that you can see right through the hexagonal pattern and through the laces to my bare foot. Nobody stopped and stared or even really commented that the shoe was super unique which in my opinion is a very big positive for casual wear. As a running shoe, it is immediately obvious that it is a sleek, minimal shoe. It rides low to the ground and looks light and fast. I am really enjoying the fact that the shoe can function as both a casual daily wearer and still be aggressive enough looking that people will take notice while I run.


The fit of the Ultras depends on the way you choose to wear them. I found the sock liner to be constrictive and hot so I chose to remove them. Wearing the shoe with no sock liner allowed the true beauty of the Ultras to rise to the top. My toes had more than ample room in the wide toe box and I found the extra sensory experience of my bare foot on the textured foot bed to be extremely nice while walking or standing and almost completely unnoticable while running. Some have complained about getting hot spots here and there while running due to the foot bed, but I did not experience any. This is most likely due to running extensively in my home-made huaraches and developing calluses in all the right places to avoid any caused by the texture on the foot bed.

The only issue I had with fit was due to my first instinct to cinch the lacing down nice and snug in order to run in the Ultras. On my first long run (10km) I developed two fully raw and bleeding blisters on my left foot. One just below my ankle, and one in the middle of my arch where the top of my foot rolls under into the arch. Needless to say, I was disappointed at first until I took the time to think about what could cause these blisters. I got some advice from friends on dailymile that loosening the shoe could help reduce the rubbing causing the blisters. I decided to loosen them to the point that I could still slip them off and on without touching the laces, but tight enough that my heel wouldn't slip out of the heel cup. This has worked flawlessly and I even ran with the blisters still raw and uncovered with no negative effect.


The performance of the Ultras has been the biggest surprise so far. I really had no idea what to expect in the realm of ground feel and the longevity of the sole since the shoe is made of molded foam. I have been impressed with both aspects so far.

I have put just over 40km of pure running and almost a solid month of daily casual wear on the Ultras and the sole has worn far less than I expected. I put a lot of extra stress on the soles of my running shoes since I am almost constantly running either up or down hill and I was worried that the sole would just melt away. So far, so good. I am impressed with the minimal amount of wear after abusing them by running entirely on asphalt. It was a very good decision for VIVOBAREFOOT to go with 2 different compounds of foam, one for the uppers and one for the sole.

The ground feel in the Ultras is a very unique experience. When worn with no sock liner and while walking on a smooth flat surface, the shoe feels light and cushioned. When you go off road and start to walk through some terrain, the ground feel comes alive. When you step on things such as rocks and sticks, the full sensation of being barefoot is quite apparent. Namely, larger rocks and sticks flat out hurt and I have fairly tough feet. This is probably not the experience for the first time minimal shoe wearer. Running in the Ultra is very similar. I found that as long as I was on smooth asphalt the shoe was very soft (soft to me at least, I am accustomed to running on my 4mm home-made huaraches which have no compression) but when I hit some rough old asphalt they were brilliantly transmissive. I could feel every crack in the road and my toes even sunk into some of them as if I had no shoes on at all. It was an extremely enjoyable experience to seek out different road conditions to see how the Ultras would react.


VIVOBAREFOOT has hit the market with a truly unique shoe. The name Ultra seems to fit them perfectly. Ultra light, Ultra cool, Ultra useful, Ultra fun to run in, and for me Ultra thought provoking while running and trying to work out how they achieve both padding and so much ground feel. These shoes will certainly remain in my rotation until I run holes through the bottom and will be a mainstay for fun summer wear and chasing after the kids. Get yours here!!

Who's online

There are currently 0 users online.

Who's new

  • BoulderRunner
  • RonaldMoo
  • Ronnie B
  • cabarchitect
  • RunningPoint


Subscribe to Syndicate