December 28, 2012

Review : VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra




  • Type : Barefoot
  • Use : Multi-use
  • Price : $100








Introduction
The VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra is not a running shoe, per say. It sure wasn’t intended as such by the company, but it presents features close enough to other models like the Evo II. It didn’t take more for some runners to give it a try.

Obviously, the Ultra is a multi-use shoe with water sports in mind. Its outer part is completely made out of a very soft rubber with a hollowed-out honeycomb pattern that makes it light, flexible and impervious to wet environments. Its most interesting feature is the possibility of removing the neoprene inner part of the shoe, which makes the Ultra a real Transformers-type footwear that outdoor enthusiasts will love.


Outdoor testing
I first used the Ultra as a camping shoe. In warm weather, I used only the outer part as a barely-there layer between my feet and the ground. It’s so breathy that it feels as light as a sandal. Then, when the temperature would cool down, I would add the neoprene part to keep my feet toasty and nice around the campfire or while walking around in dewy grass. I also liked that I could use the neoprene part only as an “indoor” shoe while in a cabin or shelter, as it has its own little micro-outsole. Then, when going out, I’d just slip my feet into the rubber outer part and be good to go.


Hiking
If you’re looking for longer-distance walking, I suggest you make sure you can be comfortable barefoot inside the Ultra. I found out with a little disappointment that I have to wear socks if I am to wear my Ultras for distances over 2km (say, walking more than 20 minutes). If I don’t, my Achilles get blistered. Bummer. However, I have gone on light to moderate hikes in my Ultras and found them very comfortable, decently grippy and very flexible, offering a great level of proprioception.


Running
I haven’t done any serious running in the Ultra. However, I think it’s fantastic that the shoe offers just enough features similar to a lightweight barefoot running shoe so that you can run in them pretty much anywhere, pretty much anytime. Which brings me to my next point.


Casual wear
This, to me, is where this shoe really stands out. I was sent the black-colored version which, although funky from its honeycomb-patterned top, is far from an eyesore and quite neutral-looking. It won’t look stupid when worn in the workplace (say, with a pair of jeans) and offers the best of barefoot-type wear, a blessing for office-dwellers like me. And when I go out at lunch and run errands, well, I can really run them! I have a very pedestrian lifestyle and often run short distances in my everyday clothes and this shoe is truly ideal for that purpose.


Analysis
The Ultra is a great all-around option for anyone looking for a barefoot-type shoe not uniquely focused on running, but that you can wear on a run, too. Enthusiasts of the concept, usually ultra-minimalists, will wear them over longer distances and I’ve even crossed a guy at the Montreal Marathon this year who ran in them the whole way. To me, the Ultra is great because it can do so much, I can wear it casually and I can transform it to fit whichever activity I’m doing. For the same reasons, it’s a very good shoe to travel around with.

As a side note, I've never used the "tongue" bit provided with the shoe, and it is not at all essential to my comfort.


High points 
  • Super light and flexible
  • Quickly transforms 
  • Neoprene inner can be worn separately 
  • Great all-arounder


Low points
  • Can’t quite wear them without socks (is it just me?)


The equipment for this personal review was supplied by VIVOBAREFOOT free of charge, without any conditions.

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