I suppose I should preface this review by stating what will become obvious by the time we’re through: I’m falling hard for Vivo Barefoot shoes.
When I published my review of their Dharma shoes in September, the whole story sounded too great to be true: a prince (named Galahad, no less) who is a descendant of seven generations of footwear royalty decides to follow his heart instead of protecting his bank account, reinventing the family business in a way that celebrates the natural human form, while becoming a crusader for the most eco-friendly and socially responsible business practices imaginable. To barefoot aficionados and tree huggers - and especially to people like me, who are a little bit of each - it reads like some kind of fairy tale.
In fact, I was so impressed by the company and the product that I took advantage of my own coupon offer, and purchased another pair of shoes after posting the original review. (That’s only happened a handful of times, which I’ll describe further in an upcoming post.) The Oak shoe is a close companion to the Dharma, with some minor stylistic and structural differences to distinguish it from the rest of the Vivo Barefoot line – and in the space of a couple of months, it’s become my favorite everyday shoe.
Vivo Barefoot Oak, in brown leather
The Oak’s upper consists of an elastic sock liner (visible in the heel area) stitched beneath a suede or leather housing. The laces are purely decorative, as this is definitely a slip-on shoe. Its sock liner is soft, and the leather is nicely flexible, creating a very comfortable overall feel.
Uppers are available in three styles: gray suede, or vegetable-tanned leather in black or dark brown. “Vegetable tanned” means that it’s dyed with plant extracts instead of man-made chemicals. It’s typically left uncoated, and therefore isn’t 100% water resistant – but unless you’re walking through deep puddles all the time, this feels like a fair compromise.
Speaking of wet conditions, however – I’ve had opportunity to wear my Oaks in rainy weather a few times this fall, and experienced one of the coolest things about Vivo Barefoot shoes: namely, transitioning from a wet surface to a dry one, and seeing these kinds of footprints in my wake:
If you had any doubt that these shoes preserve barefoot function, this should put your mind at ease.
Close observers will note the tread pattern is different on the Oak than it is on the Dharma; it has deeper, more rugged grooves that make it more suitable to wet conditions. The tradeoff here is that it also adds 1.5mm of thickness to the outsole, measuring 4.5mm to Dharma’s 3.0. A little bit of ground feel is lost, which is bad news if you’re a barefoot purist – although honestly, the difference is hard to feel, and let’s face it: you’re still wearing the same thickness outsole as Vibram FiveFingers in a shoe that can pass in a business setting, which is pretty awesome.
For me, that’s the primary benefit of Vivo Barefoot footwear: the ability to maintain natural barefoot function – and to a lesser extent, barefoot feel – in a comfortable shoe that looks stylish and is versatile enough to use in a variety of situations. The fact that Terra Plana (the parent company) is an industry leader in responsible manufacturing is a very cool bonus, as well.
The Vivo Barefoot Oak typically retails for $150, but for a limited time you can get it for a little bit cheaper. As with my previous review, Vivo Barefoot is extending another 20% coupon code discount in conjunction with this post: From December 1st through the 31st, enter “RunVivo20” at checkout for 20% off any Vivo Barefoot models in stock. I'll also leave an ad on my right sidebar through December as a reminder.
*Product independently purchased **See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.