I think I laughed out loud when I saw these purple Vivo Ultras! They look like someone took a hexagonal hole punch to a pair of Crocs...not a fan of Crocs. Vivo says, “Innovation at its best, the Ultra is a 3 in 1 chameleon shoe ideal for beach, trail and travel.” Hmmm, don’t think you’ll catch me wearing these while on a beautiful Hawaiian beach or even exploring a city like San Francisco. I’m all about quality products where form meets function (I have an entire section dedicated to it on my blog) and the Ultras definitely don’t make the cut in the “form” category. But overlooking aesthetics, I gave them a shot and took them for a test drive to see what these things can do...
Ultra Specs from Vivo Barefoot
Here’s the construction info from Vivo Barefoot:
Upper: EVA: 3D upper-outsole with perforated, non-toxic, two density, soft, high abrasion resistant EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)
Lacing: Elastic Lacing: Elastic cord and lock lacing system allow for a quick, secure and personalized fit
Collar/Panel & Lining: Removable: Plug-in stretchy mesh tongue for climate control and preferred fit
Insoles: Removable: Plug-in, puncture-resistant sock liner for climate control and/or added protection
Sole Construction: Amphibious: A fully molded, soft, high abrasion injected EVA sole with high levels of durability, grip and traction
Outsole Thickness: 7mm: Starting at 7mm, the amphibious outsole compresses to 3mm with continued use offering maximum proprioception with protection
Eco Credentials: 100% Vegan; Dual density injection molded for glueless, mono-material shell
What’s nice about these is that they’re environmentally friendly. They’re made using eco-friendly materials and minimal toxins. They’re also extremely lightweight. My women’s 8.5 weighs 3.1oz sans sock and 4.9oz with the sock (6.2oz/9.8oz a pair).
Here's a look at the Ultras:
The Ultras utilize a new modular system that you can customize to suit your needs. There’s a few different ways you can wear these: with both the “cage” and the sock, without the sock, and without the sock but with a mesh tongue insert added (but the cage felt scratchy on the top of my foot without the tongue).
I wear a 38 in VFFs and usually wear a size 7.5 - 8 in an athletic shoe. My Ultras are a size 8.5. There seems to be a sizing issue with this model since the sock fits significantly smaller than the shoe itself. The sock is snug, but the shoe is very roomy without it. When buying these, the deciding factor will be whether or not you will be wearing the sock. Personally, I preferred wearing it with the sock. Also, the laces are easy to use, but the locking mechanism is a little too bulky for my taste. They’re pretty comfortable, but in a Croc-like way. They don’t call it a “cage” for nothing - it definitely feels like wearing one on your foot. Not really my thing, but I can see how others would like wearing them for the extra room.
The description that came in the shoebox say these are suitable for: light trail cross training, water sports, long runs or general beachside and urban barefoot exploration. Vivo Barefoot says, “The removable sock, which can be worn independently or plugged into the cage, offers puncture-resistance and thermal protection.” So I wore them both with and without the insert while running on pavement, light dirt trails, and the beach and ended up with some mixed feelings.
The sock fits me too snug and causes my toes to be cramped, but I still preferred wearing them with the insert most of the time. While running, the shoe felt more “complete” to me this way. Without it, the shoe had an excess amount of room on the inside of them and I didn’t feel like it was in sync with my foot when I ran. I definitely didn’t feel agile without the sock and couldn’t turn as quickly as I’d like. Also, the EVA construction has a raised pattern inside of the shoe. The textured surface is subtle but noticeable when not wearing the insert. The purpose of it is most likely to provide traction, but it was more of an annoyance and I could definitely have done without it.
The traction was surprisingly good. I thought I would slip and slide all over the place since the outsole is so simple, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t take them out on extreme adventures or anything, but they were just fine while going out on a casual run on some simple fire road and pavement trails. Also, the soft EVA sole reduced my connectivity with the ground - especially when combined with the insert. But the good thing about it was that I could run over small rocks and pebbles just fine.
One of the biggest cons about these shoes is how squeeky they are! They squeak with every step I take. And they’re double squeaky when they’re wet...something that made me laugh.
What surprised me the most was that running on the sand actually wasn’t too bad! I had a better time running on the beach in these than in my KomodoSports. They didn’t weigh me down and I had pretty decent traction in them (as far as running in the sand goes). The gaping holes brought in lots of sand without the sock so I liked running in them with the sock instead. Sand still poured in the shoe when I crossed deep pits, but the sock acted as a barrier to keep it at bay. This was the case until I finally plunged them into the ocean. That’s where things got tricky. The entire shoe filled with sand (including the inside of the sock) once they were wet. The wet sand felt abrasive and seemed impossible to clean out. So wearing the insert while in the water is fine, but once you get out of the water and start walking, the sand sticks to everything and is unavoidable. The good thing about the insert was that it acted like a wetsuit and kept my feet warm from the 60 degree water. You can check out my beach photos to see some sandy shots.
I wouldn’t consider the Vivo Ultra to be categorized as a running shoe. They’re more like a streamlined lightweight Croc. They have their pros and cons and I think they’re best for water activities, light hiking, and taking the dog for a walk. Vivo Barefoot says, “Anyway you like it, whether cage, sock or combination, the Ultra's innovative modular designs allows you to conquer both land and sea.” But I say: at what cost? The modular design may be innovative, but the look is unappealing. I rate products both on how well they function as well as how good they look. In most cases, style doesn’t have to be sacrificed for function. Performance footwear isn't exactly cheap - so I want to love everything about the product before I buy. These could be the best shoe on the planet, but I’d walk right by them if I saw them in a store.
- Very eco-friendly
- Good for general all-purpose use
- Good for the water
- Modular functionality
- They’re unattractive
- I don’t feel agile in them
- Sizing can be tricky with the sock liner
- Dirt and debris can easily get into the shoe
- They’re squeaky!
Where to buy
Justin here. I mentioned this in my own review of the Ultras, but if you're looking to pick these up at full price your best bet is Zappos.com due to their free shipping/returns. In the case of the women's Ultra, there's some good news: Champ's Sports has a few colorways on sale. Specifically, they've got these purple Ultras for $39.99 in a few sizes; and they've got pink, white, or black Ultras for $49.99 (Same price as the Ultra Pure but you get the added sockliner). They also have free shipping (out). Good luck!
Other reviews of the Ultra
If you want to do a bit more online research on the Ultras, do yourself a favor and check out these reviews: