Barefoot Shoes

Lontra Vibram FiveFingers Review

One of the inherent drawbacks to the minimalist nature of Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) is that, being extra close to the ground, they are highly susceptible to letting in moisture and the cold. While this isn’t really a problem during the summer months, t…

One of the inherent drawbacks to the minimalist nature of Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) is that, being extra close to the ground, they are highly susceptible to letting in moisture and the cold. While this isn’t really a problem during the summer months, there is nothing worse in the winter than stepping in the shallowest of puddles and ending up with wet toes and soggy socks for the rest of your run. The Vibram Flows, which had the classic razor siped sole and thick neoprene upper, were a great way to combat cold feet but weren’t designed to be water resistant. This is where the VFF Lontra comes in. The Lontra and the Speed XC are Vibram’s first foray into toe shoes with serious waterproofing capabilities.


Here’s a quick summary to get you acquainted with the Lontra: Upper: The upper is a laminated stretch mesh coupled with a water resistant membrane. The section above the metatarsals of the foot is a thin fabric and is quite flexible. The tongue area and upper ankle cuff are made of neoprene and feel slightly thicker than what you might find on the Flow. Inside is a micropile fleece, which is soft on the skin without any noticeable interior seams that might irritate the foot. The closure system is a Velcro strap that runs across the top of the foot and allows you to cinch things down as needed. The “sticky” half of the Velcro is the large patch on the side of the shoe and the fuzzy half is on the bottom of the strap. In my opinion this should be reversed because I find that the large sticky patch can easy attached itself to carpet if it falls on its side. For men, the Lontra comes in one colorway, which is a drab black and grey, but still manages to stay quite busy with a misjmash of swoops, squares and polka dots. The women’s version keeps the same pattern, but adds in some pinks, purples and magentas. You’ll either love or hate their style, but they don’t scream at you with high-viz yellow or orange like the Seeya, Treksport or KomodoSport. Sole: The sole is TC-1 Dura Rubber with an EVA midsole. The tread pattern is the same as you find on the Treksport, Trek LS and Speed XC. The sole has thick lugs under the midfoot and heel and has a very aggressive pattern under the soles. This is the most robust VFF sole to date, and Justin speculates in his Speed XC First Look that perhaps this was done to provide more insulation and keep the feet protected from the freezing ground. Price/A few other things to note: A pair of Lontras will set you back $150, which makes them the most expensive pair of Vibrams in production right now. (The Bormio boots from a couple years back retailed for $160.) There are loops on the front of the ankle and at the back near the Achilles. These are crucial in getting the Lontras onto your feet (more on that below). There are reflective sections on the Velcro straps and on the rear heel loop. The Lontras weigh in at 6.75 oz for a Men’s size 43 (the pair is 13.5 oz). Women’s size 38s are 5.4 oz (10.8 oz for the pair).

FIT—So how do they feel?

Bottom line: Lontras are snug. The Lontras are without a doubt, and Justin agrees, the most difficult pair of VFFs to get on and take off. The neoprene ankle cuff has very little give and stretch to it and even an Original Weight Inijinji sock can add enough unwanted thickness to make fitting noticeably more difficult. A thinner, more sheer sock like the Injinji Lightweight or the ToeSox Ultralite can help grease the groove a bit. (Full a roundup of toe socks, check out this post from a couple weeks ago.) I’ve found the easiest technique to getting the Lontras on is to start putting your foot in, crush the back Achilles part down with your heel as you get your toes seated in their pockets, and then bend the heel of the sole down and away from your foot so that you can get enough slack in the neoprene and leverage to get the cuff up and over your heel. Finally, make sure the neoprene cuff Achilles doesn’t get tucked under itself in the back. I found that the Velcro closing strap isn’t needed too much, but if you like things extra secure, you can certainly tighten it down. One of the complaints I’ve heard from new VFFs users is that they find the feeling of something between their toes to be unsettling. I had never really noticed anything like this until the Trek LS, which has an all leather upper and as result of the material used has thick seams between the toes. With the water proofing, these thicker toe seams appear to have carried over the Lontra and Speed XC. Speaking of toes, there isn’t any stretch or flexibility in the toes due to the extra thick sole. Because of this stiffness, I’ve recently discovered that the “index toe” on my left foot is just slightly longer than on my right foot. While the Lontra didn’t give me any specific issues here, I’ve ended up with some bruising under the toe nail after hard runs in the Speed XCs. I should also not that if you have large ankles (which mine are borderline), over several hours the neoprene cuff can dig into your ankles and leave an indentation ring. If you’ve ever worn tight dress socks during an 8 hour work day, then you know the drill. If you’re on the fence between two different sizes, or if your feet tend to swell, consider going to a larger size than you normally wear.

PERFORMANCE—Are they waterproof?

The waterproofing really does work! Justin has a great video on the waterproofing qualities of the Lontra and I conducted my own water proofing test during Hurricane Sandy with a bike ride in a wetsuit. On a few initial trail runs which went through several creek crossings and puddles, I discovered what a strange feeling it is to expect to instantly have wet toes and feel…nothing at all! I followed up separately with some full immersion testing in my bathtub—after standing around in ankle-deep water for a full five minutes there was only a minimal amount of moisture on the top of my foot and in between my toes. You might be able to compare the feeling to just having just the tiniest bit of sweat in between your toes. Which leads me to my next point: with the waterproofing comes a major loss in breathability. That great lining that keeps water out works in reverse and keeps sweat in. You’re not going to want wear Lontras during the summer, or even above 60 degree temperatures when exercising. If your feet get sweaty, they are going to stay sweaty. I’m a socks with FiveFingers type of guy so I haven’t had any issues with stinky shoes or foot odor, but I anticipate that things could get rather pungent in the long term.

And what is running in them like?

By design, the Lontra’s lend themselves to a specific type of running: cold, wet, off roading. Think of them as the rugged, heavy duty boots of the VFF world—perfect for runs on dreary winter days and slogs through messy conditions. Compared to something like the SeeYa or Bikila models, they feel clunky and heavy on flat, smooth surfaces, but really shine when the going gets tough, thanks to the Trek sole. Ground feel and transmission is muted compared to more minimal VFFs models, but the zero-drop heel will keep you running barefoot style. Over several weeks of testing I managed to use them on a variety of surfaces. While they felt somewhat unwieldy doing sprints on the track, they felt okay at an endurance pace on asphalt and the treadmill. Going off road, they gripped frost-covered grass as best as expected and worked well on hard and loose packed dirt trails. Rock scrambles and small pebbles underfoot posed no problems either. I even made it down to the beach on a crisp Fall day. Having the tall neoprene upper around my ankles kept sand from getting inside. As perfect as they are for sandy terrain, I wouldn’t recommend wearing them at the beach during the summer due to overheating discomfort.

Are the Lontras for you?

So should you pick up a pair of Lontras? Here’s my pros and cons list to help you make a decison: Yes, get them if …
  • … you run in cool, wet conditions like winter rain or snow. The waterproofing works very well in fact–these are worth it for dealing with any type of moisture. If they can hold up just fine in the bath tub or in a hurricane, you’ll never worry about morning dew, shallow puddles or thick soupy mud again!
  • … you plan to be in cooler temperatures for long periods of time these do keep your feet warmer than Flows. With the thick sole and aggressive tread pattern, they’d be great for cool weather hiking or camping or even just wearing casually in freezing temperatures.
No thanks, I’ll pass on these because …
  • … the price is too high! $150 seems step for a pair of niche shoes. But they actually a bit cheaper compared to some other high end running shoes from companies like Skora or Newton.
  • … I don’t like the sole. The Lontras and Speed XCs have a chunky sole. If you’re accustomed to something a bit more subtle, this may not be a deal breaker, but is certainly a consideration.
  • … I don’t plan on running in the wet. If you need a minimalist shoe for winter road running on dry surfaces, and you’re not running in below zero temps, consider a pair of thick socks or even a pair of Flows, if you can find them since they’re out of production. I’d stick to a regular pair of VFFs for winter running if it’s temperate enough. My current favorites are SeeYas and Bikilas for the road and Spyridons or Vivo Barefoot Neo Trails for off road.


I’ve wanted something like the Lontra for a long time now. The waterproofing works extremely well and they definitely have a place in my collection. These shoes are robust and will handle anything you can throw at them. They are a great cold and wet weather, go anywhere, tackle any terrain Vibram Five Finger. The sole isn’t my favorite and I think it leaves a bit to be desired for road running—the shoe just feels a bit chunky on asphalt—although it really shines on the trail. Here’s my original photo gallery from my first look for further photo goodness:

By Tim

I’m am a bicycle advocate by profession and an Ironman triathlete for fun which keeps me healthy and fit. I got into minimalist footwear during the summer of 2009 after dealing with injuries resulting from running in “normal” running shoes. Check out what’s going on in my life through photos at [url=][/url] or follow me on twitter: [url=]@TimKelleyDotNet[/url]. Get to know Tim better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

28 replies on “Lontra Vibram FiveFingers Review”

I just received my girly pink Lontras a few days ago and these are my 5th pair of VFFs. They are a bit stiffer in the sole so you can’t curl your toes, and yes, there is less ground feel. They are a bit more difficult to get on, but I don’t mind that. I expected these things from the last reviews I read. I’ve worn them sockless for 2 days as daily wear to break them in before I try a run in them. It rained one day so I was splashing around in puddles and my feet remained dry. My feet did sweat in them which is to be expected as I wore them through the entire day.
The one issue I have with them is that when I flex my foot, there is a spot on the heel that basically folds and digs into my heels. It was painful on both heels the first day, getting a bit better the second day. The spot where it folds and digs is directly at the base of the reflective strip that runs vertically down the heel directly under the pull tab. Today, I’m barefoot. Even while the shoes are sitting there with no feet in them, that spot is indented on both heels. I hope I can work that out as that won’t feel great when running. Otherwise, I like them. My husband kept telling me to buy winter boots this year as I wore my other VFFs in rain, & slush snow and had cold wet feet the last few years. The Lontras came out jut in time! We’ll see how they do as winter progresses here.

I’ve done two runs in mine. The first was w/o Injinjis and I got a blister on each foot at the same location. I believe the cause was rubbing caused by the forward, inside (not inside the shoe), maybe from being too loose. After that run I checked for seam on the inside at the rub points an there were none. My second run was done with a pair of no-shows Injinjis and I didn’t feel any rubbing at the blister points, but I had mole-skin on over those two points so I can’t be 100%. I also tighten the strap a bit more on the second run. Overall I’m really happy with these as, like the author, I’ve been waiting for something like this for quite sometime as the Flows just don’t cut it for winter running. One thing I’ve settled on is to limit my running in these for real winter running, that means very cold temps and/or snow/slush. What I’ve found over the years is that as long as the roads are not wet with snow/slush, a pair of wool toe socks in many of my VFFs will work quite well at keeping my toes warm in moderate winter temps (in the teens F). But my reason to limit my running in extreme conditions has nothing to do with some kind of deficiency of the Lontra as a running shoe, but rather with the cost of replacing the Lontra given the steep price – so I’ll minimize the wear and tear of these by only wearing them when it’s appropriate. As for the blisters, I’ll just wear the Injinji no-show with them, which I would normally do in winter anyways – my first outing was more of a test run than anything else. I recommend this model if you live in the northeast.

Any plans to review the new Merrell Sonic Gloves? They seem like this year’s winter barefoot shoe for unite folks.

I live in Sweden. Just bought my Lontras on a businees tripp to Seattle (at the Born to Run Store).
They work wonderful in heavy snow and -10C. Finally I can go barefoot the year round!

I wonder if these would be comfortable in -10 C.? I have tried to run in Bikilas in dry snow and even with Injinji nuwool socks I get cold. It may be my feet but I stick to Leming shoes where I can put on some good wool socks.

And to Justin, an issue I have emailed several times. Why do I have to open and close every picture in your picture galleries? It must be possible to open a gallery of the pictures and browse in the picture gallery. Technical stuff. Just let me know and I could help out.

I’ve had my Lontras since October. They were stiff at first and the toe slots seemed uncomfortable, even pinching at times. They DO become more flexible over time. I do a lot of bodyweight and crossfit type training with running and sprints added in so the flexibility depends on the type of use. If you only run in them it will be a slower process. If you’re a hardcore runner then definitely going to miss the ground feel.

The first day I started having buyers remorse but after a week of constant use they are now very comfortable.

They do not breathe well so sweat and the inner drying time was a drawback. But now I wear lightweight Injinji’s and the problem is solved. I prefer wearing VFFs barefoot so these are the only model I wear with socks. However, the warmth and dryness during bear crawls in wet grass is worth the trade-off.

I was dreading having to wear regular running shoes when the weather turned cold.

I love my Lontras. I went jogging in the rain, wind, 32 degree weather. I wore Toesox with them. Perfect fit. My feet stayed warm and dry. I ordered a size larger to be able to wear toe socks.

They will be perfect for the Spartan Race in Utah next June.

This will be my 10th pair of VFF’s!

Vibram should make a lontra variant for winter road running. Trek outsole is too stiff for pavement running. Bikila outsole with little thicker insulated footbed will be awesome.

Thank you for your awsome review! Its really comprehensive and helpful. Especially emphasising the choice one has to make between a thicker sole and thin but potentially wet shoes – at least for now..

Thanks for the nice review Tim. Another good job of telling us what we need to know. I really liked the “Are the Lontras for you?” section. This will help people to decided if they should pull the trigger on a pair of $150 VFFs. I’ve been running in Flows for the last 4 years and being wet has never bothered me. While my feet have been very cool at times, they’ve never been uncomfortably cold in the Flows. I’ve ran through it all from fresh powder snow, slushy trails and roads, to sleet and freezing rain. With the information you have presented, I think I’ll remain in Flows for many more years to come. Thanks again for the nice review.

I’m really interested in the Lontras, because I’m looking for minimalist footwear that’ll be warm enough for Canadian winters, and even with socks my non-waterproof VFFs only get me so far. (Pretty far, with leggings warming my ankles, but not long below freezing or in wet or snowy conditions.) The toe stiffness seems like it could be a problem. However, I have a high instep that rules out innumerable models of footwear (such as the Vivobarefoot Boxing Boot, which has a seam that cuts into the top of my feet), and failed to fit through the opening of Bikilas I tried in stores, so the difficulty you report in putting on the Lontras worries me that they won’t fit me at all. In any case, there do not seem to be any local stores planning on stocking them where I might try them on until spring, so I’ll still be looking for an alternative until then, but thank you for the review.

I know that I’m not supposed to care about aesthetics on shoes for active uses but…

I really miss the simple two-toned fabric of the old days of early FiveFingers.

It’s bad enough that the shoes are pretty noticeable with individual toe pockets, but now the swoopy artwork lines combined with the polka dots is just really awful looking is apparently just there to scream “look at me, I desperately need attention!!!”

I love the simplicity of my brown leather KSO Treks, and the KSO classic in olive.

I really would like a pair, but for $150, there’s a limit on how far I’m willing to go on garish graphical design, especially for something that has a somewhat limited use.

For the record, I turned down the Spyridons for the same reason, as much as I love the treading on that shoe.

I was using the Lontra during November for hunting in our mountains. They are great because they are waterproof and cover the ankles. With one (Injinji Smartwool over-the-calf) or two pairs of toe socks (plus Knitido silk socks beneath), even standing at -10°C works fine). But there are some drawbacks, although of absolutely minor nature: The shoe is stiffer than any other Trek-sole-based shoe, the internal material is slippery and can cause blisters, and your feet sweat more. I now own the Lontras in green, gray, the LS, and the Speed XC in blue, and they are perfect for wet days like in winter.


I’ve used them mainly for asphalt-bike path dog-walking and recently they started leaking. I mean, seriously, my socks and feet are wet from just dew on the grass or accidental step into a puddle. I love VFFs and waited anxiously for Lontras, but it seems to be a mistake and disappointment. Ridiculously priced short-lived performance. With water resistance no better than your sneakers, it misses the point, misleads and doesn’t deliver.
Contacted TravelCountry (they had them early), but they refuse to help claiming that they don’t mention water resistance on their website, despite this quote: “helping to resist water and snow”.
I’m curious how VFF will address this leaky issue.

Hello Tom, wow, so sorry to hear this. Have you contacted Vibram US or EU? Such a sharp and sudden decline in water resistance within the boundaries of regular wear & tear surely warrants a comment on part of the company other than ‘well, we never said it would be waterproof’.. Is there any way for you to tell were the water gets into the shoe…?.. Maybe there is at least some sort of way to fix the leak even though of course you shouldn’t have too..

My Lontra’s arrived today from City Sports. With the discount net cost was only $120. Liked them out of the box. Consistent with other comments they are a pain to get on. I started to break them in by just walking around in them without socks for a few hours. I found them pretty comfortable but stiffer than the Bikila’s I am used to running in.
Today on the East Coast was a crappy cold and wet day. Perfect for an inaugural run. I went easy for 2.5 miles with socks on and found the Lontra’s to be comfortable. No rubbing or chafing. Even better my feet were dry and warm. I think these are a keeper and serve their purpose. Its a different road feel but to be expected. You have to give up something to get the waterproofing and warmth. Overall though I give them a B+. These will definitely enhance my running experience this winter.

@jbierling I’m right in the middle of size 43 (wear them across the board in all VFFs) and that’s what worked for me in the Lontras. If 42s generally work for you, stick with that. If you’re on the cusp of 42/43, then go with the 43s,

Do you think it is usable in summer? If it is around 25 and 30ºC do you think your feet will be too hot? I am thinking about casual use, not for running.

@Eduardo–yes,even sitting around the house in them my feet would get sweaty. While the temperature wasn’t that bad, they don’t breath very well at all.

I finally got my Lontras delivered a few days ago and would like to share a few comments.

1) This is my 5th pair of VFF and the same size fits perfectly for me in ALL models. I found no need to size up in the Lontra.

2) Having experience with VFF, I did not find the Lontra to be extraordinarily difficult to get on or off. I just follow the same process as with all the models I have. Slide my foot in, fit the toes then pull the heel on.

3) The cuff fits around my ankle perfectly and really works to keep the snow out and sand as well. Since it rides higher, it also helps keep my ankles warm.

4) I do not have any hot spots or areas of digging in anywhere. The shoes fit perfectly and while they are more heavy duty, they are still quite comfortable.

5) If you own a pair of TrekSport, you’ll find the sole and function of the sole to be the same. The uppers are obviously more robust for good reason but the shoes feel and work similarly.

6) I’ve worn them on two 10 mile runs over the last two days in temps of 13 degree F or -10 C on both days without socks and with 2 inches of snow on the trail. My feet stayed completely warm and dry. I believe I could go down to 0F or -18C without socks before my feet started to get cold.

7) I could not be happier with these shoes. I think they are just enough to handle just about everything the winter Colorado climate has.

8) If you want to wear VFF 12 months of the year but live in a colder climate area, these will do the trick. I recommend them highly.

I have used the Lontras for two months now and I’m not so impressed with them. Unlike the person above me, I can feel the cold really fast when I go outside in -10C with socks. It takes about 5 to 10min. for the shoes to get cold in the toe area. I assume it’s the fabric between the toes and the lack of insulation between the rubber and the footbed.

Many times I’ve had wet socks and feet with just an hour of wearing the shoes. I can’t tell if it’s all sweat or some water comes in, but wearing them all day and going into ice puddles isn’t fun. I feel the cold instantly and I feel WET! There’s definitely moisture getting in from the outside.

The ankle cuff is awful. It’s too tight, but at least it loosens up after some use. It’s still tight enough to irritate the upper part of my achilles with the terrible seams ala Skeletoes. I’ve had calluses on both feet when I wore them without socks… If I knew there would be so much issues with these I’d have chosen a non-fivefingers shoe for winter…

I don’t understand what the point is of these shoes being waterproof if they don’t breath. Haven’t the people at Vibram ever heard of GORE-TEX?

…Don’t get me wrong. I love VFFs. I hate when I have to go back to my “usual” shoes during the cold months. I’m really hoping to be able to wear FFs all year round.

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