The Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua is the company’s flagship product for water sports and water activities. Utilizing the same base sole from the V-Alpha, the V-Aqua adds drainage holes to clear out the interior of the shoe to maintain a smoother experience as you leave the water. Using a familiar velcro strap design that many legacy Vibram fans will immediately recognize, the V-Aqua aims to keep you dry and flexible for all your water activities!

Recently, Vibram sent me a pair of V-Aqua to review so over the summer I put them to the test. Click through to read my review of the Vibram V-Aqua!

Overview

Here’s what Vibram says about the V-Aqua:

The V-Aqua is our Game Changing, Flagship Product for 2018! This Amphibious Tool allows for natural movement in and out of water while moving across a variety of terrain. A light, thin and flexible tool for the feet, the V-Aqua is best for those situations when going fully barefoot just isn’t an option. The snug fit and lightweight design, along with perforations in the very durable Megagrip Sole allow water to move quickly through the shoe for quick drying. An added distinctive, industry leading Silicone print within the lining prevents added internal slippage.

 

Weight

4.8 oz (Mens 9)

Total Stack Height

5.7mm (3.7 mm rubber outsole+2 mm insole)

Barefot Scale

Excellent proprioception, dexterity, and flexibility

Ideal Uses

Kayaking, river hikes, tubing, and paddleboarding

Sizing

  • Runs ½ size small in my experience.
  • Recommendation is to order one size up.
  • Can be a bit wider to fit more foot shapes.

Price

$90.00

Pros

  • Better fit and materials than the previous water-specific shoes
  • Very flexible and lightweight
  • MEGAGRIP rubber
  • Easy to clean
  • A fantastic new pulltab design

Cons

  • Water does not drain quite as quickly as I would like
  • Does not use a lace system
  • Velcro straps might rub on wider feet

You can take a spin around the shoes via these photos:

Sole

The V-Aqua is Vibram’s water-focused shoe. It features ventilation holes for air and water to enter and leave the shoe and utilizes a familiar strap system from legacy models.

The sole of the V-Aqua is very similar to that of the V-Alpha, so excuse me if there is some repeated information from that review.

This new sole is a fantastic design with excellent smoothness and flexibility for anything involving a paddle or board but retains a good amount of traction for river trails and water crossings.

The Megagrip rubber offers good traction and more protection for your toes and heel area.

The same excellent sole from the V-Alpha comes to the V-Aqua with fantastic groundfeel and flexibility
The same excellent sole from the V-Alpha comes to the V-Aqua with fantastic groundfeel and flexibility

Like with many of the latest Vibram designs, the toes features flex grooves for enhanced flexibility for a downward toe flex. You have more control over your where your feet goes than with many water shoes and running sandals. The sole is simply designed not only to be thin, but also flexible and malleable, while many water shoes are a bit too mushy with their sole and upper combination to allow for truly excellent flexibility.

Ground feel with the V-Aqua is fantastic. Tiny details can still be felt as you engage in your favorite activities and this level of sensitivity really helps with improving running technique and form. The sole provides just enough protection, while maintaining a not-quite-barefoot experience that the same as its land-based V-Alpha. Because the sole is so thin, it can help you figure out proper running form and technique. You do not have to be perfect with your form, but if you land too heavy, you will quickly correct yourself with a quicker cadence and lighter steps than in just about anything else you can run in. The V-Aqua sole is dexterous enough to make fine adjustments to your balance on a surf or paddleboard or walking along a wet log.

In terms of performance and grip, it exceeds most huarache or running sandals as you can wrap your feet around things and you will have more protection from rocks, bumps, twigs, etc. on your adventures.

Fit and Materials

Vibram added silicone print inside the footbed lining to help prevent added slippage. In my testing, this was a good design choice, provided you got a perfect fit. It’s a soft material and does not rub as you might believe from the description. Keep in mind that the V-Aqua does run a bit smaller, so please up ½ a size.

The V-Aqua features drain holes to evacuate water out of your footbed as quickly as possible between submersions
The V-Aqua features drain holes to evacuate water out of your footbed as quickly as possible between submersions

The drainage holes are an interesting design. They do their job, but I found that the inner footbed still retained some water even after draining and water does not flow out quite as quickly as I would like. Being used to running sandals for my water adventures, it’s no surprise that sandals are essentially waterproof, but the V-Aqua certainly will be a better water performer than any enclosed shoe.

After a short walk, things are still not completely dry inside the shoe, but most of the water is out and should not interfere with any activities. I believe they could have added more holes for better drainage properties.

The heel pull tab is excellent. Rubberized, durable, and large, you can really give it a yank and not worry about it coming apart. I wish all Vibrams had this pull tab.

One of Vibram's best pull tabs!
One of Vibram’s best pull tabs!

The V-Aqua uses two Velcro straps—one top-level and one lateral strap—to keep the shoe on your foot. This is a similar design to other Velcro Vibram shoes and should be familiar to many Vibram fans. However, your enjoyment of these straps will depend on your own personal preference and feet anatomy.

I personally found that the Velcro straps were a bit uncomfortable for use. This has been the case for all Velcro Vibrams throughout the last 10 years. The KSO, KSOTREK, and SEEYAS all rubbed a bit too harshly on my feet where the straps are stitched into the shoe on either side.

Velcro straps are love-it or hate-it. They may cause some irritation with higher-volume feet
Velcro straps are love-it or hate-it. They may cause some irritation with higher-volume feet

This is most likely because my feet are very wide and meaty, so they take up space pretty quickly inside of a shoe. If you never had issues with Velcro Vibrams, you will most likely be fine with the V-Aqua. However, if you have experienced any rubbing as I have in other models, I would recommend you try them out before you buy.

I honestly wish that they just took a V-Alpha, added some of their silicone print and made the drainage holes and called it a day. However, if you loved the KSO and other similar Vibram models, you will most likely love this water-specific shoe.

Future Improvements

This is a personal choice, but add an LS model to the V-Aqua range. The Lace System used in the V-Alpha is a superior choice in terms of comfort and fit in my opinion, but that is something that is a matter of taste and foot type. For me, I have meaty, dinosaur feet and I did feel a little bit of irritation from the stitching around the base of each inside velcro strap. If you have narrow feet, you will likely have a better experience.

More drainage holes or perhaps larger ones. This is a shoe that lets in water, so there is no need for little drains, might as well go all out.

Summary

The V-Aqua is an excellent boarding shoe. I loved taking it out for paddleboarding and kayaking. In terms of water hiking, it had some issues with rubbing, due to the velcro straps, but that is something each foot will have to experience for themselves.

If you are looking for aqua adventures, you might want to consider checking out the V-Aqua. You can pick them up at Zappos.com.