Once upon a time Vivo Barefoot made a shoe called the Oak. The Oak had a Wallaby-esque look to it and to this day is still in my regular shoe rotation (no small feat!). But the Oak was discontinued awhile ago, which left (to my thinking) a bit of a whole in VB’s design line-up. The Oak’s design made for a nice aesthetic despite the wide last of Vivo shoes. The “rim” of a Wallaby just makes the shoe look more narrow. Well that changed when a few months back Vivo Barefoot released the Drake, and that’s the shoe I’ll be reviewing today thanks to Vivo sending a pair my way! And while the Drake is not an update to the Oak per se (the official line), it’s similar enough that comparisons are inevitable, so I’ll be making a few. Let’s dive in!

The Vivo Barefoot Drake

Described as shoes “With a relaxed mid-top design, soft, mellow suede and traditional moccasin toe-stitch, Drake keeps it super-chilled, super-comfy and super-barefoot.” I liken the Drake to the old Vivo Barefoot Oak, seen below:
The main differences between the Oak and the Drake are (1) that the Drake has a “mid-top” design versus the Oak’s low-top, neoprene-backed design that left the Oak feeling a little unrefined in the back (sort of like a mullet, perhaps). (2) The Drake features an updated sole and last that is slightly narrower, which you can see by comparing the above two photos. I’m happy to field more comparative questions about the Drake vs. the Oak if anyone has them — just ask away in the comments. The pair of Drake I’ve tested and reviewed were grey suede leather with a white sole. The Drake also comes in a black suede varietal. Take a spin around the shoes below through the photo gallery:

The Soles

The Drake features Vivo Barefoot’s 3mm “City Sole” that is stitched and glued to the shoe’s leather upper. There’s also a removable foam insole that is probably 2-3mm thick. All told, the sole is incredibly flexible — this entire generation of Vivo Barefoot soles is markedly less rigid to my handling than the prior generation (As with the old Oak). Take a look at how the shoe soles bend and flex: Due to having such a minimal and flexible sole, ground feel or “barefoot” feel is superb with the Drake. Also, just to state basics, these shoes have no arch support and feature a fairly wide toe box. I say “fairly wide” because the prior generation of Vivo Barefoot’s had a wider toe box. Indeed, the width of the toe box sometimes resulted in unfortunate comparisons to clown shoes (though importantly I only ever heard minimalist/barefoot enthusiasts make that comparison). Since I don’t have super-wide feet, Vivo’s with this last fit me fine (see also the Gobi II review for more on this). I know a few people who haven’t had such luck with the newer VB last.

The Look

With its white sole, suede upper, and moccasin mid-top styling, the Drake is a dressy casual shoe. (It’s really not a business casual shoe in its current configuration) Importantly, the missus lauded (unsolicited) positive comments about the Drake the first time she saw them. And paired with a pair of Gustin selvage jeans, the Drake is in its element, bringing in major style points. They just have a nice look to them, but they’re definitely a shoe you’d wear with jeans or pants (not slacks or shorts).
Personally, and this may seem strange if you were in the clown-shoe camp, I actually preferred the slightly wider last of the Oak as compared to the Drake. I think because of the moccasin-stitching, the Drake could pull off a wider base. In fact, I almost feel like the moc-stitch’s optical illusion (making the shoe look more narrow than it is) almost makes the Drake look too narrow. I’m being nit-picky here, but that’s just what I see. I go back and forth about the white sole on the Drake. I know that’s sort of the style these days so I’m rolling with it, but I could take it or leave it—a tan sole would also suit me fine.

Other thoughts

What I like about the Drake is that it’s a comfortable, stylish shoe that has a refined-enough look and barefoot-friendly design. It’s comfortable for knocking about my office or hitting the streets and getting about town. Compared to other mid-top, casual Vivo Barefoots (like the Gobi 2), I’d say the Drake is more comfortable thanks to having a padded lip around the ankle that the Gobi II lacks (pretty much requiring socks in the Gobi 2, whereas I’ve never worn socks with the Drake!). Fit-wise, I wear a 44 in the Drake (and a 43 in VFFs and a 10.5 in regular shoes). I don’t have a particularly wide foot nor a high in-step. If you have either, the Drake might fit you a little differently than me.

Conclusion

Ultimately, if you’re sold on barefoot-value prop you get with Vivo Barefoot shoes and like the look of the Drake, there’s nothing else you need to read! This is a solid shoe and a nice update from Vivo Barefoot. I’ll add that there are also a couple brown-leather varietals on VivoBarefoot’s website (they are the Soul of Africa versions and come at a higher pricetag). Speaking of price, the Vivo Barefoot Drake retails for $150 (though you can get 15% off once you click through and take advantage of their “share and save”). If you’ve got a pair, would be great to hear your thoughts! And if you’re still rocking your Oaks like me, would be good to hear from you, too!