Barefoot Shoes

VivoBarefoot Porto Review

The Shoes


The Looks


Dressed Up

When I first saw VivoBarefoot’s new line of “Handcut” shoes, I immediately wanted to try them out. However, given they were only initially released abroad, it took some time to get a chance, so I was pretty excited when Vivo offered to send me a pair of their desert boot Porto to test and review. While striking in their simple construction of premium leather and dressy by extension, the Porto’s initial on-foot experience wasn’t surprisingly stark. I’ve come to grow into these desert boots and they offer something different that you just might like. Read on for my full review — and a 15% off coupon!

What is this “Handcut” bit about, anyway?

Vivo makes the following notes on their website regarding the Handcut series, which includes the Porto (the desert boot reviewed today), the Lisbon (a straight-up dress shoe), and the Bannister:
They are created using the finest traditional shoe-making techniques, a wide anatomic toe box and super thin puncture-resistant sole combine to give your feet barefoot luxury.
As you might suspect, the handcut series are handstitched and “handcrafted.” I assume this means they are simply handmade, and in this case, they’re made in Portugal. All of this exudes premium and since they cost from $275 to $325 a pair (Bannisters at the low-end and Lisbons at the high-end with Portos setting you back in the middle at $300), you’re going to pay a premium to get these on your feet.

The Shoes

The Porto has the desert boot cut that is similar to Vivo's Gobi shoe.
The Porto has the desert boot cut that is similar to Vivo’s Gobi shoe.
I reviewed the VivoBarefoot Gobi almost two years back and I mention it now because it’s Vivo’s original entry in the fashionably relevant “desert boot” category. The VivoBarefoot Porto is not a replacement for the Gobi so much as a premium take on the design that replaces the foam insole and TPU outsole of the Gobi with a mostly-leather outsole (more on this later) and a premium leather upper that you can polish. Take a spin around the shoes via these photos: The Portos are neutral in thickness from heel-to-toe, have zero arch support, and are unlined. The lack of an elevated heel is most apparent when you look at the Portos from the back as you can see here. The Portos surprisingly have no removable insole. This is surprising in that it is a departure from every other VivoBarefoot design I’ve ever tested. Take a look inside:
The VivoBarefoot Porto as viewed from above, into the boots. Note they have no removable insole.
The VivoBarefoot Porto as viewed from above, into the boots. Note they have no removable insole.
Meanwhile, the Portos have a generous toe box that allows for plenty of wiggle room—no squished toes in these dress-ready boots! Yes! The Porto tongue is gusseted similar to the Gobi as you can see in this photo. Overall, the Porto’s simplicity and natural leather construction combines to make them look sharp.

Breaking-in the Portos

The Porto's lack of an insole and the 4mm thick leather and TPU outsole make for a departure from other Vivo offerings.
The Porto’s lack of an insole and the 4mm thick leather and TPU outsole make for a departure from other Vivo offerings.
The break-in process for most barefoot shoes is as simple as putting them on and—wait for it—voila! They’re broken in! Sure different shoes will adjust or stretch a bit from their brand-new state, but by and large, most barefoot shoes don’t require much break-in. I mentioned that my first-wear in the Portos surprised me in how stark the experience was. When you realize that the soles are nothing more than 4mm thick leather with a bit of rubber embedded within, this starts to make sense. Unlike other Vivos where you have a super thin but flexible TPU outsole and a thin EVA foam insole, the Porto’s sole provides a jarringly stiff ride. At least, that’s how it starts. What happens after two or three full days of wear in the Portos is that the sole starts to break-in and become more pliable. Mind, the soles don’t quite lose their overall structure over time, they improve with a bit of wear. As for the barefoot feel, the stiffer sole will bridge over much of the nuanced terrain you might expect to feel in other “barefoot shoes.” I use the word “bridge” because the soles don’t collapse around small stones or ridges in a meaningful way that makes you feel the sharpness of a stone (for example). In other words, even though the Porto is only 4mm thick in the sole, don’t expect to get the same ground feel (or really, anything close to the same ground feel) as you would get from a similarly thick pair of Vibram FiveFingers — or other pair of VivoBarefoots.

Socks not required.

Initially, I thought that given the stiffer ride of the Portos that I’d probably want to wear socks in them. Long-time readers might recall that I’ve grown to dislike wearing socks if I can avoid them. Well, I’m happy to report that once you’ve broken in the Portos a bit, socks are no longer required. Actually, I kinda like the feel of all that premium leather against my bare feet! It’s certainly a fun juxtaposition to wear such dressy boots sans dress socks.

The Looks

Worn here with a pair of selvedge jeans—fitting given a characteristic of selvedge is the high quality of the denim but the need to break them in.
Worn here with a pair of selvedge jeans—fitting given a characteristic of selvedge is the high quality of the denim but the need to break them in.
Because the Porto is cut like a desert boot, they seem right at home with a nice pair of jeans. Photoed above you can see them worn with a pair of selvedge jeans. If you’re not familiar with selvedge, it’s so-called because of the finished edge of the denim that you see when you cuff the jeans (note the white/red at the cuff). A characteristic of selvedge denim is that it’s served up “raw” and is very stiff on initial wear. The neat thing about selvedge denim is that it breaks into your body as you wear it, stretching and creasing in ways that are unique to you. It’s also long-lasting and a premium way to buy jeans. If you’re interested in trying out selvedge, you might check out a direct-to-consumer way to buy selvedge in a unique and fun, crowd-funded sorta way through Gustin jeans (and you can save $5 if you use my referral link). I mention all this talk about premium raw denim—selvedge—because the Portos have a bit in common as should be plain to see: premium materials and break-in time. The payoff is, of course, a really smart look to these boots. Unlike so many other minimalist shoes, the Portos look stands out as fashionable. A huge plus.

Dressed Up

Here I am attempting to look good for my wife.
Here I am attempting to look good for my wife.
I don’t often get all dressed up but I had a wedding to attend and a wife to impress. That meant wearing a suit. What more, it gave me the opportunity to test out the Portos in a really dressy get-up. So as you can see, that’s exactly what I did. And she was impressed! Seriously, the Portos could not have looked better with this slim-cut suit. Again, the style of these boots is on-point and makes a gent look smart. Whereas in some times past I’ve struggled to find a really great looking pair of dress shoes that were also comfortable (read: I’ve failed miserably), the Porto boots were a resounding success. I could attempt to wax poetic further on this point but I’ll just let the pictures speak for me:


All in all, my first experience with VivoBarefoot’s Handcut series a la the Porto desert boot has been a big success. These boots dress you up, and they do it thanks to their premium build and fashionable cut. It’s also worth pointing out that they seem very well constructed and should hold up very well over time. While I don’t know much about shoe repair, I’d also venture to say you could probably have the sole replaced at some point in the future. The biggest considerations that will might bring you pause if you’re considering these boots are the stiff-out-of-the-box soles and the price. At $300, these shoes are expensive. As for the soles, I like how they break in. They make these shoes a new type of experience in the world of barefoot shoes, and I appreciate that. It’s also unavoidable to have a stiffer sole when you go with a premium leather sole, so it’s a compromise that I think makes plenty of sense. Should you get them? If your wardrobe has a gaping hole for a premium desert boot and a separate hole being burned in your pocket to buy your next pair of minimalist shoes, well, you know what to do. Actually, for the next week (until October 28, 2014), you can get 15% off your order at using code DOB15. I’d really like to try the Bannister, but I’m already planning on doing an update on the Gobi, so stay tuned!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

19 replies on “VivoBarefoot Porto Review”

@Matt — I wear a 44 in Vivos of all varieties save for my old Oaks which fit me better in size 43. Ok, actually, the Ultras also fit me better in 43 (and I’m a 10.5 in shoes and a size 43 in FiveFingers)

These are great looking shoes. I’d like to find something I can wear to work and still look good. These may be them.
Great review!

I passed on the Porto as it is the widest of any Vivobarefoot shoe I have seen. The sole extending out past the leather doesn’t help either. Since it is a dress shoe, I don’t need all the high performance features, like an extra wide toe box. I need a shoe that looks normal from all angles. This didn’t. The bannister on the other hand, looks like a step in the right direction.

I just received my Portos on the mail today, and this are the dress shoes I’ve been waiting for the last 3 years, since I started wearing barefoot shoes. I’m very happy with this product.

I have the Vivo Lisbon, and like them a lot — better than my Primal Professional dress shoes. The PP does have the advantage of the faux heel, so it looks a bit more traditional, but the Lisbon is more comfortable. My only concern about the handcut line is the sole. With no heel enforcement, I’m afraid the soles will wear prematurely in that area. I saw on the Vivo website that they offer resoling in Europe, my hope is they will find a cobbler in the US that they can work with before mine need resoling.

I purchased two pairs of these and the soles wore out in few days on the heel. Vivo kindly replaced the other pair for me, but the other pair was purchased from a retailer and I was not able to get it replaced, though the Vivo customer service tried to help.

What I will do with the other, original pair, is that I shall get it re-soled. After that, I will take both of them to a cobbler and ask them to put extra rubber soles on both of them. That’s the only way I see they might last. I do wish the Porto would come with a sole that was completely synthetic and durable. If they do in the future, I’m buying another pair. If not, will stick to the Gobi when purchasing new pairs.


That is really interesting feedback. I’ve not had any premature wear like you describe — which to me likely points to a difference in the way we walk.

I purchased a pair a couple weeks ago and I’ve noticed that the sole is completely different from what you show here and what you used to see on the vivo site. They’ve since removed the sole photo on the US vivo site. Zappos has the updated photo of the sole-go take a look.

I’m not sure if it’s an improved sole or what but it would be interesting to know your feedback on the two differences in the soles – since that is sorta one of the most important parts about this $300 boot.

A word of warning for anyone considering these shoes: I bought a pair of Porto’s and within about 6 weeks the glue attaching the sole to the shoe began to break down. I was given a replacement pair and the same thing happened to the new pair about 3 months later.

I was overall disappointed with the quality of the shoes. You expect a shoe that you pay £250 for to last for years, not weeks.

Does anyone have any more feedback on these as for the long lasting of the ruber sole? I have a pair of their ultra’s and have burned through them in about 3 months, no way am i going to drop $200 or so if the rubber is only going to last a few months before getting a hole.

I have owned a pair of Portos for a year and would like to provide some insight for those that may be considering them.

I too had separation of the sole from the midsole. I was hoping it wouldn’t happen but it did. I think it is a flaw in the materials used. It’t not that they are not high quality, but I think the leather of the midsole is different that the sole so they flex differently and lead to wear. My assessment, so take it with a grain of salt.

Onto the longevity of the sole… I walk approximately 10 miles a week in them across pavement, concrete, and in the office. After 6 months of regular use I decided to resole them. I was wearing the rubber on the toe more than the rest of the shoe and started working into the leather of the midsole. If it weren’t for that I am confident I would have gotten another 3 months out of the sole. So to ensure I kept the midsole in good shape I resoled them at a local cobbler. You do not have to use Vivobarefoot soles, any cobbler can fit them with a new Vibram sole. I chose a thicker, boot style sole. Yes, I lost ground feel but I did retain flexibility. Ground feel is nice but my priorities are toe box and no additional height in the heel.

These have become my favorite shoes. Once broken in they are awesome. Soft, flexible, and they look great. Since I have enjoyed them so much I decided to buy a second pair in brown and start the process all over again. Are they expensive? Yes. Will they require a resole earlier than most shoes? Yes. But at this time, if you are looking for barefoot style shoes with a proper toe box, nice leather upper, and the ability to be resoled for years of use I have not found a better option yet.

Hi All,

I just got a pair of these in size 43 – size 9 in Canada and I was surprised how wide they are. They almost feel sloppy… would it be better to return and try a 8.5 size? Also, the leather is super stiff and I couldn’t imagine not wearing socks, it would probably rub my ankles bare…

Had mine since Jan 16 now. I got them at 60% off as I think V must b discontinuing, probably due to all the problems with the sole. Sent first pair back cos of the splitting the that others have noted. For me this resulted in squeaking, which I can’t cope with. Second pair I got resold by V at no cost, but it was a hassle. They still squeeze after about two weeks. So got them resold local place (much cheaper) and all is good. So for less than half price I’m happy. Still love vivo.

Holy sheet this portos are now discontinued? I’m going to commit Seppuku. Barefoot shoes are soon going to become like Jordans. When a good model comes out you need to buy like 5 pairs to last a lifetime, or live a lifetime back to pain!

Discontinued just when my well loved and heavily used pair need a new sole. Can Portos be resoled by any good cobbler?

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