Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vivobarefoot Ra Review

As with many others who embark on a barefoot/minimal journey, I found my capacity to tolerate healed shoes greatly diminished. In plain English, regular shoes make my feet, knees, and back hurt after about an hour. This presents a problem in a work environment that doesn't allow sneakers.

To that end, I've been wearing brown Vivobarefoot Oaks since about Christmas (the review on these is coming soon.) Having only a pair of brown shoes (slightly oddly styled) that I could wear was OK but I basically cut out half of my work clothes because they didn't go with brown shoes.

Enter the VIVOBAREFOOT - Ra which, thanks to a coupon code, arrived at my house a few weeks ago. As with all Terraplana product, they arrive is a nice reusable shoe box and each shoe is individually wrapped in a reusable shoebag.

Since it appears that every blogger needs some type of schtick, I've somewhat uncreatively come up with my 6Fs. Flat, Fit, FLex, Flair, fPrice, Finale. There is no F synonym for price so I have taken the liberty of adding a silent F.

As with all Vivobarefoot shoes, Ra are zero drop. This means there there is no rise to the heel at all for my non-barefoot crazed readers. All of my regular wear shoes are zero-drop so far. I know a 10mm drop is too much for me but I'm not sure how much drop I can tolerate.

With an advertised 3mm sole, these shoes are really flexible. The upper is entirely leather so it did take a day or two to soften them up. The shoes come with a removable insole that adds a few millimeters of padding but I immediately removed it and have not used it. It's the same insole as the Oak and with my experience it will add a bit of squish if that's what you are looking for.

As I expected, these shoes fit great. In my casual shoes, I prefer a looser fit so these are right up my alley. They are extremely light for those who are used to normal shoes. As I mentioned above, the uppers are all leather so they took a day or two to break in and soften up. I initially noticed a bit of pressure/rubbing from the top of the tongue but this went away after the tongue softened up in a day. I also saw a warning on the Ra web page about the high cut and wearing socks during break-in. I do not intend to go sockless with these so this was not an issue and I don't think it is an issue now that they are broken in. The leather uppers also make the shoe a bit warm but since I mostly wear these in the air conditioned office, it's no worse than any other dress shoe. I ordered a size 45 after consulting with the helpful staff at the NYC store and they fit as I expected. My VFFs and Oaks are also 45 and my Trail Gloves are size 12.

FLAIR (Style)
The style is basically a plain black oxford shoe.

They are normal looking which in the universe of "quirky looking" minimalist shoes is a godsend in my attempt to integrate zero-drop into a conservative office environment.

List price is $150USD which is a bit steep for me but I waited for a 30% off coupon before ordering. Yes, I paid my own hard earned money for these shoes as I have not earned enough status YET as a blogger to get free stuff. I'm hoping to change this soon so if you want to send evaluation product my way, please drop me a line. ;-)

In the very limited world of minimal business footwear, the Vivobarefoot Ra hit the mark. They are light-weight, comfortable, flexible, and have great ground feel. I would recommend these to anyone out there who is looking for a minimal business shoe. You might even get away with these in a suit.

A note on Terraplana/Vivobarefoot: Their shoes are a bit pricey but I find they are durable and very comfortable and worth the expense to keep my feet happy at work. Also, their staff are very responsive and happy to answer your questions. I hope they will expand their retail presence into New England soon.

I will definitely be trying other shoes from Vivobarefoot though I need to slow down on my shoe purchases for the sake of my marriage.



  1. Thanks for the review Brad! Based on your experience (and the arrival of a 30% Memorial Day coupon today) I pulled the trigger and ordere a pair tonight. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you for coming by and reading my post. Hope you enjoy the shoes.

  3. Nice review. I'd love to see more pictures with how the shoes do or do not match with different pants. That's what I'm most concerned with when ordering minimalist shoes for the office. I'm still debating on what to get, but these are promising. Do you have any other pictures?

  4. Brandon, I don't think I have any other pics but I will try to remember to take more and post them up here for you.

  5. Where do you guys find these coupon codes?

    I'm looking to buy both the Ra and the Oak but as you're well aware, there's a serious price tag on that purchase.

  6. I've made 3 purchases from Vivi so far. Ra, Oak, Evo. I trolled the running world barefoot forum for coupon codes for each purchase except for the Evos which were a purchase from the clymb. The last code I got was from the Boston Marathon. If I see a code, I'll be sure to post it here. BTW, I wear the Ra's every day to work. I love them. I would say it is worth the 150 if you need dressier minimal shoes.

  7. Ask and ye shall recieve!

    30% off at Vivobarefoot until 1Nov with VBHALLOWEEN30 code.

    That's pretty much what I've done.

  8. Loving the ultra-thin sole on the Ra, gives me that great barefoot feeling! Ichecked on Vivos UK website and they now have it in Dark Brown, which looks super smart -

  9. I think I just might have to give it a try, my body doesn't hurt but I am 6'4 and tend to slouch. I heard that barefoot shoes help fix this. Thanks for the review.

    1. Wearing flat shoes has helped me with back problems. I chalk that up to being able to stand up straighter. Cheers

  10. What are the best socks to wear with these?

    1. I usually just wear lightweight dress socks. In winter, I can also wear a light smartwool to keep my feet warmer.

  11. Hmm...I've been wanting to try Vivo, but have been unwilling to pay full-price; I didn't know they had coupon codes. I may have to order two sizes for comparison because, like you, my Trail Gloves are 12, but my VFF are 44. If I remember correctly, I would've got VFF in 45 if not for my 'curled' pinky toes (a deformity caused by traditional shoes) being too short for the toe pocket—the 44 are comfortably snug.
    On another note, I second the use of 'fee'.

  12. If you're going to be writing shoe reviews it might be worth spelling heel correctly.