Not long after I started wearing my Vibram Five Fingers I realized that I needed some kind of alternative for work and casual social occasions. While I was immensely happy with my VFF’s, and wasn’t particularly shy about wearing them in public, sometimes the curious eyes and questions could be a barrier to comfortable and casual diversions.
As well, the question of professionalism was always in the back of my head whenever I wore my Five Fingers to work. So, I searched the Internet high and low for the best solution to my needs: minimalist footwear that looked like normal shoes.
I got a tip-off on the VIVOBAREFOOT line of shoes by Terra Plana, from Dr. Nirenberg at America’s Podiatrist. He believes they provide a beneficial transition between being barefoot and having protection for your feet. With this encouragement, I scoured through their inventory to see if they had a product which met my style requirements (conservative and traditional). What I ultimately decided on and purchased was Terra Plana’s VIVOBAREFOOT “Oak”.
As you can see, they have a very classic look with their conservative styling and tanned brown leather. They were exactly what I wanted so I set to purchasing them straight away. I could not locate any local shops that carried this brand of shoes so I had to order them online. At $150 they are a little pricey, but I was fortunate to have had a coupon code giving me a sizable discount on my order. A week or so later they arrived at my home in some clever packaging that reeked of a high-end product. Yes, extra packaging is basically more garbage, but nothing increases the psychological effect of a purchase like a well wrapped product.
So, what do I know now that you can’t tell without owning a pair of these shoes?
While the company website does a good job of explaining just how minimal the soles are (3mm), when I compared them to a pair of my previous set of casual shoes (Doc Martens) I was simply blown away by the difference. The Doc Martens have a significant amount of cushioning under the heel (1″) while somewhat less under the forefoot (1/2″). The curve of the sole also lends a small amount of arch support as it curves up to the heel. As you can see, the Oak rests much close to the ground, giving more opportunity for proprioception.
What does it feel like to wear and move around in the Vivo Barefoot Oaks?
In one word, great! While they don’t have the toe separation of the Vibram Five Fingers, the toe box is roomy enough to allow my digits to spread out anyway. As well, the minimal sole allows an equivalent amount of feel for the ground. Though I typically wear socks, and there is a small insole, it is possible to do without both in order to minimize the amount of material under your feet.
The sole is supremely flexible and doesn’t feel like a coffin, allowing your foot to flex and move however it needs to. Although I typically do my running barefoot or in my Five Fingers, on occasion I have taken short jogs through parking lots in my Oaks and have been thrilled with how they felt. I couldn’t do that in my Doc Martens, they just felt awkward while moving any faster than a leisurely stroll.
I absolutely love these shoes and am glad I took the risk and purchased them!
While the barefoot trend is slowly catching on, there are still many venues and situations where bare feet or wacky toe shoes are not appropriate. You will be happy to know that there are alternatives, and the ground beneath them has never felt better! You can check out Terra Plana’s full line of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes online at their website.