In which I try out barefoot shoes

Not too long ago, I was referred to a New York Magazine article about shoes. More specifically, it is about not wearing shoes and how everyone walks wrong. It was intriguing, and while I am not yet ready to jump on the crunchy-granola, dirt-worshiping, tree-hugging, long-hair-hippie bandwagon (heck, I just cut off all my hair!), it did make some good points. I walk barefoot in and around the house, at yoga (okay, maybe I’ll admit to being a little crunchy-granola), and even sometimes at work. In fact, I prefer barefoot. I’ve been looking for some new shoes, too, and want to go in a little different direction, stylistically, from the clompy, stompy boots I have been wearing for years, so thought I might investigate some of the shoes in the article.

For those that did not read the fine article, barefoot shoes are ones with a thin flexible sole. It is strong enough so that you do not get injured if you, say, step on broken glass, but is thin enough such that you do not have air cushions padding your step, forcing you to come down heavy, and unnaturally, on your heel. The article mentioned a few different brands of shoe with varying degrees of sole thickness. I am not into the rolling style Masai, and was pretty much done with the Nike shoe style in Junior High when the Nike Air hightops were brand new and all the rage. The Five-Fingers were a little too eXXXtreme outdoor sports for my tastes, which left the Vivo Barefoot.

REI stocks the Five-Fingers, but I’m not so keen on the Fred Flintstone look

After browsing around the Terra Plana site, I found myself most attracted to the black leather Dharma style of Vivo Barefoot. (LOST reference neither intended nor implied.)


It has proven difficult, nigh impossible, to find a pair locally. A Twitter question to #pdx turned up nothing. An email to their US headquarters confirmed that nobody around here sells them. For a shoe paradigm shift this drastic, I was a little hesitant to order them sight-unseen (although their exchange and return policy seems quite generous.)

A few days later, I got a Twitter friend request from Terra Plana, whose profile mentions a 20% discount code. I asked about it and was given the code. That big of a discount makes the plunge into the shoe unknown a little less scary. A little measuring to confirm that my boot size really is my shoe size (sometimes boots — maybe it’s just UK boots? — are a size off from shoes), and I’ve ordered a pair of Dharma Vivo Barefoots (Barefeet?) which should arrive in a week or so. I’ll let you know how they feel once they get here.


Posted in: Dear Diary Twitter

5 thoughts on “In which I try out barefoot shoes”

  1. I got a pair of barefoots last year, and while they’re extremely comfortable in terms of letting you feel the ground, they had some flaws
    1) They don’t breathe at all. They’re basically leather balloons, and are air-tight. If you walk any distance, your socks get soaked with sweat.
    2) They aren’t very durable. I have a habit of walking 5 to 10 miles just to get around town — and it wasn’t very many of these trips before my barefoots’ soles started to wear through.
    I’d like to try another pair, and make sure to change shoes if I’m going to, you know, walk, but I can’t justify the pricetag.

  2. I can’t say that I agree with the above. I guess it depends which style you get (as some styles are canvas and some leather), but I’ve never found sweat to be an issue. Also the latest styles have excellent (red) lining that wicks away sweat (and helps keep your tootsies warm – also, as of last season, they now come with excellent memory foam insoles that also wick), so perhaps the above is referring to the older styles when they were more basic and not lined. Nor have any of my pairs worn out on the soles at all, barely any visible signs of wear in fact, and the pair I most regularly use I’ve had for about 2 years now and the soles are fine. I only wear Vivos now and I wear them every day. I walk pretty much everywhere, as I don’t drive, so they’ve pounded over hard concrete all day long plenty of times and are just fine. They are meant to be made to last and I can’t complain about anything to the contrary so far.

    It does change your walk if you start to use them regularly – I now tread much lighter and land almost on the outside of my foot and roll the foot down to the ground before lifting off again, rather than a heavy heel strike with each step.

    The only point that I would note with the Vivos is in relation to the sizing. They consistently (and have always) run small so it’s best to order a size up from your usual (eg, I order 39s rather than 38s). They might feel different from regular shoes at first and like they are a little big in the toe area, but that’s the design – there is meant to be plenty of room for your toes at the end so your foot feels ‘free’ inside the shoe.

    I hope you’re enjoying your Vivos now as much as I’ve enjoyed mine over the years.

  3. Could you let me know how you got on with the Dharma’s? I am really interested in getting a pair (hopefully with the 20% off, as they are rather pricey for this impoverished physiotherapy student!) but can’t seem to find any for ladies in my size (38/39). I’m @capturearcadia on Twitter or my email is above.

    Thanks in advance!

    Kat 🙂

    1. Hi, Kat! You can see my two followup posts to this here:

      The short version is that I like them a lot. Some time later (about a year) I picked up another pair of Vivo Barefoot, but in a style that looks a little more professional and a little less like Vans slip-ons. And just a couple of weeks ago, I ordered a replacement pair of the Dharmas because the soles had gotten a little too thin and holey (holy?) for the wet Portland sidewalks.

  4. i bought 2 pairs of the canvas version of these last may. i wasn’t planning on buying 2 pairs, but they were on sale and cheaper if i did. both pairs are still going strong. i alternate them pretty regularly and have replaced the insoles once ($12) to make them feel new again. i love how comfortable they are and how they let you feel the earth beneath your feet – like wearing slippers outside. the bottoms of both pairs are worn in, but you can still see the tread – it hasn’t completely worn through. i’ill ride them out as long as i can..

    thanks to vibrafoot and terraplana for making a great shoe.


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