Due to a recent, um, complication at another location where employees were threatened with their jobs if they didn’t stop wearing the Vibrams, I decided I needed a back up plan.  Mind you, my job has been far from threatened, and at this point in the game, I actually think my fellow employees and managers have gotten quite accustomed to my choice of footwear, but I learned long ago never to trust the norm, so I went on a hunt.  I needed to find a VFF alternative that looked like a normal shoe, felt like being barefoot, and didn’t cost an arm an a leg (or a foot!).  My search led me to Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot line of shoes.

I was impressed with the overall company and the principles it encompasses, and I found the Oaks to be a quite attractive shoe.  A little research on the web scored me a website with a (presumably) discontinued color style available at half off the normal price, and a little more searching found me a coupon code that gave an additional $10 off and free shipping, so I managed to pick up a pair of Oaks for under $65.  Good buy!

Oak in Dark Brown Suede

Well, they arrived about a week ago, and the box was quite impressive.  Terra Plana prides themselves on being ecologically responsible, and it starts with the box.  From the recycled (and recyclable) box to the cloth bags to the tags on the shoes, everything looked very earth friendly.  The shoes were no disappointment either, and I was quite impressed with how soft and pliable they were compared to what a shoe normally is.

Per suggestions I’ve read all over, I removed the (removable on purpose) insole liner they come with to give a more minimal footbed feel, and donned a pair of Injinji’s.  Here’s my impression after wearing them for a week:

The toe box is HUGE!  I can move my toes up, down, and sideways and don’t hit the shoe!  This is nice as my toes tend to get claustrophobic in regular shoes, and don’t have issues at all with these.

I like the feel of the sole.  At 4.5mm thick, they’re a little thicker than the Treks I’ve gotten so used to, but I still have excellent ground sensation.  They have a very aggressive tread, and I don’t seem to have any slippage, even on wet polished concrete at work.

The shoes run wide.  I think I have a narrow foot to start with, but these suckers feel like slippers!  Not that that’s a bad thing, just very different from what I’m used to.  I’ve never been a huge loafer-style shoe fan, usually opting for something more secure feeling and tie on.  These shoes have laces, but solely for decoration – they don’t do squat for tightening the shoes.  As a result, the shoe “moves” with every step I take.  Imagine walking barefoot inside of a shoe.  I step, and then the shoe steps.  It took a few hours to get used to the feel, but once I did, its not bad.

Overall impression?  Usable, but not my favorite.  Again, maybe its from my narrow footsies, or maybe just my insane brain that wants either tight fitting shoes or none at all, but I couldn’t see myself wearing these day in and day out.  But that said, I don’t mind wearing them, so long as I have a choice.

These shoes seem to give me the option I was looking for in a shoe that allowed the barefoot feel and foot movements with the cosmetics of a “classic” shoe, so my problem is, at least for the time being, solved.