The Ultra is truly the first of its kind in the minimalist shoe market: it’s an incredibly light-weight running shoe made to go in and out of water easily and can be worn in three different ways. You can wear the upper-outsole by itself, the sock liner with its puncture resistant sole by itself, or the two combined. It’s also exceedingly comfortable. VIVOBAREFOOT suggests it is suitable for light trail running, water sports, long runs, or any urban exploration and I would totally agree.
I’ve been unexpectedly surprised at how comfortable the Ultra is to wear, no matter what configuration I’ve tried it in. The inside of the sock liner feels just like a slipper; I can feel no seams or sharp edges and it fits my foot perfectly. The inside of the upper-outsole has little hexagon-shaped bumps on the footbed that, although noticeable, are not the slightest bit uncomfortable and provide traction for your feet within the shoe. If you want to wear the shoe without the sock liner, the Ultra package comes with a removable, plug-in stretchy mesh tongue for added comfort and to avoid pinching, although the outsole is quite comfortable without it.
Some have noticed uncomfortable creases in the upper of the Evo or Evo II models. The Ultra seems to have fixed this issue as the shoe is very comfortable while walking or running.
If you wear the Ultras without the sock liner or socks and have long toe nails I could see how long toe nails might catch on the holes of the upper.
The Ultra is perfectly comfortable without socks. The seams are all flat and in unobtrusive locations within the sock liner. I actually find wearing the Ultras without socks more comfortable. The sock liner hugs my foot just as socks do and so I find no need to wear socks with them (unless it’s cold out). Running in the Ultra without the sock liner or socks caused no blisters for me.
The Ultra is wonderfully wide and even wider than the Evo model. My toes and metatarsals have plenty of room to splay. Because of the adjustable elastic cord and lock-lacing system, the shoe is easily adjusted to the width of your foot. My foot feels secure and stays in place. I was initially concerned at how much longer the upper-outsole is compared to my feet but when I ran in them with the elastic cord a little tighter to accommodate the loss in volume, the shoe stayed on my foot securely.
The upper-outsole is a fully moulded, anatomically shaped, dual density, abrasion resistant ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). The sole part of the outsole is a higher density material than the upper part for, I’m assuming, better durability. The puncture resistant part of the shoe is embedded in the sole of the sock liner. The outsole and sock liner combined sole thickness is 6 mm. I think is a good thickness for light trail running while still allowing for adequate ground feel for urban walking or running.
These shoes are incredibly flexible in every conceivable direction. No matter what way you bend them, they bounce back to their original shape.
Each size 39 Ultra, with the sock liner included, weighs 4 ½ ounces (128 grams), which is amazingly light for a fully uppered running shoe. The sock liner alone weighs 1 ½ ounces (43 grams) and the upper-outsole alone weighs 3 ounces (85 grams). I’ve run in the Ultras with and without the sock liner and either way, they feel amazingly light and practically non-existent on my feet.
Support / Insole
As with all VIVOBAREFOOT products, there is no arch support. The insole could be considered to be the removable sock liner, but otherwise, there is no other insole included.
The degree of barefoot feel depends on how you’re wearing the Ultra. In descending order of barefoot feel: the sock liner alone has the best barefoot feel, then the upper-outsole alone, then the two combined. Even with the two combined, there is still great ground transmission through the 6 mm of combined material as they are both incredibly flexible sole materials.
The grip depends on how you’re wearing the Ultra. The sock liner alone has more than enough grip for indoor surfaces, which is the only way I’ve worn it. I don’t believe the sock liner is made for outdoor adventure durability. The grip of the upper-outsole is great for indoor or outdoor road or light trail adventures. I do not recommend these for mud of any kind nor technical, rocky trails.
You can hardly get better breathability in a shoe than when you wear the upper-outsole of the Ultra alone, it’s full of holes! The sock liner is quite breathable as well, I have often felt breezes on my feet when wearing the sock liner and upper-outsole combined as most of the material making the sock liner is a double layer of mesh.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of the materials and manufacturing of the Ultra is impeccable. The EVA is long-lasting and durable while able to hold its shape. The sock liner is made mostly of double-layered mesh and neoprene. There are no manufacturing errors in the sample pair.
The Ultra is not water resistant, in fact, it’s the opposite. This is an amphibious shoe designed to easily let water out of the shoe while trail running through puddles. If you wear the sock liner while doing so, the material will hold some water, but if you run without it, water will flow out as easily as it flowed in.
The Ultra fits one size smaller than true to size, so I recommend ordering a size up from what you normally wear. I usually wear a size 38 and the size 39 Ultra fits perfectly like a slipper. If you are familiar with VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, it fits the same as the Evo and Neo models.
At $90 USD on the VIVOBAREFOOT website, the Ultra is a great value considering its extreme versatility as a minimalist shoe, not to mention quality and durability.
I can honestly say there is no other minimalist shoe on the market that looks like these! This is a kind of shoe styling you’re either going to love or hate for their particular uniqueness. I love them! I’ve worn them not only running but all kinds of errands all over town. All my friends have said they suit me.
They come in a wide array of colors as well: red, pink, purple, grey, white, and black.
There is no break-in period required for these shoes. The sock liner is instantly comfortable and the upper-outsole EVA is not going to change shape throughout the life of the shoe.
The upper-outsole could not be easier to wash: just rinse the mud off. The sock liner can also easily be washed in the sink with soap and water. I don’t think I’d want to put either through the washing machine but there probably isn’t any need for it when a wash in the sink will do just as well and be gentler on the mesh of the sock liner.
This is the ultimate climate control shoe! If it’s really hot out and you want the most ventilation, remove the sock liner. If it’s cooler, put the sock liner back in. If it’s really cold, put on a pair of socks and keep the sock liner in. How warm you want the shoe will depend on how hot it is outside and how hot your feet normally feel.
This shoe is pretty much good for anything you’d wear a casual minimalist shoe for barring muddy or technical trail running. They are great for running through puddles or long walks around town. I’ve been on several runs with them and really enjoy their comfort and versatility as a running shoe.
VIVOBAREFOOT has outdone themselves in creativity and innovation with the new Ultra. This shoe is incredibly comfortable, light-weight, and versatile. You can wear it either of three different ways depending on the amount of proprioception you want or climate control. The Ultra is an excellent addition to the minimalist footwear industry and really a category unto itself.
For more information about the Ultra, you can check out the VIVOBAREFOOT website.
Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info