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"Barefoot" Footwear

Review – Vivo Barefoot Aqua by Terra Plana

Living Barefoot Presents


Can shoes really come close to the feeling you get from being barefoot?


For me, walking barefoot is the ultimate in comfort and pleasure.  There is nothing quite the same as the enjoyment I feel when I can sense the world under my feet.  From the texture and temperature sensations, to the comfort of feeling free, bare feet are best.  Together with the sensory aspect, there is the health aspect of a more natural walk. Most shoes change the way we walk, the way we stand, and the way our body mechanics work.

Most of us live in parts of the world where going barefoot is, at best, tolerated.  Outside of culturally sanctioned situations, like the beach and at the swimming pool, bare feet are not often seen.

While you may realize the health benefits of going barefoot, and may even love the sensation, you may find that your feet are too tender to be barefoot all the time, and you likely have social reasons for not being able to bare your feet as often as you wish.  You may live in a part of the world that is too cold during the winter to walk barefoot.

Finally, shoe companies have started responding to a growing market that craves a more minimalistic shoe – one that is more healthy, simple, and more like being barefoot.

These are the shoes that we are going to review in our series on barefoot alternatives.  The first of these is a remarkable line of shoes made by Terra Plana.   Many companies claim to have a natural fitting shoe, but few deliver. Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot line of shoes is different.  Their shoes are often made with recycled material and use an eco-friendly manufacturing process.  Vivo Barefoot is one of several brand names falling under the Terra Plana umbrella. Their shoes all have character, and all are all stylish and modern.

First Impression
The Aqua, as this shoe style is known, has a great casual look.  Made with Vivo Barefoot Technology, these shoes have a thin and flexible puncture-resistant sole, designed to be protective, yet give you the feeling of being barefoot. It looks as though this color may have been discontinued, however some other great colors are available on the Terra Plana website.

When I first put this shoe on, it was immediately apparent that this was a shoe unlike any other shoe I have worn.  I have wide feet, as many barefooters do, and most often find myself working far too hard to squeeze my foot into a narrow shoe.  Even with my wide feet, I had no trouble fitting into these shoes.  The toe room is impressive, leaving enough room for my toes to flex naturally, and even a little for them to spread.  The shoes have been designed to be worn with or without socks. The inside is soft, both with and without the insole. The top of  the foot slides into and under a unique stretchy membrane that is stitched into the sides of the shoe, creating a soft flexible barrier between the top of your foot and the lacing system. This feels very comfortable.  The rear of the shoe is well padded, and made of particularly soft suede-like material for extra comfort.  Absolutely no break-in period was required.  These shoes fit perfectly from the moment I put them on!

They are very light.  Probably due, in great part, to the lack of heavy rubber often found in the soles of shoes.  You could carry around a pair of these in your bag without even knowing they were there.  For that matter, you could carry around several of these! (And you should!)

Flex / Sole
The sole is very thin, probably no more than 2-3mm thick, and very flexible.  The entire shoe can easily be folded in half.  The bottom of the rubber sole is lightly nubbed for traction, and carries the Vivo Barefoot logo. There is no heel on the shoe. Well done Terra Plana!

Support / Insole
The shoe comes with a light-weight, memory foam insole.  With active carbon, the insole is designed to absorb some of the shock of walking, wicks moisture, and has natural odor absorbing properties. This insole, like the shoe, is a unique and well-designed creature. Although I ultimately removed the insole for a better bare foot feeling, it was an amazingly comfortable insole.  So comfortable in fact, that I’m going to try to fit it into other shoes that require one  The insole provides just enough shock absorption to soften the landing, without the rubbery bounce that so many insoles have. The shoe has no arch support at all, naturally!

Barefoot Feel
Of course, nothing compares to walking barefoot, but these shoes were great.  So great in fact, that I immediately had to walk the way I do when I walk barefoot.  Heel striking is just not comfortable with these shoes, and that’s a good sign.  The shoe is designed to be worn with or without the insole, and when removed, what remains is a perfectly smooth and comfortable sole. Walking feels very barefoot-like without the sensations and subtleties of the ground, but with a natural barefoot foot movement, posture, and walking style. The shoe fits very well, alowing for full natural movement, without a feeling of looseness.  Indeed, for an enclosed shoe that looks like a normal shoe, this is the best barefoot sensation I have felt.

There are numerous vents throughout the shoe, hidden beneath a layer of webbing, but large enough that air circulation can be felt immediately.  The ventilation is well done and better than the average shoe.

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The shoes are made with an emphasis on stitching rather than using glue. This prolongs the life of the shoe while helping to save the environment. The quality of construction is impressive.  As I photographed the shoe, I was impressed with the attention to detail. My only concern lies in the inside of the shoe, where two small strings, one on either side of the flexible foot covering, have loose ends. There is no obvious reason why they should not be stiched down properly.  They didn’t cause any problems and didn’t seem to compromise any of the stiching, however they seem out of place for an otherwise very carefully constructed shoe.

Water Resistance
Because of all the ventilation, this shoe could not possibly be waterproof.  For that matter, I wouldn’t want my foot to be in a waterproof shoe anyway. The principle usually works both ways – keeping the wet out, and keeping it in – Yuck!  I did wear them in the rain several times, however, – and my feet remained dry and comfortable.

I normally wear a 43.  These shoes came as a 44, but easily could have been another size up.  They are perfectly comfortable despite the small size – which speaks volumes to the incredible comfort of these shoes. However, when ordering, I would recommend that you order at least 2 sizes larger than you normally wear.  This is also explained on their web-site.

Priced at $150 US on the Terra Plana website, these are not inexpensive shoes, but they are worth it.  The quality of construction combined with the comfort and barefoot feeling make these shoes a must-have.

Overall Impression
I have never worn such a comfortable enclosed pair of shoes.  They feel as close to being barefoot as I could imagine, and they are well made. There is a perfect amount of toe room, and the soft materials make the shoes a pleasure to wear.  While these particular shoes are not suitable for a formal business environment, the Vivo Barefoot line has many men’s and women’s styles, many of which would be acceptable to all but the most stuffy offices.  They successfully pull off the barefoot feeling, with many of the associated health benefits,  where so  many others have tried and failed.  Finally, they are made by a forward thinking, eco friendly company – and that too is important.

New designs have just been released, including a very comfortable – looking sandal.  Perhaps we can convince Vivo Barefoot to send us a review pair of sandals next!

Get your own pair on the Terra Plana website
Vivo Barefoot on YouTube

On a side note, I would like to comment on the exceptional communication, professionalism and kindness that I experienced dealing with Terra Plana.  Judging from the exceptional experience I had, I can only assume that dealing with this company in general must be an excellent experience, as the quality of individuals a company hires is often consistent.

Other Great Living Barefoot Articles:

Buy Vibram FiveFingers at these quality online retailers:

Rock Creek
Half Moon Outfitters
The Flip Flopper


About Living Barefoot Reviews:

As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.

Should you have any questions about our review process or would like your product reviewed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us using our contact page.


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35 comments for “Review – Vivo Barefoot Aqua by Terra Plana”

  1. The Terra Plana site doesn’t have the Aqua in the colors from your article. Did you review an older model or is this an upcoming color scheme? The latter, I hope, as I prefer this lighter brown color to those on the Terra Plana site.

    Posted by Karl Fast | April 22, 2009, 11:26
  2. Hi Karl,
    That was also my first impression. In order to answer your question I checked with Terra Plana for an answer. The Aqua Beige is listed on their website, and it will be a current color until the fall of 2009, however the color of the image is off. I’ve confirmed that the Aqua Beige is in fact the same color as in the reviewed shoes. The photographs taken by us are true to color. They are working on correcting the images to appear more accurate. Should you wish to order, Terra Plana has been kind enough to pass on a discount, so be sure to order using the discount code: LIVINGBAREFOOT for 15% off the price.

    Posted by Al Gauthier | April 22, 2009, 16:00
  3. Thanks for the great review. This is helping to seal-the-deal on a vivo purchase.

    Posted by Grok | May 13, 2009, 13:59
  4. [...] Vivo Barefoot – Aqua Review – Read It Here – Vibram FiveFingers: Review of the Sprint, KSO, and Classic Styles – Read It Here – Feelmax Shoes [...]

    Posted by | Living Barefoot | June 16, 2009, 18:01
  5. I once travelled to the Terraplana shop in Vienna and asked if they had anything in my size (47) but it looks like Vivo barefoot only go up to size 46, definitely too small. So unless they add larger sizes, it’ll be barefoot without the Vivo. (Though there are opportunities when wearing elegant black shoes with a barefoot feeling would be really great …)

    Posted by unci | July 15, 2009, 14:36
  6. Hi Unci,

    I contacted Vivo Barefoot on your behalf, and this is the response I received

    “Terra Plana makes all VivoBarefoot styles in size 47. Not sure when this gentleman visited the Vienna store or what styles and sizes the Vienna store chooses to order, but for Terra Plana for N & S America all styles are ordered from 41-47. We have plenty of styles for this customer to choose from and would be happy to assist him in getting a pair.”

    Posted by Al Gauthier | July 15, 2009, 19:26
  7. I have the Dharma and agree that it is a very comfortable shoe. Unfortunately after a few weeks the soles began to detach from the leather uppers. I wrote the company asking if they could rectify the situation and received absolutely no response. I’m not very impressed with the quality, and even less impressed with their customer service.


    Posted by Phil Howard | July 18, 2009, 19:36
  8. Hi Phil,
    That doesn’t sound like the Terra Plana / Vivo Barefoot that we have come to know. The shoes also seem very well made. I have forwarded your comment to our contact and hopefully we can help resolve the issue for you!

    Posted by Al Gauthier | July 19, 2009, 00:51
  9. Hi Again Phil, I received a response from Vivo Barefoot. Here is what they had to say: “Thank you for passing this along. I have checked all emails and no one has received an email from Phil. I would love to help this customer and feel quite bad that he has not had much success. This is definitely not the standard of Terra Plana. If you could be so kind to pass along my information or have him call me at the office I would love the opportunity to restore his faith in Terra Plana.”

    I will email you the contact information Phil. Please update us to let us know how this was resolved for you!

    Posted by Al Gauthier | July 20, 2009, 18:52
  10. bleh, appears LIVINGBAREFOOT code no longer works. shoes are just a bit too pricey for me atm. the shoes cost enough, you’d think they could offer free shipping :)

    Posted by dave | July 22, 2009, 07:08
  11. [...] comes in white and green. An added bonus is that the shoes are made of much recycled material. > Living Barefoot took the Acqua’s for a spin and wrote up a [...]

    Posted by Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies. | running quest | August 4, 2009, 18:29
  12. I normally take size 8 or 9, depending on make of shoe (i guess i’m 8 1/2 but don’t see many shoes being produced in half sizes these days). I bought these in size 10 as i had trouble getting the 9′s on. There are several mentions here and elsewhere that 1 size up is needed. Trying them on again at home, I now notice that there is a lot of space in front of the toe, about 1 inch, which bothers me as the pics they show have the toes almost touch the front of the shoe and wonder if this will affect the comfort and “barefoot” experience. Any thoughts? Should take them back and exchange for a 9 and hope they wear in?

    Posted by Patrick | August 12, 2009, 05:18
  13. HI Patrick. Good questions about the Vivos. You’re really asked several questions here.

    It all depends on why you have difficulty getting the size 9 shoe on. Vivos, in particular the Aqua, can be very snug when they are being put on. The elastic sock-like liner is part of why this is. Having said that, if they are uncomfortable in any way once they are on, then I would not suggest wearing them in. I believe that shoes either fit or the don’t. If you can’t find a comfortable size then the shoes are not for you. Forcing feet into shoes that are not the right size is part of why people have so many foot problems in the first place.

    The size 10 will probably not change the barefoot feel of the shoe, however, one inch of extra space sounds like it may be too much. I would be concerned about tripping. I would guess that the size 9 was the right fit, but that you abandoned them early due to the snug fit while putting them on.

    If a store is close enough, I would try the size 9 on again and make sure that they don’t fit. You might be surprised. Otherwise, if the size 10 fits well, and you don’t think you’ll have a problem with tripping on the extra length, than those would be just fine.

    Hope that helps. Al

    Posted by Al Gauthier | August 12, 2009, 05:39
  14. Thanks Al. Nice to hear from someone else who recgnises that sometimes shoes are just not the right fit, whicever size you try. I’ve often deliberated over whether to go for 8′s or 9′s, but never 9′s or 10′s.

    Still not sure about these, and my 28 days for exchange are nearly up. Unfortunately i don’t live anywhere near a store to try the 9′s again, so i’ll have to pay £5 to send them back (and another £5 if i decide 10′s wre right after all!) or keep them and hope for the best.

    Many thanks

    Posted by Patrick | August 25, 2009, 06:10
  15. Hi Patirck, If you want my opinion, I would say that if you are trying to decide if the shoes are the right fit, than they are probably not. A good fit shouldn’t be much of a debate. I would always suggest sending them back for the the little money it costs. You’ll thank yourself in the long run!

    Posted by Al Gauthier | August 25, 2009, 20:30
  16. I have had vivobarefoot aqua since december and generally like them. They are very comfortable and fun to wear. My main complaint about them is that the sole seems to curve up at the toes. This feels uncomfortable while standing, but I don’t notice it while walking. I’d prefer being able to have toe contact with the ground. Has anyone else had this problem?

    Posted by Dave | September 25, 2009, 05:13
  17. Very interesting review and comments. Are these comfortable walking long distances, like 2.5 miles to work?

    Posted by Jon | December 2, 2009, 05:53
  18. Very much so. More comfortable than most shoes.

    Posted by Al Gauthier | December 2, 2009, 14:16
  19. I really love the feel of my Terra Plana Dharma’s. They are super comfortable, but they don’t breathe at ALL so odor became a problem within weeks of wearing them. While I would consider buying another pair of TP shoes in the future, they are currently WAY too expensive. I’d only buy another pair if they reduced the price (a lot). I had to ship my first pair back because they were too small and had to pay the postage. At $140 per pair they could at least offer free shipping, and free return shipping for problems with the fit.

    Posted by Barry | December 9, 2009, 08:42
  20. Love the Terra Plana collection. Finally got a chance to check out the New York store and try everything on. Also, check out Urban Sherp today – they are giving away a pair of Terra Plana Doll shoes in a cool quilt fabric.

    Posted by Leigh | December 14, 2009, 08:01
  21. i have 3 pairs of Terra Plana, work, play, winter and love the feel, especially when i cannot have my five finger trek on which still is my favorite! but Terra Plana line is great!

    Posted by conrad | January 10, 2010, 05:22
  22. I ‘ld like to purchase the Aqua but in Holland where i live there’s no shop that sells them.
    I want to try them on first because of the problems with sizing i read here, so buying them at Terra Plana.com doesn’t sound too attractive.
    Furthermore on their site all the colors i like are ”out of stock” ?

    Posted by Mark | February 3, 2010, 19:29
  23. I don’t own a pair yet, but I tried on a pair of Dharmas the other day and I think I agree with Dave. They seem pretty comfortable for a pair of “normal-looking” shoes (as opposed to barefoot or FiveFingers, which I prefer), but I think it would be more comfortable and more natural to have a flat sole rather than having it curve up at the toes. It probably looks more like a shoe to have the sole curved, but our feet don’t curve up at the toes, so why should our shoes?

    Posted by Pete | February 5, 2010, 04:34
  24. Been wearing barefoot shoes, or something close, past 18 months. Started with Sanuk shoes and Five Fingers. Love Five Fingers, but the Sanuks wear out quite quickly. Bought a pair of Vivo Barefoot Dharmas mainly for work, church, ets. and have been very happy with durability, look, etc. of these shoes. My feet are relatively narrow, so they do fit quite a bit looser than other shoes. I don’t mind that much. I might look into the Sanuk boot I just found for winter wear.

    Posted by Chuck | February 8, 2010, 08:09
  25. I’m having a bad customer service experience with TP. Bought a pair of Aqua’s that separated at the seam around the top of the heel after 2.5 weeks. They refused to exchange and told me it was “wear and tear” but offered to fix them if I sent them in (shipping at my expense). After 3 weeks, I received the “repaired” shoes, only they hadn’t been repaired. The seams are still falling apart. I’m not happy at having paid $150 for a pair of shoes that falls apart after a couple weeks!

    Posted by jeff | November 12, 2010, 08:41
  26. Hi Jeff. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. We have sent your comment to TerraPlana to see if they would like to respond.

    Posted by Al Gauthier | November 12, 2010, 11:13
  27. HI Again Jeff,
    Terra Plana replied. They indicated they had already been in contact with you and that they agreed the stitching repair had not been adequately done. As you are no doubt aware they are sending you a replacement pair.

    Posted by Al Gauthier | November 13, 2010, 06:11
  28. Thank you Al – you’re quick! I just got an email from TP, and they have shipped a replacement this afternoon. I’m a happy camper!

    Posted by jeff | November 13, 2010, 09:21
  29. Excellent. Great to see it’s been resolved!

    Posted by Al Gauthier | November 13, 2010, 09:46
  30. Nice review, thanks for the informations :)
    I’m very interested in this whole ‘barefoot-topic’, I guess the next step is to try out a pair, I hope it’s as useful as you read all over the internet

    Posted by Max | May 26, 2011, 20:09
  31. Hi Max,

    It’s a very exciting thing to try – just make sure you do enough reading so that you understand what you are doing and how to do it safely. Changing to barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes is a big step for the body – so make sure you are very gradual.

    Keep us posted on your progress!

    Posted by Al Gauthier | May 26, 2011, 22:33
  32. Hi All,

    I’ve bought a pair in August, and for some reason just couple of days ago. The sole cracked in several places. Is is possible I’ve stepped in something which caused this? I’ve emailed Vivobarefoot regarding warranty, but have not heard anything. Do these shoes come with manufacture warranty? How should I proceed to obtain a second pair from Vivobarefoot?


    Posted by Martin | November 26, 2011, 14:23
  33. Also for water proofing, strange as my aquas soak up water through the sole, anyone else experience this?

    Posted by Martin | November 26, 2011, 14:24
  34. Hi Martin,

    Thanks for writing us! That’s very concerning that the sole has cracked in the way you describe. I’ll send you a personal email and ask you to send me a couple photos, if that’s ok. I would like to see it myself, for interest sake. Then I’ll be happy to send an email with your contact information, and the photos, on to Vivobarefoot for you. Otherwise I suggest that you give them a call. In my experience, with other customer related issues, they have always been extremely fair and reasonable. Where faults in manufacturing were the cause, have always provided a repaired or a replacement product. I can only assume they will treat you with the same high level of customer service whether you go through us, or if you contact them on your own.

    Were there any contributing factors to the cracking of the soles? I own a large number of Vivobarefoot products of all ages and styles and have never seen even the smallest crack in the sole. Where they perhaps in extreme cold or heat? Or perhaps subjected to the sun for very extended periods of time? This is a very interesting situation.

    Kind Regards,

    Al Gauthier

    Posted by Al Gauthier | November 26, 2011, 14:44
  35. Hi Again,

    Again not something that I have experienced at all. Sounds as though the environment your shoes are in may lend them to have cracks perhaps… Do send photos!

    Posted by Al Gauthier | November 26, 2011, 14:48

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