Thursday, April 14, 2011

VIVOBAREFOOT EVO 1 year follow-up review

It's been almost a year since my VIVOBAREFOOT EVOs, the first barefoot running shoe from the UK-based company, arrived at my door in all its crazy colored, vegan-friendly glory. The shoe has held up well from the standpoint of durability, but did it stand up to the test of time as all the new barefoot-ish style competition rolls in? I'll discuss the shoe with regard to my use of it for the past year, as well as compare it to some of the new kids on the minimalist block. I'll post some pictures when I can, but they look as good as the day I got them and did the original review.

Long story short- the EVO looks like new. After roughly 300-400 miles of use, the shoe looks like it did out of the box. Not a single seam is coming apart, and the sole is unaffected by a variety of surfaces. The only notable wear is typical for any shoe. The hexagonal panels that allow for more unrestricted movement have small raised bumps in them, presumably for traction. On the most heavily landed-upon areas, these have been scrubbed down. Bear in mind, these raised sections are roughly 1mm thick, so this wear would seem reasonable after 300-400miles of asphalt, rubberized track, and gravel.

The EVOs held up well as my go-to casual/running shoe

Fit and Feel
I'll be completely honest. My relationship with these shoes started out a little rocky. I was so used to running barefoot and in Vibram KSOs that adjusting to a closed toe box was difficult. This makes me a bit of an anomaly. Over the past year, my running focus has shifted from barefoot running to more of a performance-based objective. I now want the best tools for the job. During the winter, the VIVOBAREFOOT was my choice shoe for dry(but frigid) sidewalks and track workouts. It seems as though the faster I ran, the more I appreciated the shoe. This may be due to my form being better at higher speeds. Groundfeel isn't the best(I give that award to a worn-out KSO or a huarache), but protection and comfort are top notch. As the cold weather insisted on sticking around here in Michigan, I found myself using the shoe more and more for road runs. I could wear wool socks on wet, nasty days, and enjoy warmth of a closed toe box on the more bearable days.

The EVO became my gym shoe of choice this year as well. Western Michigan University's Student Recreation Center banned the use of Vibrams in the weight room. I didn't like wearing them anyway in there because they stink like crazy, they bring too much attention, and they stink like crazy(yes, I said it twice). For fitness classes that were mostly push-up, sit-up, and sprint intensive, the EVOs fit the bill perfectly and passed for trainers to the untrained eye. 

Comparability(a slight rant)
The market is now flooded with shoes that capitalize on the popularity of barefoot running. In my book, many of these shoes are useful, yet the word "barefoot" rarely comes to mind when I think of them. Most of these shoes are of use to the general public because they offer the familiar squishy protection of trainers, while still utilizing the proposed benefits of a more natural midfoot landing...At least that's the claim. I feel a bit differently, but hey, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. For those of us that find maximum comfort from minimal cushioning, shoes like the EVO make for a far better purchase than a squishy-soled faux barefoot shoe. As minimalism in running reaches peak trendiness, we must be a aware that some shoe companies favor image to functionality and want to give the illusion of safety and make padded shoes. Not the case with the EVO. VIVOBAREFOOT shoes have zero cushioning and zero heel, but they provide resources to safely transition to natural running. (e-book review to follow).

I still maintain that the best way to learn to run is to take out that forgiving squish that EVA foam gives us. The EVO is nothing more than a rubber sole with a removable insole. A simple idea, and it works. The thinness and simplicity is much more preferable for road running than some of these new models like the NB minimus road, Saucony Kinvara, and other shoes with raised heels and foam padding. I'm often drawn to the idea of comfy padding, even after my several bad experiences. Groundfeel makes me far more comfortable than padding on the roads. Shoes like the the EVO(and the KSO) are still the best on the market for me on the streets, despite a few drawbacks. A few of my training partners have commented about how loud the shoes are on the track. My foot audibly hits the ground, no matter how I land. People commented that since I usually sneak up on them barefoot or in KSOs, it was odd to hear me. As a winter shoe, the only real problem is that the cold can go right through the rubber bottom of the shoe. No biggie as long as one stays moving.

The shoe wasn't really intended as a hardcore trail shoe, so I don't hold it up on a pedestal as such. I think  the shoe falls a bit short in this category, but that's what trail shoes are for. For those of you that dig the trail experience of feeling every rock, stick and acorn, this shoe is great. Just as with the road, it provides that slight buffer between the ground and the foot. On some days, and for runs of a certain purpose, I like that feeling. For the majority of my trail runs, I like to go fast and/or look around, observing my environment. It's made a little easier by having a little more protection underfoot. The more technical trails in the Michigan area are most enjoyable for me to run in either Vibram Treks or Merrell Trail Gloves, which offer a bit more give when stepping on pointy things. Call me a poser or a fair weather barefooter, but its a formula that works for me. If a trail specific EVO were to surface, I think it would be tough competition for the current offerings.

To Conclude-
The EVO has proven to be a great shoe, worthy of even its rather hefty price tag(about $160MSRP). Its suitable as a "do it all" shoe, but really excels on hard surfaces like roads and tracks. The super flexible shoe provides groundfeel and protection without the drawbacks of the gorilla feet(KSOs).


  1. good to know that they will last as long as I thought they would! I have the Evo IIs and would like to try the original Evos.

  2. i'm glad someone is starting to follow up these minimal shoe reviews with "ok, now i've actually run legit miles in them and here's how they've and i've held up" thanks!

    on the topic of insanely expensive running shoes, the store in toledo started carrying Hoka's. so when i was in there today, i thought "what the hell, lemme at'em"

    frankly, i'd be curious to run some serious trail in them especially descending with all that cushion, but just running around on flat ground i don't see the point at all (meaning, why wear them in the midwest). i was truly surprised at how light they are given they're frankenstein size, but for $180 they ought to also drive me to work everyday and make me sandwiches.


  3. Thanks, P. I tried the hokas too. It was kind of fun because they're so damned stupid looking. This is coming from a kid with a blondish afro who wears shoes with toes! Hell yeah on the pricetag- That's like 90 burritos!

    Time willing, I'll post up some reviews of other shoes I have high mileage on. My Merrells have almost 1400 on them, so they're do for a re-review...and a wash.

  4. Thanks for the update, glad to read that they are still holding up well. I just got my first pair normally run in RunAmocs or trailgloves but needed something for when the winter sets in.

  5. Nice review, just picked up a pair of brand new Evo's in the same colour as yours for $NZ68 (about $US60)... so it appears I made a good buy. I too have some Vibram 5's and have some Salomon Senses on their way... minimal is the way to go for me!