Sunday, November 25, 2012

Minimalist Casual/Dress Shoe Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Oak

For the first time in nearly five years, I purchased a pair of shoes for work. It had been scoping out the deal sights like LeftLane Sports and The Clymb for months looking to land that deal, and on the rare occasion when VIVOBAREFOOT did go on sale, I was often too late; they sold out of popular sizes with a serious quickness because they were both great sales - up to 50% off! Fast forward to a few weeks ago - BAM! I was on my computer when the email came through for the new sales, and I pounced.

Anyhow, enough of the back story. On with the review!

Clean and understated. I love this company.
Yessir! That little red "V" is a nice touch.
Sebastian, the bandanna dog, says, "These aren't treats!"
At first glance, the Oak is very well constructed. The leather appears to be of the highest quality. The Oak is very understated - a characteristic that VIVOBAREFOOT has perfected. Producing shoes that don't possess the "Look at me!" qualities that seems typical of minimalist shoes is likely much of the reason behind their success. I had pined for a pair of VIVO Oak or Ra shoes for many moons simply for the fact that I wanted comfortable, zero-drop shoe to wear with khakis at work, and the Oaks have not disappointed me.

The sole of the shoe is made of the neat amber, gum-rubber stuff that I really dig and which VIVO puts on all its brown leather wares. The treat pattern is quite flat, and I noticed that it has changed since I first began admiring it online. This review on Running and Rambling shows pictures of the older honey-comb style tread. I like the new one much better from a style standpoint.

The interior of the shoe is made up of a neoprene-like (it may very well be neoprene) sock liner: no tongue or folds to speak of. The shoe appears designed to hug your foot, but therein lies a minor issue. While the Oak has a gloriously roomy toe box, the rear of the shoe is a bit too loose on my heel. I have encountered this with more than one minimalist shoe manufacturer, but sufficient tightening of laces will will typically allow me to stabilize my foot pretty well. 

You can probably see where I'm going with this: only having two lace loops prevents me from really locking the shoe down. I can sufficiently tighten the collar to keep the shoe from flopping, but if I were to take off in a sprint I would feel pretty unstable. If this were a running shoe, that is likely a deal breaker. However, I have worn theses shoes every week day since they arrived in the mail, and I have not thought about the fit once since my initial fit test.

In fact, I rarely think about my feet at all during the day. This is a major departure from what I am typically doing: constantly fantasizing about removing my shoes, massaging my heels or arches, and walking around school unshod (and unashamed!). These shoes replace an old Madden-esque bowler shoe (which I am going to try to save in an upcoming DIY project) and a pair of Doc Martens slip-ons. Needless to say, in almost every way the VIVOs are a major upgrade.

Can your Doc Martens do this?

Removable insole, of course. My feet were swimming without it inserted, though. Make sure you size up if you plan on taking it out.
In conclusion, I don't like spending money unless I am meeting a definite need with exactly the item I am purchasing. The Oak fits that description perfectly. It is everything I want in a semi-dress shoe for daily wear. Keep your eyes peeled on LeftLane Sports and The Clymb for sweet deals. I have no idea when VIVOBAREFOOT shoes will go on sale again, but they have all kinds of great stuff for runners, bicyclists, climbers, and generally active people.

"Thank you, Lord, for minimalist dress shoes. Give us this day our daily treat and belly rub.... and run. Can't forget to run!"


  1. Do you now for how long time your 20% discount code at vivobarefoot for running and rambling will last?

  2. Hey, Peter! The VIVOBAREFOOT sale is actually 40% off and runs through November 28. Check it out at

    Lots more Cyber Monday (and beyond sales). Check out this link for further details:

  3. It really is, Jeff. I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed.