There may be some head-scratching when you look at the new Ultra by Vivobarefoot.
The EVA-moulded outer shell looks disturbingly like a member of the love-it/hate-it Croc family. But have no fear, it all becomes clear when you slip on the sock liner heel tab and into this multi-optional shoe.
Essentially, a removable sock lining inner creates three options for running in the Ultras. Testers enjoyed road running with the sock in; however, it is easily removed and can be used by itself on shorter road runs too. If used alone, the footbed of the sock is puncture-proof and still gives 3mm of cushioning. When used along with the durable EVA shell, the cushioning increases by an extra 7mm of soft and comfortable bedding underfoot.
The cage takes up the full upper, and although comfortable, provides no support or stability. It’s more comfortable than we thought it would be initially, and the shoe is as light as any we can remember testing: just 100g!
The Ultra can be used on road, trail or wet conditions, but without the sock, testers preferred to use the naked shell only for post-run walking about and recovery – thanks to the tiny plush-pebbled footbed. The raised spongy bumps increase proprioception and make contact with acupressure points under the foot for a great post-run sensation.
In the wet (including foot sweat), even though the small extra plug-in stretchy mesh insert increases comfort over the lace area, the foot slides about a little too easily when running without the sock liner.