This is my first review for Toesalad about a shoe that I really wanted to have and that I now really love to wear.
The Ultra has a really innovative design.
It is the first running shoe made out of EVA which makes it very light. Normally EVA would wear out very quickly. The designers at Terra Plana made the shoe out of double density EVA. The sole is made of a higher density EVA than the uppers of the shoe. It makes the sole more abrasion resistant and the uppers more soft.
The shoe also has an innovative inner sock which can be used on it’s own, like a camp shoe. The Ultra also comes with a separate tongue. So one can choose between wearing the Ultras sockless, with your own socks or with the inner sock.
Wearing the Ultras.
The first thing I noticed when wearing the Ultras were the little dots in the interior bottom of the shoe. They feel really nice under my bare feet giving some sort of massage with every step.
The first time I used my Ultras all day I wore them with my bare feet in them. I walked a lot that day and I did not get any blisters or abrasions on my feet.
The tongue is attached to the shoe with a button at the front and a very small piece of Velcro. The Velcro sometimes easily releases. When you slip in and out of the shoe a lot like at home or when camping I would recommend to use the Ultra without it’s tongue.
My left foot is a little longer than my right foot and for me the inner sock is too restrictive on the left foot. I also think my foot slips out of the inner sock too easily when walking.
In this interview Asher Clark of Vivobarefoot explains that the restrictive fit is a production problem that comes with bigger sizes and that Vivobarefoot is working on it.
The Ultras have a roomy toebox. Though I think there could be more room for my big toe. The toebox tapers inwards too much here in my opinion.
Running in the Ultras.
I run in minimal shoes and barefoot but I did not purchase the Ultras for this. Though I tried running in the Ultras four times for half an hour.
The first time I worn them with bare feet. I did not get blisters and the shoes performed well. Some dirt came in via the holes on the top and I had to take the shoes off to remove it.
When I run in my Vibram Fivefinger Speeds or my Vivobarefoot Evos I can feel all the pebbles and Pine needles but they don’t hurt my feet. When I run barefoot I have to watch out for them, especially the Pine needles. The soles of the Ultras are so thin and flexible that I had to watch the ground as if I was running barefoot. They give a lot of proprioception.
On my second run I wore a pair of Injinji socks in my Ultras and again the shoes performed well.On my third run I tried the Ultras with the inner socks. Because of the restrictive fit I got a blister on my left foot.
For my fourth run I had to wait until it had rained. My feet got wet (I didn’t use socks) and a few times I ran through wet grass to get my feet wet again. This was no problem at all. The Ultras are designed as an amphibious shoe and they perform very well in wet weather. This is a very good shoe when running in summer rains.
The soles have a very detailed pattern at the bottom and you can easily see if it wears out. In other reviews I read that the soles are very abrasion resistant. I don’t have the same experience. This could also be because my running technique is not good enough.
The use of the Ultras for water sports.
I purchased the Ultras for leisure and kayaking. My kayak has pedals to use the rudder and steering is best done with bare feet or very flexible and minimal shoes. The Ultras perform well for this. And water easily flows out.
In 2010 I made a five day canoeing trip on the Allier river in France. The water level in the river was very low and a lot of times we had to walk through the river with our heavily loaded canoes. I wore some old water shoes with mesh that had to keep the dirt out. Instead of this grit and sand came in my shoes but was not able to get out. The grit rubbing against my feet while walking through the water badly damaged my skin. Good shoes for walking in rivers have a sole with good grip, protected toes and very closed uppers like the Vibram Fivefingers KSO or very open uppers that make the water and grid flow out easily like the Teva Itunda (this is not a minimal shoe actually).
This summer I returned to the Allier for a second five day canoeing trip. We started where we ended last year. I wore my Ultras this time.
The EVA soles of the Ultras provide not much grip on wet stones and rocks but you can feel very well what’s beneath your feet. Water, sand and mud come in easily but can also be shaken out very easily. But the grit cannot get out of the shoes so easy. The Ultras stayed on my feet very well but you might lose them when swimming in serious rapids.
Some people would suggest canoeing barefoot. While being in the canoe this is the best. But the bottoms of stony rivers like the class class 1-2 Allier are often very slippery and rocks and stones can have sharp edges.
I like my Ultras a lot. Vivobarefoot made a very innovative shoe that performs well for running, walking, leisure and water sports. Though the shoes are not suitable for all types of water.
I think the price of the Ultras is very high (€ 70 or $ 90). The price is probably so high because of the inner socks. I would not use the inner socks much and I am glad that in 2012 Vivobarefoot will also sell the Ultra without the inner sock.