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September 12, 2011

VIVOBAREFOOT Aquarius Kids' Shoe Review

A couple of administrative notes before today’s post …

*If you haven’t done so already, remember to leave a comment here to enter my giveaway drawing for a copy of Barefoot Ken Bob’s book. And speaking of giveaways …

*I’m still waiting to hear from Lisa and Running Farmer to claim your CLIF Bar prizes. You’ve got until midnight Wednesday to drop me an e-mail before I pick somebody else.


Relationship experts will tell you that when you find yourself in an awkward situation with somebody, it’s often best to simply identify the source of the awkwardness right off the bat, then move forward once it’s been somewhat diffused. With that in mind, I have to say that this is one of the most awkward reviews I’ve ever posted.

The Aquarius ... a VIVOBAREFOOT dinosaur

That’s because the product in question isn’t something that any of you can potentially buy; it’s a product that we received from VIVOBAREFOOT in late spring, but was pulled from the company’s inventory just a couple of weeks ago. But, you know … since I got them for free and all, I figured I’m at least obligated to say something about them.

Actually, the situation highlights a couple of noteworthy points about the company: one good, the other not so much. We’ll start with the bad side first, and get to the silver lining later. As much as I love VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, one ongoing frustration I have with the company is that they seem to change their inventory quite often – sometimes seasonally, sometimes permanently. And it typically happens that just as I’m falling in love with a model, it disappears from the website.

Here are a couple of examples: the black Lesotho shoes I reviewed a few years ago are far and away my favorite formal shoes, but if I ever need to replace them, I’m out of luck. Last year it was revamped as a casual canvas model, and this year it’s out of the lineup completely. Likewise, my 8-year-old daughter’s absolute favorite Oaky shoes – the ones she got kicked out of gym class for wearing, then won a track meet in – are a thing of the past as well. I never imagined that a shoe would trigger one of those coming of age moments for us … but there you go. We’re an odd family that way.

Now it’s my older daughter’s turn to get hooked on a model that no longer exists: in this case, the Aquarius children’s shoe. Basically, it’s a scaled-down version of VIVOBAREFOOT’s best-selling Aqua model (which contrary to my little rant, has been constant fixture in the company’s lineup for years). She’s used it for just about every activity you can think of, and it’s been a great all-purpose sneaker for her now that the school year has begun.

All the right specs

Rather than go into an in-depth spec review, I’ll just tell you that all of the things I love about VIVOBAREFOOT shoes are here: the Aquarius is totally flat and completely flexible, with a 3mm puncture-resistant sole, a comfortable mesh and neoprene interior lining, and eco-friendly construction elements. The shoe is fairly lightweight at just 5oz.

Too much synthetic, not enough mesh

The only drawback I would point out on the Aquarius is that the upper is probably too much nubuck and not enough mesh. They don’t appear that they would ventilate very well, and my daughter does report that the shoes get warm fairly easily when she’s running around in them for a while.

Velcro closure; removable foam insoles

There’s also a removable memory foam insole that you can use to improve the ground feel or increase the interior size. Our strategy with VIVOBAREFOOT kids’ shoes has been to start with the insoles in, then take them out once the shoes get a little bit snug. That way, you can probably get another half-size worth of growth before you have to replace them – not an insignificant point when you consider that these shoes are literally irreplaceable.

Of course, the flip side of this constant turnover is that VIVOBAREFOOT generally comes out with new styles that were better then the ones that preceded them. Instead of the Lesotho, they have the Ra, which (although I haven’t tested it) appears just as sharp-looking. There’s also an upcoming kids version of the Ra which would be comparable to the Oaky: stylish appearance, but ready for anything. And to replace the Aquarius, the company will introduce the Neo Kids later this fall.

VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Kids, Velcro version; laced version also available.

With a completely mesh upper, a children’s version of the Neo would address the main limitation I identified on the Aquarius, and I’ll certainly be interested to see how they compare. Having tested the grown-up Neo as well as the Neo Trail, I can attest that the shoe is well-made, and if all the same VIVOBAREFOOT hallmarks are present in the kids model, it looks to be one of the best all-around activity shoes in the children’s minimalist category.

VIVOBAREFOOT’s Neo Kids is currently displayed on the company website, but isn’t available for purchase yet – however, you can sign up to be notified for updates about the release. Target date for the launch is sometime in October, and I’ll also keep you posted here with updates and a review as able.

*Product provided by VIVOBAREFOOT
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

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Heather 9/12/11, 10:44 PM  

Discontinued? Oh drat!

We bought them for Big Sis when her feet grew, prompting some jealousy from Little Sis. We told Little Sis we'd order her a pair when her feet grew.

Hope Little Sis will settle for the kids' Neos!

Jay 9/13/11, 8:07 AM  

One upside of constant turnover is that they try to unload leftovers from last year at discount prices. I was on ebay last night and saw a variety of adult and kids Vivobarefoot shoes from the 2010 lineup. Most were about 50% off. I bought a pair of Dharma's for myself and a pair of Paly's for my daughter. One problem was that there is limited sizing available and no returns accepted, but you just might have some luck.

Kalin 3/25/12, 9:22 PM  

Couldnt agree more. The Aqua lite looks fine and all but please leave the original up for sale as well. The light I think is a direct result from the minimalist crowd. I heard a lot of weight issues from this group regarding this shoe. This isnt suppose to be a minimalist shoe, its a barefoot casual shoe. If you want lighter weights there are PLENTY of options. Stop messing with our shoes! I had to scramble to get a hold of some Aqua's before there are all gone and replaced by the Aqua lite.

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