Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot’s “Lucy” shoe is a woman’s shoe designed to be an alternative to being barefoot. Yes, I am a male. No, I did not actually test the shoe… my wife Shelly did. She is a recent barefoot running convert that was suffering for a problem that plagues many barefoot runners: what to wear when shoes are required. Shelly, like me, is a teacher. We have the freedom to kick off our shoes during class, but still need something to wear when walking through the hallways and outside. This is especially true during out harsh Michigan winters.
Shelly experienced a common issue. Once she went barefoot, traditional shoes were forever ruined. She wasn’t able to comfortably wear any of her old work or dress shoes. Now if only I can convince her to donate them to Goodwill…
Needless to say, Shelly was eager to test these shoes. I had tested and reviewed Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot’s “Aqua” a few weeks ago and fell in love with the shoe. There have been very few products that rank so far above the other available options. The Aquas were one such product. They were simply the best minimalist casual shoe I have ever used. Based on my new-found affinity for my Aquas, Shelly had very high expectations for the Lucy.
Shelly’s first impressions when taking them out of the box was not positive. She said they looked bulky and kind of clunky. Her particular model was black with red accents. She would have preferred an all-black color scheme as it would go with more wardrobes. What?!? Your shoes are supposed to match the rest of your clothing? Hmmm… news to me! She also commented that this particular shoe would be best-suited for casual dress as it would not pass for business or business/casual.
I discussed the styling issue with Terra Plana. Almost all of their models have somewhat funky color combinations. Those crazy young European shoe designers! They assured me their new spring/summer 2010 line includes models and color combinations that will be more appropriate for a business atmosphere. I was thoroughly impressed with the pictures they shared… they definitely listened to customer demand.
After bending and twisting the shoes, she concluded they were much more pliable than they appeared. The construction, including an approximately 4mm totally flat sole, allowed for unexpected flexibility. As an added measure of security, the sole contains a layer of Kevlar-like material that makes it puncture resistant. The true test would come after trying them on. She slipped left shoe on without untying the laces, then the right. She had some problems with the right shoe which is puzzling because it is a half-size larger than the left.
She reported that they felt very comfortable; she didn’t have the urge to immediately rip them off like her other flats. Her feet had plenty of room to move within the shoe. Like the Aquas, the toe box is wider than most other shoes. This critically-important feature was retained on the Lucy. This is the feature that allows your toes to splay within the shoe. This greatly contributes to the shoe allowing your feet to operate naturally. Shelly has slightly wider-than-average feet and still had plenty of room.
Walking, the first test of a quality shoe, was reported as being pleasant and comfortable. Shelly wore these for several days at school which requires significant walking. She said these were among the most comfortable walking shoes she’s worn. Walking in these shoes was somewhat similar to walking barefoot.
Shelly did take the shoes for several runs. Similar to my opinion about the Aquas, they felt good but were not a close approximation to running barefoot. For running purposes, this shoe would be better suited for a runner moving from a traditional trainer versus a barefoot runner.
Traction was reported as being good on all surfaces except snow and ice. The sole material is very slippery on this particular surface. Both Shelly and I agreed that this is one area that could definitely be improved upon for future models.
Ventilation was very good. Shelly tested the shoes in a variety of temperatures and found the shoes to be comfortable in both warm and cold conditions. She found a thin pair of socks provided ample warmth when outside and did not interfere with the function of the shoe.
For me, a true test of a shoe is comfort over time. Is it possible to wear a shoe all day and retain a high level of comfort? After several days of wearing these shoes all day, Shelly was thoroughly impressed. This was the first shoe she found that she could wear all day. Shelly agreed that the comfort factor is highly correlated to the fact that the shoes allow your feet to function as if you were barefoot. While they allow only limited “ground feel”, they allow your foot to move and flex naturally.
Eventually we got around to discussing value. The Lucy retails for $125 (EDIT- see paragraph below for 30% off discount code). For a typical pair of shoes I may buy, this is somewhat expensive. For the shoes Shelly typically buys, it moderate. Based on her experiences with the shoe, she rated the value as being excellent based solely on functionality and comfort. At this point, she also commented on the construction. Terra Plana appears to have superb quality control. Quality construction and minimalist design is rare indeed. The only other shoe she found that was remotely close as far as minimalist function was a pair of boots that cost $20. They fell apart after about three months of use throughout the winter. The Lucys are obviously designed and built to last.
For the month of March (2010), Terra Plana is offering a 30% off discount. Go to this address: http://www.terraplana.com/vivobarefoot.php?osCsid=fd3qi9riembqbhhumipgom6lh4 and type in BAREFOOTU30 at checkout. This will work for other models besides the Lucy (except the new EVO running shoe).
To sum up Shelly’s experiences, the shoes are extremely comfortable. Breathability and a sense of foot “freedom” make these shoes stand out among minimalist shoe options for women. Shelly wasn’t happy about the color combination or the other combinations available online. She believes this shoe would have a much larger potential market if they were offered in more muted color combinations. Based on the pictures Terra Plana shared, they have addressed this concern with their new lineup. Also, as a barefoot runners, she found these shoes to be a bit too heavy for running. Despite the minor drawbacks, she would highly recommend these shoes as a minimalist shoe for casual use. Though she hasn’t tried them, she believes the “Odetta” or “Yukam” would be a better business or business/casual option.