ROAD TEST: The kids' shoes that are almost barefoot, and better on growing feet.

Thanks to our brand partner, Vivobarefoot

My daughter Summer is super active. We’re hard pressed keeping her still. If she’s not dancing in her room, she’ll be outside skipping. If she’s not running the ball at soccer, she’s wading through water at Nippers or fine tuning her stroke at swimming lessons. With every day being a circus-full of activity, Summer’s feet are pretty important.

Just like so many mums I know, I have always been taught to ensure that her growing feet are well supported. Inner-cushioned support, strong, sturdy soles, buckles and laces that allow me to strap her foot in tight so nothing moves around. And I have followed this advice…until I was handed a range of Vivobarefoot kids’ shoes, which come from the Clarks footwear family, for Summer to try out.

Looking at them, alarm bells went off straight away and my inner skepticism was on high alert. Each pair goes completely against anything that I had been told. They’re super soft, amazingly light and there is very little support. Nonetheless, I am a true believer in not knocking anything until you try them, so with Summer’s curious eyes already devouring the boxes, the perfect test subject was already at my disposal.

She's an active one! Image: supplied

Heading down to the beach and pool for a little rockpool exploring before swimming lessons, Summer eagerly put on a pair of the Vivobarefoot Ultras. Straight away she adored the colours (pink and green) and commented on how nice they felt on her toes. Checking how they fit on her foot, they surprisingly sat beautifully with the curve of her arch, however had a lot of width and bend to them, allowing her feet to move how they naturally should be. Straight out of the horse’s mouth - "these feel so good Mum, it’s like I’m floating!"

Always one to remove Summer’s shoes before hitting the sand or water, I reined in my OCD and allowed her to just run around and do whatever she normally would (climbing rocks and exploring the water holes) but with the Ultras on. They gripped well and protected her feet from the sneaky little urchins on the rocks.

She busted out a routine of cartwheels on the sand (and half in the ocean as her coordination is still getting there) and she wasn’t restricted in any way. And the best part? Once we were done on the sand, I rinsed the Vivobarefoots (and her feet) under the beach shower and that was it. No sand was caught in the shoes or threatening to turn up later because it was stuck in the soles. She put them straight back on and off we went.

From the grass to the rock pools, Summer found these easy on her tootsies. Image: supplied

So, we determined that the Ultras were comfortable and light (tick!), she wasn’t restricted and her feet could move freely and skilfully (tick!) and the dry-to-wet-to-dry amphibious nature of the shoes is brilliant (tick!). But what I still wanted to know was how on earth could these minimalist, almost barefoot shoes actually be good for my daughter’s growing feet?


Tim Bransdon, a podiatrist and specialist in human movement and biomechanics from The Running Lab, offered my sceptical self the perfect explanation. Apparently, the biggest advantage of barefoot-style shoes over cushioned models is one thing: MOVEMENT. There are 33 joints in each of our children's feet (WHAT?!) and each of these 33 joints serves a simple purpose, to allow movement.

Tim explained that when children walk and run there is a beautiful synergy between the joints of their feet and the rest of their body, and what barefoot-style shoes provide is "minimal interference, whereas most children’s shoes block and change how these joints interact" (like the strong soles and extra cushioning we have all been told to look for!). It’s the old ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy - if joints do not move, muscles do not function. The end result? Weak muscles and unhealthy joints. OK, Tim, maybe you’re on to something.

"As kids grow, you can see their coordination and balance grow with them," he continued. "Another super-important benefit of barefoot-style shoes for kids like Vivobarefoot’s range, is that there is very little rubber or padding placed between their feet and the ground, allowing their balance and coordination to not be hindered, rather to be prioritised, like their feet should be."

Tim had me envision a ballerina wearing joggers (awkward). Basically, adding too much extra cushioning in shoes makes a child’s body function worse rather than better.



Summer's new faves from Vivobarefoot. Image: supplied

So when choosing shoes for our kidlets, what do we need to look for and tick off our lists?

"Kids need shoes that tick four boxes," Tim shared. "Light. Flat - feet are designed horizontal to support our vertical body. Flexible - shoes need to bend, twist and move just like feet do. And the Shape of a Human Foot - the widest part of a healthy human foot is the toes."


Everything Tim told me really explained why Summer was able to do absolutely everything she wanted to do without being hindered or restricted in movement. It also explains why she kept harping on about how comfy and soft they were…just like being barefoot but safer (I swear, that was another line straight out of the horse’s mouth!).

Since our little road test, Summer has been wearing her Vivobarefoot Ultras every chance she gets. They really are great for when you need them to put something on quickly, for different environments and when they just want to feel free. In addition to the Ultras, she has just started wearing the Vivobarefoot Primus, this beautiful pair of glove-like joggers which again, are super light, soft and don’t have restrictive laces, but rather a little elasticised toggle.

So I'm a convert now. I really do want to make sure she has healthy and strong feet that develop naturally. The fact that she feels great in them is even better.

And with Tim backing Vivobarefoot’s science, research, and quoted benefits, I definitely feel a lot more comfortable with her getting around in her barefoot-style shoes. Rockpools, we're coming back!

Vivobarefoot are offering Mamamia readers 25% off with the code: MAMAMIA

Have you or your child tried barefoot-style shoes? Share with us below.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Vivobarefoot.