So a couple of weeks ago Darren of @StandUpPaddleUK did an ‘out the box’ review of the new Vivobarefoot amphibious shoe, the ESC Tempest.
Darren and Dale have been using these in various different scenarios but we wanted to see how well they integrated with the use on a paddleboard.
DF: I headed down to Cornwall to test out the shoes on the paddleboard and along the coast line.
DM: I have managed to get them on the water quite a few times due to it being the summer holidays and being a teacher.
First impressions when in the shoes when wet:
DF: As expected the very grippy on sand and rocks. I went swimming and it feels like you get an additional bit of traction and it doesn’t feel like the shoe is trying to float to the surface which is great (especially if you’re doing the triathlon) I found the fit to be exactly the same when the shoe was wet or dry, no shrinkage which is another bonus. Note they come up tight when new.
On the paddleboard:
DF: I expected super grippy through all motions of the paddle and stroke, and that was confirmed! As I said before the shape and orientation of the sole really provides a sure footing when pressed against the deck pad. I also found them to be snug and comfortable while on the board, as we all know sometimes when you’re standing for long periods the soles of your feet can get quite sore, I didn’t find that with these. I was riding my 14 Tourer and felt comfortable at all times with the grip of these shoes.
DM: Once on the board although having quite a big sole on the boot and a lot of grip it feels as if you are not wearing a shoe, it feels very natural and there is a good connection between you and the board. The first time out I was just messing around on a 10’6 board and really moving around the board doing step backs and generally messing around with fiends and everything just felt so grippy and natural. Having since been out a few times on my tourer the experience is the same, great contact with your board and a real sense of unity that you don’t get form wearing trainers on a board or a thicker boot.
Use in the sea / water:
DF: As I said before, impressed. I went swimming in these as I thought I was getting a little bit more traction on my feet, the only downside is when you’re coming out of sea water/sand the inside of the shoe allows sand to enter which can be uncomfortable if your barefoot. I quick rinse and they are good to go.
DM: What is nice is when they get wet they stay light and don’t fill up and feel cumbersome. The drainage is good and even when taking a slight swim these shoes did not get in the way and felt super light. I didn’t have issues with anything entering the boot in any of my paddles but wasn’t in the sea so just general dust and dirt stayed away.
Comfort level / Fit :
DF: Surprisingly quite comfortable for a minimal shoe. I wore them around St. Ives town, walking about 6miles and they were good. No discomfort on the board either. Just remember that these are a snuggly fitted shoe due to their design around the top of your foot. Due to a previous foot injury I found the polymer band to rub on my metatarsal a bit.
DM: Fit wise these things as mentioned they come up tight, now let me explain why, the tight part comes from putting them on and is due to the lack of stretch in the material sock due to a polymer band which sits across the top of the foot. Once on this does not bother you and actually in use helps keep the shoe tight on your foot and in place. A few times I have questioned what would happen if this band was removed? Well honestly I think the shoe would be easier to get on but would also be more likely to slip and possibly come loose which you would not want. Once on a short walk around feels very strange due to the shape of the shoe. This is not a discomfort but very different to wearing a normal shoe/boot. After a while this feels pretty normal and you get used to it.
Other things of note:
DM: I usually wouldn’t mention is safety, as generally feel pretty comfortable on a board but recently doing more river paddling and canals coming out of lockdown these are not always the cleanest environment. The River Trent especially isn’t Evian water and getting in and out on banks you don’t know what you’re treading on! The sole of these would not puncture on a needle or sharp can etc.
DF: Given the multi use nature of the shoe it could be marketed to anyone in the outdoor arena which is excellent. Shoe comes in several colours also if Grey isn’t to your fancy. They do cool black and orange which is very StandUpPaddleUK!
DM : It’s always hard deciding where I would pitch a shoe like this, who would most likely use it? I feel anyone like me who spends a lot of time on rivers, rocks, canals, at the beach where you could stand on sharp rocks would be ideal. I think these would make a great shoe for people touring and offer great comfort when portaging. These would be incredible for those paddling white water, and starting to do more moving rivers as offer so much grip moving around the board yet keeping plenty of contact with the board.
Are they worth the money?
DF: I personally haven’t done a huge amount of research into amphibious shoes. I’ve always worn a wet suit shoe when out paddling. Retailing at £170 on the Vivobarefoot website they are on the expensive side but given that they are a multi use piece of footwear I think it does justify the cost. I like them a lot and will be using solely for paddleboarding from now on.
DM: I really rate these shoes both on the water and off and will certainly be wearing them a lot. Vivobarefoot have a 100 days program where they ask you to try it for a period of time to make your decision. I have to say after a few paddles I really am converted to these. As Darren mentioned the price tag is high but the reasons for this are the manufacturing that goes into a shoe like this, its made with new materials such as bloom and recycled polymers, and the parts which are not sustainable are built well and to last such as the Michelin rubber on the sole.
Find more reviews over on @StandUpPaddleUK – thanks Darren and Dale.