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Vivobarefoot Motus Review – The Zenith Of Grip

The Vivobarefoot Motus,released just a few weeks ago, brings an entirely new style with a ridiculously grippy sole, midfoot strap and no insole as standard. Vivobarefoot are aiming this at so many disciplines that it’s hard to ignore whether it’s your first purchase or not; let me tell you, you’re going to want them.

Vivobarefoot already cater for road runners (of the non ‘meep meep’ variety), trail runners, hikers and amphibious people, while still covering lifestyle wear with a number of different models.

Recently they have slimmed down their range of technical shoes quite dramatically. The three hiking boots models were reduced to just the Tracker, their on-road offerings are now made up of the Stealth and Evo Pure while trail shoes went from two models to just one, with a winter variant.

Now there’s a new addition to the on-road models; The Motus. It’s more than that though because it’s inherently different to every other model; it’s an absolute grip machine. Realistically, there could be another category named ‘Multi Sport’ or similar.

The black model is quite inconspicuous.

The black model is quite inconspicuous.

As an example, Parkour enthusiasts used to rave over the Aqua Lite, they loved the Evo, the Neo and even the Stealth and the One. There’s a bit of a trend there – almost all of the on-road Vivobarefoot models were loved for climbing buildings, scaling walls and jumping across roof tops. The thing is, none of those shoes were designed for it, they were built for running but they worked in that discipline nevertheless.

The same cannot be said of the Motus – the first time I saw it at the beginning of 2015, I immediately thought of free-runners and my immediate impression upon receiving them was the same. They are no longer great for parkour; they are ideal. They are grippier, more supportive and vastly more protective around the toe-box. Of course, the Motus wasn’t made for parkour either but it may as well have been. I’m looking forward to seeing what the guys at Apex Movement think of them.

Don’t be fooled though, the Motus isn’t just for throwing yourself off a roof, I said it was a multi-sport model and it is. It’s also a brilliant lifestyle shoe to boot.

Vivobarefoot say the Motus is great for ‘anything on a court’, be it tennis, squash or basketball. I’m sure people will question this, given that both basketball and tennis shoes are generally well padded, ankle supporting and air cushioned. For those of us already used to minimalist footwear though, I think the claim stands because of the exponential grip and midsole hold. I’ll go over the Motus’ grip later in the review.

Tough rubber it most certainly is. The Motus is a grip machine.

Tough rubber it most certainly is. The Motus is a grip machine.

The Vivobarefoot Motus comes with a 4.5mm, ultra flexible and puncture resistant sole which is another change from many of their other shoes – the Stealth has a 3mm sole with a 2.5mm insole and the Evo Pure has a 3mm sole only. Insoles are supplied with the Motus but I haven’t worn them yet, finding the shoe comfortable enough without. The reason for leaving them out is to provide you with more feel and proprioception – the backbone of minimalist footwear. As a result, you are 4.5mm from the ground which is more than their other on-road models when worn without an insole. The only reason for this is because the new, V-Move sole has 1.5m hexagonal nodules that provide the aforementioned grip. They are sized and spaced differently in width depending where they are on the sole – on the heel and pad-area, they are wide and close together, giving you a flat area in which to walk whereas across the midsole, they are smaller and more widely spaced; they flex much more, due to their thinner profile to maximise grip on any surface.

The channels between all of these ‘nodules’ helps to disperse water move quickly and to also prevent aquaplaning or sliding. Compared to the other soles, it’s obvious to see how this is of benefit on wet surfaces but the science translates into the real-world as well.

Speaking of science, let’s look over the sole and the grip it offers in a little (a lot) more detail.

Test rig set up with 1lb/ft force

Test rig set up with 1lb/ft force

As well as real-world test, I wanted to try my hand at a little science experiment and see just how much grip this new sole provides. Of course, it’s not bulletproof accurate but it does go some way towards highlighting the Motus’ main strength, rather than just describing how it feels.

I conducted two tests, one of which was vastly more conclusive than the one I put the most effort into – typical. I used the Motus, One, Ultra, Aqua Lite and Scott – all of which have on-road soles.

Writing down weights, distances for science.

Writing down weights, distances for science.

Firstly, I set up a rig to hold a weight of 1lb, a foot away from the shoe which was placed on a board. The weight was released, resulting in a 1lb/ft force hitting the shoe, to see which moved furthest. I repeated the same test with a 2lb weight. In the first tests, I added ballast to each shoe to make them all an identical weight and remove one of the variables that could affect their movement. Following this, I tested without ballast.

Shoes weighted and with a 1lb/ft force, the Motus actually lost to the Aqua Lite while both shoes faired much better than any of the others. From this point though, things started to become a little clearer. With a 2lb/ft force, the Motus beat the Aqua Lite and matched it without ballast.

Hypothesising, I feel the Aqua Lite got so close to the Motus because the heel is well worn and incredible supple. In comparison, the Motus has had little use and also has a much firmer construction. My belief is that the Aqua Lite absorbed some of the force, whereas the Motus was pushed more alone easily.

Next, we discount weight and the slightly scientific rigs for an easy fall test. Placing a board at varying angles, I put each shoe at the same point and timed how long it took to slide to the bottom. If the shoe didn’t slide, it passed, if it fell and was too quick to time, it failed and if it slid a bit, without ever reaching the bottom, the distance moved was measured instead.

On a 21° angle, every shoe passed with no movement. At 28°, both the Ultra and the Scott fell at hugely different speeds while the others passed. At 35° every shoe slid to the floor between 0.84 and 1.23 seconds. But not the Motus. The Motus took 3m30s to slide 10cm before grinding to a halt. So I set up two further, steeper angles – 42° and 50°. At 42°, the Motus still took 40s to hit the floor and at 50°, 2.36s.

To summarise, the Motus took twice as long to slide to the floor at 50° than the second best shoe did at 35°. That’s pretty impressive but more than that, I’m just glad my tests proved it!

I think it’s clear by now that we’ve established how much grip the Vivobarefoot Motus has, so let’s move on.

Marmite.

I think the Motus is going to be a marmite shoe, mostly because of the V-Lock, velcro midsole strap. It certainly looks a bit different to anything else on the market; the strap does something to the aesthetic that only this strap could have achieved. It sort of splits the design in half, at an angle. I personally really like it, though I much prefer the white and blue models over the black. Their colour balance seems a lot nicer to me, though black with red highlights keeps the shoe a little more inconspicuous than the other two.

The sole wraps around the whole shoe, which results in a large protective band at the front of the toes, up the sides and also at the heel. On the inside, it actually extends to 50% of the maximum height. Think about gripping onto something when your foot is adversely cambered against something, that portion of the sole could mean the difference between sliding off or sticking. I’m thinking mostly here about round objects, railings, rocks and so on where this will be useful – traction is extended rather than stopped abruptly into the upper.

The V-Lock strap comes out of the side of the shoe.

The V-Lock strap comes out of the side of the shoe.

The V-Lock strap serves to keep your foot held tightly in place and while it looks as though it extends only from one side to the other, this isn’t the case. The band zig-zags across the shoe, starting from the outside, over the tongue (which is fixed at the sides), out of the shoe on the inside and then back over to attach to the velcro. I don’t want to understate how tight this band can grip your foot, should you need it to. Fortunately, it’s completely controlled by how tightly you pull it, so if you’re wearing them around casually, you can slacken it off. The feel of it is very uniform across the midsole, thanks to the zig-zag construction – rather than a lot of velcro straps that would pull only from one side.

Below the strap, you’ll find the laces which are an ideal length for a change. Plus, they’ll stay tied, unlike some other Vivobarefoot models. I leave the lace ends below the velcro strap for tidiness, though others will choose to leave them loose.

If you wish, you can undo all of Vivobarefoot’s development work and remove the laces entirely. You’ll end up with a slipper that has incredible midsole hold but that can be put on in literally two seconds, though, the hold around the top of the ankle and heel does suffer. I would only suggest this as a lifestyle option, certainly not for sport, but the option is there regardless.

The heel is stiffer and less cushioned than other models, with just enough padding at the top to prevent the shoe rubbing on the first few uses when you aren’t wearing socks. The same can be said for the entire ankle opening which has just a modicum of padding.

Laces removed.

Laces removed.

The upper itself is made from a dual ply mesh, which means two layers contain a ‘fibrous centre’ allowing for maximum breathability. The hexagonal pattern on the upper is also inter-stitched with reflective threads like on the Trail Freak and the discontinued Breatho Trail.

On the tongue, is an Outlast logo – a company specialising in heat controlling materials. So, as Vivobarefoot put it, you should stay at the right temperature rather than being too hot or too cold. Outlast ‘adapts to thermal changes, absorbs heat and reduces perspiration’.

Inside the shoe is a no-frills zone. There’s no insole (unless you choose to put in the one provided) and no padding besides the top 1.5cm of the ankle. Fortunately, there are no rough seams, stitches, glue lines or anything to hurt or abrade your feet. Nothing here can move, absorb or cushion so your movements will be even more accurate than ever.

There's very little in the way of padding.

There’s very little in the way of padding.

The wrap-around front protects the toes and adds to the grip.

The wrap-around front protects the toes and adds to the grip.

The Motus isn’t water resistant, like any mesh shoe but you may want to avoid walking across a puddle any deeper than 2cm too, because the entry for the strap is effectively an opening to let water in. There’s slight relief, since the strap is pushed through the material, almost creating some resemblance of a seal but it’s not enough to stop water entry completely.

Besides stand out features, function and aesthetics, I’ve really kept the best until last. It’s all very well a company claiming certain things, like how much grip their shoe has, how amazingly comfortable it is or that it’s going to improve your performance. To challenge these claims, you have to test them out – I’ve already lab tested the grip claims but what about this midsole hold or the breathability in the real world?

Sock like comfort, with or without.

Sock like comfort, with or without.

I honestly cannot say I noticed too much of a difference in the breathability stakes when compared to the Trail Freak or One which are the closest shoes in upper construction that I own. Compared to the Aqua Lite though, there’s a noticeable difference in temperature regulation and if I had to choose a shoe to wear out on a hot day, I’d choose the Motus.

One thing that remains entirely undisputed is the midsole hold, which translates into even better grip than I could have imagined. Sliding down a ramp in a controlled test is one thing but combining the features together, on your own feet and with outside variables is another. I did head out on my first test knowing what to expect and I wasn’t disappointed. Running down a hill, walking or running over undulating terrain or landing from a jump usually causes some sort of movement inside the shoe, whether it’s your entire foot moving forward, the insole rocking slightly, a slight twist of the shoe on your foot or something else. Not here, not with the Motus. That V-strap simply locks everything in place and doesn’t let it move.

That sounds bad, so let me clarify. The bits that need to move, like your ankle and your toes move freely – they are completely unobstructed but what doesn’t move is the entire shoe on your foot – so instead of sliding forward ever-so slightly in the shoe when running down a hill, your foot remains in the same place.

In terms of fit, the Motus seems a little larger than other Vivo’s, so you definitely won’t need to size up though I’d avoid sizing down either – you’ll enjoy the fit, I’m sure.

For the first time since they released the Aqua Lite, I feel Vivobarefoot have put out a model of a technical shoe, where the entire range can be worn casually. In other models, there is always a variant, maybe even two, that you could wear out casually but one where the colours are lurid and only really suitable for sport. The Trail Freak showed that to the extreme – coming in bright red and yellow or blue, green and orange.

The three Motus models

The three Motus models

With the Motus, there are three options that are beautifully designed and aesthetically pleasing with a casual outfit too. Black goes with almost anything, white is great with shorts and the same can be said of the blue model too. The plus point to all that is you have three options to buy a casual shoe that’ll perform incredibly well over a wide variety of applications in an instant – the same simply cannot be said for many, if any other shoes. The Vivobarefoot Motus is flexible in a literal sense as well as the multitude of use case scenarios it fulfils.

At £110, it’s not cheap, but Vivobarefoot shoes never are. It is however, no more expensive than the Vivobarefoot One and only £10 more than the Stealth, but what is more important is how many additional possibilities the extra £10 buys you.

Don’t limit yourself to running, buy the Motus.


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