I won a pair of Terra Plana’s Vivobarefoot Evo II in Running & Rambling’s EVO II review and giveaway. After coordinating my name and address with the Terra Plana representative, my Evo II were shipped. I received them some weeks ago but, as I had stopped running due to an upper respiratory infection, was not able to test them right away. I recently started my workouts again and, after a mix of those on an indoor track and on sidewalks, I have now formed an opinion of the Evo II I will endeavor to impart.
Like the current, updated Evo, the Evo II is a well constructed shoe. The II variant adds some additional liner material inside of the TPU cage to make it better suited to colder weather. I was able to wear it with and without the insole and with and without socks. Without the insole, the liner material was comfortable on my bare feet.
I had first tried the original Evo about a year ago. While the construction was excellent, they caused bloody toe blisters on my big and second toes. Even the use of tape and extra sock layers was an insufficient deterrent. I have not tried the updated Evo. With the Evo II, that issue has been corrected for me. However, there is another issue that did occur. It is the achilles rubbing that can lead to blisters. Some people had experienced this issue on the original Evo also. After some experimentation, I was able to determine a set of conditions that led to this issue in my usage.
In the majority of normal running usage, the Evo II worked well for me with no issues that I noticed. But, unfortunately for me, I do not yet have the aerobic capacity for my workouts to consist of 100% running. There is still some walking involved, especially during warm ups and cool downs. That is where the achilles rubbing can cause problems for me. Even then, it can be controlled if I maintain an awareness of and control how I am walking.
This picture illustrates the issue. I put a strip of Hypafix tape along my achilles to provide a surface to mark on. In the left image, I placed a mark at the top of the achilles collar. In the center image, I plantar flexed a moderate amount and put a mark where the bend above the heel begins closer to where the achilles attaches. In the right image, the tape shows the approximately half an inch difference between the bend location and the top of the achilles collar. The left image was also taken with the insole in. If the insole was removed, the difference would be greater by that amount.
When there is some plantar flexion, the achilles bend just above my heel is well below the top of the achilles collar on the Evo II. Normal running with a landing under my COG does not bend my achilles against the achilles collar of the shoe. Fortunately, that is how I usually land when running. Landing when over-striding with some plantar flexion could cause the achilles to bend against the achilles collar leading to the rubbing and the blisters. This is where it bit me. When I walk, I often over-stride with my foot landing slightly in front of my COG. Just before landing or on lift-off, I have some plantar flexion. When this happens, my achilles bends above the heel and levers my achilles against the achilles collar of the shoe. This levering action also lifts the heel slightly within the shoe. The landing of the foot then presses the heel back into the shoe. This action causes rubbing in both the up and down directions. A mile and half of this is sufficient to cause blisters on my achilles. The use of tape may help with this, but it would not eliminate the pressure of the levering action, which may be sufficient to loosen and move the tape as the original Evo did with the tape on my toes. Besides, we should not have to protect ourselves from our footwear. They are supposed to protect us.
This does not have to be all bad, though. It could be used as a training aid to encourage landing more under COG even when walking. If I become aware of it and am able to do this, the rubbing and blisters would be eliminated. Unfortunately, this means a slower walking pace for me if I walk without the over-striding I normally do. Of course, if I am in a hurry, it could be worse. The more over-striding that is done, the worse the achilles rubbing will be. This is a trade off I have yet to decide if I can live with. Some lowering of the achilles collar might make this a non-issue for me.
Given this caveat and a possible ability to work around this issue, I find the Evo II to be an otherwise excellent shoe. Compared with some of the other minimalist running shoes coming onto the market, the price is still high, though there are occasional coupon codes to reduce that price if you look for them.