Many water shoe enthusiasts remember seeing their first pair of Vibram V-Aqua FiveFingers toe shoes in the wild. Vibram started this trend and continues to run with it, and they've gotten better at producing stylish and functional shoes with their unique design. Enter the latest Vibram V-Aqua.
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These are at the higher end of the price range for water shoes, but are feature rich and extremely popular. They maintain their popularity for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they work well. It doesn't matter if you find yourself trudging through thick sand, splashing in strong currents, hiking a leaf-covered trail, or just relaxing on a boat, the Vibram V-Aqua water shoe functions well and keeps you comfortable.
Initial Thoughts on Unboxing
We aren't going to lie to you. When we first took the Vibram V-Aqua out of their stylish box, we found them pretty unattractive. We are used to a good blend of style, function and form in the shoes we review. To our eyes, these five-toe shoes lacked style. However, did they make up for it in comfort, function and form?
As you can guess from the name and the brand, these water shoes feature five distinct "toe-boxes," one for each toe. But, with a heavy-duty Vibram outsole, a strong Velcro strap fastener across the forefoot, and a mesh upper with a variety of densities as you move over the shoe, these do not lack functionality and features.
Note: Take care with the sizing on these shoes, as it impacts this style more than any other type of shoe. When we first ordered, we went with our usual size. However, we ended up needing to return these and get one size larger. We recommend sizing up a half size when ordering to ensure you receive as close to a perfect fit as possible. If the shoe is too tight when you put them on, rubbing can cause serious discomfort.
Putting Them Through Their Paces
We spent time testing the Vibram V-Aqua in the elements at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Our tests included the following.
- An ocean test: sugar sand, waves, and hard packed sand.
- Next, a river test: rocky creek beds, sandy shorelines, and flowing water.
- Finally, a hiking test: over pine needles, sand, puddles, and standard trail surfaces.
Read on to find out how they fared.
The Ocean Test
Vibram made the V-Aqua for the beach and for athletic activities on the water such as boating and kayaking. The Vibram V-Aqua performed incredibly well in the ocean, regardless of depth. We took them through some of the deepest sugar sand, and remarkably got no sand in the shoes. We even took them out for a swim and felt only minimal drag, which was surprising since these are not necessarily "swim shoes." We think if you ended up in the water while rafting or boating, you'd feel fine trying to recover with these on. Overall, these were top tier shoes for ocean testing.
The River Test
In the river testing, these shoes performed great. They exhibited negligible slippage over river rocks, although we managed to slip once trying to jump from rock to rock over a stream. We rolled our ankle during the slip, and can't decide which to blame: our balance, or the outsole of the shoe. Apart from that incident, we felt no problems with these water shoes in the creek.
The Hiking Test
In the hiking test, the Vibram V-Aqua left a bit to be desired. When we unboxed, the thickness and form-fitting nature of the outsole impressed us, even with the separate toe boxes. However, when it came time to actually hike, we realized rather quickly that the outsole was not as thick as serious hiking demands. Overall, we'd go with something else for a purely hiking water shoe.
Advantages and Disadvantages
While the Vibram V-Aqua is a semi-stylish looking water shoe with strong grip and a great beach performance, it has pros and cons like any other shoe. Find some of these upsides and downsides in bullet point form below.
Advantages of the Vibram V-Aqua Water Shoe
- The separate toe boxes in these water shoes make them look strange, but at the same time help with dexterity and grip ability. As such, these were some of the most versatile shoes that we tested overall. The enhanced grip really helped the thin outsole in the river testing.
- Speaking of the outsole, the soles of the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe provided impressive grip strength when navigating wet (in the case of the ocean test) and rocky (in the case of the river test) terrains.
Disadvantages of the Vibram V-Aqua Water Shoe
- Multiple reports indicate that after extended use of the V-Aqua, they begin to smell if you are not properly washing and maintaining them. We tested this out and intentionally failed to rinse them after our testing days. We did find they smelled after extensive use over a couple of weeks, but the smell went away immediately after a good cleaning. Maybe if you let it build up overtime, you can't get rid of it?
- If you don't like separate toe-shoes, then you won't like these. Since they are toe-shoes.
- They are not stylish, unless you really like the look of toe-shoes.
- As we state in the note above, it's necessary to size up a half size on these to avoid getting a shoe that is too tight. We ordered our customary size for our testing, and noticed rubbing immediately. We had to return them and size up a full size for our testing.
Our Final Thoughts on the Vibram V-Aqua
Overall, the Vibram V-Aqua is a wonderful water shoe that does exactly what you expect. They are incredibly versatile, and check the function and form boxes, while leaving the style box for others to worry about. Vibram is a company that knows water sports, and the V-Aqua water shoe continues this tradition.
If you are on the hunt for a solid pair of water shoes with longevity value that shine in water based athletic activities such as boating and kayaking, and work well from the beach to the river, to swimming and more, then look no further.
For other water shoe options, check out our comprehensive guide to the best water shoes.
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