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Vivobarefoot Mata Canvas Review

Slip on trainers have become somewhat of a shoe staple in recent years, ticking the boxes of many trends – whether the rise of the trainer, flatforms, skater style or athleisure.

So when I saw that Vivobarefoot were bringing out their own take on the classic canvas version for SS16, I jumped at the opportunity to give them a try.

Are slip on trainers barefoot?

When I first transitioned to minimalist shoes, one of my early purchases was a pair of slip on trainers from Topshop. Although I loved the look of them, it didn’t take long before I realised that they really weren’t very minimal at all. As, like most slip on trainers, although they had a flat heel, they also had an extremely solid, thick sole and were very restrictive on my toes.

From a barefoot perspective, one of the big challenges with producing a slip on trainer is that this chunky sole is what they are characterised by. However, Vivobarefoot have got around this by cleverly designing the Mata Canvas so the foot sits much lower than it actually appears – above a super thin 3mm sole.

For me, this is a brilliant example of how clever design can make a style that wouldn’t appear to be minimal work as a barefoot shoe, and it proves that barefoot lifestyle shoes can follow footwear trends.

Vivobarefoot Eco canvas

Vivobarefoot Mata Canvas Review

The beauty of the simple design of slip on trainers means there is so much room for different colour, pattern and fabric interpretations to suit each season’s style. However, for this version, Vivobarefoot have gone back to the classic skater style with an Eco canvas version (which also happens to work perfectly with the SS16 naturals trend).

Vivobarefoot’s Eco Canvas is an important new material for the brand as it demonstrates how they are taking sustainability seriously, with Eco canvas being made from 50% recycled PET bottles and 50% natural cotton. This means that every pair made saves 17 bottles from landfill.

I think it’s likely that we can expect to see more styles utilising the fabric – personally, I’m hoping for a canvas hi top as well as some more colour and pattern options for the Mata Canvas.

Vivobarefoot sizing and fit

With all shoes, getting the right size is super important, and when it comes to slip ons I think that it becomes even more so. This is due to the nature of the design which means there’s less material available to hold on to your foot and therefore more room for error – too large and you’ll find they slip off your heel and too small and you’ll find your toes being squished.

Usually I wear a EU 39 / UK 6 in Vivobarefoot sizing (this is the case for the Vivobarefoot Gobi Hi Top, Stealth, and Kula), however, in the Vivobarefoot Mata I’ve gone down a size and am wearing the EU 38 / UK 5.

One tip if you find you are between sizes is to try removing the insoles. Luckily I haven’t needed to do this and the EU 38s have fitted perfectly. I’m actually quite amazed at how I have a good deal of space around my foot and the shoe yet they still hold on really well without having to be tight fitting.

One downside I did experience is that I needed to wear them in a bit to avoid them rubbing my heels. However, this is something that I seem to have to deal with every year when I go from boots to slip ons – I just seem to have to toughen my heels up after a few months in socks. So in case you suffer from the same problem just be aware and make sure to wear them in a bit before you take them out for an all-day expedition and then have to wait a while until you can wear them again!

Breathability (and keeping them odour free)

One pet hate of mine when it comes to slip on shoes is if they get smelly. Vivobarefoot have obviously taken this into account in the choice of fabric as they are using a DRi-LEX technology (which essentially pulls moisture away from the skin that evaporates once the shoe is removed) along with a fabric treatment that combats odour-causing bacteria.

And so far it’s certainly working for me. I’ve been wearing mine without socks pretty solidly for about 6 weeks and haven’t had any problems with sweaty feet. And, they’re still completely smell free (I’ve literally put my nose right in there to check).

Saying this, we haven’t had much of a summer in the UK so far this year, but I have high hopes that this still won’t be a problem come August when, hopefully, we get some proper hot weather.


Being a barefoot brand that claims to make the best barefoot shoes in the world, Vivobarefoot styles do always tend to score very highly (and rightly so!) against the four markers I use when judging whether a shoe is barefoot or not…

Vivobarefoot Mata Canvas Review

HEEL – 5/5 all Vivobarefoot shoes are designed with a completely flat (or zero drop) heel

Vivobarefoot Mata Canvas Review

SOLE – 4/5 although the Mata Canvas sport the original Vivobarefoot lifestyle outsole, which is only 3mm thick, they’re not the most flexible of styles. However, you can certainly get a very good feel of the ground in them and if you want even more then there’s also the option of removing the 2mm insoles.

Vivobarefoot Mata Canvas Review

TOE – 4/5 as with practically all slip on styles there isn’t quite the full range of motion available for the toes, but from all my current slip ons I’m impressed that these do still provide a roomy fit without the look of a particularly wide shoe.

Vivobarefoot Mata Canvas Review
Detail images via vivobarefoot.com

UPPER – 5/5 as mentioned above, I’ve been super impressed at how well these stay attached to my foot even though they are not tight fitting and are therefore super comfortable.

In conclusion

I’m super excited by what these shoes have proven to me – that it is possible to make the appearance of a chunky sole work for barefoot shoes.

Now I just want to see more… If I had the choice, I think I would vote for the following (these would certainly keep me going for a while):

  • A black upper with contrasting white sole
  • Leopard print
  • Lace up hi top

What about you? Let me know what you would want in comments below, the variations are surely endless…

Thank you to Vivobarefoot for supplying a pair of Mata Canvas for this review.


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Comments (2)

  1. Rachel
    July 22, 2016

    Thanks for the review! I commented a while back asking about these shoes and ordered them for myself as well. Sadly, for my feet, I have to disagree about the toe box / fit. I ordered them in 38 EU, which is bigger than I normally wear in Vivobarefoot. However, they still were too loose to stay on my feet if I took two steps but at the same time felt very constrictive especially in the midfoot area. For me there was perhaps just enough room in the toe box, but that couldn’t have been the case in the smaller size, which is what I would’ve had to try next.

    Disappointing, but back they went. The colour and styling otherwise is just up my alley also! I don’t care of patterned or multi-coloured slip-ons. I have enough neon-coloured sneakers, I was in the market for something more subtle. Oh well! Thanks for your reply earlier anyway, without that I might’ve ordered and EVEN bigger pair.

    • Emma Thornton
      August 28, 2016

      Hi Rachel

      Thanks for your comment, although I’m gutted to hear the style didn’t fit you well. It just goes to show how a pair might be a good fit for one person but completely wrong for another. I often struggle with slip ons in particular as I often find that they’re the perfect fit on one foot but too loose or too tight on the other.

      I’d be interested to know if the problem you had with them being too restrictive in the midfoot area is something you often have a problem with? Do you have any other Vivobarefoot shoes that fit you well? If you like the Eco Canvas it is also available in the Joy lace up style, which you might have more luck with…?

      And apologies for my slow reply, I became a mum 8 weeks ago so have been a bit behind on responding!


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