Before the more expensive dress shoes started coming out like the Vivobarefoot Lisbon, the Ra II was the best you could get in formal minimal shoes. Because they retail at $130 vs. the $350 of the Lisbon, I argue they may still be the best choice!
If you are looking into minimalist or barefoot shoes for the first time, understand that the whole purpose of these shoes is to avoid dangerous arch supports, cushioning and motion control or anything that acts like or pretends to be an orthotic. The goal is to avoid all of that in order to provide more feedback from your feet (proprioception) to keep you healthy.
The real goal should be to be truly barefoot as much as possible. If shoes aren’t required via law, try to avoid wearing them.
Anyway, when I opened my Vivobarefoot Ra II’s they are all black minus a small portion of tan leather at the heal and a red Vivo logo on the back. They came in a ton of packaging around the shoe, inside the shoe, etc. (This is likely for those new to minimal shoes that wonder why minimal shoes cost so much if there is essentially nothing to them!)
The leather on the shoes appeared to be stiff at first, but over the first week of use they have broken in and look more like high quality leather than a shiny plastic. They have a three-eyelet lace-up that is oxford style, making it look a little more professional than the Freud II, which sports a more traditional lace as well as more eyelets. The bottoms of the Ra 2 are rubber, which once again has been upgraded in the Bannister version with a price tag of $300.
The sole of the shoe can be divided into two separate parts, the insole and outsole. This is true of all Vivo shoes that I have purchased. I instantly remove the insoles as they are a thin cushion that is designed to provide some comfort, but if I wanted cushioning in a shoe I would have bought a different shoe. The outsole is 3mm thick and the ground feel through them are excellent. The total weight of each shoe is 7oz, which makes them light on the feet and comfortable even at the end of the day.
After spending multiple 9 hour work days in them, the shoes don’t seem to weigh me down and I’m not dying to take them off when I get home. The toe box may at first appear large, but for those transitioning to minimal shoes, your feet will quickly widen and fill up the area.
Overall I love the shoe. The Ultra II from Vivo has the widest toe box of any so far that I have worn and any shoe with sides to it seems to be a little more restrictive than minimal shoes that are more like sandals. (think Xero shoes)