| Last Updated: February 22nd, 2024 | Reviewed By: Elina Ansary
TL;DR: We’ve been testing VIVAIA shoes for almost two years, including a pair of VIVAIA flats, a pair of mules, and a couple of their boots. We recommend VIVAIA shoes overall–even though they’re not quite as sustainable as they market themselves to be–because they’re high-quality, relatively affordable, very comfortable, and still somewhat sustainable.
You may have seen VIVAIA pop up on your Instagram ads over the last few years. They’re a trendy shoe brand that has only risen in popularity since they were founded in 2020. But are VIVAIA shoes worth the hype?
As concern for the environment grows, VIVAIA’s made a name for itself by designing stylish shoes using recycled plastic water bottles, rubber, and wool. After doing a deep dive into their eco-friendly practices, they’re not quite as sustainable as other brands on the market, like Allbirds. However, I’d still give them a B- grade in terms of sustainability, and it’s a huge plus that their shoes are high-quality and designed to last for years.
VIVAIA focuses on comfort, odor reduction, and, as mentioned above, some sustainability. We think they score well enough on those three aspects that, combined with looking stylish, they’ve quickly become our go-to shoes for many occasions.
Our goal at The Atlas Heart is to help you find shoes worthy of a front-row spot in your closet. After testing four pairs of VIVAIA shoes for almost two years, we recommend them if you’re looking for chic shoes that are comfortable and long-lasting.
Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free recommendations.
VIVAIA Shoes We’ve Tested & For How Long
– Vienna Flats (testing since May 2022)
– Pointed-Toe Mules (testing since May 2022, discontinued)
– Madeline 2.0 Over-the-Knee Boots (testing since October 2022)
– Ryan Pro Boots (testing since October 2023)
Their shoes are made from plastic water bottles; you’ve probably heard of them from Instagram ads; they market themselves as very eco-friendly and sustainable; they’re mostly known for their stylish flats, but their line of boots is also popular.
Recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, from plastic bottles), EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) foam made from sugarcane, recycled faux fur (made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic, aka PCR), rice husks, herbal insoles (made from artemisia argyi and PU foam), synthetic and natural rubber, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS, a thermoplastic), and recycled and regular cardboard packaging.
- Somewhat Eco-Friendly Practices – VIVAIA falls somewhere in the middle in terms of sustainability. The fact that they care about using some renewable materials and recycled plastic bottles is a net positive in our book.
- Stylish & Lots of Choices – VIVAIA makes beautiful shoes and has no shortage of different colors and types of shoes.
- Comfortable – We’ve walked several miles in each of our VIVAIA shoes without experiencing aching feet, blisters, or other pain.
- Good for Wide Feet – VIVAIA flats, particularly, have a wider toe box than most flats.
- Quality Construction – Our VIVAIA shoes have hardly worn down at all. VIVAIA’s signature knit is a very durable material, and you can tell their shoes have quality construction and careful stitching.
- Moisture-Wicking Odor Control – Odor and sweat control are good qualities for flats since you generally wear them barefoot, and VIVAIA excels at this. We’ve never had issues with them smelling bad.
- Machine-Washable – Some VIVAIA shoes are machine-washable. It’s nice to have the option to quickly restore them if necessary, especially with lighter colors.
- More Affordable Than Other Flats of This Quality – You can find cheaper flats on Amazon, but compared to other brands that offer similar quality and style–like Rothy’s, Birdies, and Tieks–VIVAIA is 30-50% more affordable, sometimes more.
- “Greenwashing” Practices – Although VIVAIA is better than many other shoe companies when it comes to sustainability, they’re not quite as eco-friendly as their marketing makes them seem. We don’t like when brands aren’t as transparent about their sustainability, especially when it’s a big part of their marketing.
- Insoles Flatten Over Time – We’ve had issues with VIVAIA’s cushy insoles flattening down over time.
- Customer Service Issues For Some – We had a mostly positive experience the one time we had to contact VIVAIA’s customer service about an exchange for a different size (through a personal email, not a brand email). However, enough customers have complained about VIVAIA’s hit-or-miss customer service to make this a con, or at the very least, a neutral.
Are VIVAIA Shoes Actually Sustainable?
This is a nuanced answer that isn’t a simple yes or no, so let’s dig a little deeper into VIVAIA’s main marketing angle, which is that their shoes are made from plastic water bottles.
This sounds great at the surface level. It’s 2024; most people know that plastic is bad. It’s made from fossil fuels that contribute to global warming and takes 20-500 years to break down. If burned, it releases toxins that are further harmful to the planet.
So how great that a company is taking all that plastic and reusing it to make it into a product, right? There are a few points to consider:
- VIVAIA claims that the water bottles they use in their signature knit are diverted from landfills. I’d be curious to know more about this process and how they “divert” these bottles since it seems like a complicated process to set up and organize. If the plastic is actually being diverted from landfills like VIVAIA claims, that’s better than if they’re working with recycling facilities that would’ve been able to continue recycling those bottles instead of turning them into a one-time-use product.
- Which brings me to my next point. The plastic mostly used in VIVAIA shoes, Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is one of the most recyclable plastics out there. By using this plastic as a material for shoes, you’re making it so it can’t be recycled again. With that said, I don’t think this is as bad as some people claim it to be. Plastic can only be recycled a handful of times because its quality decreases each time it’s recycled. Some people claim PET can be recycled up to 10 times, but it’s probably closer to 2-3 times. So, yes, six plastic bottles are being used for shoes that aren’t recyclable, but they probably could’ve only been recycled a few more times. And even if VIVAIA’s shoes aren’t recyclable, they’re quality shoes that should be able to be used for many years.
- I think more concerning than using plastic that could be recycled is the issue of microplastics, which are so ubiquitous that they’re now finding them hidden in human blood. Do you have an increased risk of more interaction with microplastics when wearing clothes or shoes made from plastic? This is something I’d like to learn more about, and that isn’t addressed by VIVAIA.
When it comes down to it, VIVAIA shoes are still being made from mostly synthetic materials, which aren’t going to be as biodegradable or sustainable as natural or renewable materials.
This is why I say they’re sustainable to an extent, but not as sustainable as a brand like Allbirds that focuses more on using renewable materials.
In terms of certifications, they feature some on their website, but most of them come from the same company that I haven’t heard of before called Control Union. This company appears to do online certifications for brands and I honestly don’t know how legit they are.
The only other certification I can see is from the FSC, a certification I have heard of that ensures their cardboard packaging comes from responsibly managed forests.
The downside to VIVAIA’s marketing is how much they promote their eco-friendliness when I’d probably give them at most a B- grade.
And unlike other brands that are serious about sustainability, they’re not very specific when it comes to their sustainability goals. They make a lot of general statements about how eco-friendly they are without many details to back that up.
If you look at their website and go to their About page, you’ll see statements like “Our goal is to become a 100% carbon-neutral brand in the future.” That’s easy to say but also very general. Do they have a detailed plan for how they’re going to make this happen?
I’ll end by saying that it’s important to remember that no brand is perfect regarding sustainability, and I appreciate that VIVAIA is at least trying to use some eco-friendly materials, which is better than many other shoe companies. They just have some clear areas to improve on to become a more sustainable brand.
A Quick Look at VIVAIA as a Company
VIVAIA is a relatively new shoe company. They were founded in 2020 with the mission to create fashion-forward footwear with sustainable materials and practices. Their headquarters is located in London, while their factory is in China.
There has been some controversy about their factory’s location in China. Still, the company asserts that they manufacture there because China has abundant raw, recyclable materials to work with.
VIVAIA addresses the controversy on its website and assures consumers that they closely oversee their factories to ensure that employees have good working conditions and ethical treatment.
VIVAIA Shoes Reviews
Pointed-Toe Vienna Flats
Elina has been testing the Pointed-Toe Vienna Flats in Teal Green since May 2022.
My Vienna Flats arrived about a week after ordering them and fit right out of the box.
The knitted upper was surprisingly sturdy despite its fabric-like appearance, and it hugged my feet just right.
These shoes quickly became my trusted companions during a memorable two-month Italian adventure over the summer, effortlessly blending with the country’s chic style.
What impressed me most during this trip was their resilience. Despite being made of plastic, they remained comfortable, breathable, and miraculously odor-free, even after an unexpected dip in a Venetian canal!
I wore them on days with plenty of walking. And while they didn’t offer much support, they never gave me blisters or soreness.
These flats are also super versatile, transitioning seamlessly from casual beach strolls to city exploration.
I’ve been wearing these shoes for close to two years now, and they’ve held up well, showing minimal signs of wear and tear compared to my past flats.
The main place where they show their age is in the insole, which started feeling flatter after seven weeks of constant wear. A quick hand wash revived them a bit, though they’re definitely not as cushy as they used to be.
VIVAIA has since revamped the design of its flats since I got my Vienna pair, including added cushioning and improved arch support, so I might have to snag another pair soon to test out.
Mimi has been testing the now-discontinued Pointed-Toe Mules in almond since May 2022. The closest alternative is the Melia Flats.
Since these mules are now discontinued, I won’t spend a lot of time on them, just a quick overview. I originally purchased these when I was thinking I might use them as wedding shoes, but they were more tan than they looked online so I’ve ended up just wearing them for special occasions.
The pointed-toe is quite extreme, so it only works with certain types of outfits, and these don’t always stay on super well since they’re mules with no back strap.
Because of this, I don’t wear them as much as I hoped I would. I wear them mostly with Indian outfits when celebrating an event with my husband’s family. And I even got a pair for my Indian mother-in-law and she has loved them. The design and pointed toe seem to work well for Indian outfits and remind me a little of Nagra shoes.
Overall, these mules don’t offer much support, but they’re a nice slip-on shoe for events that’ll last a few hours. I’d be curious to try VIVAIA’s Melia Flats as an alternative since they have a similar look to my Pointed-Toe Mules but with less of a point, VIVAIA’s newer, more cushioned design, and a back to them.
Madeline 2.0 Over-The-Knee Water Repellent Wool Boots
Mimi has been testing the Madeline 2.0 boots in black since October 2022.
Although VIVAIA is most well-known for its flats, they’ve been expanding into different styles of footwear and a full winter shoe collection now—including warm, stylish winter boots!
I’ve always loved the idea of having over-the-knee boots, so when I saw the Madeline 2.0 boots in their winter boot collection, I immediately wanted to try them. I’m so glad I did.
With colder-than-usual (and wetter) winters recently in the Bay Area, I’ve been testing these water-resistant boots all over town for the past couple of winters–and in other seasons, too, with how breathable they are. And they’ve been comfortable enough to wear on my daily walks, anywhere from one to two miles.
The wool upper and soft terry lining on these shoes are both cozy and just the right amount of warmth for the Bay Area. These shoes wouldn’t be warm enough to wear in the snow, but for temperatures between 40 and 60 Fahrenheit, they’re perfect.
I also really like the style and flexibility of the over-the-knee part of the shoe. It basically looks like thick wool socks and is just as flexible as wearing socks. The only downside with that flexibility is that the top of the shoe tends to sag once you start walking. Some people might like that more relaxed look, but I often find myself pulling these boots up for that cleaner and tighter look.
It’s a nice change from the usual stiff leather boots I’m used to, though, and they have just enough of that preppy vibe without being over the top.
Ryan Pro Boots
Mimi has been testing the Ryan Pro Boots in nutmeg since October 2023.
The Ryan Pro Boots are the latest VIVAIA shoes I’ve been testing, and so far, they’ve been a nice addition to my wardrobe. These are some of the most popular boots offered by VIVAIA, so I was excited to start trying them for myself.
These boots are water-resistant, so I’ve been wearing them a lot during a rainy winter, and my feet have stayed dry. So far, the main downside to wearing them in wet weather is the lack of traction on the bottom.
Overall, the Ryan Pro Boots are a well-made and stylish pair of boots that hit right around my ankle, so they’re versatile enough to pair with jeans or dresses. And they’re a nice different style of boots when I’m not feeling the knee-high Madeline Boots.
Like most VIVAIA shoes, these have removable insoles and a moderate cushion and arch support. With VIVAIA’s signature flexible material, they’ve been mostly comfortable right out of the box.
My one complaint with these shoes is that they have the narrowest toe box of the VIVAIA shoes I’ve tried. This means it’s hard to wear thick socks with them, and it can be a little uncomfortable on my bunion when I’m walking longer distances.
Because of this, I find the Madeline Boots more comfortable overall with their rounded-toe design and slightly roomier fit, although I find the Ryan Pro’s ankle design to be more versatile than the Madeline Boots.
Other VIVAIA Shoes
There are many different shoe styles that VIVAIA offers. Below are some of their most popular options.
- Flats – There are a variety of different types of flats, including pointed-toe, round-toe, almond-toe, and square-toe. VIVAIA’s most popular styles are the Aria 5, Margot, and Claire. They also have a line of Walkers now that focus more on support and comfort.
- Heels – Similar to their flats, VIVAIA has square-toe, round-toe, pointed-toe, and almond-toe heels. Their most popular heels are their block heel styles (1.77″-2.36″ heels) like the Melody Pro, Julie Pro, and Tamia Block Heels. They also have a wedge shoe and a kitten-heel shoe.
- Boots – VIVAIA’s boot collection is second in popularity to its flats. It features many water-repellent options with 1-2″ heels. Besides the Ryan Pro and Madeline 2.0, the next most popular boots are the Tara Pro and the Regina Pro.
- Loafers – You can choose from a square-toe, round-toe, or pointed-toe; the most popular are the Audrey and Samantha loafers.
- Sneakers – VIVAIA now has two unisex sneaker designs: their original V Prime and their new Urban sneaker, which reminds me a bit of the Allbirds Tree Dashers.
- Sandals & Mules – These are the least popular styles that VIVAIA offers. For sandals, there are a few different slingbacks, wedge sandals, and slides. For mules, there are only two options: wedge mules and slippers.
VIVAIA Shoes Sizing Tips, Fit & How They Should Feel
How Does Sizing Work? Do VIVAIA Shoes Run Big or Small?
When I bought my Vienna flats, VIVAIA’s shoes were only in European sizes. My US size 8 translated to a 38.5 in European sizing.
They now offer EU, UK, and US sizing, so if you live in one of those regions, you won’t have to convert your size as I did. And a handy size guide chart includes recommendations based on foot shape.
Apart from a small extra bone near my ankle, I have relatively normal feet and my 38.5’s fit perfectly.
I read some complaints from people with wide feet who said their flats were too small, so it seems like it’s a good idea to follow VIVAIA’s sizing recommendations.
Do VIVAIA Shoes Stretch?
My VIVAIA flats have stretched a little bit in that they have molded around the shape of my big toe, but they don’t get increasingly looser the longer you wear them.
Are VIVAIA Shoes Comfortable?
VIVAIAs are very comfortable shoes, especially at first.
After wearing them a lot, the foam insole flattens out a bit. However, their improved insole has contoured padding, so I suspect it’s cushier.
I wouldn’t describe my pair as orthopedic-level comfort, but they’re still sturdy and my feet are happy in them.
And for context, during my time in Italy, I frequently walked five to six miles daily while wearing them without a problem.
How Long Does it Take to Break in VIVAIA Shoes?
I didn’t experience a breaking-in period for my VIVAIA’s. They’ve never given me blisters or rubbed uncomfortably, and they fit true-to-size straight out of the box.
How Should VIVAIA Shoes Fit When I Try Them on?
Because VIVAIAs don’t really stretch out or require a lot of breaking in, they should fit true to size and feel comfortable when you first try them on.
If they don’t, you probably need a different size.
Do VIVAIA Shoes Provide Enough Support?
My VIVAIA flats don’t provide a lot of extra support, but that’s to be expected with most flats.
They’re not necessarily walking shoes (although we have walked a lot in them without a problem), and they can’t perform miracles, but they’re a comfortable option for flats.
Plus, the recently upgraded design of their flats now has contoured insoles that provide extra arch support.
VIVAIA’s boots have moderate arch support that’s similar, or a little better, than most other fashion boots. They have more support than my Thursday Chelsea Boots.
Are VIVAIA Shoes Good For High Arches?
If you have high arches, you’ll want to size up to add an insole that offers added support. VIVAIA flats have a somewhat flat footbed, and their boots only offer moderate support.
Are VIVAIA Shoes Good for Wide Feet?
VIVAIA’s flats are good for people with wide feet since they have a wider toe box than most flats. For other styles, like their boots, I might recommend sizing up if you have wide feet. For example, we’ve found the Ryan Pro Boots to be on the more narrow side.
Can You Wear VIVAIA Shoes With Plantar Fasciitis?
If you’re actively fighting plantar fasciitis, we recommend adding your own plantar fasciitis insoles.
That said, Elina has dealt with plantar fasciitis in the past, and it didn’t act up while wearing her VIVAIAs.
Can You Wear VIVAIA Shoes With Bunions?
You can wear VIVAIA flats with bunions, usually without needing to size up. For VIVAIA boots, I’d probably size up.
VIVAIA Shoes Durability
How is the Quality of VIVAIA Shoes?
VIVAIA shoes are stylish and beautifully crafted, and the quality feels very high.
Are VIVAIA Shoes Waterproof?
VIVAIA’s Vienna Flats and mules aren’t waterproof, but the recycled water bottles create a thick, strong material that is hard for water to penetrate. This material also makes VIVAIA shoes breathable and helps them dry quickly.
However, the two boots we’ve tried–the Madeline 2.0 and Ryan Pro–are both water-repellent and have kept us dry on wet days. VIVAIA also just released a new line of water-repellent flats for some of their more popular styles, like the Aria 5 and Margot.
How Long Do VIVAIA Shoes Last?
VIVAIA shoes are sturdy and should last for years of frequent use without showing too much wear. We’ve already had our Vienna Flats for close to two years, and they don’t have too much wear and tear. We plan to still wear them for many years to come.
Also, some of their shoes are washable, which allows you to refresh them quickly and helps them last.
VIVAIA Return & Exchange Policy
VIVAIA offers free returns and exchanges for online purchases worldwide for 30 days. The items must be unused, undamaged, and in their original box with tags for a full refund.
We’ve seen quite a few customer complaints about the return process. Mimi had a positive experience when she needed an exchange (using her personal email, not a brand email) and found their customer service quick and responsive. So, it seems like it might be hit-or-miss, which is unfortunate. It’s nice when a brand has consistently good customer service.
VIVAIA Discounts & Coupons
Use our VIVAIA promo code THEATLASHEART to get 10% off your order.
VIVAIA also offers some exclusive deals based on profession or student status. There’s a 20% discount for college students, teachers, medical professionals, military personnel, and first responders. You just need to verify your status through a third-party site called Sheer ID.
They also offer an alternate 12% discount just for students through a verification site called Student Beans.
Where to Buy VIVAIA Shoes
FAQs About VIVAIA Shoes
Where are VIVAIA shoes made?
VIVAIA’s factory is in China, where many recycled plastic bottles and raw materials are available. Despite the reputation of manufacturing in China, VIVAIA says that its facilities follow ethical working practices.
Are VIVAIA shoes washable?
Do VIVAIA shoes run small?
VIVAIA has expanded its sizing to include US and UK sizes since we got our first pair in 2022. In my experience, our VIVAIAs fit true to size, if not slightly roomy.
Who is the owner of VIVAIA?
The co-founder and brand director is Marina Chen, and the company’s headquarters are in London.
Are VIVAIA shoes slip-resistant?
No, I wouldn’t say they’re very slip-resistant. VIVAIA shoes have a rubber sole that’s not too slippery, but they don’t have a super textured tread. We have yet to slip in them, though, so there’s that (*knock on wood*)!
How long do VIVAIA shoes take to ship?
For North America, shipping times should be between six and 13 days. We’ve received all four pairs of our shoes about a week after ordering.
Do VIVAIA shoes get smelly?
The PU foam insoles are odor-fighting, thanks to an herbal infusion. We’ve worn our pair of VIVAIAs very frequently over the past two years, and they still don’t smell!
Why are VIVAIA shoes so expensive?
While $100 feels like a high price for a pair of flats, VIVAIAs are a fair price compared to other brands that offer a similar quality and style. The extra cost comes from the high level of craftsmanship and the advanced technology it takes to turn plastic bottles into responsible footwear.
Conclusion: So, Are VIVAIA Shoes Worth it?
We enthusiastically recommend VIVAIA shoes. They’re incredibly stylish, comfortable shoes from a somewhat eco-friendly footwear brand. The four pairs of shoes we’ve tried from VIVAIA have never caused blisters or foot pain, and their flats are quite breathable.
We’ve worn our pairs while walking all day over cobblestones, out to nice dinners, scrambling over boulders, and even swimming at the beach. Throughout it all, they’ve stayed comfortable. These high-quality shoes are also long-lasting. We’ve been testing the Vienna Flats for almost two years now and they’re showing only minimal wear.
Our VIVAIAs complement many outfits, keep us strolling around in style, and help remove plastic bottles from the ocean. Win-win! We’re in the process of testing two more styles to add to this review because we like them so much!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder & Editor-In-Chief
Mimi McFadden grew up in Santa Cruz, California, and founded The Atlas Heart in 2013. Starting in 2020, she began testing new footwear to find that perfect balance of style, comfort, and versatility that’s so important for travel. In just a few years, she has tested over 30 shoe brands as the main footwear tester at The Atlas Heart and is always on the lookout for more trendy new shoes to try out. Mimi knows that no gear’s quite as important as what you wear on your feet, which is why she puts so much time, effort, and methodical testing into her shoe recommendations.
Elina’s offbeat, colorful sense of style has been a mode of self-expression for as long as she can remember. As a visual artist, she travels the world, and her shoes have to keep pace. With a swanky NY art gallery opening today and research adventures in Italian ghost towns tomorrow, Elina has high standards and prioritizes style, versatility, and comfort. Her online shopping addiction has led her to test dozens of shoes in her lifetime, and she’s always up to date on the latest trends. Over the past two years, she’s reviewed four different shoe brands and five clothing brands for The Atlas Heart and is always hunting for apparel that can offer comfort, style, and sustainability all at once. Stay tuned for her next fashion adventure.
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