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Summary: After two months of testing VIVAIA’s Mary Janes, I can attest that they’re a cute, no-fuss shoe that’s perfectly suited for everyday wear after a short break-in period. They’re well-constructed and comfortable, and held up when I took them out on long days of walking around the city, weekend travels, and even traipsing around in the rain.

Pros:

  • At $97 dollars for their Mary Jane and many other styles, VIVAIA offers an affordable staple shoe. Their versatility ensures an even lower cost per wear.
  • The shoe is constructed well and holds up through many wears, in all kinds of weather including a light rain. (In fact, they’re machine washable which really helps them bounce back!)
  • The style is easy to wear for all sorts of occasions from work, to on a flight, and even out to dinner. This is a great option for those who prefer pieces that are easy to style.
  • It’s supportive! Many flats cause knee issues for me, and I had no trouble at all in that department.

Cons:

  • There was a break-in period for me that involved some toe-pinching and heel-rubbing. (Nothing reached the point of a blister, fwiw!) After 3 or 4 wears, they felt sufficiently broken in.
  • The design of the shoe, including the hardware, is not as premium as more expensive brands.

I have a reputation of wearing my shoes to the point of exhaustion. Credit my heavy gait or my schedule which demands clomping around on concrete sidewalks — the end result is that my soles tend to give out within a matter of months. This means I avoid anything too delicate, opting instead for something sturdy and easy to throw on. I love a comfortable shoe that I don’t have to worry about while I rush around the city, but I don’t always want to reach for a sneaker.

“I love a comfortable shoe that I don’t have to worry about while I rush around the city, but I don’t always want to reach for a sneaker.”

To be honest, my favorite silhouettes do tend sweeter and girlish, but I can’t stomach investing in anything that won’t hold up to heavy wear. There’s nothing worse than buying a new pair of shoes only to have them sit in the back of the closet because they’re too precious, hard to style, or worst of all — they don’t quite fit, even though you try to convince yourself they do. 😅

VIVAIA is an affordable and sustainable option, with easy enough returns (you might just have to print a label!), that promises to solve all shoe problems with its cute but versatile designs. But is it too good to be true? I set out to test their Square-Toe Mary Jane ($97) and find out. From walking around the city to wearing it through a travel day (including on a flight!) and even in the rain, read on to hear how they held up.


About VIVAIA

First, a bit about the brand. VIVAIA has been putting out easy-to-wear and sustainable shoes since 2020. You may have seen them on the likes of Alexa Chung and Julia Roberts. And if you’re like me, you wondered how they actually performed IRL after seeing them all over the internet. That’s just what we’re going to find out!

The brand comes in many styles, including the Mary Janes I tested, but also sandals, flats, and even boots, which are available on their site for $97–$199 (for water-repellent over-the-knee boots). A real steal compared to other similar options on the market, including Rothy’s whose Mary Janes are $159.

“The brand comes in many styles, including the Mary Janes I tested — and also sandals, flats, and even boots.”

I was also happy to see that VIVAIA’s claim to sustainability exceeds the recycled materials used. The brand’s honed in on a low-waste production process, while also creating a durable and machine-washable end product so that they have a longer life, meaning less wasteful purchasing over time. We love when a brand takes the long view.

While they have a small number of in-person retail experiences worldwide, VIVAIA is mostly available online. You can find the largest selection on their site — but styles are also available via Nordstrom and also Amazon (we try to avoid shopping on Amazon, but if you’re into that kind of thing!).


Shipping

My order came quickly after it was placed — in under 5 days — so I was surprised to see that it shipped from China. The VIVAIA site explains, “Your order will be shipped from the warehouse that has the actual stock available at the time of shipment.” Not ideal in terms of carbon emissions, but, on the other hand, the shipping materials were simple, and composed of recycled and recyclable materials. Nothing more than required to make the journey.


Try on

For this review, I decided to try the Square-Toe Mary Jane, in a size 40, equivalent to my usual US size 9. The Square-Toe MJ was my preference among their styles, especially for a transitional shoe moving out of winter. Plus, it seemed to resemble their flats enough to be representative of those, too. (For what it is worth, their boots and heels also pique my interest!)

I had been looking for the perfect Mary Jane to complete my wardrobe, so I held my breath waiting for this pair to arrive. Upon trying them on, they were immediately comfortable. I really loved the feel of the shoe on my foot. It was cushy but not so much that it felt unsupported. I liked how flexible they were. After wearing them around the house a bit (as a no-shoes household, this is an indulgence reserved for the purchase of new shoes only!), I did feel a slight pinch on my pinky toes. I was curious to see how this would develop.

As for the design of the shoe, the shape of the toe box and the hardware were slightly underwhelming. A touch more department store than designer. But, that’s coming from someone who thinks the pinnacle of Mary Janes is Margiela’s Tabi — so we might have different standards.


Putting my VIVAIAs to the test

I wanted to give this pair a real test so I wore them for a number of occasions over the span of two months between March and May — including some high step count days, travel, and in less than ideal weather conditions.

My first test was a day in the city where I walked 8k steps. I could feel rubbing on the outer edge of my toes and on the outside edge of my heel (y’know, that zone between ankle and heel) as I walked to the train for the first leg of my day. It was a relief to sit down on the subway once I arrived, and I found that short breaks like this helped me power through the first few wears.

“My first test was a day in the city where I walked 8k steps.”

By the second day of wear, the heel was less painful but the toe box was still pinching. At this point, I noticed that my right foot was more sore than my left — and I should note that my right foot is indeed a bit bigger than my left. I imagine sizing up would have made them too big. But, if you happen to fit more closely into an exact size, you might not experience the rubbing I did! Nothing ever reached the point of a blister, thanks to the materials used in the construction of the shoe and the extra padding on the heels.

For my next test, I wore this pair for a travel day from NYC > Richmond, VA. Because of the short flight, I figured it would be the perfect testing ground. As a travel shoe, VIVAIA fared like a dream: They easily slip off for security, are comfy enough in-flight, and allow you to step off the plane in a presentable look! By this point, they were sufficiently broken in so they were perfectly comfortable as I made my way to the airport and from there, to my gate.

“As a travel shoe, VIVAIA fared like a dream: They easily slip off for security, are comfy enough in-flight, and allow you to step off the plane in a presentable look!”

Upon arrival, I went straight into a long day in Richmond getting the lay of the land and apartment hunting. In total, I did 17k steps that day. By the end, I was itching to take these babies off. I had small marks on my heel and on the side behind my ankle. As I took them off, I noticed a faintly stinky smell. Neither were ideal, but honestly compared to most new shoes I’ve had the pleasure of wearing, it was an improvement. It’s rare that something doesn’t require a break-in period and never smells — plus, these are washable! (Note for washing: You’ll want to use cold water followed by an air dry so the shape of your shoe isn’t affected.) That gives them a real leg up, as does their supportive construction and great price point.

For my final test, I wore these on a faintly rainy day while making my way from Brooklyn into the city. This is where I was really impressed. I made the same commute that I had on the first day of wear, except no pinching or rubbing this time around. Plus, they kept my feet dry and comfortable. It didn’t feel to me that they took on any water or needed extra time or special attention to dry out. They got a bit dirty that day, but you could barely tell. And it was nothing a quick toss into the washing machine couldn’t easily fix.

So take it from me: I wouldn’t wear my VIVAIA MJs straight out of the box on a trip, especially if you’re on the upper end between sizes. But after breaking in, I think they’re a perfect no-fuss closet staple. They are super supportive, versatile, washable, affordable, and the list goes on. (That goes for their other models, too. Our editorial director has a pair of their boots and finds them extremely comfortable for air travel and wonderfully weatherproof.) It’s hard to be picky when VIVAIA is ticking so many boxes!


Ashley D’Arcy is Senior Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a psychoanalyst-in-training and holds a Master’s in philosophy from the New School for Social Research. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife and their Miniature Australian Shepherd, Rocky.