If you’ve followed the barefoot industry for a while, you probably already know the trade-offs that brands make so they can deliver a wide forefoot, minimal shoe. Styling is often an issue, and durability can be dubious. But Vivobarefoot seems to be changing that trend with the Primus Lite III.
I’ve now got 50km on my pair of Primus Lite’s, and I’m already super confident that I made the right choice. In this review, I’ll take you through a full rundown of the shoes, including the all-important fit, plus all the reasons you may or may not want to jump into the Primus Lite’s yourself!
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In a nutshell, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite is a minimal shoe with a thin 4mm sole and plenty of room around the toes for perfect toe splay. The shoe starts to buck the trend of other standard minimal shoes by upgrading its styling, material choice and focusing more on environmental issues.
Who doesn’t want a good-looking shoe that allows your feet to work naturally and is the best choice for the planet? They’d be my first choice.
But are they the right shoe for you?
With Vivobarefoot, I’ve found It’s either a love or hate relationship when it comes to fit.
Let me explain.
If you’ve been trying different running shoes out for a while, you’ll know there’s a specific “European fit.” Think of a narrow Salomon or La Sportiva vs. the wide US-born Altra, and to some extent New Balance.
I think that the whole narrow, “European fit” has rubbed off on Vivobarefoot slightly.
But Vivobarefoot is a barefoot company, aren’t they supposed to be wide?
Well, they are, but only in the forefoot. They certainly give you a nice hug when it comes to a secure heel and bridge (top of the foot). For me, that is perfect. I want a tight fit to ensure there’s no sloppiness, which I sometimes find in Xero Shoes. But if you’re expecting a very forgiving loose fit, you may be disappointed.
A quick hint, if you’ve ever worn Inov-8 barefoot shoes back in the day, you’ll love these.
As for sizing, staying true to size was perfect for me. As long as you buy a pair with enough length, you’ll have no issues with forefoot width (which I have seen others have problems with). They may feel long at the start, but trust me, you’ll want the space to embrace the room and allow your toes to wiggle!
When you first put on a pair of Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III’s, you’ll notice that they’re a bit stiff, which is odd. I’ll talk about the materials used a bit later, but the upper is not super forgiving upon first impression.
I’ll encourage you to look past that at the start. The plastic-like materials do soften when wearing them, kind of like you’re warming them up.
That being said, the stiffer feel does create a very secure feeling. If I take a quick step to the left or right, I’m 100% confident that my foot will not fall over the edge of the shoe. It’s firmly held in place and feels like a second skin.
Just because I say they’re stiff doesn’t mean they lose their flexibility. It’s all about the areas of flexibility. The upper is a little stiffer than you may be used to, but the sole and the underfoot are entirely flexible. The fold-the-shoe-into-itself test passes perfectly with Vivos, so you know you’ll be utilizing your foot’s unique structure and complex muscle system.
With a name like Vivobarefoot, I assume you already know that these shoes are minimal and thin underfoot. And the Primus Lite’s are no different. With only 4mm between you and the ground, you’re going to feel stones and bumps. But there’s no huge difference that you’ll feel between other minimal offerings such as Xero shoes.
Up to now, I’ve run 50km in the shoes, with the longest run being around 15km with zero issues from day one. For me, that means there’s no wear-in period, and after 50km, they’re still feeling the same way as they did on day one.
Now, this is where I feel Vivobarefoot will excel over any other barefoot company.
Number one, the build quality feels beautiful. The upper is carrying little to no bulk, and the joinings of different materials are near seamless. The only areas that could give way are purely down to wear rather than material failure.
The quality of the upper materials seems near bulletproof. Most of the material used is soft, pliable plastic. It’s something you wouldn’t usually see on a running shoe, and I think they’re ahead of the industry. It’s still lightweight, flexible, and highly durable. And for peace of mind, the plastic used is post-consumer recycled plastic.
When it comes to the sole, I will have to reserve judgment for now. I see no apparent signs of wear right now, but can they match the 5000-mile guarantee from Xero Shoes? I doubt it. But Vivovarefoot has a trick up its sleeve.
Buyers in the UK can send their Vivos back to get fully repaired, including a resole for the price of £57 ($74). Sadly, that service is not in the US yet, but the website promises to see the service soon. I understand it may look a little pricey, but I feel it’s a tremendous advantage for longevity and a great option if you want to make a purchase that’s better for the planet.
As you can probably tell, I’m a fan of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III. You won’t get that soft, comfortable skate shoe feeling when you first put it on, but trust me, that’s a good thing. That snug-fitting rear and roomy toe box encourage your feet to work in the most natural way. And yes, they may cost you a pretty penny, but you’re paying for a great experience and not just a simple foot cover.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
This recycled shoe gives is the intersection of barefoot meets precision. With plenty of room in the toebox and very little between you and the ground, you can work on your barefoot game day in and day out.