When looking around for trail shoes, typically, you have to throw style out the window. But one company trying to bridge the gap between fashion and active shoes is Vivobarefoot. The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG is a stylish barefoot runner made for those dusty, rocky trails and suits those with a wide toe splay.
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Today I’m going to introduce you to the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG and why it might appeal to a vast barefoot market.
I’ll dig into :
- The shoe’s shape and help you decide if it’ll suit your feet.
- The materials used to work out the longevity and breathability of the shoe.
- The feel underfoot because, after all, this is a barefoot shoe.
- The raw gait analysis data from my extensive testing.
The first stop, as with all my reviews, is the fit. Because if you don’t find comfort, the shoe will never work.
Vivobarefoot has a distinctive fit that differs from many other minimal shoes on the market, which I believe comes from their European heritage.
They tend to be narrow, but not in the forefoot!
What? A narrow minimal shoe? It’s not barefoot then?
Well, it is, but they tend to fit a completely different foot than Xero Shoes and Lems.
Starting from the heel, they hug the ankle and remain snug “fitted” up to the foot’s arch, where they spread to let those toes and forefoot wiggle.
If you have a more voluminous bridge, or your width starts from the back near the ankle, Vivobarefoot may not be the brand for you.
But if you’re a narrow/low-volume footed runner, and you’re forever sliding around in oversized barefoot shoes, please try some Vivos now! I know those people exist out there and deserve barefoot shoes too!
I by no means have a narrow/low-volume foot, but I have made Vivo’s work by removing the insole. Before doing so, the volume was a little uncomfortable, and my toes were scraping the upper. And now I love the performance-like fit.
If you find the fit is ok, you’ll likely find the lockdown fantastic.
No heel slipping, no movement forwards or backward in the shoe; it’s just a dream.
BUT a word of caution. The materials are very unforgiving.
DO NOT overtighten the shoe; you’ll find pressure points pretty quickly if you do so; instead, just keep things taught, and don’t yank on the laces when tightening. And even go down each eyelet and let it loose to release any pressure points.
Once you get them dialed in, they won’t be budging anywhere, and you’ll have a much better time.
Because of the relative lack of space in the shoe, the arch area can be a little aggressive.
Vivobarefoot shoes may be a little uncomfortable if you have flat feet. The arch area is still more narrow than Xero Shoes and could end up pushing into your arch, causing discomfort.
They’re barefoot; they have a foot-shaped toebox!
What is unique to Vivo is the ample room for the big toe. You’ll see almost no taper on the big toe side of the shoe, and it’s almost square, which may suit some specific foot types.
Although the square shaping doesn’t hold true on the smaller toe side, the taper has become more and more pronounced over the years, almost to the point of little pinky rubbing for some with wider, more square feet.
After all, these shoes are made for the European market, where feet tend to be more slender.
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They feel barefoot!
They’re close to the ground with 2.5mm base rubber and 4mm lugs! And that also means they are superbly flexible.
For a general feel, I’d say these shoes a fun! I feel super secure in the upper, and I’m confident in planting my foot and knowing it won’t slide around.
And for some unknown reason, I’ve been reaching for these shoes more and more.
I think they sit directly between the Xero Shoes Mesa Trail and the Xero Shoes Terraflex II when it comes to the ground feel, and if you slam onto some sharp pointy rocks, you’re going to know about it!
But hey, that’s what barefoot is about. Learn to dance around the rocks.
The forefoot has plenty of flex, much like many other minimal shoes, but it’s concentrated mainly across the under the arch and the ball of the foot.
You won’t find as much flex in the toe area, so you’ll find a slightly different feel than a traditional floppy sandal. But at the same time, it does offer a little more protection from the external elements, which is critical in a trail shoe.
There’s also plenty of torsional flex, which further lends itself to a true barefoot style allowing the lateral foot to fall first and continuing with a roll inwards to the inside of the foot in natural motion.
I talked about lacing these shoes in the Fit section. And now, here is why you don’t want to crank these bad boys.
The upper material is made from recycled plastic, which remains relatively stiff.
There’s very little flexible mesh in the shoe, meaning the shoe is unforgiving if most directions.
So if you’re pushing out the side of the shoe from the start, it’s unlikely that you’ll wear them in over time, or if you do, it will take hundreds of miles to soften.
If the material is an issue for you, there is a knit option that you may want to try instead, which will be more forgiving and possibly reduce any sore spots.
Again because of this tougher plastic upper, there is reduced breathability. And with these shoes being designed in England, it’s not such an issue there, but if you’re in the heat of Texas, take that in to count.
Otherwise, the tongue is a thin, flat design that sits perfectly over the bridge of the foot and doesn’t seem to dig in anywhere nor move around.
The only hint of padding in this shoe is the heel. You’ll find a small padded ankle brim that runs from the laces around the heel. This helps keep the shoe nicely secure and prevents heel lift.
(100-day day trial)
This is it! The area I’ve been waiting to talk about.
Those plastic materials I was talking about make the shoe super durable and perfectly rock resistant. Any scapes and scuffs on the trail will bounce straight off this shoe.
The toe box is fully covered, so there is no worry of stubbing toes, and the sole is built up high around the foot to minimize any lateral abrasion.
If there’s one area of concern, it’s at the flex point in the shoe.
If you remember earlier, I mentioned the shoe tended to flex mainly at the ball of the foot well, which also means that’s the stress point of the shoe.
I can start to see some slight separation of the sole and the upper, and friends have reported that other Vivobarefoot models have entirely separated in this area.
But will that break down before I wear through the sole, I think no, but it’s something to keep note of.
So it comes down to the durability of the tread.
The tread pattern is tightly packed and offers a good surface area which should prolong the rubber. And with them being 4mm high, there’s a good buffer before you wear them bald.
I don’t think we’ll see much past 500 miles with this rubber. With only 30 miles on these shoes, I see some wear on the lateral side, which is standard for the running shoe industry, but not up to my standard.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you might know that I like to perform a quick gait analysis of myself running in the shoes. I feel it gives another dimension to help you and me make better shoe-buying decisions.
To perform the analysis, I use University grade measurement pods to estimate ground reaction force, peak impact force, pronation angle/speed, and much more.
To gather the data, I ran on a relatively flat 0.5-mile trail, running the first half at a 5:15 min/km speed and the second half at 4:10 min/km.
As a comparison, I also performed the test with 3 other shoes. So these results will show data for:
- Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG
- Xero Shoes TerraFlex II (highly protective minimal shoe)
- Xero Shoes Mesa Trail (More forgiving upper)
- Altra Superior 5 (21mm of cushion but still zero-drop)
First up, we’re going to look at Impact forces. This is the force exerted in a vertical direction when my foot first contacts the ground.
|Shoe||Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG||Xero Shoes Mesa Trail||Xero Shoes TerraFlex II||Altra Superior 5|
|Impact Force (G)||3.2||7.6||5.1||6.2|
The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG scored nearly half of any other shoe!
Now that’s strange because typically, shoes with less cushion usually cause a higher impact. Look at the Mesa Trail, for example.
These results have been repeated on longer runs too, where the impact force was 4.0.
Something about the shoe forces me to “feather” the ground and land softly. And that lines up well with the feeling of a truly minimal feel.
With these results, I’d be 100% confident recommending Primus Trail shoes to new barefoot runners.
I would expect they’d help teach a natural barefoot running gait and help strengthen key stabilizing areas.
Pronation is the angle measurement of the ankle rolling in or out from the foot’s initial contact position.
Many hear about overpronation and expect that they need a well-structured shoe to “correct” pronation. In fact, some amount of pronation is expected and is an essential shock absorption mechanism.
There are two interesting data points of pronation. How far your ankle travels from side to side during a step, and how fast it happens.
|Shoe||Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG||Xero Shoes Mesa Trail||Xero Shoes TerraFlex II||Altra Superior 5|
|Pronation Angle (degrees)||-17.5||-19.2||-20.6||-19.5|
The Vivobarefoot results in the least amount of pronation out of the test shoes, again likely due to the true barefoot feel.
I believe I receive much more sensory feedback from the ground, which is activating the stabilizing muscles to prevent “too much” pronation.
These results further back up what I mentioned previously. The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG is a great shoe for re-training your barefoot gait.
If you’ve got normal to narrow feet, and you’re not pushing the volume of shoes too much, Vivobarefoot could be an excellent option for you.
The securely fitted upper makes for a confident ride down the trails, and the flexible outsole helps build that barefoot gait.
As mentioned before, just remember, don’t crank the laces too tight because the upper will not flex around your foot. Instead, you’ll just end up with pressure points.
(100-day day trial)
Hello. Great review. However, I have to disagree about Vivobarefoot shoes being for people with normal to narrow feet. I have wider than normal feet with fallen arches and Vivo, especially RAIII, Addis, and Primus Trail II FG, fit perfectly. Not all Vivo shoes are as wide and the Primus Lite III I found slightly narrower than the Trail II FG. Lems are what I find too narrow in the midfoot. After my feet started spreading out more, I could no longer wear them. The toe box on Lems is more rounded at the big toe, so you would have to size up to get the same feel as Vivo. For me, a vast difference between Vivo and Lems in that area. Vivo is more expensive, but I won’t buy anything else. Lems are well made, but far too narrow for my liking. Just wanted to point out my own experience with both shoes. Again, great review. Thanks!
I’m a little surprised, but you know, we all have different feet. As long as we find something we like, that’s the main part!
I’d agree with you on the Addis, but I’ve not had a chance to try RA iii. Do you feel they use the same last?
As for the primus pair, I feel they’re super similar, and I’ve managed to verify the fit with my wife’s narrow foot, and many on the BarefootRunning Reddit group. Many actually think they’re narrow! Which I don’t fully agree with, but I know what they’re getting at.
What I’m more interested in is your opinion on Lems. Which models have you tried? I can see how the toe box is a little more rounded than some, although it usually means 1/2 larger will fix that, but I’ve not felt narrowness in the midfoot before. I’m interested which models you felt this in.
Thanks for the feedback; it’s always interesting to hear other experiences!
Hey Nick – I have been rotating pairs of Primus Trail FG I ie the original model from 3 years ago. They have finally given up and I ordered a pair of the FG II from Vivo. The internal space seems greater and the footbed seems flat and not at all shaped. In short, they are not workable – have you any experience along these lines?
That’s disappointing to hear. But let’s dig in to find out why.
When you say the “internal space is greater”, could you elaborate? i.e. is the shoe shorter? Less width in the forefoot or the midfoot, or is it deeper, meaning you cannot get a lockdown?
As for the footbed, when you say it’s “flat”, is that because you used to feel some arch support?
Sadly, I’ve never had a chance to try the original Primus Trail, so I can’t help with comparing the new to the old. I tried to do a little research to see the differences from old reviews, but I see very little differences.
Let’s first rule out sizing issues, and if nothing is working, I could assess which model you should look at from your foot type.