In the battle for the best barefoot brand, Xero Shoes and Vivobarefoot are certainly up there.
Both brands excel in creating shoes to promote natural movement, but they’re not equal.
And for you and me, that’s awesome!
We all have different feet! Different shapes and sizes, different strengths and weaknesses, and different movement patterns.
That’s why the more barefoot brands there are, the better for the consumer because it offers variety in the market –and that should hopefully help us all find the perfect shoe!
So let’s jump into the post and find out the major differences between the two barefoot shoe brands and which brand would be the best for your twinkle toes!
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Vivobarefoot is a small brand out of the UK. They have a range of casual and active shoes, trying to position themselves in the market as the traditional shoe brand disrupter!
Rather than taking the current shoes on the market and cutting them back, Vivobarefoot has thrown away modern shoe options and returned to the basics.
You won’t find any cushioning in their range of shoes, and that’s because they’re a “barefoot”/minimal brand, meaning that they’re trying to obtain the closest possible feeling to barefoot as possible. In short, that means a thin sole and maximum flexibility to allow the foot to function exactly how it was designed to perform.
Another huge draw to Vivobarefoot is its focus on sustainability and ethical business. You’ll find statements of environmental impact plastered all over the site and schemes like Revivo, their pre-loved Vivobarefoot shoe store that redistributes used or slightly defective shoes to new owners, demonstrating their willingness to back up their pledge.
In this post, I’ll focus on running shoes, but in the Vivobarefoot range, you’ll find many casual, hiking, and smart shoe options. I feel Vivobarefoot does an excellent job at looking much more stylish than other minimal footwear brands. **Cough** I’m looking at you, Xero Shoes!
Over to the US and a barefoot brand called Xero Shoes.
If you’ve read Born To Run, you’ll know about the barefoot running trend in the early 2010s. In the book, the Tarahumara tribe from Mexico was highlighted for running great distances throughout their lives, and what did they wear to run?
You may think it’s impossible to run in sandals, but with the right design, it’s entirely possible, and I’m here to prove it!
Xero Shoes took this simple sandal design, modified it slightly for a more comfortable fit for a run, and started selling their first sandal kit in 2009.
They serve a complete range from running shoes to casual everyday shoes, which all resemble that original sandal design, with little to no cushioning and maximum flexibility. They also have other running shoe options that are shoes rather than sandals.
But overall, Xero shoes are as close to barefoot running as you’ll get, with the added protection from sharp objects underfoot.
As you can gather, both Xero Shoes and Vivobarefoot will be great options if you want to reclaim your natural barefoot strength.
The similarities between Vivobarefoot and Xero Shoes
Both brands offer maximum flexibility, allowing for your foot to bend naturally in any direction. Why’s this important? If you study your foot for a little while, you’ll notice that the complex structure allows your foot to move in a multitude of different directions. Not just bending from front to back, but also twisting. On top of that, with a bit of practice, you can train your toes to have complete autonomy, just like your fingers! So having flexibility in the shoe, in every direction, is super important.
Both brands also have minimal soles to the shoe, allowing you to feel the ground beneath you. You need to be able to feel the ground. The sensors in your foot send critical signals back up to the brain and nervous system, which are used to make micro-adjustments to your gait to protect the body. When you add more and more cushion under your feet, these signals are lost, and you often land with higher forces which can lead to worse outcomes over time.
So now we know the two brands have the fundamentals covered. What about the differences?
The biggest difference is the fit
Vivobarefoot are more narrow in the heel and wide towards the forefoot. Much like a fan shape. Think about other European brands; they are often narrow, or sometimes what they call a “performance fit.”
Xero Shoes are forgiving in the heel and moderately wide towards the forefoot. In other words, they’re pretty broad throughout the shoe. Xero Shoes are for you if you need width in the midfoot and your toe splay is more moderate. i.e. Your foot isn’t shaped like a fan.
If you have shallow feet, Vivobarefoot will work, and the opposite is true for Xero Shoes. Vivobarefoot shoes are often more shallow than Xero Shoes. If you have a high bridge or deeper, wider foot, choose Xero Shoes. Across most of the Xero Shoes range, the materials are forgiving and accommodate a range of deeper, wider feet.
Durability and Materials
As a gross generalization, the materials used at Vivobarefoot are of much higher quality and will likely last longer.
Vivobarefoot has sustainability at the core of their brand. From the materials they use to the policies in place, you can rest assured your purchase is a more positive environmental choice. The use of recycled materials is commendable, but Vivobarefoot takes it further than that. It’s possible to “Revive” your old worn-out Vivos with a sole replacement, restitching, and a general freshen up, so your shoes are as good as new. Sadly the service is not available for all shoes, but we can hope this is the direction they’re moving towards.
Xero Shoes have been known to have quality control issues. But that’s to be expected when you factor in the price difference (More on that later). Even though they tout a 5000-mile guarantee on their soles, which is fantastic, it doesn’t cover the wear and tear of the uppers. However, to contradict that again, Xero Shoes did replace a pair of my Mesa Trails after I ripped out the side of my shoes within 300 miles. (I’m happy to say my second pair is holding up much better, 310 miles and looking good!).
Feel of the ride
The shoe’s feel comes down to personal preference—some like a tight, secure fit; others like a loose, forgiving fit. However, I’d always suggest choosing the best fit for your foot!
Vivobarefoot tends to use much more solid rubber/plastic-like materials, which leads to a secure feel on your feet. But obviously, this only works if the shoe fits you right. If not, it can lead to hotspots and blisters. When it does work, it feels incredible. For example, when dancing down rocks on a trail, you can be sure that your feet will not slide in the shoe, leading to a fantasticly secure feeling.
Xero Shoes use many more forgiving and flexible materials. These materials are excellent when you have oddly shaped feet (doesn’t everyone) or prefer a sock-like feeling. On one side, that means you’ll likely never have an issue with a sore spot (I can attest to this after taking the Mesa Trails and Terraflex II 500 miles on the Colorado trail). On the other hand, sometimes, this can lead to an insecure feeling in lateral movement. Again that all depends on the fit!
There’s no way of hiding this. Vivobarefoot are expensive. Often $40-50 more than the equivalent Xero Shoes.
I would hope the price difference would pay back in longevity, but I can’t be 100% certain about that.
On the other hand, the sourcing and manufacturing of Vivobarefoot shoes seem much more ethical. Which always comes at a price.
Here are some examples of pricing.
Xero Shoes HFS
- Weight: 6.8 oz/ 193 g
- Stack Height: 5mm rubber outsole + 3.5mm removable insole
- Order 1/2 larger than your standard
- Wide Toebox, high volume
- Perfect wrap-around upper for a barefoot feel
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
- Weight: 7.1 oz/ 201 g
- Stack Height: 3 mm insole + 4 mm outsole rubber
- True to size
- Wide Toebox, low volume
Xero Shoes Mesa Trail
- Weight: 7.6 oz/ 215 g
- Stack Height: 5.5 mm outsole rubber
- Order 1/2 size larger
- Wide Toebox, high volume
- Flexible forgiving upper
- Strategically placed overlays.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG
- Weight: 8.9 oz/ 250 g
- Stack Height: 2.5 mm + 4 mm lugs + removable insole
- True to size
- Wide Toebox, low volume
- Solid lockdown with foot protection
Simple answer. The one that fits!
If you’re like me and you find that either brand can work, then here are some general guidelines to work with.
- Are your feet narrow or fan-shaped?
- Do you have a lot of volume in your feet?
- Do you prefer a sock-like upper? (otherwise, it’ll be a secure locked down)
- Are you price-sensitive?
No matter what you choose, enjoy your barefoot experience!