Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Review – Ideal for an active lifestyle?

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Almost every time I review a shoe, someone will pop up in the comments and cry ‘more shoes that aren’t foot shaped!’. These are very foot shaped, but they’re not very bike shaped. Nevertheless, as a group of outdoorsy active fitness types (even Binners goes hillwalking, though possibly only as a means to accessing more remote pubs with fine pies) I figure you might be interested in these Vivobarefoot Primus Trail shoes.

Vivobarefoot makes foot shaped shoes for a range of activities, allowing you to emulate a ‘barefoot’ feel without actually covering your feet in broken glass or cow shit. They’re lightweight, flexible, and relatively thin in the sole, so you can feel the ground under your feet and your foot can mould around lumps and bumps underfoot. As a result, if you’re a normal shoe wearer, Vivobarefoot recommends that you gradually accustom your feet and ankles to this style of shoe. Go all in too soon and they warn that you’ll likely find yourself in pain. Luckily, if you buy your shoes from Vivobarefoot themselves and live in the UK, you’ll have 100 days of wearing them out and about to decide if they’re suitable for you. If you really can’t get on with them after all that practice, you can send them back for a refund. Quite the buy and try offer.

Brought up on a diet of very sensible shoes, and carrying a permanent hip injury, I find it very difficult to find anything comfortable for my feet. I need them to be light, and I need them to be very neutral – anything with a thick sole has me spraining my ankles, and anything with internal arch support has my feet being shredded and blistered. As a result, I get my feet into sandals as soon as the weather allows, and spend most of the rest of the year in some form of fell or trail shoe. I’d been in sandals for a few months by the time I put my feet into the Primus Trail shoes, and had no problems going about my normal daily business in them from the off.

For firm ground

This particular model has a fairly lugged sole to provide grip off road – though it’s designed for ‘firm ground’ rather than full on soft oozy mud. There are a few ‘SG’ soft ground models in the Vivobarefoot range if you want something more aggressive. This particular shoes is made with recycled post-consumer plastic waste, and the external fabric has the appearance of being knitted, but doesn’t seem to have the stretch that you’d associate with an actual knit. This means that once you’ve snugged them up with the laces, your feet do stay in place pretty well, without slipping around. There’s a Primus Trail Knit too, which is less plasticky and more of a stretchy fabric, which Vivobarefoot advises me is less well suited to running than the ones I have.

More than is needed

The laces are ridiculously long and lack a means to shorten them, or a lace keep. You’d have to have truly enormous feet to need to loosen the shoes enough to use the full length of these laces. I hope that future editions might come with something a little shorter, or at least choppable, plus a stretchy lace keep band to stop the tail flapping. All that said, the laces do work and I didn’t find them slipping annoyingly, even when running.

I’d definitely recommend wearing socks with the shoes as they’re rather sweaty feeling, despite the apparent ventilation you’d think you’d get through the knit fabric – I’ve found you just don’t get much if any relief through them, and on hot days I preferred to stick with hiking sandals rather than sweat in these.

However, the laces and the sweatiness are really their only downfall in my book. They are just super comfortable, and have been from the moment I put my feet in them. I have worn them for runs, long walks, and they’ve become my main street footwear since the weather made sandals a no-go. I like how you can feel the ground under your feet, yet not so much that you’re getting poked and hurt like you would in bare feet. As I’ve said, I always prefer a ‘less is more’ approach to shoes, so if you’re used to chunky soles, air cushioned whatsits, and moulded support thingies, your feet may find these more of a shock than mine. For me, it’s been like slipping my feet into a second skin – one that’s just tough enough to keep the stones at bay. While they may be as much as twice the price of other trainers I might have considered, they’re instantly comfortable and light weight enough to allow me to walk longer distances. On balance, that seems like a price worth paying.

On the bike

This is really not what they’re for. They’re neither sticky nor stiff. Don’t expect to do anything more than a casual commute home in them. Anything where you’re really pushing on the pedals is going to have your feet bending quite uncomfortably and fatiguing quickly thanks to all the flex in the sole. There’s a reason cycling shoes are stiffened.

Too flexy for bikes. Handy for packing.

Running in the Primus Trail

In the name of preserving my joints and what remains of my hip, I only run off road and only run short distances. For that I found these are great – I imagine though that upping the mileage would take some practice and getting used to, as it definitely feels like more of an adjustment than daily walking around or hiking in these shoes. Even though I say I only run off road, there’s almost always a bit of tarmac to cover to get to the trails, and on the short section of road between the fields and my house I’ve found the lack of cushioning is just a touch too much for me on the descents. Here I have taken to doing a walked warm down, or adding in extra off road paths to get as close to home as possible. Though fell shoes don’t offer much by way of cushioning and support, these are significantly more pared down, so you expect to feel the difference. They’re also nowhere near as aggressively soled as a true fell shoe, so don’t expect quite the same level of grip as you go bog trotting.

I’d say that these are ideal for summer moorland and field based runs. Occasional stony tracks aren’t a problem, but if you do a lot of fireroad type running I think you’ll have to get used to the extra impact.

Choosing a Vivobarefoot

You need to get the sizing right on these, and there’s a whole world of measuring advice on the website. Some models suggest they come up small or large. In these, I ended up in a size 40, which I would say is about bang on where I’d usually be in a street shoe, though for some reason, I always need a 41 in a bike shoe. I was lucky enough to have the chance to try a couple of pairs on when selecting my test pair, but I liked these shoes so much and found them so comfortable that I decided to buy a pair of their boots for winter walking. So you can have a taste of ‘actual customer’ experience…

…If I hadn’t had confidence that these were likely to be comfortable, I might have given up, especially given the price. The Vivobarefoot website is pretty frustrating. First, I wanted to buy waterproof boots – filtering by ‘waterproof’ isn’t an option. Then, I knew I wanted size 40s again, but the site only gave me UK 6/7/8 etc options. A search for the sizing chart and conversions gave me a page full of shoes, but no size chart. Argh. Luckily, there’s a chat option on the website which proved to be both helpful and responsive (although the chat box did vanish mid chat when I tried to navigate to one of the page links the chat yielded. Argh again). I highly recommend you make use of the chat facility to make sure you get the product and size that suits you – and by buying directly you’ll also get access to that 100 day trial option.

Website annoyances aside, my new boots have proven to be just as comfortable as the Primus Trail shoes, though I’m a little disappointed that they’re not completely waterproof after a proper Yorkshire wet weather test. Not bad, but not quite what I’d hoped for the money. I’ve got another 90 days or so to decide if they’re too disappointing to keep…

Overall

I’ve heard that lots of people got out of the habit of wearing shoes or constrictive footwear, during lockdown. If you’re struggling to get your feet comfortable after that long period of slippers and flip-flops, I’d highly recommend trying these out. The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail makes for a great all purpose shoe for someone with an active lifestyle, letting you tackle the daily shop, a hike in the hills, and a run through the woods.

Review Info

Brand: Vivobarefoot
Product: Primus Trail FG
From: www.vivobarefoot.com
Price: £130
Tested: by Hannah for 4 months
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Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)
  • Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Review – Ideal for an active lifestyle?
  • colin9
    Full Member

    I’ve a pair of these. I love wearing them but not a great fan of how they look. I chopped a couple of inches off the laces and knotted them together to replace the oblong joiner bit, much better.

    I had some boots too, but again was disappointed by the lack of waterproofness and sold them on.

    configuration
    Free Member

    There’s a reason cycling shoes are stiffened.

    I WISH they did a cycling shoe. I have normal feet shaped feet, so most brands of footwear are too narrow. I’ve got several pairs of VB shoes, and they’ve mostly been excellent. But if you wear these a lot, your feet will naturally spread out more, so going back to other brands may well become impossible as they will be too narrow. The fact is, that fashion dictates footwear design is basically wrong for a lot of people, and needs to change. Most people have feet issues, because they have crammed their feet into shoes that are too narrow, because Fashion.

    I’d recommend visiting their shop in Neale St, if you can. You can try on plenty and get some good advice, the staff are very good. Buying shoes exclusively online isn’t a great idea if you value your feet. And you only get one pair of feet, and they do quite an important job…

    nickc
    Full Member

    “Foot Shaped”

    Is doing quite a lot of heavy lifting in their marketing

    configuration
    Free Member

    They have a good point though. Most footwear isn’t foot shaped. Put your bare foot on a piece of paper and draw round it. Then tell me if your regular footwear is anywhere near that shape. ‘Sports’ footwear can often be designed to support the foot when running etc on hard surfaces, so fair enough. But many ‘fashion’ shoes, womens’ especially, are terrible for your feet. VB may be heavy on the marketing, but their products have worked better for me and other people than most other brands, so there must be some truth in it.

    ballsofcottonwool
    Free Member

    I chopped the original laces off my Primus Trails and fitted normal laces which I found much more comfortable because I could feel the thin cord cutting into the top of my feet.

    I’ve waded through streams in my Tracker FG boots and never had any problems with leakage, I regularly treat them with Nikwax waterproofing wax. The original laces were rubbish and lasted a matter of weeks.

    My favorite Vivos are the Gobi desert boots, they’re so lightweight and the leather is so soft I can wear them without socks all summer.

    lunge
    Full Member

    I saw someone running the Snowdonia Marathon in a pair of these and she was running well. In fact, she was absolutely flying on any downhills so they can clearly be used for longer stuff.

    configuration
    Free Member

    I’ve waded through streams in my Tracker FG boots and never had any problems with leakage, I regularly treat them with Nikwax waterproofing wax

    I’ve got a pair. Most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned. So nice. You do have to keep on top of treating the leather to keep it waterproof, and water can get in via the tongue, I found. But I’ve never found any boot (other than rubber wellies) to be truly waterproof over time. They all let water in eventually.

    b33k34
    Full Member

    I’m really interested in some ‘foot shaped shoes’ but I’d also like something that doesn’t let me feel every lump and bump on the ground. Does that exist?

    docgeoffyjones
    Full Member

    I’m really interested in some ‘foot shaped shoes’ but I’d also like something that doesn’t let me feel every lump and bump on the ground. Does that exist?

    Lems

    robertajobb
    Full Member

    Yes. Take a look at Altra running shoes. Actually fit feet shaped feet unlike most shoes.

    They’re very low drop or even none at the heel, not stupid heel-striking-first shoes from the masses of run shoe makers.

     

    As for the ‘bare feet’ idea.  Running circles has learned this the hard way. Bare foot, just wait for a good dose of Plantar Fascia problems.

    jamiemcf
    Full Member

    I like the soles of my vivos primus
    I like the shape of my lens primal (the sole is very foamy)
    I like the shape of my altra lone peaks although not as keen on the shape of my altra escalante 2.5s. too pointy at the big toe.

    I have found wearing vivos that many of my jeans are either too long or a bit short. I need a 31″ leg.

    steamtb
    Full Member

    I have been wearing vivobarefoot for a few years and really like them, suit my feet and biomechanics although I do use a thin insole in them which is spot on for me. You can get the insoles on the vivo website.

    I tried lems prior to this, they were ok but fell apart very quickly, not something I would consider again.

    Transitions are important, as you start forefoot striking a lot more, especially when you run, you just shuffle load from the hip and knee to the foot, ankle and calf. Depending on the individual, this can be beneficial or challenging to say the least. Transitions to vivobarefoot running definitely need to be managed intelligently and won’t be suitable for everyone. 🙂 great for play in the outdoors for most people though!

    lunge
    Full Member

    I’m really interested in some ‘foot shaped shoes’ but I’d also like something that doesn’t let me feel every lump and bump on the ground. Does that exist?

    Altra?

    paule
    Free Member

    I was going to answer “altra” also… I’ve 4 pairs of them: 2 lone peak, mountain king & intuition and all are great for running and, in the case of the intuition, everyday wear too. Well worn lone peaks are decent flat pedal riding shoes too.

    I do wear Vivo barefoots quite a bit for everyday wear but find them too much of a middle ground for running. Slightly too much protection for full barefoot running so i find I get more aches and pains from a decent length run in VBs than I would in my old inov8 evoskins (r.i.p.) or no shoes at all, but not enough shoe or sole to allow for the level of running I can do in altras or a fell shoe

    zerocool
    Full Member

    I pretty much live in my Gobi 2 boots as soon as I hav3 to wear trousers somewhere.

    configuration
    Free Member

    Altra?

    Now this looks interesting. Any idea where to actually try some on though?

    lunge
    Full Member

    Now this looks interesting. Any idea where to actually try some on though?


    @configuration
    , Up and Running stock them, the Birmingham store had a couple of pairs in when I was there last.

    configuration
    Free Member

    @lunge; any shops in London? I try to avoid Birmingham at the best of times, traipsing all the way up there just to try on some shoes is a bit much really.

    lunge
    Full Member

    @configuration, Up and Running have stores around the UK. If not, I’d just find a retailer that has a good returns, Wiggle for instance.

    configuration
    Free Member

    The closest appears to be Chiswick. There was a store in Fleet st, but that is apparently ‘permanently closed’. 🙁

    b33k34
    Full Member

    Altra running shoes

    I’ve got running (and trail) shoes that fit ok but, after some years without wearing them it’s my smarter leather shoes and boots that I can’t wear. Had a nice pair of Grenson brogues and some smart limited collection timberland.

    The Lems look interesting. I’m intrigued by Birkenstocks new range but they don’t *look* like they’re the same shape as the sandals and clogs.

    Lems sizing seems a bit screwed. A 285mm foot is 12, 12.5 or 13 depending on the shoe. From the same brand?!?

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    I’ve been wearing Vivo shoes and boots since about 2013. Love them and find them to be very comfortable. My favourites are the Camel leather desert boots (forgotten the name) as they’re great in summer and winter. Just stick a thermal insole in when it’s cold.

    They do make it difficult to wear other brands after a couple of years. Anything with a heal or tight toe box is like torture now.

    dupindu
    Free Member

    I have these…
    I wore them gravel touring in Spain this summer and they were great. They have enough of a rock plate to protect your feet and with dhb platform pedals were supportive enough for 100km days.
    Excellent off the bike. Super breathable. Very robust with some arch and toe protection – though very little for the top of your foot. Fine grip on plastic dhb pedals. Dry very quickly. Fit no socks or sealskinz.
    I’ve been wearing vivos and similar for years, but have always toured in spds… it was a revelation!
    Touring footwear is always a compromise after all.
    I came north from Valencia on the via Verde network to Burgos and joined the Camino Frances… the via Verdes are fantastic, if a work in progress, but linked with dirt roads made for 1200km of mostly gravel.

    MSP
    Full Member

    They do make it difficult to wear other brands after a couple of years

    Yep, it is now impossible to buy cycling shoes that fit my feet.

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