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(The Gear Loop) - If you haven’t yet heard of Vivobarefoot, it is a brand that specialises in outdoors, sports and performance footwear for those who like a barefoot approach to running and hiking, but don’t want the scrapes and pains of traversing an obstacle-laden route with zero protection for the soles.

What’s more, the footwear carries with it some serious eco credentials, including the fact that most of the shoes are fashioned recycled, post-consumer plastic waste, insoles are made from algae biomass and many are free from animal products.

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The feel-good-factor is high with these shoes, but more importantly, the positive effect they have on your running or hiking gait is massive, with wearers unwittingly making small adjustments over time that benefit the user by phasing out heel-strike and generally improving the way you move.

Why? Well, according to Vivobarefoot, a human foot isn’t designed to be crammed into an ill-fitting trainer from the moment we learn to walk and it’s no wonder many of us suffer bent toes, bunions and all manner of podiatric problems as we get older.

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The Primus Trail is designed to protect the foot from the cold and cuts… and that’s it. No fancy carbon plates, no excessive rocker and no towering foam stack to cover up any holes in technique. It’s almost like learning to run all over again.

Need more barefot running shoes in your life? We've got five of the best here.

Our quick take

It takes time to get used to a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes, both in terms of the way they look and the muscular soreness you’ll experience from having to switch from heel-striking to a forefoot biased running gait.

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This won’t be for everyone, and the additional cushioning afforded by some of the latest high-tech running shoes helps ardent runners to expel less energy and therefore run further and faster.

But if you really want to get back to nature and properly feel the trails beneath your feet, we’d argue there isn’t much better than what Vivobarefoot offers at the moment.

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Well made, warm, tough, weather-proof and fantastically grippy, they’re fun to run in and equally excellent to scramble, climb and generally enjoy nature in. 

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II All Weather FG review: all the feels, all the grip

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II All Weather FG

4.5 stars - The Gear Loop recommended
For
  • Super comfortable and very light
  • Sole is fantastically grippy
  • Makes you a more dextrous and form-conscious runner
Against
  • Fit takes some getting used to
  • Lace system is annoying
  • They look strange
  • Takes time to adapt

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In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail

  • Foot shaped for a more natural running experience
  • Made from recycled materials
  • High traction Firm Ground Sole
  • Both 2.5mm and 4mm lug heights
  • Insole foam made from algae biomass
  • Vegan options
  • Quick release lacing system

Don’t look down

Admittedly, the styling takes a little getting used to, and it’s not helped by the retina-singeing green (Bio Lime) soles of these review units, which were great for attracting attention, but not so good for disguising the bizarre outline when you look down at your feet.

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All Vivobarefoot shoes are deliberately foot-shaped with an extra wide toe-box, allowing the toes to spread naturally in order to promote stability and letting the muscles and tendons to load, splay and recoil, for an added boost when walking or running.

The Primus Trail II All Weather FG are otherwise fairly sleek and simple, with a large, flat tongue that keeps debris out of the shoe and a quick release lacing system that means no annoying knots, but also leaves an irritating amount of lace that requires tucking away to keep it from flapping when running.

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Flip them over and there’s a chunky sole with ultra-grippy lugs, making them perfect for tackling slippery and muddy terrain. What’s more, this sole extends to the heel, and we’re still not sure if this is purely for stylistic reasons, considering Vivobarefoot is aiming to banish heel strike, or if it genuinely adds additional traction.

Strong and stable

Aside from the slightly odd shape, the second thing to get accustomed to is just how thin the sole is. Anyone used to more traditional trail running shoes will likely find it a little unnerving at first, as you can feel pretty much everything that’s going on beneath you.

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But that’s the point, because these thin, puncture-resistant soles allow the thousands of nerves in the feet to provide the brain with valuable sensory feedback on changes in terrain and elevation, essentially allowing the feet to help grip and pick their way through tricky trails.

This is also assisted by the fact that the platform is as wide and as stable as things get, with no towering stacks of foam allowing the ankle to roll and a complete lack of artificial rocker coaxing your biomechanics into something that it isn’t built to handle.

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Baby steps 

There are many conflicting schools of thought on barefoot running shoes, but this reviewer can honestly say that it didn’t take long to be converted.

Admittedly, we’ve been using some of Vivobarefoot’s products in the gym for some time now, as the barefoot experience is also a fantastically stable way of lifting heavier weights and generally tackling resistance training.

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But it wasn’t long before we were testing them on a treadmill, where it was immediately apparent we had to adapt our running style to avoid painful heel-striking sessions. Learning to run lightly, with fast steps and landing on the forefoot takes time but it massively improves technique.

The Primus Trail II All Weather FG takes thing further and provides that extra level of protection from the elements, with an all-weather upper keeping the foot dry and a reinforced sole protecting delicate feet from sharp rocks and other potentially painful obstacles.

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So naturally, they feel very at home on forest trails, muddy paths and softer grass, where they perform extremely well. We found the feet remained dry, even on the soggiest runs, while the sole is fantastic at offering lots of confidence-inspiring grip.

We missed the cushioning on the road though, and that sole isn't particuarly good on slippery pavements and tarmac, but they're not designed for smashing the London Marathon. These are definitely at home in a more natural environment.

To recap

Barefoot running won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it’s certainly one of the best ways to highlight issues with form and become a more confident runner. The Trail version of Vivobarefoot’s popular Primus shoe features an ultra-grippy sole, warm inner and all weather exterior for taking on more extreme forays off the beaten path, but still retains the same natural-feeling, lightweight approach to running.

Writing by Leon Poultney.