Welcome to this post where we will review the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Firm Ground (FG) in Molten Lava. This honest review is more of an unboxing and first impressions as you'll see why when reading on. This being my second pair of minimal shoes there will be some comparisons to my current Merrell barefoot shoe.
Type in barefoot or minimal running shoes into Google and you can bet the Vivobarefoot brand will be close to the top of the page if not the very first link. When looking for my next pair the common brands that came up were Vibrams, Inov8, Merrell and of course Vivos.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
+ Ethics and recycling
- Toe box fit
+ Lock laces included
+ Low Profile
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Review
Where to buy
You'll be spoilt for choice on where to buy as many websites stock Vivobarefoot shoes however there only seems to be one physical shop in the UK in London. On this occasion the Vivobarefoot main website was used to facilitate the purchase. Easy enough to navigate and takes various payment methods such as PayPal.
Selecting the size was a little trickier as many brands have differing tolerances so one size with one brand won't necessarily fit with another brand. Handily, Vivobarefoot have an online size analysis using Strutfit. You take a photo of your foot on an A4 piece of blank paper, plop the photo into the analyser and it spits out a recommended size. Apparently I came out at a UK9....more on that later.
I dutifully ordered the size 9 and used the 10% welcome discount for signing up to their email list. The free shipping for orders over £100 was nice, though hardly difficult. In fact the high cost does seem a bit much considering these types of shoe are meant to be minimal material with less R&D budgets (in theory) as there's less technology yet most of the Vivobarefoot shoes cost as much if not more than many padded 'high-tec' shoes. Of course this has a lot to do with demand and mass production, cost of converting recycled materials etc but still generally a higher cost and higher cost than competing brands such as Merrell and Inov8.
Design and build
Initial impressions were that the Primus Trails were pretty sturdy. So sturdy they came across a bit less flexible than expected. Probably due to the deeper tread on the sole associated with the 'trail' style grip. There were no threads or stitching coming loose and the sole was securely glued to the body. That being said, the body of the did feel a little plastic (probably due to the recycled materials).
From a design perspective the environmental efforts are a great touch. Recyclable packaging, recycled shoe inserts and of course the reminders on the website and packing of said recyclability. Made from biological, recycled and ethically sourced natural materials. The heel loop was secure, big enough to allow the finger to fit through and is anchored in such a way that the heel doesn't curl over when placing the shoes on. A missing feature is some whay of inducing an ankle lock lacing system to give a bit more adaptability to foot type and activity. However, I am a fan of the lock laces being included instead of purchasing separately.
Unfortunately that's as far as the testing of design and build goes as durability and wear, at least to begin with, can't be tested as they were sent back to Vivobarefoot for reasons up next.
Comfort and Performance
All in all, I didn't get chance to run in the Vivobarefoots so of course couldn't cast my verdict on them as a barefoot running shoe and only walked in hallways, on tarmac and the gym floor so also can't say much about the Vivobarefoots as a walking shoe. After about 5 hours in the shoe, although my feet were dry from the good breathability I noticed the relief when taking them off at the end of the day.
As mentioned in the design, the sole did seem stiff compared to my Merrell shoes which are also 'off-road' trail style tread. Maybe with some wear they would have loosened up but they did make my foot feel rather rigid and less able to roll from heel to toe. The knit ankle sock style collar was indeed very comfortable, didn't rub and gave a slight hugging sensation. The size 9's were snug around the foot but the 10's I swapped them for did feel a little loose despite me being a size 10 normally.
Onto the big factor now. Having worn for 5 hours around house and when facilitating classes, I had pain in my middle toes especially when squatting and walking up stairs. I have a more Roman style foot shape, the middle foot pictured below, whereby my index toe is as long as my big toe and if anything my middle toe is slightly longer. The Vivobarefoots, although having ample room for my big toe did place a fair amount of pressure to the toenail of my middle toe.
As mentioned above, this pinch shouldn't have happened as I used the Strutfit sizing and came out as a size 9 when I'm normally a 10. The Vivobarefoot sizes 9's were sent back using the free returns and replaced with a 10. Despite being even roomier, there was still pressure on the mid toe leading me to believe the toe box design of the Primus at least is not suited to more roman style toe length. Visually anyway, all the other Vivobarefoot models of shoe shared the same tapered profile which ultimately led me to sending the size 10's back for a full refund. The Merrell's, sole to sole with the Vivobarefoots pictured below, shows the subtle difference in space available for the mid toe.
Something Vivobarefoot offers that is another nice touch is the ability to have the shoe repaired. At a cost of course but still cheaper than buying a new pair and saves the shoes going to landfill. If the shoe really has seen the last of it's days you can send them back to Vivobarefoot to be repurposed or held for when the technology comes along to eventually make use of them. Both returns and repairs can be done through the Revivo sub brand. The aftercare doesn't stop there as Vivobarefoot also has an online course available to help you re-learn to walk barefoot again and thus make the most of your barefoot journey.
So unfortunately the review didn't last much longer than 2 unboxings and about 6 hours across both pairs of barefoot shoes. It's a shame because I wanted to like these shoes, they look freakin' awesome and the environmental pledges help warm ones soul. Overall I liked the;
Sole seems stiff
Refer a friend system didn't work via link, email or name discount
Size analysis didn't work for me
Sorry Vivo, you won't make a customer out of me until the the toe box design is altered.