A well-made authentic minimal shoe, the VivoBarefoot Primus Trail II FGs are a great option for natural/barefoot runners who genuinely want to consume responsibly and ethically.
Excellent trail feel
Made from recycled materials
Too minimal for some – you’ll feel everything
Wider than some feet require
No choice of color
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The FG in VivoBarefoot Primus Trail II FG refers to ‘Firm Ground’, but Vivo claim the Primus Trail IIs can cope with most sorts of underfoot conditions – wet or dry, rocky and rubbly or firm – with the sole (armed with 4mm lugs) offering multi-terrain traction and a sticky rubber compound for all-round grip and durability.
Of course, performance levels will depend a lot on who is in the driving seat, because with a true barefoot shoot like this, it comes down to reading the trail well and intelligent foot placement – which is what natural running is all about, so that’s not a negative.
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Behind the lugs, the shoes have a 2.5mm base, which is designed to maximise ground feel, while the textured arch should provide zonal grip for technical trail movement.
The Primus Trail II FGs are made entirely from recycled materials, which earns a huge tick. They’re also easy to transport, being light and easy to fold and squish into a bag or pack.
RRP: $160 (US) / £120 (UK)
Gender availability: Men’s, Women’s
Weight (per shoe, men’s UK11): 285g / 10oz
Colors: Obsidian (Black)
Compatibility: An off-road all-rounder for exploring natural terrains
On the trails
Vivo’s claims that the Primus Trail II FGs can perform on all kinds of conditions and terrain really stood up on test. The grip was brilliant and the shoes inspired confidence on even the most slippery of surfaces. Also, considering the amount of traction they give, you still feel the ground rather than the treads. They certainly feel better on trail rather than road, but this tactile trail feel points to them being well designed for their intended purpose.
Our reviewer found the Primus Trail let his feet breath really well, and they were surprisingly good at keeping trail juice out (puddles need to be pretty deep before water gets in), but there was some tightness around the smaller toes.
After the first few runs, when our sockless test dummy began to get the beginnings of blisters on the tops of his big and little toes (where the upper surface of the shoe creases as the toes flex forwards), he applied some lube and his skin soon became accustomed to the shoes. Thereafter, the Primus Trail were extremely comfortable.
The tongue is longer than it needs to be, causing irritation, and not everyone (our man included) is a fan of the quick-lace system, which can’t cope well with subtle adjustments and doesn’t allow for easy tidying of extra lace.
The shoes appear very durable so far, after multiple hours running on trails, including plenty of muddy river banks and woods with fallen logs. There are a few creases, but all the materials are bonded well, and they seem to be decently put together. The upper mesh is super flexible, and Vivo appear to have put some extra stitching where the mesh meets the more substantial side plastic in this area. Time will tell, but our money would be on this area failing first.
Vivo appear to be making a real effort to go beyond greenwashing, and also source their labor ethically. These efforts undoubtedly push the price up a little, but compared to some other running shoes, the price tag on the Primus Trail is not extreme.
Considering their molded nature, these shoes are like the vast majority of others in that they will not be repairable. It is excellent that Vivo are forging ahead with the use of recycled materials, but the real test of the value of these shoes and their green credentials will be if the product lasts.
Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).
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