Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Review
Cons: Odd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Vibram knows a thing or two about producing quality outsoles — you will find their rubber on the bottom of many top-quality trail runners. The V-Trail 2.0 is no exception, as a barefoot running shoe supported by a thick, heavily lugged outsole ready to stand guard against rocks or roots that try to penetrate the bottom of your foot. Achieving a delicate balance of design that is both lightweight and burly, this shoe gave us maximum confidence to strike out onto trails at full-speed — a quality not often associated with minimalist shoes. While we enjoyed the comfort and confidence the V-Trail provided in tackling uneven terrain, it doesn't exactly encompass all ideals of a minimalist shoe. The upper is snug, but also restricts movement in the forefoot; an odd flex pattern makes it difficult to grip the ground with your toes; a thick outsole diminishes ground-feel; and the relatively thick material of the upper actually makes it pretty hot to run in, particularly when exposed to direct sunlight. Although we believe this is one of the best options out there when it comes to choosing a minimalist trail running shoe, the V-Trail misses the mark in terms of exceptional barefoot-feel. But hey, incredible barefoot-feel on rooty, rocky trails might not be what the doctor ordered…
The V-Trail scored right up with the front runners of our review in terms of running performance. We really enjoyed speeding down all types of trails in this shoe, from sandy arroyos to high-alpine ridges. With zero-drop and a mere 3.7mm stack height, your foot is right on the ground and feels incredibly stable moving over varied terrain. When it came to longer runs, particularly on mountain trails that inevitably include long sections of downhill, we appreciated the inclusion of a non-removable EVA insole that provides 2mm of cushioning.
We also appreciate the thoughtful design considerations put into the upper of the V-Trail as a trail-specific shoe. The upper comfortably engulfs your foot and is secured with a fast-lacing system that evenly distributes pressure across the top of the arch and forefoot. We did notice that V-Trail fits tight in the midfoot and toes, and a lack of flexibility in these same areas made them slightly more uncomfortable running uphill on pavement. While the thick Cocoon mesh sacrifices a bit of breathability for top-notch water resistance, our feet were only hot on desert trails when the darkly-colored shoes were exposed to extended periods of direct sunlight.
As an adventure shoe, the V-Trail 2.0 hikes, scrambles, and climbs great — wet or dry — without socks. But if you plan to make it your daily trail runner, we suggest wearing a five-finger sock to help prevent blisters, like offerings from Injinji.
Design considerations of trail running shoes — constructed to protect our feet from rough terrain — often don't follow the same principles coveted by barefoot and minimalist footwear. The V-Trail is an impressive trail runner, but as a result, falls a bit short when it comes to barefoot accuracy. The 3.7mm stack height is all used up in outsole rubber, which results in decreased sensitivity across the extent of the bottom of the shoe. The relatively thick outsole is great at blocking rocks from penetrating your foot, but not great at relaying feedback from the terrain.
The FiveFingers design is intended to allow for maximum freedom of movement — namely allowing your toes to splay and flex independently — as if you were running barefoot. Overall the V-Trail is quite flexible in all directions, but that flexion is inhibited by the thick rubber that extends to wrap the front of each toe. You will notice that your toes still have the ability to mold to the terrain, but the proprioception of your foot position is what fails as a result of this added protection. We actually found ourselves tripping over our toes on a few occasions.
This 2.0 version improves upon previous durability issues by wrapping the whole shoe — including each individual toe — in Vibram's proprietary 3D Cocoon mesh. But as a result, the toes don't quite have the same amount of space to expand naturally over the course of a run.
Trending toward stability, this shoe is tight-fitting with a secure heel pocket — this allowed us to make quick moves on slick and uneven terrain with confidence. While the midfoot is wider than other FiveFingers models, the V-Trail is tighter in the forefoot and toes. As stated above, the thick outsole and additional cushioning included in the insole is a plus for trail-runners, but we could not help but notice how it detracted from overall ground-feel.
Compared to its overall tank-like construction, the V-Trail is not as weighty as you may expect. Staying true to the lightweight intention of the original FiveFingers design, these weigh a mere 6.9 ounces per shoe. The light swing weight, combined with the slightly rockered midsole, contributes to a very natural stride that feels like gliding across ridgelines.
While the power of the V-Trail is highlighted in the mountains, it does not perform as well when it comes to city life. Even though they are not heavy, these shoes feel clunky and less agile when pulled out of their element and put on the road.
With a heavily lugged base, the V-Trail is clearly designed as a shoe to grip and climb rugged terrain. This shoe is awesome for scrambling — particularly on sandstone — and we were comfortable making 3rd/4th-class moves thanks to the sticky rubber of the outsole. We also found them to perform well on uphills, where our toes were easily able to flex, grip, and push off with graceful power.
But on downhills, we were surprised by the lack of traction. After a closer examination of the lug pattern, we noticed that all of the raised, triangular lugs are oriented in the same forward-facing direction — this supports what we were feeling on the trail, where we could feel the outsole catch, but not brake in the same way other lugged designs will.
Comments aside regarding the fashion of FiveFingers shoes, we believe that the V-Trail lives up to its name, and is really best suited as a trail running shoe. Its low-profile, even platform provides adequate stability for weight-lifting, but we found the shoe to run a little too hot for extended gym sessions.
Where the V-Trail shines in terms of versatility is superior water resistance. Running through creeks and puddles, this shoe only barely takes on water around the ball of the foot, while the rest remains practically — and comfortably — dry enough to continue running without fear of developing hot spots.
The V-Trail is a tank of a minimalist shoe. A tough, abrasion-resistant upper is supported by laminates of TPU in key spots across the toes, and around the heel pocket.
Additionally, the majority of the upper is braced with Cordura-like nylon. The 3D Cocoon mesh is woven directly into the outsole, which is further laminated around the toes to help prevent previous issues with seam-splitting. We put this shoe through the wringer, and it came out practically unscathed — we cannot imagine many issues with durability.
The V-Trail tends toward the pricier side of minimalist running shoes. But for those who want high-quality protection for trail running, the extra cost is easily justified.
Built for adventure, the Vibram V-Trail 2.0 is a rugged option for a minimalist running shoe, earning our Top Pick for Trail Running. Whatever situation you might find yourself in, the V-Trail 2.0 will certainly do its best to keep your feet protected from anything you throw its way. While it may not be the choice for minimalist runners looking for authentic ground-feel, for those willing to compromise a little bit on the strict virtues of barefoot-running, you will have a ton of fun crushing trails in these shoes.
— Aaron Rice