Hands-on Gear Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Review

These are one brutally barefoot experience. Only seasoned barefoot runners should try these out.
By: Thomas King ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 23, 2018
Price:  $135 List  |  $130.00 at Amazon - 4% Off
Pros:  Lightweight, sleek, low-profile and truly barefoot experience
Cons:  Expensive, hot toe box, strange fold in the shoe
Manufacturer:   Vivobarefoot
65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 8
  • Platform Performance - 15% 7
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 20% 8
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Traction - 20% 5
  • Durability - 20% 8
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Our Verdict

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite offers probably the most hardcore, real, naked barefoot feel of any of the shoes in our lineup, bar none. Maybe it's the 3mm of nothingness that separates your foot from the hard reality of Earth. Maybe it's the 7.3oz weight and super-breathable mesh PTU upper — oh yeah it's vegan too. But wow, barefoot runners, short of not running in shoes I think this is as good as it gets. While these aren't in our list of award winners, we'd recommend them to anyone skirting that line of just not wearing shoes at all versus an ultra-minimalist approach.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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Vivobarefoot is an off-the-market UK brand for most shoppers. It's not widely used or reviewed, but we've got two of them in this review. Maybe that says something about whether you should give them a shot if you're looking for a truly barefoot experience.

Performance Comparison


Maybe some people think this design looks a little quirky  but we loved it.
Maybe some people think this design looks a little quirky, but we loved it.

Platform Performance


Road shoe, check. Barefoot, check. What else is there right? Well, that's why the Primus Lite is way up there with the crowd on Platform Performance. It dominates other barefoot trainers like the inv-8 X-Talon 22 as a superior barefoot shoe. It's a solid road trainer that'll get you through the hot summers with its super-breathable, vegan, mesh upper and the same PRO5 puncture resistant outsole as its sister shoe in this review, which is noticeably more comfortable as well. If trails are more your thing, you'll get a similar experience with the New Balance Minimus 10v1.

Barefoot Accuracy


This is going to lead into the next section, but we found this shoe scarily accurate at portraying the barefoot running style. Only the Merrell Trail Glove 4 and the Vivobarefoot Stealth 2 had better performance at translating both the idea of being aesthetically barefoot and also still a shoe (meaning, like, removing some of the barefoot experience obviously).

The lightweight Primus gives everything back and the ground feel on these is off the charts.
The lightweight Primus gives everything back and the ground feel on these is off the charts.

Comfort


Here is the killer for this trainer. There's an awful hot spot on the toe box, just like the Merrell Vapor Glove 3. Also, we know this is a review of barefoot shoes, and maybe we should have just done this scientifically and ran barefoot and compared running barefoot to every shoe. If we did that, in this category, they'd be identical twins. We found that while people want a barefoot experience, certain evolutionary trends have softened our feet too much to adapt to something as ruthlessly translational of the barefoot experience as these. That tends towards a better melding of the barefoot experience and actually wearing a shoe, which the other Vivobarefoot shoe, the Stealth 2, does phenomenally well at balancing.

Traction


Yeah, so you saw the chart before, you know where this is going. Both the Stealth 2 and these shoes have an outsole design that just lends itself to some pretty easy slippage. If you're on dry roads and paths, you won't notice a thing. But we took these out in the Central Virginia wet season, and you can tell by the pictures that we had a couple of weird moments on bricks and cobbles that were a little damp, just like with the Vibram FiveFinger KSO. If you've ever lost your footing and almost eaten pavement on bricks before, then you can understand why we had to knock it down here.

Durability


Check that fold out right here. It's weird, right?

Right at that junction in the white part of the outsole  you can see it folds over rather unnaturally  and yes  this does rub your foot some and contributes to a hot spot.
Right at that junction in the white part of the outsole, you can see it folds over rather unnaturally, and yes, this does rub your foot some and contributes to a hot spot.

We didn't notice any deterioration over the dozens of miles we put in these, which is comforting and why we did not dock them any points. But, you'd have us dumbfounded if over the course of a season or a typical 500+ mile usage cycle for a pair that you didn't compromise these in some way right along that fold. The mesh design they went for leaves a very unnatural fold and, yes, that fold does translate to the issue with the hot toe box mentioned above. In any event, they didn't pick up any real damage like the toe-shield on the Merrell Vapor Glove 3. The Stealth 2 is very similar in performance and didn't pose any durability problems during our review.

Best Applications


If you want to run barefoot, but simply have to own a shoe, just like the Vivobarefoot Stealth 2, we can't recommend these enough. It's crazy that the UK figured this out before us over here stateside. Still, these are some seriously hardcore barefoot running shoes. Slight editor's note here: if you have a larger, wider foot, you will need to try these on first because they run rather tight-fitting like the New Balance Minimus 10v1 over the arch of your feet.

Value


Maybe money is just a vague theory in the UK. Just like the Stealth 2 these are some pricey shoes. At $135, you'll really need to be sure this is for you. Especially with the potential durability issue on these, they are not a cheap pair of shoes and it's questionable if they are worth the money.

Conclusions


This shoe is absolutely killer for the most hardcore barefoot runners. The Primus Lite Is a fitness shoe for people wanting to never leave their barefoot lifestyle. It's super-light and gives everything back that the ground gives. Some people might not like that, but you know if that's the most important feature for you.

Thomas King

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