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Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Review

These are one brutally barefoot experience. Only seasoned barefoot runners should try these out.
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Price:  $140 List | $136.86 at Amazon
Pros:  Lightweight, sleek, low-profile and truly barefoot experience
Cons:  Expensive, hot toe box, strange fold in the shoe
Manufacturer:   Vivobarefoot
By Thomas King ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 23, 2018
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 8
  • Running Performance - 30% 6
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 8
  • Comfort - 15% 5
  • Traction - 15% 5
  • Versatility - 10% 6
  • Durability - 5% 8

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 7.3 ounce 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.

Color Updates

The Primus Lite is currently offered in solid black (pictured above), solid white, or grey.

April 2019


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Pros Lightweight, sleek, low-profile and truly barefoot experienceSuper lightweight, exceptional ground-feel, freedom of movementVersatile, durable, tough, uniqueDurable, rugged, tough on the road, stylishTough exterior, stable, snug lacing system
Cons Expensive, hot toe box, strange fold in the shoeInconsistent grip, short stock laces, potentially short lifetimeWeighty, aggressively barefoot in designExpensive, low traction, fit larger than mostOdd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toes
Bottom Line These are one brutally barefoot experience. Only seasoned barefoot runners should try these out.Impressive barefoot accuracy from a road trainer that performs equally well on trails.This versatile, rugged shoe is a bit bulky and clunky looking but performs as well or better than more established minimalist designs out there.If you can afford the sticker shock, these are a great road shoe that you can wear around town without looking foolish.Our Top Pick for trails, run in comfort and confidence in this tank of a FiveFingers shoe.
Rating Categories Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Merrell Vapor Glove 4 Xero Shoes Prio Vivobarefoot Stealth 2 Vibram V-Trail 2.0
Running Performance (30%)
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7
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8
Barefoot Accuracy (25%)
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7
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6
Comfort (15%)
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5
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6
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Traction (15%)
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7
Versatility (10%)
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6
Durability (5%)
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9
Specs Vivobarefoot... Merrell Vapor... Xero Shoes Prio Vivobarefoot... Vibram V-Trail 2.0
Weight (per shoe, size EU 42) 7.3 oz 5.4 oz 9.3 oz (9.7 oz w/ optional insole) 8.4 oz 6.9 oz
Stack Height (mm) 3.0 mm 6.5 mm 5.5 mm 3.0 mm 3.7 mm
Cushion (mm) 0 0 Optional 2 mm Insole 0 2 mm EVA Insole
Heel to Toe drop (mm) 0 0 0 0 0
Upper Mesh Cordura mesh and TPU Mesh with synthetic leather overlays EVA cage with mesh 3D Cocoon Mesh
Outsole 3mm TPU, w/ Pro5 3.5mm, Vibram TC5+ 5.5mm, FeelTrue Rubber 3mm, V Road Rubber w/ PRO5 3.7mm, Megagrip Rubber
Width Options None None None None None
Style Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot trail

Our Analysis and Test Results

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.

Fitting Note
If you have a larger, wider foot, you will need to try these on first because they run rather tight-fitting over the arch of your feet.

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.

Running 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 running performance. It dominates other barefoot trainers 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. If trails are more your thing, you might want to check out heartier options.

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 a few of the higher-ranked shoes 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. If you want a shoe that feels super close to running barefoot, this is it. 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 other, higher-ranking models do a better job of balancing.

Traction


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. 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.

Versatility


Whether it was the fit of the shoe, or its near-unbearably thin outsole, but unfortunately we did not find ourselves reaching for this shoe very often. We can see merit in its style, particularly in a gym setting, but issues with traction and comfort kept us off of the trails. Best to stick to road running with the Primus Lite.

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 some issues with hot spots. In any event, they didn't pick up any real damage in our testing.

Value


Like other offerings from Vivobarefoot, these are some pricey shoes. You'll really want 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 to our testers.

Conclusion


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