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Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Review

These are one brutally barefoot experience that only seasoned barefoot runners should try
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite
Photo: Vivobarefoot
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Price:  $140 List
Pros:  Lightweight feeling, sleek, low-profile, truly barefoot experience
Cons:  Expensive, hot toe box, strange fold in the shoe
Manufacturer:   Vivobarefoot
By Thomas King ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 8, 2020
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 9
  • Performance - 30% 6
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 8
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Traction - 15% 4
  • 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 at all, we 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) or solid white.

May 2020

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight feeling, sleek, low-profile, truly barefoot experienceSuper lightweight, exceptional ground-feel, freedom of movementSuper tacky outsole, low profile, extra durableTough exterior, stable, snug lacing systemDurable, versatile, minimal stack height
Cons Expensive, hot toe box, strange fold in the shoeInconsistent grip, short stock laces, potentially short lifetimeOversized, not very versatile, outsole loses grip when dirtyOdd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toesWeighty, bulky, overly padded upper
Bottom Line This shoe does a great job of translating the barefoot experience into a stylish road trainerA perfect mix of road and trail runner, our Editors' Choice for outstanding barefoot accuracyA true barefoot gym shoe designed with durability in mindA FiveFinger shoe that earns our Top Pick for Adventure and Trail RunningMuch more impressive than it looks, this versatile trainer stays true to its barefoot design
Rating Categories Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Merrell Vapor Glove 4 Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Xero Shoes Prio
Performance (30%)
6
7
9
8
8
Barefoot Accuracy (25%)
8
9
7
6
8
Weight (15%)
6
8
6
7
5
Traction (15%)
4
7
7
8
6
Versatility (10%)
6
7
6
6
7
Durability (5%)
8
6
8
9
8
Specs Vivobarefoot... Merrell Vapor... Inov-8 Bare-XF 210... Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Xero Shoes Prio
Style Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot gym Barefoot trail Barefoot road
Weight (oz per shoe) 7.3 oz (size EU 42) 5.4 oz (size EU 42) 7.5 oz (size US 9.5) 6.9 oz (size EU 42) 8.4 oz (size US 9.5)
Stack Height (mm) 3 mm 6.5 mm 4.5 mm 3.7 mm 5.5 mm
Heel to Toe drop (mm) 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Outsole (mm) 3 mm TPU, w/ Pro5 3.5 mm, Vibram TC5+ 3 mm STICKY rubber 3.7 mm, Megagrip Rubber 5.5 mm, FeelTrue Rubber
Midsole (mm) None None None 2 mm EVA None
Insole 3mm Algae Bloom Performance None 3 mm Power Footbed None Optional 2 mm
Upper Material Mesh Cordura mesh and TPU Lightweight mesh 3D Cocoon Mesh Mesh with synthetic leather overlays
Best For (running, hiking, etc.) Casual, gym Running, gym Gym, running Running, hiking Running, gym
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular

Our Analysis and Test Results

Vivobarefoot is a lesser-known UK brand for most shoppers. It's not as widely used or reviewed, but we believe you should give these shoes 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 the foot.

Performance Comparison


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

Performance


Road shoe, check. Barefoot shoe, check. What else is there, right? Well, that's why the Primus Lite is way up there with the crowd in regards to 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 a PRO5 puncture-resistant outsole. If trails are more your thing, you might want to check out heartier options.

Barefoot Accuracy


We find this shoe scarily accurate at portraying the barefoot running style. Only a few of the higher-ranked shoes in our review have better performance at translating both the idea of being aesthetically barefoot while still being a shoe (meaning, like, removing some of the barefoot experience obviously). Comfort is the killer for this trainer — people want a barefoot experience, but that needs to be balanced somewhat to enjoy running.

They may look like snazzy city shoes, but these puppies are intense!
They may look like snazzy city shoes, but these puppies are intense!
Photo: Thomas King

Weight


While the Primus Lite tips the scales at 7.3 ounces per shoe, you'd never guess it from how they feel on the road. This shoe's outsole is so thin — we couldn't imagine an experience closer to actually running barefoot. Although it's hefty compared to the competition, when compared to more conventional road trainers, the Primus is still super lightweight — something to consider before writing off this brutally barefoot-feeling shoe.

Traction


These shoes have an outsole design that 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 we had a couple of weird moments on damp bricks and cobbles. If you've ever lost your footing and almost eaten pavement on bricks before, then you can understand why we had to knock down the score here.

Versatility


Whether it's the fit of this shoe or the near-unbearably thin outsole, unfortunately, we did not find ourselves reaching for the Primus Lite 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 as much as we would like. Best to stick to road running with this particular shoe.

Durability


We didn't notice any deterioration over the dozens of miles we put on these, which is comforting. But, you'd have us dumbfounded if, over the course of a season or a typical 500+ mile usage cycle, a shoe didn't show some wear where the toes bend. The mesh design on the Primus Lite leaves a very unnatural fold, and, yes, that fold did translate to some issues with hot spots. In any event, these shoes didn't pick up any real damage in our testing.

Right at that junction in the white part of the outsole, you can see...
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.
Photo: Thomas King

Value


Like other offerings from Vivobarefoot, these are some pricey shoes. You'll really want to be sure they are for you before slapping down the credit card. For many of our testers, they aren't quite worth the price, though if you are jonesing for a super-minimalist experience and you find these on sale, they might be worth a gander.

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 if that's the most important feature for you in this style of shoe, these might be right up your alley.

Thomas King