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.
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.
The lightweight Primus gives everything back and the ground feel on these is off the charts.
Photo: Thomas King
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.
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!
Photo: Thomas King
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.
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.
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.
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 it folds over rather unnaturally, and yes, this does rub your foot some and contributes to a hot spot.
Photo: Thomas King
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.
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.