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Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Review

These flat-soled and durable barefoot shoes will up your performance in the gym
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Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Review (The Primus Lite III proved to be the best barefoot shoe for our workouts in the gym, or for training on hard, flat...)
The Primus Lite III proved to be the best barefoot shoe for our workouts in the gym, or for training on hard, flat surfaces in general.
Credit: Jon Oleson
Price:  $170 List
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Manufacturer:   Vivobarefoot
By Jon Oleson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 13, 2023
78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 9
  • Ground Feedback - 30% 9.0
  • Stability - 20% 8.0
  • Traction - 20% 6.0
  • Weight - 15% 8.0
  • Durability - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

Vivobarefoot is known to be a frontrunner in the barefoot shoe game, and with the Primus Lite III they took aim at the road running and gym crowd. Everything about these shoes, from the flat rubber outsole to the recycled PET upper, is designed to endure whatever workout you decide to throw at it — as long as it's on a hard surface. The primary drawback of this shoe is its lack of versatility. It has more slip than grip on loose surfaces and doesn't stick so well when wet. As long as you stick to the pavement, however, these shoes will shine and help you increase your workout performance.
REASONS TO BUY
Flat profile
Made of recycled materials
Durable rubber upper
REASONS TO AVOID
Slippery on loose surfaces
Lack of versatility
Feels like a rubber flipper

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Bottom Line Whether road running or training in the gym, these shoes will up your gameThe next evolution of FiveFinger shoe built to tackle any trail conditionThese minimalist shoes will help you feel one with the ground and all its intricaciesIf you're looking for a high-value trail runner option then look no furtherHuarache-inspired straps are fashion and function on this hybrid minimalist runner
Rating Categories Vivobarefoot Primus... Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Whitin Cross Trainer Xero Shoes Prio
Ground Feedback (30%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Stability (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
8.0
8.4
9.0
7.3
7.8
Durability (15%)
7.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Vivobarefoot Primus... Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Whitin Cross Trainer Xero Shoes Prio
Style Barefoot Barefoot Barefoot Barefoot Barefoot
Best For Trail running Trail running Trail running Trail running Trail running
Stack Height 7 mm (4 mm base + 3 mm insole) 5.7 mm (3.7 mm base + 2 mm insole) 6 mm (4 mm base + 2 mm lugs) 6.5 mm (5 mm base + 1.5 mm insole) 8.5 mm (5.5 mm base + 3 mm insole)
Heel to Toe drop 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Measured Weight (per shoe) 8.4 oz (size 10) 7.3 oz (size 43EU) 5.6 oz (size 9.5) 10.2 oz (size 43EU) 8.9 oz (size 9.5)
Outsole Primus outsole (synthetic rubber) 3.7mm, Vibram megagrip rubber w/3D cocoon mesh Vibram ecostep, 30% recycled rubber, 2mm lug Rubber Feeltrue rubber
Midsole None None None None None
Insole Ortholite 98% recycled PU foam 2mm EVA 30% recycled EVA foam wrapped in 100% recycled mesh Yes, not specified Not specified
Upper Material RPET, polyester, polyurethane Water repellent polyester Recycled breathable mesh Stretchy mesh Vegan faux leather

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Primus Lite III is a uniquely-profiled flat shoe that's ready for the gym and the road. If you've been looking for something to add to your quiver for regimented workout days, this is the shoe we would point you to.

Performance Comparison


vivobarefoot primus lite iii - the low-profile primus lite iii will handle trail running, but they...
The low-profile Primus Lite III will handle trail running, but they excel at hard surface training.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Ground Feedback


With a 7mm stack height, this isn't the lowest profile shoe around. If you want to get lower to the ground, however, you can remove the 3mm insole for more ground feel. The Primus Lite III is designed to be very flat. There are no raised lugs on the outsole, and the tread pattern is nearly two-dimensional. These factors combine to create a large, flat surface to interface with the ground.


With plenty of room in the toe box, we could feel and push off the ground easily and comfortably. When running, we noticed how easy and fun it was to sprint in these shoes. The flat, wide profile helps you feel and respond to the ground with a lightning reflex, and the room in the toe box makes it feel natural to stay on the toes while the legs are churning and burning.

The Primus Lite III are built for training on hard, flat surfaces. The flat profile helps you feel and respond to the ground.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Stability


Once again, ample toe room plays a huge role in the stability of these shoes. When your feet and toes can properly splay and spread out, it greatly enhances balance and stability. This characteristic, along with the flat profile that creates a stable base, work together to create a strong platform that will help your training excel.


While the durable upper of the Primus Lite encases the foot well, we noticed that our feet tended to slide forward when running downhill in these shoes. The hardness of the rubber may also cause some discomfort and rubbing, but we didn't have much of an issue with this personally. And, once again, the wide and spacious toe box didn't leave our toes feeling cramped despite the tendency to push forward on slopes. The primary drawback of this shoe's stability is its lack of versatility. While it will protect your foot on the trail, the nearly two-dimensional tread design is not built for loose surfaces. The only time we felt unstable in these shoes was when navigating loose slopes or racing down sinuous sandy trails. It's best to keep these shoes on hard surfaces, where they will give excellent stability.

These flatfoot trainers by Vivobarefoot will have you flying on your feet.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Traction


We try to test shoes in the environment for which they're built. Sometimes, however, we need to take them outside of the bounds of their intended use to find the edges. During our traction test, the Primus Lite III was not the best trail runner. While the flat rubber sole does great at gripping hard surfaces, these shoes slip on dirt, sand, gravel, and pretty much any loose surface. Moreover, when these soles get wet, they lose traction even on hard top.


On the other hand, on hard surfaces like roads or concrete, the sole of the Primus Lite III grips superbly. The flat profile of the tread design provides maximum surface area where the rubber meets the road. When lifting weights, the flat, stable platform creates a good base for pushing your max. If you stay within the bounds of its ability, this shoe will reward you with excellent traction and performance.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii - the flat design of the tread on the vivobarefoot primus lite iii...
The flat design of the tread on the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III performs the best on paved ground. We found these shoes to be a bit slippery for trail running.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Weight


While the recycled rubber upper may increase durability, it also adds weight. These shoes are a few ounces heavier (per shoe) than our lightest-weight contender. At 8.4 ounces per shoe, though, they are still light enough to be well within the “minimalist” shoe category.


The weight did not affect the feeling of lightness on the feet. Whether training in the gym or knocking back the miles of road, these shoes felt really good to wear. The hard rubber of the upper is patched with light, breathable mesh, which helps keep these shoes light enough to keep your mind off your feet and focused on your new deadlift one rep max or your new personal best 100M sprint.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii - the breathable mesh upper on the vivobarefoot primus lite iii helps...
The breathable mesh upper on the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III helps keep your foot cool and dry while running or working out in the heat.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Durability


While our testing period is limited, we can make certain deductions about longevity based on the quality of the materials used in construction. The environmentally conscious Primus Lite are comprised of recycled PET, a heat-resistant rubber. While it's stiffer than most uppers, the rubber is pleasantly pliable, especially once it's warm. The upper also incorporates a breathable mesh, helping cool the foot. This could be a weak point, but in this case, the rubber covers the potential abrasion points.


To be honest, we really have to dig deep to find potential weak points on this pair of shoes. They held up extremely well during testing. The low profile on the tread could be an early point of wear — there's only 2mm of wear before you get to slick rubber. Vivobarefoot did a good job of designing the uppers, even incorporating thinner, flexible material at the flex points. Over time, however, these points may become weak, or the laminated outsole may become delaminated. You can be assured that this won't happen without a ton of wear. These superior trainers will be well worth the investment.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii - the primus lite iii is super flexible but these flex points could...
The Primus Lite III is super flexible but these flex points could prove to be weak points over time.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Should You Buy the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III?


Whether you're looking for a barefoot trainer for your CrossFit addiction or to take your road running to the next level, these shoes won't disappoint. While they're not geared for most trail running, they'll provide enough traction for hard dirt surfaces. That said, we don't recommend them if your running regimen incorporates more technical trail terrain. Where they excel is on blacktop or concrete, and here, they can't be matched by the competition. Because they are a true barefoot shoe, with no foot support and a wide toe box that allows the foot to spread, you may want to take your training slow if you're not accustomed to this type of shoe. These will, without a doubt, increase foot strength and dexterity, and as with all strength and agility, building this can take time. If you're already a barefoot enthusiast, then you'll enjoy the way that the Primus Lite III helps your feet feel free to perform as nature intended.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii - whether pushing your limits with crossfit or running hard surfaces...
Whether pushing your limits with CrossFit or running hard surfaces, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III will certainly up your performance.
Credit: Jon Oleson

What Other Barefoot Shoes Should You Consider?


As we've stated time and time again, the Primus Lite isn't the shoe for trail running unless the trails are roads. If your goal is to get up and over the mountain or run on loose terrain in general, then you'll want a pair of the beastly Vibram V-Trail 2.0. If you're new to barefoot shoes, then you may want to try a hybrid shoe first, like the Xero HFS. Once your feet have become accustomed to barefoot life and you want a good boot for hiking or the work site, check out another offering from Vivobarefoot, the Tracker II FG.

Jon Oleson