Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Naturally spacious, durable, versatile
Cons: Expensive, stiff outsole, heavy
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Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG
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|Pros||Naturally spacious, durable, versatile||Super flexible, amazing feedback, spacious fit, breathable, optional insole||Superlight, exceptional natural feel, flexible, affordable||Super low-profile sole, comfortably padded, designed for durability||Tough exterior, stable, snug lacing system|
|Cons||Expensive, stiff outsole, heavy||Heavier than most, potential durability issues, short laces||Diminished grip off-road, confining stretch collar, bulky laces||Tapered toe box is a bit restrictive, traction is compromised by dirt, lack of versatility||Odd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toes|
|Bottom Line||More trendy than functional, these barefoot runners hit all of the talking points without necessarily delivering in terms of performance||From its airy fit to its free range of motion, this barefoot shoe offers the best in lightweight running performance||A barefoot trainer that continues to define the category, this shoe’s ultra-thin outsole helps deliver superior natural feel||An incredibly thin outsole, supportive padding, and reinforced sidewalls make this an ideal barefoot gym trainer||Run in comfort and confidence in this tank of a FiveFinger shoe|
|Rating Categories||Vivobarefoot Primus...||Xero Shoes HFS||Merrell Vapor Glove 5||Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3||Vibram V-Trail 2.0|
|Natural Feel (40%)|
|Specs||Vivobarefoot Primus...||Xero Shoes HFS||Merrell Vapor Glove 5||Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3||Vibram V-Trail 2.0|
|Best For||Trail Running||Road Running||Road Running||Gym||Trail Running|
|Stack Height||6.5 mm (w/o insole)||5.5 mm (w/o insole)||6.5 mm||1.5 mm (w/o insole)||5.7 mm|
|Heel to Toe drop||0 mm||0 mm||0 mm||0 mm||0 mm|
|Weight (per shoe)||10.3 oz (size US 9)||7.9 oz (size US 9.5)||5.8 oz (size US 8.5)||6.8 oz (size US 9)||6.9 oz (size EU 42)|
Vivobarefoot Firm Ground
Vibram Megagrip Rubber
|Midsole||None||None||None||None||2 mm EVA|
|Insole||2 mm Bloom Performance (Ortholite)||3 mm High Density EVA||Integrated
4 mm EVA
|3 mm Power Footbed||None|
|Upper Material||Mesh, recycled materials||Mesh and TPU||Mesh and TPU||Mesh and Rope-Tec TPU||3D Cocoon Mesh|
Our Analysis and Test Results
While the manufacturer claims that the insole of the Primus Trail II FG is part of their program in conjunction with Bloom Materials, it appears instead to be an Ortholite Recycled insole. Perhaps the coolest part in terms of direct impact is Vivobarefoot's Revivo program, which helps keep shoes out of the landfill by opening up a repair and reconditioning program for used shoes.
Vivobarefoot is one of the original companies to produce barefoot running shoes, and the Primus Trail II FG builds on that tradition with a trail-specific twist. The overall design is simple and lightweight, with a thin, flexible upper made with a majority of mesh for a naturally lightweight feeling and improved breathability. A minimal stack height of 6.5mm and zero-drop creates a perfectly flat platform without conventional support. An oversized fit with a spacious toe box makes these the ideal barefoot shoe for those with particularly wide feet.
Though all signs from the upper point to a high degree of natural feeling, the "Firm Ground" outsole — specifically designed for technical trail running — greatly reduces feedback. Though the outsole is thin, the hard rubber doesn't allow for much ground-feel, and the hardness of the rubber also reduces outsole flexibility. Even though this shoe feels flexible both longitudinally and torsionally in your hands, this doesn't translate to our experience when running. Instead of flexing along the natural lines of your foot and conforming to the terrain, the thicker outsole slaps the ground, leaving you with this feeling of being disconnected — kind of like wearing a glove rather than gripping something with your bare hands.
The Primus Trail II FG is surprisingly heavy, despite the simplistic design. Although they stand at a very reasonable stack height for a barefoot runner, all of the 6.5mm is concentrated in the hard rubber of the Firm Ground outsole. Additionally, to improve its durability as a trail runner, the design incorporates a lot of a recycled, TPU-like material to reinforce the mesh upper — the medial sidewall is almost completely covered in this material.
If you're really concerned about shaving weight in these shoes, the removable insoles do weigh 0.9-ounces each. Fortunately, all of this extra material doesn't much affect the swing weight, but it does continue to affect the natural feel of this shoe. Rather than feeling integrated with your foot, the Primus Trail II FG almost feels like a protective shell.
While it may not flex with the contours of your foot and the terrain, the Primus Trail II FG is well-designed to propel you through your run. Designed as a trail-specific shoe, the thick 4mm lugs hold well on both rocky and loose terrain. A textured arch is a unique design feature: while many shoes opt to leave this spot on the outsole blank, this rubberized section on the Primus Trail continues to grip even when you get off-camber on more technical trails.
Don't be fooled by their name; this shoe transitions remarkably well between trail and road. While the outsole isn't particularly tacky, the homogeneous lug shape provides an even platform to comfortably cover miles of pavement. This crossover capacity was unexpected and is quite a nice surprise gift, particularly considering the price tag of these barefoot runners. Despite the oversized lugs and thicker stack height — at least compared relatively to other barefoot options — the Primus Trail II FG is still a bit too minimal to be considered an introductory shoe for those looking to transition to this style of footwear. Regardless of your athletic background, they do make for a comfortable gym shoe. The flat platform, wide toe box, stiff outsole, and breathable upper all make for a sturdy, comfortable, minimalist trainer.
Though there is a stigma surrounding the durability of post-consumer recycled materials, the sturdy construction of the Primus Trail II FG should help dismantle any of your preconceived notions. After our testing period, the outsoles showed very little sign of wear and tear; considering the hardness of the rubber compound, we cannot imagine the outsole wearing very quickly. Specifically appreciated by trail runners — though applicable to anyone liable to toe-drag — the entire front of the tox box has a protective wrap of ripstop and TPU-like rubber. And even though it may add unnecessary ounces, most of the upper is reinforced with panels and cross braces of recycled rubber.
While closing the loop on manufacturing processes and shortening supply chains ultimately reduces impact, this is certainly not the norm when compared to current standards of conventional production. Though this results in more expensive products for now, companies producing according to standards set by B Corp are at least striving to create positive change within their industries. The price of the Primus Trail II FG is higher than others, but the production of this shoe is also being held to a higher ethical standard.
The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG is a solid, ethically-built barefoot runner that excels in a cross-training capacity. Though it has some technical design flaws and doesn't quite live up to the natural feedback of other barefoot shoes, it is a strong contender among trail-specific shoes and should be particularly appealing to those with wide feet.
— Aaron Rice
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