Vivobarefoot Stealth 2 Review
Cons: Expensive, low traction, fit larger than most
Bottom line: These rugged road trainers are true-to-form in their translation of the barefoot experience.
Out of left field, the Vivobarefoot Stealth 2 earned one of our Top Pick positions for its true-to-form barefoot design, aesthetic style, light weight, and performance on the road. As a true flat with 0mm of heel-to-toe drop and weighing only 240g or 8.4 oz. We found you could easily take this shoe out on the trail with its PRO5 puncture resistant sole and breathable mesh construction. The brand may seem out of nowhere to a lot of runners, but they stand out in a field of well-known competitors like the Vibram FiveFinger KSO and Merrell Vapor Glove. In fact, this shoe got as much use as a sneaker to just wear around during the summer as it did on the road. It's a great way to train your feet for running in a barefoot style and unlike a lot of other running shoes, looks pretty cool as just a regular sneaker, especially in the black/red variety we tested.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
On the chart above, we can see how the Stealth stacked out against the rest of the line; it didn't crush the competition but still stood out relatively well. Given that most readers haven't seen this shoe out there on the road, they should take notice that it's beating down some pretty well-known names out there in the running field.
This shoe does best on the road and slips quite a bit on sandy rocks and slippery trail surfaces, just like the Xero Prio and some of the other road trainers. For that reason, it did well in this category but was not the highest performer. The puncture resistant sole claims to be five times as resistant to punctures as a standard sole of that thickness and that earns it points for being able to handle a stray root that lifts up the sidewalk, or some concealed glass or loose trash that clutters at the edges of the roads. It's very light-weight and feels even less forgiving than the Merrell Vapor Glove and for that reason, we recommend this only to seasoned barefoot runners or someone looking for a "barefoot lifestyle" shoe.
This road shoe is a barefoot runner's dream, but if you are new to barefoot style shoes, it might quickly become your nightmare too. It excels at taking no gruff and giving you, and your feet, everything. What that means is, this shoe is not for first-time barefoot runners who have not adapted their gait and thickened their feet up to the challenge of running a barefoot style. Just about the only shoe that gave more was the Primus Lite.
We found that slipping in a runner's support insole from another pair we had laying around will resolve any discomfort issues from adjusting to the running style that this shoe requires. It's a zero-drop, 0mm cushion shoe with only 3 or so millimeters between your foot and the road, just like the equally brutal Vapor Glove 3. That's pretty hardcore folks and insomuch as one would want to be barefoot and still own a shoe — which is the apparent ironic paradox here — this is the shoe for you.
Sometimes this shoe truly feels like nothing is there. It's barely a shoe. While that is something of an exaggeration, it does feel like it.
The wide toe box and light weight of this shoe stand out in a big way against its competitors. Users that prefer a little play in their shoe's fit will love these, and despite how unrelenting they feel, at the end of the day, the comfort factor on each run is excellent once you break them in. We found that many of the other barefoot road shoes and some of the other barefoot trail shoes were too tight around the middle of the foot like the Primus Lite and Vapor Glove. The Stealth, however, has it all. A loose, comfortable fit and never a blister or hot spot. But, users who prefer a tighter fit are better served by something like the New Balance Minimus 10v1.
Here, is where it lost a couple of points, but so did all the other road-designed shoes. They all sort of become uni-taskers when stacked against the trail shoes.
It does not do as well as the Merrell Trail Glove 4 at keeping hold of the road. But, in the category of road shoes, it averages well against the Xero Prio and Merrell Vapor Glove. Like a lot of the other road shoes here in Central Virginia in the wet season, there were a couple of weird slips on brick sidewalks and cobbles that were near falls, and that's just not something a runner wants to deal with.
Thankfully, we never had to put the PRO5 puncture resistant outsole to any kind of absurd nail test out there on the road.
But it feels nice knowing it's there and that if you run in the pre-dawn hours or just after sunset you don't have to get paranoid about finding street lamps to avoid a patch of broken glass or sharper knotty roots. The FiveFinger KSO and Minimus 10v1 promise a similarly tough outsole and we like companies going out of their way like that. This a durable trainer though and unlike the other Vivobarefoot shoe in this review, it's roundly durable with no strange potential durability issues. It feels weighty and robust at just 8.4oz, which is about the average weight in this barefoot review, but that's more to the comforting heft of it, and it holds up well to what would tear and scar a lesser shoe.
Note the reflective surface on the rubber toe guard, heel, and tongue. That's a great bonus, and it's incredibly noticeable out on the road. A lot of shoes incorporate this reflective material into small tags or patches on the tongue or heel but integrating this reflective material into the organic components of the model impressed us. You may not even need to bring reflective belts with you anymore on your super early and evening runs.
Runners who don't mind diving out of the pool of big name shoes like Merrell, New Balance, and Vibram to get their barefoot fix would be served well by taking a stab at what Vivobarefoot has to offer. They've built a whole lifestyle platform and even had a feature in Wired a couple of weeks ago for having a shoe made from algae. Given that they market themselves as solely a barefoot brand, you get to trust that no one is going to sneak a 4mm drop into their "barefoot" platform or that they're going to compromise on that aspect if that's most important to you.
Sit down real quick if you don't mind. These shoes cost $150. Look, I don't need to say it. These are not the best value out there. The best value, best-in-class shoe is hands-down the Merrell Trail Glove 4. That's not this shoe. It's still a durable, sleek road shoe though, so if your commitment to minimalism and the barefoot aesthetic is as unparalleled as your wallet is fat, well, then here you go, this is for you. Both Vivobarefoot shoes are pricier than the competition, and we know conventional running shoe brands that offer as unique a take on the road trainer as these will similarly price their products in the mid-hundreds.
As one of the few road shoes in our barefoot review, we dug the style of this shoe, and its performance as a road trainer matches that style. This offering from Vivobarefoot is true to its name and is one of the lighter shoes in our review. The breathability here is key for summer and outshined competitors like the Trail Glove and Xero Prio. If you're not looking for a more affordable shoe, this is a great road trainer. If you don't plan on hitting a lot of trails or you live in a more arid climate then we highly recommend the Stealth 2. It's a great take on the platform as many US manufacturers have fled or compromised their commitment to the barefoot style, Vivobarefoot clearly hasn't.
— Thomas King
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Hands-on Gear Review