The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG II is the specific trail running shoe from the British minimal shoe pioneers. It is built on the basis of the Vivobarefoot philosophy of being wide, thin and flexible and as close to barefoot as possible.
This review differs slightly than previous reviews on this site due to the amount of mileage of completed in this footwear. Normally I test footwear and equipment for 4 -8 weeks and give them a thorough test before committing my opinions to print.
For the Vivobarefoot Primus Trails I’ve given them much more time. I’ve completed more than 1000km in these shoes including many long training miles and multiple races. Including a 50km trail ultra, held over dry trail conditions, also two sub ultra trail races both held in wet and at times super muddy conditions. All in all the Primus Trail’s are still going strong and have further running left in them at this point.
As all Vivobarefoot shoes I’ve worn these are no different in terms of their flat, thin sole. Being the firm ground trail model these are quite rigid for a Vivobarefoot shoe. The sole is very well protected from the elements with the rigid rubber sole, they also have a good array of tread to grip the runner on almost any surface. The sole is rigid and not as flexible as previous Vivobarefoot shoes I’ve worn, however this is a good feature as the ground feel is still there, but due to rigidness gives great protection and comfort when running on hard, sharp surfaces. This sole gives the benefit of ground feel and being in touch with the surface below, however the confidence to feel protected on any surface under foot. The sole is still quite thin at just 2.5mm thick and 4mm including the tread lugs under foot. It’s a real bonus to have this amount of protection from a sole this thin and flexible. I’ve been able to give the Primus Trail a rigorous test on all surfaces. Over hard packed dry tracks, technical trails, wet and soft dirt trails, sandy coastal trails and muddy single trails. Over almost all these surfaces the Primus Trail performs well, the exception being the muddy trails, where the shoe loses grip as the lugs underfoot are quite rigid and can lose grip in the mud. Over dryer surfaces the grip is very good and gives the runner confidence to perform to their best ability.
The upper material is made from a hybrid mix of materials including recycled materials , reusing post-consumer plastic waste that keeps this material from ending up on landfills. The upper is comfortable and durable. My first initial feeling in these shoes was that although the shoe is wide as predicted and designed, the upper is quite low and the mesh on the toes quite stiff meaning the toes don’t have a lot of wiggle room upwards. After some time in the shoes this feeling of the upper did loosen as the upper material stretched with use. In terms of an issue with the fit of the shoe this is where it started and finished, otherwise the fit of the shoe is comfort personified. The upper material is very durable and after more than 1000km, with a number of runs in very wet and muddy condition the Primus Trail is still very similar to it’s original condition.
The biggest attribute for a trail running shoe is it’s comfort and feeling over long runs. Minimal shoes have an advantage in the feeling above the sole as they give the foot room to move naturally, splay and be comfortable. They often have a disadvantage underfoot as the sole is minimal and cushioning provides relief over long runs. This is the reason for the rise of Hoka, Altra and maximal trail shoes. The cushion over long periods helps provide relief. How does the Primus Trail perform for long periods?
I used the Primus Trail during and in my training for The Guzzler 50km and many of my long runs since. During this time I’ve found the Primus Trail comfortable and suitable for my runs of all distances. The Primus Trail is minimal, meaning for long runs the runner needs to be adept in wearing minimal footwear. The Primus Trail is a good option, it allows the foot to move naturally, while giving protection underfoot. Once the shoe is worn in the foot has ample room to splay and move without the shoe inhibiting this. This is the goal of a minimal shoe, allowing the foot to move naturally and aide performance. Long distance runs in the Primus Trail mean the shoe doesn’t inhibit performance, but the protection and small amount of cushion do aide foot fatigue to some degree. It is certainly suitable for a seasoned minimal footwear runner to wear over long distances. During a challenging 50km trail run like The Guzzler I felt the Primus Trail gave me ample support and allowed me to run over five hours feeling supported and performing well.
The Primus Trail is a pure minimal trail shoe. It gives very good ground feel for a shoe with a relatively rigid sole. In minimal footwear the trade off is generally between performance and durability. If the shoe is durable it usually suffers in performance or ground feel or vice versa It is testament to the Vivobarefoot philosophy that they perform this well and still gives a level of durability where the shoe is still very together and runnable after over 1000km.
Overall I am very satisfied with the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail. Having worn these extensively over the past 6-12 months they have become one of my go to options for my longer runs and a lot of my trail adventures. The best aspect of these shoes is their comfort, the foot is as comfortable in the first mile as the last over any surface. They allow me to perform to my best ability over any surface and give me the confidence to push myself knowing the shoe won’t let me down over technical sections.
For the runner in the beginning off their barefoot journey the Primus Trail is a good transitional option. The Primus Trail is a suitable option for shorter trail runs as your feet gain strength. For the more seasoned barefoot runner the Primus trail is a top choice. Go hard and long and the Vivobarefoot will have your back.