Minimalist Shoe Review – VivoBarefoot Primus Trail II FG

Reading Time: 7 minutes

My interest in ancestral health began in earnest when I was a wilderness skills and primitive technologies instructor. This went way beyond survival. We studied traditional knowledge from both indigenous peoples and experimental archaeology to try and piece together an idea of how our ancestors not just survived, but thrived in the lands we live on.

In the process of looking at the ‘things’ people used (the tools and technologies) it became evident that the way people moved, the diet people ate, and the lifestyle they lived were what formed us into dynamic, adaptable creatures.

Having learnt to butcher a deer and tan it’s hide, the obvious thing for a self confessed calceophile (a shoe lover) is to make your own shoes. Seminole Moccasins to be exact.

I loved these things. My feet were protected from the worst of things my tootsies might encounter, yet it still felt like I was running around the woods barefoot. I even made some fleecy, sheepskin ones for winter.

Did they look cool? No. Not unless you’re into the New Romantic meets Viking chic.

So when an attendee turned up to a course wearing a pair of Vivobarefoot Aqua shoes, that area of my brain that creates dopamine went berserk. Here was a shoe that ticked all of the boxes of my moccasins (thin, flexable, zero drop) but with a conventional look that meant my kids would no longer pretend to be someone else’s children at the school gate.

Vivobarefoot Aqua – The shoe of shoes

This was about 13 years ago and I bought 2 pairs of the Aqua as soon as I could, both for the grand cost of £19.99 each. This was before anyone had heard of Vivobarefoot and when they were still a sub-brand of Terra Plana.

I still don’t know why they were called Aqua as they had nothing to do with water, but they are still my all time favourite shoe. In fact, I have a pair I wear that are falling apart, but I just can’t bear to part with them. If anyone from Vivobarefoot reads this, please bring them back again.

And so my love affair with Vivobarefoot began. I bought loads of different pairs of their shoes, and loved them all. I told the world about these fantastic shoes. I got all my friends interested in them. I waxed lyrical about the benefits of barefooted-ness and minimalist shoes. I really laid it on thick. I wanted to heal everyone’s poor, cramped feet.

What an idiot! I think I singlehandedly drove up the demand for Vivobarefoot to the point that my cheap source on Ebay disappeared and my addiction to buying as many models as possible had to go into cold turkey.

But I am pleased to see Vivobarefoot become a major player in the minimalist footwear game. In my opinion they are THE leaders in the industry.

For me, the company’s best quality is the fact that they share some of Wild Life’s big interests – promoting good, natural human movement and protecting the environment.

The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG is nigh on perfect on both accounts.

For more information on minimalist/barefoot shoes try this article.

VivoBarefoot Primus Trail II FG

I bought the previous incarnation of this shoe a couple of years back and was impressed with the quality. The early versions of the Vivo trail shoe were great but lacked a resilient sole.

Not so with the Primus Trail FG. They lasted 3 years of pretty much daily use mainly over rough surfaces.

The FG part of the name stands for ‘Firm Ground’. There was a deeper lugged version for softer ground, the SG.

The FG are perfect for hard packed trails and ground that’s not too boggy and steep.

The new Primus Trail II have the same set up as the original, as far as I can see, but in my opinion it’s slightly better.

2.5mm base, 4mm lugs, sticky rubber and a textured arch – near perfection.

The sole is a 2.5mm base sole with 4mm lugs. These won’t stop you slipping on steep, wet grassy descents, but for trail runs and walks they are more than adequate.

The rubber compound has a ‘sticky’ feel to it, which I don’t remember on the Primus Trail I, and this gives the shoe a real sense of firm traction on rocky surfaces even when wet.

I really like the addition of the textured arch rubber. This is perfect for aiding in things like climbing ropes and traversing branches of trees. This might not be on your itinerary of activities. But it should be.

The sole has pretty good ground feel due to the relative thinness. It’s nothing like the ground feel of Vibram 5 Fingers, but about as good as you could ask for from a functioning trail shoe. The sole is flexible enough to be rolled up – the standard test for minimalist shoes – so offers ample flexibility for the foot and promoting good, natural movement.

The width on these shoes is excellent. Perfectly adequate for my hobbits’s feet. They have a perfect foot shape to them, i.e. the shoe matches the foot rather than forcing the foot to fit the shape of the shoe.

They allow more than enough room for my toes to splay with each footfall whilst still avoiding the ‘clown shoe’ look that plagues many minimalist/barefoot shoes.

At first I wasn’t sure on the lacing system, but being a lazy bastard I soon came to appreciate the simple and quick speed lace system.

The upper is very breathable with mesh panels on the top and side, and the toe box has a firm and protective rand to reduce any unwanted toe bumps whilst out on the trails.

The biggest change in the Primus Trail II is the fact that the entire shoe is now made from recycled post-consumer plastics, with the exception of the insole, which is made from algae biomass that damages the ocean.

This means that VivoBarefoot are helping to keep plastic out of landfill and the oceans, as well as cleaning ocean algae at the same time.

Good work Vivobarefoot! We salute you.

The whole shoe is vegan friendly/animal free and designed to be recycled.

So much stuff that says it can be recycled is merely lip service, where no actual recycling facilities are available for that particular material.

Vivobarefoot put their money where their mouth is.

They have a second company, Revivo, which repairs and reconditions many models of their shoes (sadly not the Primus Trail at this point) and will recycle any Vivobarefoot shoes that are past repair. You can also get a good deal on reconditioned shoes here. This is an excellent service.

The Primus Trail II FG is a lightweight, comfortable trail shoe, perfectly at home in both the forest trail and the urban jungle.

For trail running it is very minimalist. If you are new to barefoot running and minimalist shoes this would be my first choice. A transition shoe such as the brand Altra would be my go-to, and still is the shoe I choose for long distance, rocky mountain runs. (New Altra review coming soon).

That said, if you have transitioned into using minimalist shoes then the Primus Trail II FG is an excellent choice for hard packed trail running.

I took these babies for a fairly technical 25km trail run through the Scottish Highlands and they performed really well. Just enough protection to deal with the rocky trails but minimal enough to allow me to react quickly to the ever changing surfaces.

Overall I am really pleased with the shoes and massively impressed with the ethics of the company. As far as a conventional looking, minimalist shoe goes, it’s pretty damn good and Vivobarefoot remain my all time favourite manufacturer.

I don’t receive anything from any of the companies and products I review, I’m just sharing the love. That said if Vivobarefoot are reading this, I am more than happy to take a free pair off your hands at any time.

At the time of posting they are retailing for £130. Not a cheap shoe. And me being the skinflint I am, it took me a while to feel okay with parting with my hard earned spondoolies. But considering how well the previous ones lasted me, and how much joy they bring me, I felt it was worth the outlay.

So far, so good. Worth every penny.

And if you’re not totally sold yet, why not give them a try anyway. Vivobarefoot now offer a no-nonsense 100 day trial on all purchases. If you’re not happy or change your mind within this period, return the shoes and they’ll refund you, hassle free.

You can often find a discount code online if you are resourceful, but as a recent purchaser of a pair you get to share a 20% discount with your friends.

And you’re my friend right? Thought so. So, here is your 20% discount code:

Glenn’s 20% off at Vivobarefoot voucher

Not sure how long this will be active for, so use it while you can.

Love your feet and love the planet.

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