I’m a tall, medium build, fore/midfoot striker and I train mostly in barefoot/minimal shoes. But I’ll try anything once!
This time, I got to try out the Primus Lite from Vivobarefoot. It’s been a while since I reviewed a pair of barefoot shoes, so I was really looking forward to seeing how they compared to the other barefoot shoes I’ve tried out. Especially the Vivobarefoot Stealth 2, which is an amazing shoe!
So without further adieu, here is the review...
A durable, flexible, minimal design.
Breathable recycled PET Mesh
This is to keep the feet cool.
Non-Marking rubber outsole
It is thin and durable.
Synthetic multi-ply materials to deliver optimum lightweight breathability and comfort.
Patented, ultra-thin, puncture resistant layer. 5x more puncture resistant than a standard sole of the same thickness.
Repurposing plastic waste by giving it a second life in our shoes and keeping them from entering landfill and our oceans.
Produced using animal free products and processes.
So when my shiny new Vivobarefoot shoes arrived, I was all ready to wear them all of the time as I did with the Stealth 2. But when I opened the box to find the whitest of white trainers, I knew instantly that it wasn’t going to happen how I’d planned.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind white trainers, but I definitely would not have picked the colour for myself, especially not as an everyday shoe.
Overall, I don't mind the design of the Primus Lite, but they don't look as nice as the Stealth 2 or Xero shoes Prio. They're a bit square at the front which makes them a bit less appealing to the eye.
It's not all bad, though. There's a lot of good features with this lightweight road shoe.
The Primus Lite has an airy, thin synthetic mesh upper, and it's brilliant! It feels sturdy enough that I'm reassured its not going to fall apart in a few days, yet it's so lightweight my feet haven't once got too hot during runs.
There are a few overlays on the upper.
On the outer side, around the collar and around the outer edge of the toe box is what feels like a thin plastic layer. It adds a lot of rigidity to the upper and helps it to hold it’s shaping.
There’s also an elegant Vivobarefoot logo on the outside of the shoe which is a really pleasant touch.
On the big toe is a slightly thicker overlay which also has a subtle logo on top it. On the instep of the upper is another thicker patch, but this time it’s perforated. Honestly, it’s the worst bit about the upper as I’m not convinced it needs to be there.
The only reason I can see for its existence is that Vivobarefoot thought it would look nice. But again for that reason, I’m not convinced.
The lace eyes are reinforced with a thicker layer of material, which is useful because it means you don’t feel the need to go easy when tightening the laces.
The laces on the Primus are quite skinny and not very grippy. As a result, they’re not great at the job they’re intended for which is a bit of a disappointment.
Anyone who’s read my other reviews will know that laces are one of my most important features when it comes to a good shoe.
There isn’t one, hurrah! The plastic overlay is more than enough heel support on this shoe. It’s just right.
The Primus has a very comfortable padded collar. It’s not too much but enough that my foot feels secure and hugged when they’re on. There’s not much more to say on this; it’s just all good.
I really wish that the tongue on the Primus Lite was the same as the one of the Stealth 2. Even though that one isn’t perfect, it’s so much better than this one.
This tongue is so thin that when I tighten the laces if I go a bit too tight, it’s not forgiving at all, and it pinches the pot of my foot, which isn’t the best feeling.
There’s nothing. Nothing fancy, just shoes for your feet. Perfect in this aspect!
The first thing I did when I got hold of the Primus Lite was to compare the sole with the Stealth 2.
Initially, I thought that it was probably exactly the same (apart from the colour). So I was looking forward to going for a spin to find out if my assumption was correct.
It wasn’t! I have no idea if the rubber compound of the Primus Lite’s sole is, in fact, different to that of the Stealth 2 but it felt different underfoot.
At first, I ran with the insoles in because I always like to see how things go with them first off. But as a true lover of the feel of the road, I usually much prefer to run with as little as possible between myself and the ground.
That being said, when I took out the insoles, the shoe felt nothing like the Stealth 2 underfoot. It was much harder and less adaptive to the variations in the path. It definitely feels as though a stiffer rubber compound was used on these compared with the Stealth 2.
This is something that really lets these shoes down because it takes them from being able to become a great road running shoe to being more of a casual wear shoe. Only they’re not really that attractive, so I wouldn’t choose to wear them like that either.
As with every barefoot & minimal shoe, there isn’t any support so to speak. Your feet become strong enough to support themselves.
Although not as soft as the Stealth 2 or Xero Shoes Prio sole the Primus Lite still boasts incredible flexibility. A lot of this is down to the amazing, lightweight upper too of course.
Tread & grip
These minimal road shoes have the classic Vivobarefoot tread pattern. It works well in a lot of conditions, apart from wet grass, mud, banana skin or dog poop (no shoe will ever grip on dog poop).
Fit & comfort
On my feet, these are some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. The upper is soft and keeps my feet feeling snug.
But once I start running, they lose comfort rapidly, and for the entirety of the journey, I’m constantly looking forward to it being over so that I can stop and enjoy the comfort again.
It’s cavernous! Big enough for all of my toes on both feet in just one shoe (probably).
It is a little on the low side, but I can live with it. Those with sausage toes may not be so happy with this shoe.
The heel comfort is second to none! It equals that of the Stealth 2, Vibram Fivefingers and Xero Shoes Prio.
I cannot fault it in any way. The padding is spot on. The lack of hard plastic heel counter is perfect, and the plastic overlay wrap around the outside offers all of the structure needed.
Overall, the Primus Lite performs fairly well though I would certainly not describe it as a running shoe. It’s definitely more geared towards walking and casual wear.
If you want a brilliant Vivobarefoot barefoot shoe for road running the Stealth 2 is the one for you.
Grips well and feels light, but the hard sole makes for uncomfortable running on longer runs.
This shoe doesn’t perform well off-road. As such, I would not recommend trying to use them for this.
- For speed
Unfortunately, due to the hard rubber, I wouldn’t recommend the Primus Lite for speed work.
- For distance
Again, I would not suggest using this lightweight shoe for distance runs. I have been on a few nice long walks in them, and they were great, however. The Primus Lite also performs well over shorter runs.
- Brilliantly lightweight
- Fantastic upper
- Very comfortable
- Great flexibility
- Hard sole
- Not good over longer runs
- Not great for fast runs
- A bit unattractive
I’m not sure if I’m right in thinking that the rubber compound is different from the Primus Lite to the Stealth 2, but it sure feels like it to me.
If these are indeed for running, the Stealth 2 should be the starting point without question. With a more supple sole, these shoes would be incredible!
Everyone loves the idea of becoming a barefoot runner much like the 1960 Olympic gold-medalist Abebe Bikila; however, over time our feet have become softer due to the padding and support shoes have become.
Now be warned, hyper-realistic barefoot running shoes need to be slowly introduced to your feet if you plan on becoming an avid barefoot runner. If not, the benefits of barefoot running will be thrown out and injuries will most likely pop up.
In order for everyone to be happy and safe at the same time, the outsole needs to have that perfect combination of multiple things. The outsole needs to be thin enough to avoid feeling bogged down from the shoe and trapping so much heat it feels like a furnace in the shoe.
Also, the outsole needs to have the feeling of being barefoot but safe enough where it is resistant to nuances, like broken glass, or other debris, that would make actually being barefoot horrid.
Vivobarefoot has taken into consideration all of these concerns and perfected it to make what they call the PRO5 outsole. However, the PRO5 cushion just takes care of the basics. Just like the sister shoe, the Vivobarefoot Stealth II, the outsole does not have enough traction to handle wet conditions at all. Be prepared to slide/slip if you decide to take a leisurely stroll during any wet conditions.
With only 3mm of cushioning between your feet and the surface you are running on, you are bound to feel any divot, rock, or any odd surface. With outsole protecting all of the sharp pain that you might have while running, you will still feel an uncomfortable pressure on your feet that will still make you sore (at least from my experience).
For those who already are acclimated to barefoot-feel running, then this feeling will be typical and should not be taken into account when considering on getting these. However, those who are new, this shoe does not come with an insole which helped me get used to the Stealth II because it provided some cushion.
The upper is one of the most comfortable, breathable running shoes that I have ever ran in. Unlike the Vivobarefoot Stealth II where there were issues with the mesh and bleeding when it gets wet, the Primus Lite excels on not bleeding and providing excellent air flow.
There are two components that are in the upper: the mesh, and the very thin fabric. The mesh provides air flow and makes the shoe comfortable, the fabric provides protection and structure to the shoe.
There are areas where there is just the thin fabric, like the medial areas, and makes those specific areas uncomfortable and a bit hot. However, there are pockets of just mesh which makes the fabric less hot and uncomfortable. The upper consists of two main components: the mesh and thin fabric which makes the upper one of the most breathable and comfortable to run in.
The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite excels at differentiating very similar shoes, the Vivobarefoot Stealth II.
This shoe provides confidence to any barefoot runner by integrating their signature PRO5 outsole and combining it with off-the-charts mesh/fabric upper. In the rain, this shoe underperforms because of its lack of traction.
Good to know
- The interesting aspect of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite is that the shoe delivers a level of quality and performance on the roads using only a minimum amount of technologies.
- The exterior side of the lightweight TPU provides the needed traction on wet or steep surfaces, while its interior serves as the midsole. Also, the very thin yet sturdy upper assumes the shape of the foot which makes possible for the wearer to follow his natural gait while running without having to compromise on the comfort or the breathability.
The neutral road running shoe is based on a minimalist design which, owing to its semi-curved shape, adjusts to the natural shape of the runner’s foot. The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite has a standard running length and a standard medium width of D for men and B for women, respectively.
The Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) outsole is light in weight, resistant to abrasion and has excellent traction. It ensures maximum protection underfoot and at the same time lets the user feel the natural ground underneath.
Unlike a traditional midsole, this Vivobarefoot running shoe utilizes the inner side of the Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) as its underfoot platform. It Is thin and flexible, qualities that are actually important for those who like to experience a near-barefoot performance.
The upper unit of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite utilizes a Breathable Mesh in order to maintain a well-ventilated in-shoe feel for the wearer. The open construction of this material allows environmental air to pass through it, enabling maximum ventilation inside the footwear. At the same time, it wraps itself around the user’s foot, offering a snug and secure fit.
The Fused Upper Material, based on the minimalist design, feels seamless against the skin. Also, the material adapts itself to the shape of the foot, thereby enabling a natural gait for the runner.
Thin overlays are fused to the main fabric. They provide structure to the façade of the shoe. They also help in maintaining a snug and secure wrap.
Round laces cause the upper to provide a customizable coverage. They’re directly linked to the printed overlays via eyelets, thus making it easy to attain a fit that’s adherent to the preference of the wearer.