Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II
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65% say it's true to size.
Overview of this review
Want a unique shoe that looks great and offers a tiny eco-footprint? The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II trims off a lot of weight from its predecessor making it truly shine as a shoe for the future.
Check out why this shoe made from recycled PET plastic waste stands out from the competition in my review below.
The outsole design of the Primus Lite II at first glance is demure though notions are quickly dispelled once you get this unique, 3mm thick tread pattern on the road.
A superb, almost responsive flex offers plenty of protection against the vagaries of road running. The low profile of the tread felt amazing while on pavement and even provided enough grip on the trails that stitch my favorite roads together.
Vivobarefoot touts the outsoles puncture resistance and though I don’t have an extreme test case for you I can report the sharper little stones and rough road definitely feel better compared to other minimalist shoes.
Maximal efforts feel a little slippery with the extremely low profile tread but tempo runs and below were just fine.
The bio-based Bloom EVA insert is an eco-friendly and comfortable piece of foam that sits on top of the outsole and removes the additional noise out of a rough or pebbly road.
Like many other minimalist brands, the outsole itself has some fabric topper if you’d like to forgo the cushion. I’d recommend keeping it in there unless you have a perfectly paved route or are heading to the track for repeats.
Now to the most mind-bending part of this shoe. Made from recycled plastic and unlined, you might think this shoe could be a recipe for disaster. However, I was blown away by the comfort and sharp design of this forward-thinking shoe from Vivobarefoot.
The solid parts around the eyelets and heel are stiffer than average.
A noticeable amount of flex is missing when comparing it to a full mesh or knit upper, but nothing that would qualify as restrictive. The beautiful, thoughtful design with no discernable hotspots is clearly worth the higher price point!
One small point of contention is the slippery laces. Just tie your second (double) knot in the opposite direction of the first to prevent them from coming undone. You’re welcome!
Most of the top, sides, and heel of the shoe is actually a very fine mesh, which provides the needed flex and venting.
It’s actually translucent as you can see in the picture below. I’ve only put 50 miles in this shoe so far and really find no drawbacks other than the mesh might not take damage so well.
For the barefoot adapted, it is a great fit right out of the box.
After just walking around in them the first day I jumped right in with a 5 mile fartlek on the second. The shoe moved exceptionally well through the different paces.
It is worth a mention that the non-mesh part of the shoe is a bit stiff at first and it takes a few iterations in tying technique to get them to fit snugly without feeling restrictive. Once you’re dialed in, it does a great job of hugging the foot without any liner or padding.
A nice wide toe box offers ample space to fully spread out the toes without feeling too big or too roomy.
The thin sole gives your foot complete activation and the uppers stay out way to give a full range of motion to the ankle.
Not something I would have guessed from the outward appearance of the shoe, so a big kudos to the designers for making it so functional and so darn good looking!
Fantastic road running shoe that could easily handle well-groomed trails in dry conditions.
Looks good enough to dress up for a night out but handles even the hardest paces with ease. No heavy rains during the test period so I can’t comment on how well it drains. It did handle well on the roads that were slick from light showers.
Comparisons to other shoes
Merrell Vapor Glove - Surprisingly superior fit compared to the Cordura mesh, though I’m not sure if the Vivo mesh would stand up to as much abuse on the trails.
The Vapor Glove offers a more flexy and tacky Vibram TC5+ rubber sole at the cost of increased pain when you hit pointy pebbles at high speeds.
Xero Shoes Speed Force - While the Primus Lite II upper is not as flexible, the soles are much stiffer and lend themselves to more uses outside the track where the Speed Forces really shine.
The solid plastic support of the Primus Lite II is very similar to the straps of the Speed Force and other Xero models, but offer less flexibility and can’t move with the same adjustability of straps laced through soles.
Vibram V-Alpha - I’m a big fan of the Vibram Megagrip rubber and like the wool and polyester blend better, but can’t deny there will be much better durability and protection from the Primus Lite II.
If you spend more time on trails you can’t beat the Megagrip and traction from the V-Alpha but if you’re predominately road then stick with the Primus Lite II.
- Stunning shoe design
- Solid, thoughtful construction
- Very well ventilated
- Flexible, responsive sole
- Wonderful, protective feel underfoot
- Heavy compared to other minimalist shoes
- Upper noticeably stiffer in certain areas
- High heel/ankle collar might be problematic for some
- Very low profile tread limits the range of use
- Laces are slick and tricky to get right
For a barefoot aficionado that spends most of their time on roads and light trails, this is a solid option that really merits the extra dollars asked by Vivobarefoot. I’m glad for the opportunity to try out the shoe as it’s completely different from the other minimalist offerings out there.
Add in the repurposing of PET plastic waste and a completely vegan design and you have a feel good and perform good shoe in a long-lasting package worth the investment.
Updates to Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II
The Primus Lite II is an update to an up-and-coming series of Vivobarefoot running shoes designed for the roads. The general design of this product may initially not look different from the first version, but it’s constructed to be thinner yet more secure. The elements of the upper unit are made of plant-based materials, while the midsole and outsole are also of vegan-friendly make.
Size and fit
The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II is made to be true to size. Runners are encouraged to use their normal choices of size when it comes to vying for a pair. However, it is generally a healthy practice to test the shoe first or observe user reviews from different sources to get a grasp of the quality of the in-shoe experience.
Meanwhile, the upper provides a secure fit through its form-fitting attribute and flexible materials. The natural shape of the foot is the target of these ingredients. The natural shape of the foot is the target of these ingredients.
The outsole unit of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II is made of an amalgamation of synthetic materials (45%), natural rubber (45%), and algae-based Bloom foam (10%). This full-length compound has honeycomb-shaped patterns on its surface to deliver traction and flexibility.
The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II doesn’t have a traditional midsole unit. Instead, the thin outsole also serves as the platform on which the foot relaxes. It is touted to be durable enough to resist abrasion and early material breakdown. Glove-like shoe series, like the trail-optimized Merrell Trail Glove, are popular nowadays because they bring a near-barefoot running experience.
A performance insole is placed inside the shoe to carry the foot throughout the running session. It is made of 10% Bloom, the algae-based compound that serves as a replacement of traditional ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) units. It flexes with the foot and doesn’t sacrifice the weight of the shoe.
The upper unit of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II uses a mesh made from Sorona®, a fiber that is derived from plants. The material itself acts like regular mesh, but it has the advantage of being environment-friendly, especially after the whole shoe has reached its limit. It has breathing holes for ventilation, and it has a lightly stretchy nature for the accommodation of the foot-shape.
Susterra® Propanediol is a non-toxic alternative to the usual material that is used for the printed overlay systems of shoes’ uppers. This thin layer covers the mesh and maintains its original form. It also helps the foot when it comes to experiencing a snug and secure fit.
The thin collar and tongue are what visually differentiate this version from the original Primus Lite model. The form-fitting nature of the in-shoe design helps to deliver a non-restrictive hug. A small wraparound piece of padding still graces the collar, but it’s lightweight and not-so-all-encompassing.
A traditional lacing system graces the instep. Round laces snake through discreet eyelets, offering a means of adjusting the quality of the fit. A custom foot-wrap can be appreciated because of such a feature.