After hearing from fellow minimalist trail runners about Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG, I knew I had to test them myself. Finally, I had the opportunity and now I know why they received so much praise.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG comes in two colors. Ferrari-like black and red, and olive green and orange combination.
While two color combinations is not a lot compared to some more popular brands, I don’t think it would hurt their sales. Their selling point is different!
A minimalistic shoe with a wide toe-box.
Terrain: trail, soft ground, muddy, technical
What you get
When I opened a nicely packed pair from Vivobarefoot, I was excited to see them shining inside.
Together with the shoes you also get their sports insoles, which are perforated. I have heard that in the past the insoles did not make a good job at draining water but people in Vivobarefoot listened to their fans and improved on it.
From my testing runs, I can attest to it.
After running in a muddy terrain and across water, I did not feel any unnecessary water in the shoe.
Upper, Fit and Comfort
The upper of the shoe is partly perforated which allows the shoe to drain water really well as well as breath.
I was surprised when I ran across a puddle. While splashing around, my feet did not get wet. That is because of the water-resistant coating on the shoe, which resists light rain or a little bit of splashing around.
Besides the lightweight construction, the fit of the shoe is once again on spot!
The sock-like design embraces your foot below the ankle, preventing any debris to enter while you are running across your favorite trail, or during a race. At the same time, the sleeve did not feel like it was wrapping around my foot too tight.
Together with a narrower heel bed, it fixes your foot in a position so your foot does not slip inside the shoe despite its wide toe-box. This then allows your toes to split and gives them extra room to breathe and do their job in stabilization.
Outsole, Grip & Toe Protection
As you can see, the Trail SG has some aggressive tread! That is what I was mostly looking forward to testing.
It gives you enough grip on a muddy trail without, to my surprise, sacrificing proprioception of the feet. You can still feel the ground.
As a bonus, the distance the rubber tread creates between the ground and the sole serves as a rock-plate.
That means you can comfortably run on a rocky, technical terrain as well without being afraid of hurting your feet badly like I experienced with their brother, Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG.
The tread is distanced far enough to allow any mud to be shed once you hit a little firmer ground.
You can see in the photos how muddy my shoes were during the muddy part of the trail and after I finished my run.
Another feature I am excited about is the extra grip on sides, which looks like it could help with climbing a rope or getting over some obstacles during OCRs.
It seems to me as if the designers had OCR in mind when designing this shoe!
In the front of the shoe, there is an extra rubber, a bumper, which protects your toes when you hit a rock or a root of a tree. While I don’t trip very often, it is a nice feature to have over some of the shoes that I run in (and in which hitting a root hurts).
As a good minimalistic shoe, Vivobarefoot Primus SG is very flexible as well, allowing it to twist and bend in different directions. They certainly look sturdier than they are!
Now that you’ve seen all those amazing, muddy pictures, you might be asking yourself, who would clean that afterwards?
Actually, I was surprised, how easy it was to clean them when I jumped together with them in the shower.
After about a minute of showering them, they were completely clean. Something that I have not experienced with my Fivefingers.
After testing the Primus Trail SG in snow, ice, rocks, and muddy trails, I can comfortably say that Vivobarefoot did a great job!
Just like with Stealth II, the designers knew exactly what they wanted the shoe to be - an unrivaled minimalist trail shoe. For me, this will be the shoe of choice for my OCR and trail races this year.
Personally, I don’t know how they could improve the shoe, besides maybe shedding a few grams (300g heavier compared to Vibram Fivefingers MR).
The Vivoabarefoot Primus SG is one of the most rugged barefoot trail running shoes on the market.
The Primus SG feels low profile and nimble, but it certainly protects your feet from the elements. Unfortunately, the Primus SG is not at all comfortable for my feet.
- Barefoot ride
- Great traction
- Great protection
- Uncomfortable upper
- Aesthetically unattractive
|Heel to Toe Drop||0m||Support Level||Neutral|
The Primus SG has a standard fit in the heel and midfoot and a wide toe box.
The wide toe box allows your toes to splay: the natural way of running. Although the toebox is wide, it is quite low volume. My feet always feel the upper rub against them while running.
The Primus SG does not have a tongue or heel cup; rather, it has a stretchy upper that wraps around the foot.
The Primus SG has a speed lacing system. The laces are round and narrow, and they don’t stretch at all. These are some of the least comfortable and secure laces I have ever experience.
The wide fit means that I have to really cinch the laces. The laces don’t provide a good fit, they cause pressure points, hot spots and really irritate a vein on the top of my foot.
They are so uncomfortable that I would rather wear them loose, even though my feet slide around the shoe. The heel collar bites into my ankle and causes nasty blisters.
The toe box is constructed with a lightly perforated mesh. The upper is decently breathable, while still keeping out debris. The upper is not soft, so you need to wear socks when wearing this shoe.
The Primus SG has a heavy duty toe bumper. Although most runners don’t kick rocks while they run in barefoot shoes, if you do bump a rock, your foot will not feel it.
The Primus SG is built with a fixed insole. The shoe also comes with a set of additional insoles if you feel that you want a slight touch of cushioning.
The Vivobarefoot logo is printed on the outside of the shoe in reflective material. This improves visibility while running on roads at night, but since this is a trail shoe it doesn't make a big difference.
There are three main criteria for any barefoot running shoe outsole: It must be flexible, durable and provide good traction.
The Primus SG fulfills all three criteria. The outsole is a sheet of sticky durable rubber. Protruding from the outsole are dozens of multidirectional chevron-shaped lugs. The lugs face forward in the forefoot and rearwards in the heel to maximize traction.
The Primus SG goes overboard with traction. When running in a barefoot shoe, most runners don’t need as much traction since they tread lightly and run cautiously.
The aggressive outsole provides additional unneeded traction and makes the ride harsher. Running in snow and extremely sloppy conditions is the exception. The outsole is not as flexible as the standard barefoot shoe, but it is still plenty flexible.
The Primus SG works best as a barefoot trail running shoe for very sloppy terrain; however, I cannot recommend this shoe to anyone because the upper caused my feet so much grief. Personally, I would always choose a different shoe for every run.
That does not mean the shoe is universally bad. Some may find that the Primus SG fits them perfectly. Anyone who wants a barefoot ride, along with a ton of protection should check out the Primus SG. The Primus SG could be a fun shoe if it fits your feet well.
|Shoe Brand||My Size|
|Hoka One One||12.5|
Vivobarefoot Primus SG Vs. Merrell Trail Glove 4
The Trail Glove has less protection and less traction compared to the Primus SG, but it has all that a barefoot trail running shoe needs.
Additionally, the Trail Glove is much more comfortable, lighter, and far less expensive. For most runners, the Merrell Trail Glove is a much better option for barefoot trail running shoes.
The Primus SG is a high-quality shoe, but its construction just doesn’t make much sense. A barefoot running shoe doesn’t need a ton of protection or traction since runners tread carefully while running barefoot.
If your feet are very different to mine, and this shoe is comfortable, it is a high performing shoe for running and hiking on a very sloppy terrain.
A shiny red shoes for trail running from the Vivobarefoot family!
To start off, I was very impressed with the feel of lightness and the super aggressive tread outsole. I kept looking at all those details for a good period of time, trying to figure out what is the deal with these guys.
Right out of the box, you can see there a set of inner soles and extra kit of laces if you don’t want to use the bungee cord system, sweet!
minimalist trail shoe with very aggressive outsole, as can be seen with the sharp treads down there. The drop is 0 mm, almost zero thickness, with only the treads jutting out.
These shoes are very specific and you either hate or love them. The soft ground is the type of soil that you need to appreciate the performance of these shoes.
We tested it in various types of ground: volcanic soft sand, thick grass, mud potholes with rivers beds, hard soil tracks. The feelings on these pack of terrains highly varies.
What we did as a first test was to take the shoes to a very high altitude place with a very soft sand playground, volcanic sand to be more specific and then try to get fun running.
Let me tell you that these shoes are all about traction and grip on a dry surface. You'll fall in love with the gripping cornering in this kind of soil.
That said, you can jump with confidence in soft ground with this shoes and it won’t slide down. Nice!
Then we ran for a couple of hours on this mix of soft sand and hard pack fire road. We can notice the difference right there.
The shoes became a mix of hard feelings, no cushion, no nice gripping, a bit of side of sliding if you put an effort running. The bungee cords lacing works perfect but the wrapping of shoes around the ankle can be annoying, sad.
The result was a bit of pain around the ankles, not nice guys!
Next test was a field with thick grass like the one for cows, lambs or so; the kind of grass that you don’t want for the running day. Again, we fell in love with the performance of the shoes.
We laced a bit lose to find out if we can avoid the ankle pain from previous running sessions. While that works, the result is a lack of confidence due to side sliding of the shoes in certain circumstances.
Nevertheless, the overall feeling was good in the grass field.
We kept running our schedule in a mix of terrain: hardpack fire roads, rocky river beds, and we found out a particular (because of the season of the year) muddy trail.
We love the performance of the shoes on that terrain. It simply rules over the muddy soil! It has great grip and superb water draining capabilities.
If you care about cleaning shoes, these are particularly easy to clean. All you need to do is to take this out for a bath after your run.
I did a quick inspection of treads, they don’t look worn after a good charge of kilometers. That's in comparison to other brands that tend to wear faster than you expect.
On the side of shoes, there are unnoticed words that said eco rubber. Kudos to that!
The upper is a made up of very light mesh that looks strong. While our feet tend to slide out of the shoes, the really shining thing about this shoe is the inner sole. I will say that this is the best thing that I found in this pair.
Literally, you can see through the insole which is built to drain water fast very fast!
There is enough room for the foot fingers, no tight thing here.
The lacing system is pretty similar to other brands in the bungee cord fashion. It's very effective & keeps the shoe lightweight. Don't hold or laced too tight as it hurts after a number of hours running.
- Good looking red shoes
- Nice lacing system
- Great tread shape
- Grippy outsole
- Light, breathable insole
- Can’t run in a loose green rocky carpet
- Lace system can hurt
- No cushion for this trail shoe
- A very specific shoes for a very specific terrain
Over the past decade, I’ve finally reached a happy medium with minimal running. I’m not a heavy runner and tend to land lightly on my mid-foot so when the book “Born to Run” came out I was on board.
Perhaps too on-board because my personal experience was a backlash to having more shoe on my feet just because of the rugged nature of the trail ultras I was doing and the damage being inflicted on my feet. I wished there was a happy medium. I think the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG is close.
I had tried shoes with rock plates underfoot, then much more thick soled zero drop shoes and didn’t like that either because of weight, and I found the thick-soled trail shoes clumsy. On the other hand, barefoot-style shoes for me just didn’t have quite the amount of protection and traction I needed for the technical trail.
Along came the opportunity to try the Primus Trail SG shoe as an evaluator and I was excited. Out of the box, I could see that it seemed to combine the best of both worlds!
It was minimal, flexible and comfortable. And yet it featured quite a robust sole with traction lugs like I had never seen on a minimal shoe before. They were every bit as aggressive in the tread department as some of the other more built up shoes.
As a trail runner, we could be crossing sharp-edged rocks, tripping over roots or stepping on all sorts of hazards that can be underfoot or dig into the bottom the sides of the foot.
The sturdy rubber bumper that surrounds the entire shoe including the toe made me excited to run in them without fear of cutting my foot or stubbing my toe.
Putting the shoes on for an initial check of fit was a relief because they fit really well. Whenever you receive shoes without being able to try them on, it can be worrisome because some brands fit large, or small compared to their size number.
These fit exactly as advertised, so my 10.5 (US/Canada scale) was indeed 10.5 exactly and fit well. Width was also quite good for my average width feet which are neither narrow or wide. Very comfortable overall, but the proof would be in the running to come.
My initial impression of the shape of the shoe was that it raised a concern of the high heel counter. I’d had shoes before that made my lower Achilles bleed from chafing so I was curious how these would be.
Feeling the weight of the shoe, I was a little surprised at how they felt as heavy as a more built up shoe. Not sure if it’s the rubber compound or something else but 250g is a little heavier than I expected but I was ready to sacrifice a little lightness for protection.
Cosmetically they look great and the build quality feels solid. Also thanks so much for the sturdy toggle lacing system! No coming undone on long runs.
The first 100 km
2018 in southern Ontario, Canada has been a challenge for running with the colder than normal temperatures and trails remaining frozen over right up to April. Changeable weather patterns have alternated conditions between ice, snow, mud, and rock. It was into this mixed bag that I began running in these shoes.
The first run was an 11 km across the golf course near home and into the swampy woods. The trails are quite technical with roots, rocks, bogs and at that time snow and ice too!
I was positively blown away by the shoes during this run because of the traction I had on slippery mud, snow and even the ice.
I think because of the flexibility of the shoe, it gave me a larger contact patch like a snow tire compared to a stiffer more built up shoe which could not flex to the contours as well.
After finding out that the shoe dries in front of the gas fireplace very quickly I decided a few days later to try them on my long trail run of the week of 30km.
This run would not only be a test of the shoe with a significant vertical climb but it would also prove to me if I had the right formula in these shoes to balance out protection with minimal shoe benefits. The run took me out to our local ski hill on a rail trail for 11km followed by a climb of 320 meters and some very technical trail across the top of the escarpment.
After having literally everything from sharp limestone crags to roots and mud to snow and ice and water thrown at me, I never felt like I’d lose my footing.
I also never felt like my feet would take any damage like they had in other minimal shoes I’d tried. At the end of 30 km I felt energized and the muscles in my feet felt toned!
Apparently, I liked them so much that I did the same route with another 5 km for 35 km added. Again the feeling of being energized afterward surprised me.
Also, the benefits of minimal running for me include being less prone to Achilles issues I’ve had over the years, so finding a shoe that could get me the traction and protection I need while remaining comparatively minimal is encouraging.
100 km to 200 km
I feel like I’m on to something here. The tradeoff between the extra weight of the sole and staying minimal is actually not much of a tradeoff at all.
I don’t notice the weight at all and although others with wider feet than I have commented that they fit well, they don’t feel too wide for my average width feet. I never feel like I’m slipping around in them.
Another concern about shoes with aggressive lugs like these is that if you ever have to run a couple of kilometers of approach run to the trails, it’s good to know that you won’t wear them down too quickly.
With the price point of this shoe, I would want to know they will last. What I found was it so far is not a concern. They wear very slowly so the rubber compound is done right on these.
In mud, they are not miracle shoes because mud will cling to any aggressive tread if it’s deep. However, what I found was that the flex in the shoe at least allows some mud to fall off compared to a stiffer sole which doesn’t flex the mud off.
Other than the tread, the only wear concern for a shoe 200km into its life is the inner toe junction in the rubber bumper which dips to a lower height around here than anywhere else.
This is done to allow toe flex and is necessary, and so far it’s the only area where the mesh upper is just beginning to break down slightly.
Having said that, I am absolutely amazed at the high level of build quality all around on this shoe.
After 200 km there is not one seam coming undone and the treads have not worn significantly at all!
200 km to 250km+
I felt very comfortable after 200km as the shoe really has come into its own and is quite formed to my foot and feels like wearing a pair of comfortable slippers.
The lugs underfoot steadfastly refuse to wear down despite the fact that I encounter pavement in places to and from and connecting trails.
I get no chafing or irritation at all from the top of the sock fit area! The heel area as well created no irritation. Speaking of the heel area, there is a loop that will allow you to pull the shoe on.
This takes a bit of work as it’s very snug but once they are on they don’t feel tight or restrictive at all. It’s a good idea to wear very thin socks with these shoes or go barefoot. I personally prefer a thin sock.
During some very muddy and sloppy times as spring progresses I’ve been doing some climbs and descents on a treacherous part of the ski hill that climbs/descends 300 meters of rough wet mud with snow and ice mixed in.
I feel the shoe's grip in a phenomenal manner through all of it and shed mud as well as can be expected. It’s a great down-hilling shoe and I felt I could put the hammer down and let it go on the drier descents.
One thing trail runners know is that our feet will get wet no matter what. The thing that matters here is how fast a shoe can dry out.
These are the fastest drying ones I’ve had because there literally is less material to dry and because the mesh lets air in. Dry feet equals less blisters!
- Minimal design brings barefoot benefits
- Very sturdy construction
- High traction
- Toggle lacing system
- Fits true to size
- Long wearing treads
- Good foot protection for a minimal trail shoe
- Water drains right out
- Uses recycled materials
- A little pricey
Items for improvement
- One very specific area on the inside at the point where the toes flex where the mesh may need to be reinforced.
- The one area where the mesh is wearing. This can be mitigated by washing the grit out of the shoes between runs.
The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG is perfect for runners who are light on their feet, non-heel strikers, generally runners who want the protection and grip without sacrificing the barefoot experience.
Vivobarefoot has created a shoe that for me is the best compromise yet of these seemingly disparate factors of minimal construction vs protection and traction. I would challenge runners to find a better compromise. I highly recommend them!
See more of Nick's work in myactivelifetime.com!
The VivoBarefoot Primus Trail SG is an eco-conscious, vegan running shoe, made from recycled plastic bottles. Built with a vision to have less shoe and less weight, the Primus Trail SG gives more freedom to move as nature intended.
The VivoBarefoot Primus Trail SG is going to revolutionize my running and take me places where I never dreamed of venturing, and places I hadn’t anticipated running. With traction in abundance, it has a rugged barefoot running experience with minimal faff. Just slip them on and off you go. They also have remained cleaner and drier than any other shoe I have tried. I’ve been bitten by the VivoBarefoot bug.
On arrival, it was a nice touch to have an optional 3mm insole if you prefer extra cushioning. Small touches like this give a real sense of understanding of the minimalist runner. These also come with a change of laces like the elasticated mountain release laces that are already laced in on arrival to the regular nylon lace. Already, not just a pair of shoes arrived.
Full neoprene ankle sock
In previous reviews, I’d been aware people noted this sock sometimes rubbed. This was not the case for me. The inbuilt hoop on the ankle heel is incredibly strong and allows the runner to simply slip on the Primus as if it was a sock without undoing the laces. Oh so simple. When running in snow, the ankle sock did keep out any unwanted snow.
Breathable PET recycled mesh
The upper shoe and tongue area are made from breathable recycled mesh and not only proved incredibly breathable but also tough and flexible. Another interesting point to touch on is the mesh allows water freely in. I’ve often believed this is better than trying to repel water from a shoe.
Everything about this plucky pair of trainers is lightweight and breathable, allowing them to dry off in absolutely no time and makes them an utter joy to run in, allowing your foot to dry in what seems like a few strides after full emersions. The outer shoe itself coped very well in dew and damp conditions.
Mountain lace with a quick toggle
I have always been a little concerned about elasticated laces, through a personal preference point of view only. Simply preferring to relace and open the toe box. This, however, is not a problem with the traditional VivoBarefoot design allowing the toes to spread and take on their natural form, the laces were simply to secure the foot. I found they needed to be very loose, used with a very thin sock, or no sock.
The feeling these shoes offered was one of slipping on a sock that just happened to have incredible traction on that sock.
There was something very remarkable about these shoes from the moment I took them out. With tooth-like side treads and aggressive deep lugs on the sole providing some of the most aggressive traction, I have ever had the pleasure to run in. Nothing sticks in these lugs from snow, leaves, ice, slush, loose mud, watery mud, stones, chalk or twigs. This made them incredibly easy to look after.
For someone who is keen on keeping their shoes in good condition ready for other days running tomorrow, this was an absolute godsend. Not only do they completely air dry within half an hour, but they also seemed to repel mud, and believe me, I tried to find their weakness.
It’s like a neat freaks dream to own a shoe like these. I can’t help but wonder why can’t every shoe be so easy to keep clean and be born ready to run again tomorrow.
Stability and grip
It is also worth a mention that the lugs splay out from the sole itself stopping the horizontal movement. This gives incredible stability and grip in some surprising conditions including snow and ice. Unlike some other shoes, I have run in this feature of lugs overlapping the sole of the shoe. They are not a sharp lug design, so for any runners like myself who might clip their own ankle or calf now and again, you don’t end up looking like you’ve been running through brambles after a run.
I tried the Primus Trail SG’s from January to April and they have been my go-to shoe. Eager to find their flaws out on the trails, they took on everything there was to be run in and thrown at them. Snow, not even a slip, not one. Slush, un-waivable precision and traction. Ice, they laugh in the face of it. Mud, how deep can you carry on running in? Steep step sprint training on claggy chalk, they just didn’t falter.
Good to know
- Vivobarefoot introduces the Primus Trail SG, a running shoe that is ideal for “soft ground,” which, in this case, translates to muddy and loose trails. It is a one-of-a-kind, barefoot-type apparel with a water-resistant property. This running shoe is suitable for neutral pronators or those with a medium to high arch.
- The Primus Trail SG prides itself on being 100% vegan-friendly, as the shoe is built using animal-free processes and materials.
- It has a breathable mesh upper that keeps the foot feeling fresh and ventilated. As a water-resistant shoe, it includes quick drain zones that efficiently purge water and discourage moisture retention.
- The shoe has zero cushioning, except for a removable insole, to promote a barefoot and natural running sensation. The outsole is a puncture-resistant layer from a patented synthetic material, which claims to withstand five times more stress than standard soles.
The Primus Trail SG has a standard running shoe length, but available sizes are limited. The forefoot has a broad construction to promote a maximum toe splay, following the concept of barefoot running. The width profiles for both men’s and women’s versions are available in medium.
The outsole of the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG comprises eco-rubber, a no-sew material that is from recycled tires. This rubber equips the sole with high abrasion resistance and superior grip where it is most useful.
Introducing the Pro5 layer, a synthetic, ultra-thin material that aims to combat and resist punctures which could damage the shoe or injure the foot. The Pro5 is five times more puncture-resistant than the common outsole material.
Because it aims for barefoot-style running, the Primus Trail SG has no midsole or any other cushioning layer. Instead, it has a Poliyou® insole to provide comfort to the underfoot. Poliyou® has activated carbon that absorbs odor, keeping the foot dry and bacteria-free. This sock liner is removable and washable without deteriorating the quality.
The upper of the Primus Trail SG consists of 3M™ mesh and laminated synthetic material to promote breathability and maximum comfort.
There is a water-resistant layer that protects the shoe from getting wet. It includes quick-drain zones which effortlessly purge water to keep the foot dry and eliminate distractions during running.
A neoprene ankle collar is present, serving as a snug buffer to prevent debris from entering the shoe while also maintaining the mobility of the runner by delivering ample support.
The shoe uses a speed toggle lacing system for a quick wearing technique that guarantees no slipping, no unraveling, and no interferences while on the go.