As a minimal shoe wearer, the release of Vivobarefoot’s new trail shoes was always going to be a big one for me. The Neo Trail, Breatho and Trail Freak, each an improvement on their predecessor, were all great trail shoes but they lacked durability, a secure fit and a proper off-road sole.
The Primus Trail firm (FG) and soft (SG) ground versions seek to overcome the traction issue and their shape is wider and flatter with a slightly thicker sole, yet still uniquely close to the ground. I’ve been wearing both for a year (see my separate review of the SG). The question then is whether they are worthy evolutions of VB’s off-road shoe design.
On the FG, a mix of bonded (rather than stitched) mesh and plastic is used. The base material is mesh, strengthened with plastic fused to the top of the tongue and around the toes and midfoot. This approach keeps weight reasonable while providing what I found to be beneficial protection around the toes and in-step. The laces are very thin (cable-like) and fasten with a toggle, which doesn’t come undone when running, can be easily adjusted and allows quick removal after a run (no knots to deal with). Although this is the same configuration as the SG on which I replaced the laces to gain a comfortable fit (see my review), I found it worked really well on this shoe. The fit is looser at the rear than the SG because of the padded ankle collar and my foot moves around a little internally when running. This doesn’t concern me given that the shoe isn’t designed for shoe-sucking mud.
The rubber sole is more of a cradle than a platform. It extends over the foot on all sides, moreso around the heel and big toe. The lugs are three pronged and each one sits within a hexagon scored within the rubber. Under the heel, additional cylindrical studs sit between the lugs. The sole offers more protection against small stones, rocks and roots than the previous VB off-road sole (used on all previous VB trail models) both under the foot and around the sides and has proved itself to be more durable. It is a worthy evolution.
The shoe provides good traction through decent studs but also thanks to its high level of proprioception (the sole is thin enough to provide good feedback). I am confident running on all surfaces except mud where the studs aren’t deep enough and are too closely spaced to grip well. However, the SG is designed for that sort of terrain. The shallow, tightly spaced studs work well on road and other hard surfaces and the additional studs under the heel provide sufficient surface area to prevent slips and provide some impact resistance.
After one year and 200+ miles on road, grass and hard and soft trail in all seasons, there is some damage to the mesh upper on the inside where the shoe flexes and the bonded mesh on the outside midfoot. This localised wear has no impact on performance. The outer layer of the laces has come loose in places which effects the solidity of the locking toggle and has some impact on performance. The outsole shows very little sign of wear.
Properly functioning minimal shoe suitable for all surfaces except mud. A worthy evolution of VB’s trail offering. Long-term test shows very good durability. 91/100.
Weight – 250g
Midsole – None, so zero drop and no toe spring.
Outsole – Tough rubber with multi-directional lugs. Sole wraps round to form side bumper.
Insole – Standard and removable.
Fitting – Foot shaped with wide toebox. Runs true to size. Works with Correct Toes.
I purchased these shoes.
For other expert reviews on this and other shoes see runrepeat.com