Fits Correct ToesNatural Foot ShapedRoadZero-drop

Altra Vanish-R

This is the Altra shoe I’d been waiting for. Zero-drop, foot-shaped but also thin-soled (14mm) and with an incredibly minimal upper. There was a real buzz on the web about this shoe for these reasons, but there were many out-of-the-box disappointed posts and reviews (not foot-shaped enough, cheap materials, too small). I’ve now put 90 miles on them including a 20-mile long run, two 10-mile marathon pace efforts and plenty of easy running and I’m smitten. Here’s why:

Fits Correct ToesInov8Mixed TerrainTrail

Inov8 Trailtalon 235 women’s

The Trailtalon 235 is Inov8’s current most minimal shoe, with a 4mm drop, similar to the much-loved – but no longer available – Trailroc 236 and 245. Happily, it’s a worthy replacement, comparable in fit and feel, and with a sole that’s as surefooted on trails as its predecessor but fine for stretches of road too (as I discovered when I got horribly lost in my first outing in these).

Upper:

The upper combines a breathable mesh-like material with welded plastic around the front and midfoot, which adds structure (and protection around the toes) without heaviness. The heel cup is firm, thanks to an external heel cage – a feature I really like in a minimal shoe, which can otherwise feel flabby – while the ankle collar is lightly padded and the tongue gusseted to help keep out debris.

AltraFits Correct ToesNatural Foot ShapedTrailZero-drop

Altra Superior 1.5

The most recent incarnation of the Superior – the 3 – is a very different beast from this one, the 1.5, and in my mind, no match. What’s so good about this earlier model? I explain below..

When Altra first launched their Superior trail shoe, nearly all their shoe models boasted a wide toebox, a zero-drop sole and were both lightly cushioned and flexible. Since then, their range has moved towards bulkier, stiffer midsoles, which in my opinion is a shame (though it’s great to see they’ve maintained a 100% zero-drop stable and kept the roomy toebox).

Fits Correct ToesInov8Mixed TerrainTrail

Inov8 Trailtalon 235

The Trailtalon 235 is Inov8’s current most minimal shoe. It is a suitable replacement for those who loved the Trailroc 235 or 245 and the Terraclaw 220. It differs from those shoes because the sole is trail (rather than all-terrain) specific, but, if you accept that it’s a great all-rounder for off and on-road.

Upper:

Mesh with welded plastic around the toes and across the midfoot, which has proved to be particularly resilient. The ankle collar is lightly padded and the tongue is gusseted.

Fits Correct ToesInov8Natural Foot ShapedTrail

Inov8 Terraclaw 220

The Terraclaw replaced the much-loved Trailroc. It has now been discontinued too (Inov8 has brought out a new Trailroc, which looks very different and isn’t as light) so I urge you to buy this shoe while you can. I’m now on my second pair (with a third on order) so I can offer a long-term perspective.

Upper:

Mesh is fused with plastic overlays around the toebox and across the midfoot, which has proved to be particularly resilient. The shoe looks distinctive due to the ‘X-lock’, a cross of plastic over the toebox, and its off-set lacing (diagonally aligned towards the instep). The ankle collar and tongue are lightly padded.

Fits Correct ToesNatural Foot ShapedTrailVivobarefootZero-drop

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG

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.

Upper:

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.

Sole:

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.

Wear and Tear:

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.

___

 

VERDICT:

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.

Stats:

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.

Source:

I purchased these shoes.

Runrepeat:

For other expert reviews on this and other shoes see runrepeat.com

___

Fits Correct ToesNatural Foot ShapedTrailVivobarefootZero-drop

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG

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 FG). The question then is whether they are worthy evolutions of VB’s off-road shoe design.

Upper:

A mix of mesh bonded (rather than stitched) to plastic and rubber. Plastic is used around the toes and ecorubber for the midfoot with, on the SG, a stretchy ankle collar and integrated tongue.

The use of rubber and plastic to strengthen the mesh around the toebox works well and is durable. The rubber around the midfoot creates a secure fit and my foot does not slip around even when running through marsh and across slopes. The stretchy sock-like ankle collar is comfortable and secure and holds the shoe on through deep mud. If I sound surprised, it’s because during my first few runs, I found that the lightness of the upper was at odds with the weight of the sole and I had doubts about their abilities. This was exacerbated by the thin laces which extended too far towards the front of the foot for me and dug in when my foot flexed. I had to cut out the integrated laces and replace with normal laces, missing out the lowest lace loop on the outside and the second to last loop on the inside. This makes the shoe really comfortable for me and I’ve come to trust it more and more. It’s unusual for a shoe of this type to need ‘wearing in’ but it’s true of this shoe for me and a comment I have seen in another review.

Sole:

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 face in opposing directions on the front and rear halves of the sole so that their open ‘V’ always faces towards the middle. Combined with variation in their size this provides great grip uphill, downhill and when contouring, comparable to off-road shoes by Inov8. This gives me confidence running on mud and uneven soft ground, including tussocks. In these tough running conditions no other shoe I’ve tried provides this level of proprioception (the sole is thin enough to provide good feedback) and proximity to the ground.

Unsurprisingly, the shoe is less useful on road and hard trail, as the lugs provide limited surface contact. On this type of terrain I find the shoe uncomfortable and the heaviness of the sole detrimental to running efficiency but, so what, VB provides the firm ground (FG) version for these runs (see my review).

Wear and Tear:

After one year and 100+ miles on grass and soft trail in all seasons, there is some damage to the mesh upper on the inside where the shoe flexes. This localised wear has no impact on performance.

___

VERDICT:

A genuine minimal shoe that works best in wet or muddy off-road conditions. It provides unrivalled proprioception but the sole is heavier than ideal. Long-term test shows good durability. 88/100.

Stats:

Weight – 250g
Midsole – None, so zero drop and no toe spring.
Outsole – Tough rubber with two-pronged lugs. Sole wraps round to form bumper.
Insole – standard and removable.
Fitting – Foot shaped with wide toebox. Runs true to size. Works with Correct Toes.

Source:

I purchased these shoes.

Runrepeat:

For other expert reviews on this and other shoes see runrepeat.com

___