Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG
Since 2019, I’ve had a love affair with Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG shoes. My first pair were the original iteration. I put in over 500 miles of rough hiking across varying terrain and conditions wearing those shoes.
When it came time to replace them, I picked up a pair of Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FGs — the second iteration. To date, I’ve put in more than 200 miles in the new pair and they’ve impressed me as much as their predecessors.
Read on to hear my thoughts after more than two years and hundreds of miles with my Primus Trail FG shoes!
- Super comfy
- Wide toe box
- High level of sensory feedback
- Soles wear down faster than expected if used primarily on concrete or tarmac
- Takes some time for your feet to get used to barefoot shoes
- Price is a little steep
- The style of these shoes isn’t for everyone
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Overview
Vivobarefoot specialise in barefoot shoes. The Primus Trail II FG is their flagship trail runner. It features a wide toe box and ultra-thin sole. These allow your toes to splay and flex naturally as you move. They also deliver excellent sensory feedback and are super stable, even on tough trails.
The upper is almost entirely mesh with some reinforcement around the toes and sides. The reinforcing panels are mostly bonded to the mesh but some areas of high wear feature stitching too.
The upper isn’t waterproof and the shoes wet out fast in bad weather. However, it’s super breathable and perfect for keeping your feet cool in the summer. Plus, they dry out fast!
As for laces, the Primus Trail II FGs feature a quick lace system. It’s easy to use and keeps the shoes secured to your feet far more effectively than traditional laces.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG — In-Depth Review
The first thing I noticed with my Primus Trails was their lightweight design.
They clock in at 285g per shoe which is extremely lightweight when compared to the 500g of average everyday shoes.
What I didn’t know at the time is that 285g is on the heavy side for barefoot shoes.
Xero Shoes Mesa Trails clock in at 215g each!
But when compared to other trail runners, the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II is on the lighter end of the spectrum.
Altra’s Lone Peak 5 — one of the most popular trail running shoes — weighs 305g per shoe.
It’s not a huge difference but enough to notice at the end of a long day hiking!
Vivobarefoot’s Primus Trail II FG features the “Firm Ground” sole and tread pattern. The 3mm lugs are equally spaced across the sole to deliver consistent and reliable traction in varying trail conditions.
I’ve used the shoes on rocky ascents, muddy coastal paths, root covered forests and even snow and ice. I’ve also used them along miles of road walking.
Only twice have I struggled for traction. The first was while crossing a frozen river — and let’s face it, any shoes will struggle for traction on perfectly smooth ice! The second was while descending a wind-blasted trail in the pouring rain.
So much mud collected on the bottom of the shoes, the tread pattern all but disappeared. These scenarios are both extreme cases. The shoes never failed to find purchase in more normal conditions.
If you plan on tackling a lot of snow, ice or extreme mud, Vivobarefoot produce a range of shoes with the SG (Soft Ground) sole. These have a deeper, more aggressive tread pattern that bites into soft ground more effectively.
Barefoot shoes can take some getting used to. After years of wearing built up, supportive footwear, most of us have lost muscle mass and flexibility in our feet.
This doesn’t just return overnight. It can take years of wearing barefoot shoes for your feet to return to a more natural state.
If you dive straight into wearing barefoot shoes all day, you’ll suffer. Your feet just aren’t ready for it. You need to build up slowly, wearing the shoes for an hour or two at a time.
It’s common to feel sore and achy after the first few times wearing them. But don’t let this put you off. The long term benefits of increasing the strength in your feet are well worth a few hours of discomfort.
That said, when your feet are ready, Vivobarefoot’s Primus Trail II FGs deliver an incredible level of comfort.
The sensory feedback from the ground means your foot strikes are softer and more thought through, there’s no cushioning to protect you, your feet need to do the work.
Likewise, the wide toe box provides plenty of room for your toes to splay out. Your feet won’t feel constricted or compressed in these shoes. The flexible upper allows plenty of airflow and doesn’t put too much pressure on the top of your feet.
At the same time though, the shoes feel secure. It’s very easy to forget you’re wearing shoes at all — which is a very good sign.
Let’s face it, a pair of lightweight trail runners will never be as durable as rugged hiking boots.
However, the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FGs hold their own when compared to other trail runners. After 500 miles of hiking on pretty extreme terrain, my first pair of Primus Trails were blown out. The sole was worn down, the upper was torn and the laces had seen better days.
But that was 500 miles of rocky mountain trails, river crossings and more bogs than I care to remember.
The reinforced panels on the upper are bonded to reduce stress to the mesh. They’re only stitched in areas of high wear for extreme protection.
Due to the barefoot design, there’s no cushioning in the midsole to compress and wear away. This means you’ve got one less part of the shoe to fail.
The outsole is only 7mm thick which initially made me question its durability and even safety in certain situations. But due to its puncture and abrasion resistance, the sole is reportedly 5 times more durable than a standard rubber outsole.
While I can’t confirm whether it’s exactly 5 times more durable, I can say that the soles are hard wearing and last much longer than I initially expected!
The only part of the shoe that let me down was the lace eyelets. These were the first things to fail and I still got more than 100 trail miles out of the shoes after they started snapping.
It’s also worth noting that if you use the shoes predominantly on concrete or tarmac, the sole wears out much faster.
As previously mentioned, the thin sole is abrasion and puncture resistant. It will protect you from sharp objects but the lack of cushioning and support can be a problem for some.
If you’re not used to barefoot shoes or haven’t given your feet enough time to adjust, the thin sole will do little to protect your arches and tendons — plantar fasciitis is a real risk if you’re not properly prepared for barefoot shoes!
The upper features a protective toe cap over the big toe. It won’t protect you against falling objects but does a good job at saving your toes from kicking stones or rocks on the trail. There’s also a thinner bonded patch over the rest of your toes.
This offers a small amount of protection but don’t rely on it. Its primary job is to protect the upper from cuts or tears.
There’s very little else by way of protection in these shoes. They have no weatherproofing which means they’re not suitable for the colder months. Vivobarefoot produce an All-Weather version of the shoe which is much better for use in the winter.
If you can’t afford both a summer and winter pair of barefoot shoes, or just don’t want to spend the extra money, I suggest pairing the Primus Trail II FG with a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks.
They keep your feet dry and provide a ton of insulation. If it’s really cold, you can wear thin socks inside the Sealskinz too!
As minimalist barefoot shoes, the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FGs offer very little traditional support.
There’s no arch support, no cushioning and very little ankle support. Instead, they promote your tendons and muscles to do the work. It’s tiring to start with but you’ll notice a positive difference in the long run.
Your ankles, knees, hips and even back can all be strengthened by wearing barefoot shoes!
The lack of support means traversing rough terrain, or battling bad conditions should be avoided until you’re confident your feet are up to the task.
Thanks to their wide toe box and excellent sensory feedback, the Primus Trail II’s feel super stable.
They allow your toes to splay and flex naturally which increases balance compared to more restrictive shoes.
The Vivobarefoot shoes are also zero drop— meaning there’s no difference in height between your heel and toes while wearing the shoes.
This ensures your foot placement is as solid as possible.
The low stack height means you always feel well connected to the ground and reduces the chance of rolling an ankle while walking or running.
Fit and Sizing
Vivobarefoot shoes fit big deliberately. They’re built to allow your toes to splay as you walk.
They also provide enough room for your feet to expand throughout the day. The more walking you do, the more your feet will expand. Some long-distance hikers will experience their feet changing by more than 1.5 sizes between morning and night!
Vivobarefoot have an excellent Vivobarefoot sizing guide on their website. It gives exact instructions on measuring your feet and choosing the correct size.
However, if you don’t have time to go through the rigmarole, the best advice is to order Vivo shoes in your normal size. Go up one size if you’re ordering boots.
Final Thoughts On Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG shoes changed the way I hike. The improved ground feel, increased flexibility and incredible breathability combine to create the most comfortable long-distance hiking shoes I’ve experienced.
Not only are they comfortable and super stable but they’ve also allowed me to dramatically increase the strength in my feet. In turn, this has allowed me to walk further, to carry more and be less prone to injury.
If you’ve not tried barefoot shoes before, don’t dive straight in. Start slowly and work up to doing big miles. I have met countless hikers who tried to walk a 15-mile day in barefoot shoes without having ever worn them before. After just a few miles, they hate the experience and at the end of the day, they either give up or buy more shoes!
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