Vivobarefoot Primus Lite

Although running shoes are extremely popular, many individuals enjoy the sensation of running barefoot. Many scientific studies have been done observing the numerous effects this practice can have on the body, and it seems to have viable health benefits. For this reason, many manufacturers have begun designing minimalist running shoes, or shoes that emulate the experience of barefoot running as closely as possible. Vivobarefoot is one such manufacturer, and the Primus Lite is one of their lightest and most impressive minimalist running shoes on the market.

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Where to Buy
Where to Buy
Pros & Cons
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Highly breathable
  • Excellent flexibility
  • Very responsive
  • Decent durability
  • Cons
    • Uncomfortable
    • High price
    • Key Features
      A delicate balance needed to be achieved when designing the outsoles for the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite. For an effective minimalist running shoe, the outsole needs to be thin enough to avoid weighing down the foot and accumulating heat. However, in order to be an effective shoe for running on roads or sidewalks, the outsole needs to be resistant to punctures from broken glass or other debris. Fortunately, this delicate balance has been achieved with the implementation of Vivobarefoot’s proprietary PRO5 ultra-thin material.
      Only 3mm of cushioning is provided between your feet and whatever surface you’re running on when wearing these shoes. This is meant to emulate the feeling of barefoot running while still providing a small amount of foot protection. For runners who are acclimated to barefoot running or who are already a fan of minimalist running shoes, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. However, runners who are used to a bit more protection will certainly need to adjust to this drastic shift in terms of design.
      Vivobarefoot’s design of these minimalist shoes emphasizes a lightweight and breathable upper. In order to accomplish this, a very thin fabric has been used for the protected parts of the shoe, with a mesh fabric used for the ventilated portions. On the lateral side near the arch is a nice pocket of mesh that offers a direct source of airflow to this part of the sole, which contributes greatly to the near-barefoot sensation experienced when running in the Primus Lite. The result of this design is something that feels so subtle, it’s almost as if you’re wearing nothing on your feet at all.
      As to be expected from a minimalist running shoe, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lites are very light on your feet, weighing in at around 6 ½ ounces. This can vary by about half an ounce in either direction depending on what size you purchase, but the point remains that these are extraordinarily light shoes. Because of this, these shoes manage to do an excellent job emulating the experience of barefoot running. Other elements of its design certainly contribute to this feeling, but the most important part for accomplishing this feat is offering a very lightweight. One downside to this lack of weight is a distinct lack of cushion or shock absorption, which will likely dissuade runners with more sensitive feet.
      These are some of the most breathable shoes you are going to find for a few reasons. First, the upper portion of the Primus Lite is made mostly of a mesh fabric that provides excellent airflow throughout the foot. While some portions of the upper are covered in a less ventilated fabric, such as along the medial side, even these portions are more breathable due to the thin layering of their construction. The same can be said for the lower portion of these shoes; no insole was added and the midsole is incredibly thin, preventing excessive accumulation of sweat or heat as a result of weight or insulation.

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      The amount of comfort offered by the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite is very slim. This is an unfortunate tradeoff to its incredibly lightweight, and it is the most likely aspect of these shoes’ design that will turn off most prospective customers. Only 3 mm of cushion has been used for the midsole, and there is absolutely no insole to speak of. This means that running in these minimalist shoes will feel virtually indistinguishable from running without any foot covering whatsoever. For many barefoot running enthusiasts, this is a positive and the entire point of owning these shoes. However, for comfort lovers and runners afflicted by sensitive arches, these shoes will only bring you grief.
      Despite being an extreme departure from the standard running shoe design, the initial appearance of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite is similar to these other running shoes. The first thing you may notice upon closer examination that differentiates this product from other offerings is the lack of cushion or heel drop around the midsole. From a bird’s-eye view, however, the upper portion looks remarkably similar to just about any other running shoe, with the exception of a bit more mesh fabric. Only two color options are available, black or white, which may disappoint some customers. However, the two colors are still fairly versatile, and a shrewd dresser can manage to coordinate them with their outfit without too much difficulty.
      As you may expect, the lack of a great deal of material reduces the overall durability of these running shoes. This isn’t necessarily the case, however, if you use them on surfaces they were intended for running on and if you properly maintain them. One of the benefits of this shoe having fewer features than many other running shoes on the market is that with fewer parts used in its construction, fewer things will be broken. You don’t have to worry about wearing down an insole because there is no insole, and you don’t have to worry about losing heel support because there is no heel support. In this sense, the level of durability offered by these shoes is surprising.
      The level of protection offered by these minimalist running shoes is just barely better than the protection your feet would receive while running barefoot. This is an intended feature with these shoes, as they are meant to emulate the experience of barefoot running as closely as possible. A modicum of protection is still present in the midsole, with about 3 mm of cushion. However, there is no insole to provide additional comfort and the upper is paper-thin. For the most part, the only real protection offered by these shoes is protection from cosmetic damage to your feet, such as dirt or mud tracking on your soles. Other than that, you may as well be running without shoes on at all.
      This is perhaps the biggest draw for these running shoes. Thanks to the extremely minimalistic design of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite, running in these will feel more responsive than any other shoe you own. With a lightweight bottom, a highly breathable upper, and a comfortably snug fit, you will feel as though these shoes are simply another layer of skin. This type of running responsiveness is what makes these shoes so appealing to barefoot running enthusiasts, who wish to take advantage of the numerous health benefits this practice entails.
      Don’t expect any support whatsoever when running in these shoes. The only support you will experience with the Primus Lites is the support of your own feet and legs. These shoes are meant to promote a natural stride, with no measures taken to protect your heel or arch while running. It’s true that there is a small amount of cushion placed in these shoes’ wafer-thin midsole. However, no heel drop is present, no insole is included to support your arch, and no additional width has been implemented to protect runners with overpronation. In short, you should look elsewhere if you need a highly supportive shoe.
      One thing that should be made perfectly clear is that these shoes are not meant to handle jagged, inclined, or otherwise uneven terrain. There is simply not enough foot protection or traction to handle any surfaces that aren’t perfectly flat. That said, running on hard and flat surfaces are precisely what the Primus Lites were made for. In an attempt to capitalize on the health benefits of barefoot running, these shoes will have the most significant effect when used on roads, sidewalks, dirt paths, and running tracks. Grass, sand, and soft dirt can be run on while wearing these shoes as well, but the effect of the shoes will be diminished when running on these softer surfaces.
      These minimalist running shoes from Vivobarefoot cost slightly more than the average cost of a high-end pair of running shoes. This may come as a shock to some customers since the amount of material used for the construction of the Primus Lite is significantly smaller than the amount used to make these cheaper shoes. However, the quality of materials used in making these minimalist running shoes and the quality of its proprietary design are the aspects of these shoes that make them worth the price.
      Thanks to the highly advanced PRO5 material used for the construction of these shoes’ outsole, enough traction is present in the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite to facilitate running on hard and flat surfaces. This is made even easier with the lightweight and tight-fitting upper, helping to reduce the total weight and maintain a level of stability that improves energy efficiency with each stride. While the traction present in these shoes isn’t good enough to run on a trail or on an incline, it should be just fine for casual running or road running.
      These shoes are extraordinarily flexible. No obstructive cushioning in the midsole or the insole is present, allowing a significant amount of give while running in the Primus Lite. This is a positive thing for minimalist runners who like to feel the ground under their feet and respond to it as if they were running barefooted. However, for individuals with plantar fasciitis or other painful foot conditions, the lack of rigidity may fail to provide an adequate amount of stability to handle the pain associated with their condition.
      Considering how snugly these shoes fit on your feet, you should expect a high level of stability on the top side. On the bottom, stability is achieved by giving you a clear connection to the ground you are running on, thanks to the very minimal midsole and outsole cushioning. Essentially, if you are wearing these shoes correctly, it should feel as stable as you would feel if you were simply running barefooted. This means that if you require additional support to maintain a stable stride while running, these shoes will not offer that to you and you should consider a different product.
      Following the design trend of other minimalist shoes, there is zero drop present in the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite’s midsole. This is meant to imitate the sensation of barefoot running, which obviously doesn’t entail elevating the heels while running. This is a style of shoe that emphasizes forefoot striking since the amount of heel protection is significantly lessened. However, some runners don’t see the extra heel impact from running as a bad thing and believe that it can carry positive health benefits. For these reasons, runners interested in a more intimate running experience can get quite a lot out of these minimalist running shoes.
      Key Features

      • PRO5 ultra-thin outsole

      • Mostly mesh fabric upper portion

      • No insole

      • 3 mm midsole

      • Zero heel drop

      • Protection from minor road hazards

      Bottom Line
      For individuals who are already familiar with the concept of barefoot running, you should know exactly what you get with these shoes and whether or not they are right for you. For those who are unaware of this practice, there’s an incredibly easy way to determine whether these shoes are a good choice. If you can run on your bare feet on a hard, flat surface for several minutes at a time without feeling unbearable pain, then you won’t have a problem with the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite. For everyone else, a better pick would be something with a bit extra cushion and maybe some heel drop.
      Where to Buy
      By Mike Valverde
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 26. 2021

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