The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG walking shoe comes from a long line of barefoot-style footwear, all with the ethos of feeling the ground beneath your feet – everyday mindfulness in some ways. The brand has a strong environmental and ethical background, with the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG being highlighted as vegan, free from animal products, and being made partly from recycled materials, such as post-consumer plastic waste and algae biomass. There are recycling programmes set up to process old, worn out Vivobarefoot shoes, so they don’t just go to landfill, too.
We've tested out a few footwear options from this brand, and always been impressed – head to our Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC review and Vivobarefoot Tracker II review to find out more. That said, Vivobarefoot's ultra-minimalist style does bring with it some limitations when it comes to truly rough, outdoorsy activities. So how do the Primus Trail II FG’s stack up in the real world? Are they worth considering amongst today's best walking shoes for men or walking shoes for women? Read on for our full Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG walking shoe review.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG review: design and build
The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG shoe might look innocuous to the casual glance, but there's a multitude of ingenuity concealed in this design. Most notably in the recycled materials stakes, a welcome game-changer. The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG wears its vegan status proudly, and in particular the insole has a lot to say for itself, being made entirely from a high performance foam dubbed ‘bloom’, made from algae (it's the same stuff you'll find in the this brand's ingenious water shoe, the Vivobarefoot Ultra Bloom II).
The distinctive texture and multi-colour material is apparently made from harmful algal blooms, not only cleaning up the area it is harvested, but also being an alternative to synthetic and petrochemical EVA foam. The outer sole unit is super-supple, to the point it can be rolled up with relative ease – great for travel, and great for the ‘ground feel’ ethos of the brand.
A reinforced plastic rib forms a triangle on either side of the foot, which provides a solid anchor point for the laces, and flows around into a smaller triangle at the heel, creating stiffness but with minimal weight.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Review: comfort and performance
The wide and low-profile design means the shoe is immediately comfortable on the foot, giving lots of space in the toe box and forefoot for tired toes to spread out. The lacing system relies on the ribs to pull tight, and that’s a system that works well, alongside the locking slider mechanism to tighten the lacing down. The slider does ‘stick’ sometimes, but does free up with use - either through wear or user practice.
The comfort rating is really very high in most casual situations, due to the combination of the plush insole and flexibility of the outer. Like a favourite pair of slippers, these feel effortlessly comfortable on the flat. The sole combination does indeed allow you to feel the ground beneath your toes, which is a fantastic thing in many situations. Grass, soft woodland loam and gravel paths are the natural environment for the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG, and they’re a pleasure to wear in these environments. The 2.5mm base, textured arch and 4mm lug height offer a good combination of grip and flexibility, while still providing protection from small rocks, twigs and the like.
Harder surfaces such as pavements and city streets are not uncomfortable, there’s enough protection to walk unimpeded, although heel-strikes can become slightly jarring at speed. As with a barefoot running shoe, modifying your stride is important in some situations, but not at normal walking pace.
However, the amount of flex on offer here does pose a bit of a challenge when a stable platform is needed. Even on steep grassy slopes there’s no chance of seriously digging in, it’s all about working with the terrain rather than fighting it – fine in everyday situations, but potentially concerning on steeper, more exposed terrain.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Review: verdict
The environmental credentials on offer here are impressive, and the ‘bloom’ insole material is surprisingly compelling in itself, all of which we welcome. The level of comfort on offer – especially considering the low-profile nature of the design – is also impressive, and makes the shoe comfortable enough for long days. Indeed, it’s very easy to forget you’re wearing them at all, so flexible and slipper-like are they.
The downside of that flexibility is that in trickier terrain it’s all down to you to avoid slips and slides, rather than being able to rely on the protection of your footwear. That said, there is certainly an argument that wearing boots in challenging terrain is a better plan all round.
Overall, the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG is a great shoe for casual rambles and around town, or in other words, a trail shoe for the environmentally conscious. A combination that will suit many right down to the ground…