Let’s be honest, barefoot shoes aren’t really the most stylish option on the market.
In fact, my perception put them in line with flip flops.
In terms of versatility and wearability they just weren’t that practical.
That is until I found Vivobarefoot.
I was caught off guard with how modern their shoes were.
After I heard all the claimed benefits, I knew I had to put them to the test myself.
Do barefoot shoes make a difference, and can they be stylish?
Let’s find out.
In this comprehensive review, I will delve into the science & my experience of barefoot benefits, as well as critique the product under the following terms: style & design, quality & craftsmanship, comfort & durability, shoe sizing, price to performance, and conclude with my purchase recommendation.
First off, what even makes the Primus Lite ‘barefoot’? Well, a barefoot shoe is a shoe that provides your feet with sensory feedback and gives your toes with room to spread out naturally. This is achieved by using thinner, more flexible soles and a wider toe box.
A barefoot shoe is very much foot shaped. Until now, I haven’t considered that feet are shaped very differently than shoes. This is part of what makes barefoot shoes as close to the real thing as possible.
What is different about Vivobarefoot?
You have probably seen or heard about barefoot shoes. So why Vivobarefoot? First off, what makes Vivobarefoot special is that health and sustainability are the biggest foundations of their brand. They believe that the health of people is directly related to the health of our planet.
“The closer people are to nature, the more likely they will work to protect it” –Vivobarefoot
Vivobarefoot is also a big step up in style from previously seen versions of “barefoot shoes,” you know the ones with separate sections for each toe? Yeah, in my opinion those are less practical than flip flops. Apologies to anyone who uses those, I just cannot see myself pulling them off.
Vivobarefoot’s factories are currently in the process of moving their main production from China to Vietnam. They have offices in Ethiopia and Portugal in addition to this. Ethiopia is where they source most of their leather, coming from free roaming cattle reared by families in & around Ethiopia.
Vivobarefoot has physical locations all across Europe, although they have none currently in the US.
To start off, this is one aspect that most people do not consider when thinking of sustainability: How much material is actually used when producing the product.
Now it is apparent that barefoot shoes have very thin soles, this is integral to allowing sensory feedback to the brain, hence the name “barefoot”. The Vivobarefoot signature 3mm sole is featured in the Primus Lite.
To keep this thin sole practical, they have designed it to be 5x more puncture resistant than a standard sole. They also focus on durability and longevity as that is very important for sustainability. Shoes that don’t hold up have to be replaced more often, defeating the purpose of sustainability.
Fun fact: I actually stepped on a nail while wearing my Vivobarefoot Primus Lite, and the sensory feedback allowed me to react quick enough to avoid a trip to the doctor.
Aside from using less material to create their shoes, Vivobarefoot has incorporated a large portion of their manufacturing with recycled materials. They source recycled PET plastic to create their eco-suede, eco-mesh and eco-canvas materials. Their goal is to be using 90% sustainable materials by 2020, including natural, recycled and bio-based materials.
Side Note: Vivobarefoot offers another eco-friendly option that repurposes toxic algae blooms that are harmful to humans, animals, and the ecosystems in which they reside.
These sustainability facts are pretty neat, but how about their leather? Well, I touched on this earlier, but allow me to elaborate: Vivobarefoot sources its leather from free-roaming cattle reared by small-scale, independent farmers in Africa. All of these leathers are by-products of the meat industry, sustainably tanned to minimize chemical use.
The Science & Research
To set the stage for barefoot science, the natural foot, seen in un-shod people and infants will have toes spread out wide with ample space in-between. A shoe wearer may commonly have a compromised foot shape, displaying tightly packed toes from prolonged shoe wearing.
Compromised feet, shaped by modern shoes, are linked to problems such as poor arches, unskillful movement, weak knees, and bad posture.
How do modern shoes affect your knees you may ask? Well, your arches act akin to springs, when unloaded they provide arch support. When your arches are loaded, they provide elastic recoil.
Take this for example, when you are running, your body needs to absorb up to 2x your body weight in shock. Your ankles and arches are naturally designed to take 52% of this shock, take this away with the design of modern shoes, and your knees and hips are left to do the work.
It also turns out that the part of the brain that gets information from the feet, is the same part that gets information from the hands. Feet feedback is very important for developing skillful movement to fit your environment.
For more individual studies done on barefoot shoes to back their claims, check out the resources below.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Review
As you can see Vivobarefoot sure has a lot going for it, but are their shoes on par with their radical mission? Let’s see how Vivobarefoot’s Primus Lite performs under these five categories:
- Style & Design
- Quality & Craftsmanship
- Comfort & Durability
- Shoe Sizing
- Price to Performance
Style & Design
As previously mentioned, Vivobarefoot offers barefoot shoes that I actually can see myself wearing. The shoe expresses a modern, minimalist aesthetic perfectly in style, and in the brand. There isn’t anything that stands out in the design. This is exactly what I want in a pair of casual shoes, and I am sure most people are on that boat with me.
I would go as far to say most people wouldn’t bat an eye at these shoes in passing. I never used to notice this type of barefoot shoe while walking around town enjoying some good ole’ people watching. Now that I have a pair I see them constantly, and it is almost like a secret club that you only enter when you own them.
On the occasion that I encounter someone with a pair, they point out mine saying “Are those Vivos?.. Nice.” and now that I joined the club I look at traditional shoes in a very different light.
Barefoot shoes allow for spreading of the toes while walking, making the toe box wider than a traditional shoe. I am not sure exactly what it is, but these shoes have some sort of optical illusion that slims the wider toe box to the eye. It must be the use of textures, and shapes in the toe box that draw your eye to specific parts of the shoe.
The illusion is present when looking at the shoes from an angle, although the magic fades with a top down view showing the reality of a wider toe box (photo above for top-down view). Still, I am very impressed with the design team for pulling this off, it is a feet in of itself…Haha, okay that was bad.
Quality & Craftsmanship
Fun Fact: This is actually my first pair of white shoes, I am not sure why I didn’t get one sooner!
The overall quality of the shoe is about what I would expect for the price point. It doesn’t really hit any competition out of the water at $140. The shoe uses a mixture of glued and stitched construction, which is what most brands use at this price.
I will point out that Vivobarefoot has a different product mission than building the best shoe, just look to their use of sustainable materials or other mission objectives. Free range leather, recycled PET plastic, and algae blooms are all converted into materials for the Vivobarefoot line-up.
Quality Control (QC) Check
No loose threads, check. Comfortable shoe inserts, check. Sturdy and flexible material, check. I will point out that these shoes are primarily mesh, and if you order a white pair like I did, they will absorb dirt and grime pretty fast.
Not to mention, these shoes are partially glued in construction, so this also means that you cannot put them through the wash or soak them to be completely wet. To clean them, it is a meticulous process involving a soapy water rag and a dry rag.
- Extremely lightweight
- Foldable to pack in small spaces
- 3mm sole for maximum sensory feedback
- Recycled PET plastic for yarn mesh
- Algae bloom insole
Comfort & Durability
Running and working out in these shoes is a dream, I cannot imagine using any other shoe for these purposes again. Man, these are comfortable. I just do not want to wear anything else. Those are my first thoughts, but here is my detailed explanation:
When I ordered these shoes, they came with shipping in about 5 days. Well, within that time frame I managed to become involved in a somewhat major accident. I couldn’t walk for very long periods of time, and I was in a good amount of pain.
When I wore my Primus Lite, I found that I could walk for triple the time that I could in any of my other shoes. I thought it was strange, considering traditional shoes have more cushion from the ground. Although, I guess shoe comfort is a little more complex than I originally thought. To sum it up, barefoot shoes provide me with the most comfort I have had from a shoe, period.
I found my foot to fit perfectly in a size 10. For reference, I am a 9.5 in dress shoes and a 10.5 in popular branded sneakers. Vivobarefoot offers sizing from US 7 to US 15 in mens, and US 5.5 to US 11.5 for women. They also offer Junior, Kids & Toddler sizing as well.
Price to Performance
So far they have shown to provide great value for the price. Although, as with all things, over time I will get an even clearer picture of their value.
Part of their sustainability mission is durability and longevity, so as long as that holds true, I would count the price to performance as an absolute win. In addition to their website, Vivobarefoot is also available on Amazon.
Is Vivobarefoot Better?
As much as I love my Hoyt double monks from Beckett Simonon or my President Thursday Boots, it is always hard to switch back to traditional shoes after my weekend with my Primus Lite. Having had a few weekends with them, I believe Vivobarefoot provides tremendous value for the brain & body.
Still, despite my repeated praise, they by no means replace traditional styled shoes in a man’s wardrobe. I do not see myself purchasing exclusively barefoot shoes, however I do see myself purchasing many more pairs from Vivobarefoot in the years to come.
So all in all they are better for certain circumstances, and not better for others. I will let you decide where that line is after you try them out for yourself.
Vivobarefoot Pros & Cons
- 100 day trial of shoes
- Numerous health benefits
- Comfort for days
- Sensory feedback
- Sustainable practices
- Attractive, modern styles offered
- White mesh is hard to clean
- Shoes are best suited for casual use
- Slight adjustment walking barefoot
Conclusion: Should You Go Barefoot?
Ultimately, yes. I wear these shoes every second that I have the chance. Traditional shoe construction provides negligible feedback to the brain, and after wearing barefoot, my feet feel constricted in traditional shoe designs. After you adjust to walking with barefoot shoes, your feet don’t want to go back.
To reiterate, I am not saying that barefoot shoes replace any other shoes. As a matter of fact, I think they are well suited for a casual outing/event, but not practical for some situations and scenarios. They do have many styles available, although in my opinion the nature of the barefoot shoes would only allow up to a smart casual look if paired correctly.
Summing it up, I decided to purchase a pair for my wife & daughter, and my daughter chooses to wear them 90% of the time. So, if that isn’t a glowing recommendation, I am not sure what is. Check ’em out here to go barefoot. Still not convinced? Well, they have a 100 day hassle free trial period for every purchase, so you can still return them if they aren’t right for you.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, or physician, this review is based solely on my experience. If you have foot issues and have questions about barefoot shoes, consult your care provider beforehand.
This review is not sponsored, and I wasn’t told to say anything positive or negative about Vivobarefoot — I purchased this pair to provide an in-depth honest review. Gentleman Within holds all control over editorial content.
After getting married and having a child, Chris’ life was put in perspective. He learned that if he wanted to become the person he wanted to be, he needed to continually improve. From self development, he entered the realm of men’s fashion and found that improving his style gives him the confidence he needs to be his best self.
What are your thoughts on barefoot shoes?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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