Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Runner Review (Men’s)

By on January 16, 2020

The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Runner, is a minimal shoe designed for trail running, jogging, working out, and what-have-you. I am a big fan of this brand, and if you have yet to venture into the world of minimal footwear/barefoot running, then you might just find that making the switch can improve your performance and health to a huge degree.

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Runner Review

It’s also a shoe that I think looks good, and has some well-thought-out features. It’s not perfect of course though (what is?), so read on to find out if it’s a good fit for you.

Primus Trail FG Runner: The Basics

As a minimal shoe, that means that the Primus Trail FG (which stands for “firm ground,” they also make an SG model) comes with an extremely thin sole, a wide toe box, a near non-existent heel-toe drop, and a very flexible construction. In other words, this thing isn’t about providing cushioning or rebound, and it’s not about guiding your foot through a specific movement; if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll want a more traditional “structured” running shoe.

Rather, the VIvobarefoot Primus Trail FG Runner – like all of Vivobarefoot’s offerings – is a shoe designed to mimic running with no shoes at all. The shoe provides just enough protection to prevent getting stabbed by a sharp stone or glass bottle, but otherwise lets your feet breathe and move naturally.

So, why is this a good thing? Firstly, it means that your feet are better able to contour to the shape of the ground underneath you. This means that you’re less likely to turn your foot and twist an ankle should you step on a branch. This is ideal for trail running, hence the name.

Minimal shoes for training

At the same time, you’ll be able to feel the ground beneath your feet better. This provides you with new sensory input that was otherwise lost to you. This is in turn extremely good for your brain health and plasticity, while also improving your general balance and proprioception.

Then there’s the fact that minimal shoes let you exert more force on the ground via your foot muscles. This is something I’ve discussed before on the YouTube channel and Patreon. Muscles such as the flexor digitorum longus and flexor hallucis longus control movement in our smaller toes and big toe specifically, and allow us to choose precisely where to exert force and how much to apply.

Running with minimal shoes

Running on a conventional shoe is like strapping a breeze block to your foot, rendering it inert, lifeless, and atrophied. Using barefoot shoes can on the otherhand help to correct knee and back issues, while also making you instantly more athletic and explosive.

BUT you do need to ease yourself into it. Jump too quickly into barefoot running and start sprinting around with minimal footwear, and you will risk causing an injury fairly quickly.

Design and Appearance

So that is a general overview of barefoot and minimal training. But what about the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Runner review? What is this shoe like?

I purchased the Trail FG Runner having already bought myself the Vivobarefoot Primus Knit. That shoe was an attractive leather trainer that could be worn every day, and that would look pretty stylish with most outfits. The Primus Knit is still the shoe I wear 90% of the time, and I find it to be extremely comfortable and very versatile. I’ve worn it to tech conferences and meetings, and then taken it straight to the gym. Even after all that time, the soft material and ample space make it feel like I’m wearing slippers and I never feel like I’m in a hurry to take them off (which is borderline miraculous).

Vivobarefoot Primus Knit
The Primus Knit

But the toe box here is very big. And that combined with the lack of grip, means that the Primus Knit is not perfectly suited for running long distances. While it works well in the gym, it could still be better.

Enter: the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Runner review!

This shoe is designed for trail running, and the first difference you’ll notice is the aesthetic. This is a much more rugged and “outdoors-y” looking shoe. It’s also pretty cool in my opinion, and putting these on helps put me in the mood for training. That said, you probably won’t get away with wearing this one to a meeting! This shoe falls firmly into the “cool training gear” category, though it can make a statement when worn outside of your runs.

Vivobarefoot review

There’s also a neat lace-thing going on here; a kind of zip-lock that you can tug down to tighten the laces without tying a knot. It saves time and means you won’t risk your shoe becoming untied during a run, but it also means you have a strange bow sticking up in the air. It’s a nice optional feature though, that you can simply remove if you don’t want.

What takes some getting used to is the tongue, which is oddly hard and can occasionally feel uncomfortable against the bridge of the foot. You kind of forget about it after the first 10 minutes, but it’s a shame as this is otherwise an extremely comfortable fit. Once again, there is plenty of space for wiggling toes in the toe box, and the fit is snug without being tight. There are optional in-soles if you want a little bit more padding, but even without them I have no problem taking them shopping or hiking without tiring.

Where the Primus Trail FG Runner comes into its own though, is as a running shoe.

The shoe is vegan too, which is a nice bonus for many. I’m not vegetarian personally, but I do disagree with a lot of the cruel treatment animals endure to bring us leather. It’s not a prime selling point then, but it does further cement Vivobarefoot as a company I want to support.

Performance as a Running Shoe

Compared with the Primus Knit, the Trail FG Runner feels less minimal. The sole is relatively hard, which is due to the increased grip. This can take a little getting used to. It also feels slightly less well suited to weightlifting as compared with the Knit, which surprised me. You lose just a little bit of that tactile feel, which is a shame.

Where the Primus Trail FG Runner comes into its own though, is as a running shoe. There is a little less excess material at the toe-end compared with the Knit, which means you’re less likely to catch your foot on an out-sticking root or pothole. The added grip is also very welcome when you’re giving it some welly.

Barefoot running

In general, this kind of shoe is perfect for trails, as it allows your foot to mould around the contours of the ground, while simultaneously providing firm-footing via the grippy sole. It also feels extremely light, as you would expect from a shoe that touts its ability to be rolled up and stowed in a bag.

Note that the Primus Trail FG Runner is not waterproof. In fact, it is extremely breathable and porous. But with that said, it is designed to get wet, so you can splash through streams and muddy puddles without a worry. Again, it’s all part of the “back to nature” experience.

Primus Trail Runner FG Review Conclusion

The Primus Trail Runner FG is not a perfect shoe, owing to the slightly uncomfortable tongue and slightly rigid feeling sole that runs counter to the barefoot experience.

But those are relatively minor complaints that you soon forget about. I’m completely sold on the idea of minimal shoes, and I can personally attest to the health benefits they seem to offer. I almost never wear traditional “structured” shoes anymore!

Trail Runner FG Men's Review

While there are MUCH cheaper options out there (which is one of the other drawbacks of the Trail FG), I do love the overall design and performance of these shoes. For that reason, I’m likely to be buying another pair when these run out.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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