vivobarefoot breatho trail – shoe review

With the onset of training for the Berlin Marathon on the horizon, I’d been giving some thought to my choice of footwear. 26.2 miles is (give or take) twice as far as I’d ever run before and I needed to find a suitable shoe – I’ve been running in “minimalist shoes” for almost 2 years but have always reverted to “proper” running shoes for any race over 10k. And almost always regretted it as the normal shoes would feel clumsy and I’d find myself tiring quickly as I forced myself back into a different running style. I felt that I needed something that was the best of both worlds – a zero drop “barefoot” shoe that looked and behaved more like a traditional running shoe without sacrificing the feel of the ground beneath my feet or forcing me to transition back to normal trainers.

And I may just have found it. Vivobarefoot are a well established brand. They created the “barefoot shoe” back in 2003 so know a little bit about engineering a functional running shoe. There is plenty of detail on their website here and I had been impressed by what I had read and heard so was intrigued to see whether the shoes lived up to expectations.

The shoes did not disappoint. They are comfortable straight from the box, they have a removable insole to soften the blow for those transitioning to a zero-drop shoe for the first time (or to insulate the shoe if running in cold conditions – clever, eh!). The lacing has a system of reinforced material leading from the sole to each lace hole ensuring that when the laces are tightened, it pulls the entire shoe snugly around your feet and not just the area where the laces are. The shoes fit incredibly well, are light and roomy enough around the toes to allow you to splay your toes whilst running, exactly like you would if you were barefoot.

I walked around in them for a day or so until the opportunity arose for me to get out and run in them. Ordinarily, I would take it easy on the first run in any new shoe, but these had felt so good whilst walking around, I went straight out and ran 14 kilometres. They performed exceptionally well. As these are designed as “trail shoes” they have quite an aggressive tread pattern and I was concerned that a) this would diminish the feedback from the ground to my feet and b) that if I ran on tarmac, I would feel the tread pattern through the 3mm puncture resistant sole. In both cases, I was proved wrong –  the sole is flexible and responsive giving plenty of “feel” of the ground beneath your feet and affording a good deal of grip on muddy inclines and grassy banks – something which has always been an issue with my current “barefoot” shoes.

When the weekend came around, I went out for a longer run, taking in 18kms of trail, pavement, gravel, grass, mud and puddles. The shoes were great and I had no rubbing, no blisters, no aches and pains from having to get used to a different running style. I have struggled to find a fault with them – the fact that the laces supplied are a little long and need to be tied in a double bow is really the only criticism I can find.

Add to this that they are very reasonably priced (about the same as a regular decent pair of running shoes and about two-thirds the price of some other “barefoot” brands), look great, feel great, are produced sustainably in ethical factories and can be worn without people pointing and staring at the “barefoot weirdo”. They also have a London based Vivobarefoot Running Club which meets every Tuesday to help people better enjoy “barefoot” running. I was genuinely impressed by these shoes and really glad that I took the risk to try them -I would recommend anyone interested in minimalist running to get out and try a pair too.

3 Responses to “vivobarefoot breatho trail – shoe review”

  1. April 26, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Great review Grant. It looks like you’ve definitely found your marathon footwear! I really love mine, though am wary of running in my own pair because they are a little too small, walking out and about is great though. I agree with everything you say about the tread and so on, it doesn’t feel like you are wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes at all. I think you’ve proved that these are pretty much a perfect transition from regular shoe to ‘barefoot’.

  2. April 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for such a great review! I would recommend trying our multi-terrain Evo or Neo – they have a far less aggressive tread, which means less grip but more proprioception – giving you a great barefoot feel.

    Also have you done any races in your VIVOBAREFOOT shoes yet? If so we’d love to add you to our Pinterest Board: http://pinterest.com/vivobarefoot/marathons-triathlons-and-other-races/

    Happy running fro VIVOBAREFOOT


  3. 3 eatingtrees
    April 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for your comments
    Adele – They are great, aren’t they. And you may be right about having found my “Marathon Shoe”
    Jamie – I may take your advice and try the Evo or the Neo… Most of my running is on road / trail and my Marathon training will start soon so perhaps a less aggressive tread is what I need.

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