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Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Review

Whether you're looking for a minimalist travel shoe or are just starting to dabble in barefoot running and walking, check out the VIvobarefoot Primus Lite III.

Skylar Renslow
Skylar Renslow
7 min read
vivobarefoot primus lite III
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

Summary


If you're new or looking to get into minimalist or barefoot shoes, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III are some of the best around. They also double as fantastic travel shoes that pack away easily.


Pros Cons
Extremely lightweight Not great in the rain
As close to barefoot walking or running as you can get Takes time to get used to walking/running (but true for every barefoot shoe)
Can pack away super easily Shoelaces tend to get untied easily
Looks pretty good, they can pass for an everyday shoe Pretty expensive

Buy if…

  • You're either intrigued by the minimalist or barefoot shoes or are already looking for your next pair.
  • You prioritize minimalist packing and are looking for a shoe that can do it all.

Don't buy if…

  • You don't care about barefoot shoes.
  • You are overly concerned about fashion or style.

I should start by saying that the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III was my first foray into barefoot shoes. I've known about the concept for a while now, but for whatever reason, I never entirely took the plunge to get my own pair. Historically, barefoot shoes haven't really had the same aesthetic appeal as everyday shoes. Even nowadays, a lot of them tend to look…well, weird. But if you look hard enough, there are a few brands out there that are making some decent-looking, high-quality barefoot shoes. Enter the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III.

If you're not familiar with the idea of barefoot or minimalist shoe movement, the goal is to get back to walking in an anatomically correct way. Instead of all the cushion, arch support, and padding that comes with traditional footwear, minimalist shoes force you to strengthen the muscles in your feet and your lower body to correct your walking/running posture.

To be considered barefoot or minimalist shoes, typically, the shoes will have:

  • zero drop
  • minimal to no arch support
  • flexibility in the entire shoe
  • a wide toe box

To be honest, there isn't a TON of data that supports the benefits of minimalist shoes. Much of the evidence is anecdotal at the moment, but the data is growing, and it seems to be positive. Personally, I've been dealing with some chronic ankle pain, so barefoot shoes were a mitigation strategy for me. Not to mention the added benefit of my incessant quest for ultralight minimalist packing for my travels!

And now, back to the review…

Vivobarefoot

Vivobarefoot was started back in 2012 by two seventh-generation cobblers with an idea – barefoot footwear is sustainable footwear:

The closer people are to nature, the more they will protect it.

The natural world is the only real model of sustainability.

Barefoot shoes are the only shoes that are healthy for us and the planet.https://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/about-us-vivo

I tend to appreciate companies with a strong perspective on how they want to approach life. Vivobarefoot is definitely one of them.

They also use recycled materials in their minimalist shoes whenever possible, furthering their commitment to the natural world. Maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid a bit, but it definitely seems Vivobarefoot legitimately cares about how and what they produce.

First Impressions

Right out of the box, these things were light as hell. There isn't a ton of material, and a good chunk of the top is mesh. The sole is extremely thin and very flat, pretty much what you'd expect in a barefoot shoe.

Fit

The fit is pretty standard; you don't need to worry about sizing up or down. For reference, I wear a 12 in Nike, and the 12 with Vivobarefoot fits perfectly.

If you're new to barefoot shoes, the wide toe box might catch you by surprise. The goal of the wide toe box is to let your toes spread out while you're walking instead of cramming them together like in traditional shoes. Because of this, you might feel a ton of extra room near your toes, which is totally normal!

Performance

After a few weeks of wear, the Primus Lite III has taken quite the beating and so far, you wouldn't even notice:

vivobarefoot, barefoot shoes
A few scuff marks, but not too bad

If you're new to running in barefoot shoes, running in these will be quite the experience. Since there isn't any padding, running might feel a little intense and or painful. It comes down to differences between heel striking and forefoot running. Minimalist and barefoot shoes want you to run on your forefoot to utilize the full shock-absorbing mechanics of the ankle. If you're a heel striker, this can take some time to learn. So be sure to ease your way into running with barefoot shoes to prevent injury.

Rain and cold weather are the two biggest problem areas for these shoes. Since the upper is predominantly mesh, water will just go right through them. In anything more than a drizzle, you can expect your feet to get a little soggy. But on the plus side, the mesh doesn't feel quite as weird as the Allbird mesh when it's wet. And it seems like it'll dry faster.

The same goes for cold weather; since the fabric is mesh, there's not a ton of insulation to keep your feet warm. So, if you plan on wearing them for casual uses in the winter, I'd recommend a nice, thick pair of socks.

Style

This might be a bit of a contentious point for some. I went with the white pair because I like the look of white trainers with jeans or shorts. Online, they looked like they could either look good enough or look a little too odd to wear casually. I was eager to get my hands on them.

In-person, they actually look much better than expected! I could easily swap these for my Allbirds, and you probably wouldn't really notice. I even got multiple compliments from strangers randomly walking around the city, which I don't think has ever happened before. I don't think they look THAT good, so it was pretty weird.

vivobarefoot vs. allbirds, minimalist shoes
Allbirds (left), Primus Lite III (right)

Though my girlfriend did say they look like hospital shoes, I'm still unsure what that means.

At the end of the day, it's probably a personal preference. For me, they did the job.

For Travel

And finally, my favorite category. Right away, I think Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is one of the best shoes for travel you're going to find, especially for minimalist and ultralight travel.

They are comparable to the Allbirds, another pair of my favorite shoes, but these are more functional. They do everything the Allbirds can do but add the ability to run/excercise in them. And the build quality is a bit better, so my hunch is that they'll last a bit longer than the tree skippers as well.

They also pack down incredibly well. Since the sole is extremely flexible, you won't have any issues finding space for them in any backpack or bag.

Verdict

All around, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is one of the best barefoot shoes you're going to get. The build quality is excellent; they look good enough for everyday wear and pack away like a champion. They aren't the cheapest shoes in the world, but you'll get your money's worth without a problem.

So, if you're into barefoot shoes and/or minimalist packing, I would absolutely give these shoes a shot. If you're intrigued or just dabbling into barefoot shoes, I would still highly recommend them. Just be cautious and know what barefoot shoes entail; there's a bit of a learning curve with them.

Vivobarefoot also has an excellent return policy, so that's a great way to try them out and see what you think.

Have you tried the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III or any other barefoot/minimalist shoes before? Let me know in the comments below!


Usage Update

July 1, 2023: Alright, I've had these shoes for quite some time now, about two years, and have put them through it. I've taken them around the world on multiple trips and even a year-long trip as one of the two pairs of shoes on my ultralight packing list. For the most part, they've held up pretty well. How much can you really expect from wearing one pair of shoes as an every day AND workout shoe? So, I definitely give Vivobarefoot some props for that. But the shoelaces still come undone pretty often, which is frustrating.

But a few weeks ago, a strange hole started appearing on the top right above my big toe on both feet. Maybe I have some weird toe action going on? But I've never seen this wear pattern before.

A strange wear pattern above the big toe of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
A strange wear pattern above the big toe of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

The sole is showing some wear as well, but pretty damn good for two years of consistent use.

A little wear shown on the bottom of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
A little wear is shown on the bottom of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
Gear

Skylar Renslow

I mostly walk around, take pictures, and write things.

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