on 22 May 2014
I've held off writing a review on these for 6 months, as I'm usually sceptical on new sports tech and wanted to see how they went. I don't do trail running as such, but I'm a regular at my local park's outdoor "military" training sessions. You know the ones. Having worn loads of different trainers, from cheap basic runners to £150 trainers with the latest "tech" in the soles with tons of support, I can honestly say these VivoBarefoot's beat them all by a million miles and have stood up to everything I've thrown at them.
We train heavily four times a week on all different terrain - be it grass, mud, gravel, tarmac, shale, concrete, rocks, over hills, walls, logs, streams, fences etc. And these are fantastic. I'd started to develop shin splints and my right knee was painful after every session with my previous trainers (both my old pair and then my new expensive jobs). I've also previously ruptured my achilles so often suffered with a bit of tenderness in that area. I just thought it was the combination of old injuries and the training intensity that was doing it, until I bought these. I initially bought them for the winter months as it's hard dealing with grassy hills with standard running shoes, so wanted something that would have great grip and allow me to train properly instead of sliding about everywhere. But after two weeks of using these, my niggles unexpectedly cleared up. I haven't even started to develop a single injury since then and won't be going back to standard runners again for this type of training.
I wouldn't use these for the gym treadmill or a long road run (longest I've done on the road in these is 10k and they're fine up to that limit on tarmac I'd say). Though if you're that type of runner then you probably wouldn't be looking at trail shoes anyway, and rightly so.
Yes, these take a little getting used to at first. They're very wide fitting and you have minimal cushioning on the sole, which is the opposite of standard runners, but I guess that's what gives you the barefoot running feel and the whole point of them. Your feet soon get used to the odd stone your arch may hit, and there's certainly enough cushioning in there so that you don't feel like you're hot-stepping barefoot on a shale beach. My calf muscles were a bit solid after each training session in the early weeks, but stretching them out properly before and after training made sure they developed correctly and got used to the change in running style very quickly. After initially being slower whilst I slightly adapted my running style, I've now ended up shaving 50 seconds off my 1500 metre fitness test. No chance I'd have done that with shin splints and painful knees!
They’re also really well made. Whereas all my other trainers have fell apart after a few months with this type of training, these have not got a stitch out of place and the tread on them is almost as good as the day I bought them. Fantastic value for money and would recommend to anyone with similar training schedules.
on 29 January 2014
After running barefoot and semi-barefoot for more that four years I was looking for an alternative for cold weather i.e. below freezing. I've made some successful attempts in VFF Flow Trec, but my toes tend to get to cold, even with socks.
With the Neo Trail I get superb traction, warm feet and at least zero drop. The ground feel is okay, but not great. This is the best solution I have found so far for running "barefoot" in snow.