…Update August 2016
Jeff and I have now completed our multi-day trails in New Zealand, Scotland and France. With many a mile in our shoes we can now give our honest reviews of both the Skora Core and the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail.
Are we happy with a barefoot shoe? – Definitely. We don’t believe that we could have completed so many consecutive miles in conventional shoes with knee pain or blisters.
Jeff and I both ran the GR5 in Vivobarefoot Primus Trail. The traction on these shoes was great for the mixed terrain we encountered – think mud, snow, ice, rock. The upper was great for most conditions, a little cold in the snow but those sections were generally very short so not a big problem – they did at least dry overnight. Neither of us had more than one blister in the whole 25days on the trail and no injuries – so a win for us.
On the downside we both ran through a pair of shoes on the trail, Jeff wore a whole right through the sole. Luckily Vivobarefoot were great and refunded us under their sustainable product guarantee. The one other issues was the thin soles were fine for 80% of the terrain but descending on pathways of rocks for more than a couple of hours did get rather painful (worse than ‘hard’ reflexology). I’m guessing this is applicable for all barefoot shoes so is a compromise that has to be made. If I was doing a race on this terrain I’d probably look at other shoes.
We would recommend these strongly for all trail except sharp rocks and if you’re in a short term hurry down a hill.
⭐⭐1/2 (for trail)
While we both love these shoes for road running (5 stars) the lack of grip on the soles made them fairly awful trail shoes, they were very slippery on any crumbly descent and therefore drop running speed considerably. In Scotland the leather was frequently wet and would shrink in the drying rooms meaning they were too small and quiet painful to wear the next day. And the multi-piece sole that is glued together started to peel apart with dust and water.
The upper had good but not great durability, with the leather being scratched and fraying on the sides. I threw mine away after Scotland because the sole was falling apart.
Although they claim these can be worn on trail by Skora I would keep these for road only, or city park type trails.
…from May 2016
For the first 6 years of running I struggled with the typical ailments such as runner’s knee, tight ITB etc. I agreed that not everyone could run and I was very dismissive of minimalist shoes given the advice from my physio. Needless to say I ended up with orthotics and some serious blisters.
Then I moved to hard soled Karhu runners – much better than Asics, before reading “Born to Run”. I know, I know, everyone who reads that bloody book ends up with Vibram five fingers, and they are idiots… but are they…?
About a year ago I found a small brand from Portland, USA called Skora. I am a total sucker for small companies – New Zealanders generally root for the underdog, back the little guy and tear down any corporate so it was in my nature to support them. I bought a pair of Phase and have never looked back.
For the trails I decided to use the leather upper (the model is the Core but same shape as the Phase) as they would last longer running through gnarly terrain.
Why I like these particular minimalist shoes:
- Wide toe box, the more your shoes can spread the better. No bunions, to tight ITB, just natural foot movement
- Rounded heel, improves your ankle strength
- Offset laces, no more top of the foot pain
- Leather upper is durable
- Drains water well
- Looks sort of acceptable as a street shoe, I wouldn’t wear them if I was at home but when travelling they are a good option
- Really good customer service, they actually care about their customers and are interested in their stories. I had an early season pair that I bought from a local distributor that was closing down. They gave me blisters so Skora sent me a new season pair for free (just paid shipping).
Jeff actually gets annoyed at how much I love these shoes.
Price: 100NZD on special from a Singaporean distributor
Jeff has also been bitten by the minimalist bug but prefers a wider fit and better sole traction for the trail. He used the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak in New Zealand.
- Really wide fit (feet like flippers)
- Great sole traction
- True barefoot response – having tried Altras and the lowest drop innov8s, we decided these weren’t hard or wide enough to feel the ground and get the feedback you need to adjust your stride.
- To my knowledge they are the only a) wide-fit, b) barefoot, c) trail shoe on the market.
- Durability issues – the Trail Freak uppers tore apart at the base of the sole and the mesh was barely hanging together after New Zealand.
- Superhighway hopes for the improved and reinforced Primus Trail were dashed with a broken lace loops after 3 days but Vivobarefoot was great in promptly sending a replacement to us while travelling in Scotland.
- Otherwise, no blisters, great to run in day-after-day.
Price: 100NZD on special from Lazada clearance for the Trail Freaks (now out of date); £90 for the Primus Trail.
We are wondering if any shoe on the market is truly durable enough for repeat fastpacking purposes though, well at least if you subscribe to the barefoot school of thought. Shoes need to be as comfortable as running shoes but as durable as hiking boots, leather uppers seem to make sense. We both agree that a Skora upper on a Vivobarefoot outer sole would be the ultimate shoe! Let’s us know if you think there’s anything we should try.
Also published on Medium.