VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak

‘Unleash your inner freak!’ I’m not sure what that means really VIVO. Is being a freak a good thing or are you playing more on the shoe being ‘freakishly good?’ Cos it is! 

Having recently joined the AR Trail Team I needed to shop for some new footwear for off-road racing (obvs). For a long while I’d been running in racing flats and spikes for cross country and totally buy the less is more theory when it comes to minimalist footwear. But I needed something specific for upcoming Trailscape and Maverick trail races. One of the main criteria I had for a trail shoe was going to be heel-toe drop and stack height. Having explored options from several brands, a team mate Adrien put me onto VIVOBAREFOOT and I was sold! 

VIVO are advocates of minimalist, barefoot, natural movement and their shoe design and construction reflect this philosophy. The Trail Freak are no exception, they are ‘zero drop’ but do stack at 7mm with 4.5mm of lug. When you run in the shoe you can tell that it is totally flat and you will have to accustom your body to this if you don’t normally run in minimalist footwear. In the TF the sole, although flat and flexible, because of the lugs doesn’t feel ultra thin like the road range and somehow more manageable when on softer terrain.

I needed a shoe that would be able to handle multiple conditions, woodland, mud, water, paved sections etc. The TF ticks several of these boxes. The first win is that the lugs on the VIVO are multi-directional meaning you get traction going uphill and on descent. Second, the sole is deep enough to offer excellent traction on both hard packed and soft muddy trails, but not extreme enough to be problematic on occasional paved sections or tarmac (although I’d advise against running roads for too long as when wet they don’t grip pavement too well!). Two thumbs up for multiterrainality (yeh I made that word up but you get it!).

The upper offers a sumptuous sock like fit. It’s lightweight, breathable, has wicking properties, a wide toe box and just fits like a glove. The lacing system (the first toggle style I’ve used) is great, it secures the shoe well and doesn’t shift in tension, any slack in the laces simply tucks away. 

I’ve run approaching 100 miles in the shoe and it’s dealt with all conditions thrown at it. I am still training my body up to full strength after the festive period so am reticent about taking the shoe over half marathon distance, but I am sure it would cope as soon as my body can! 

For runners with good form, looking for a super responsive shoe offering excellent ground feedback, encouraging natural movement and speed, this could be the shoe for you. Oh and for the vegans amongst you, the shoe states eco-credentials as it is constructed 100% with vegan materials! 

The Trail Freak retails at £90 and you can find out more here.

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All image and copy rights VIVOBAREFOOT.

2 Comments

  1. flo
    January 11, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    Great to see a review on Vivos from you.

    I’ve been using a pair of Evo Pures in my rotation for over a year now, and “love” them so much. With a stack of 3mm they’re even more radical than their trail line. The feeling is as close as it gets to running barefoot. I even prefer them to VFF from a tactile sensation POV. But as you said, you need good form, as they will punish the tiniest flaw in your gait, and posture.

    It took me a LONG time to get accustomed to a shoe like that. I was always anxious about getting up in the morning, afraid of how my calves would feel. Sometimes they were fine, sometimes very sore. Luckily, I never got injured (knocking on wood). Maybe the fact that I am barefoot at home all the time, and only use other pairs of Vivobarefoots as my everyday shoes as well, helped the transition. That said, I still get a sore calf from time to time. That might be due to the fact though, that “disappearing” shoes like the Vivos, even more so than racing flats, just beg for a tempo session, meaning I usually end up running too fast – very hard to restrain oneselve, when it’s so much fun in those shoes!

    Only gripe I have with Vivos is their QC. I have like 6 pairs, and I usually have to try 2-3 different pairs of the same size(!) in the store to find a pair where both shoes are close to being the same size. Also their longevity isn’t the best for shoes that pricey (their leather stuff is close to, and north of €200).

    I use Trail Glove 3s for my occasional trail run but have had my eye on the Trail Freaks (the WP model though for the Winter) for the longest time. Seeing that it’s getting colder, and colder (-10C) these days, and snow is only a matter of time now, I might take the plunge, and get them. The Merrells are completely useless in the cold, or snow.

    Keep up the good writing, always happy when I get a notification email about a new blog entry!

    • January 11, 2016 / 5:50 pm

      Thanks for the follow and the comment flo. Agreed re Vivo on sizing – they can really vary shoe to shoe. The Evo’s do size small also compared to the TF. Well, depends on whether you sock up etc. but that’s my experience!

      I think the TF are well suited to adverse conditions, I’d give em a go man, although I’d be careful with them in icy conditions – they’d be perfect for powder but not frost. You’d likely have the same result as I do when I try and traverse wet / icy pavement in them – ie slip.

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