No heel, no midsole, no arch support, no gimmicks!
These shoes talk a lot about what they are not – so what exactly do you get for your money?
I bought these as I’d been training in some cheap zero drop shoes through the summer months that were useless once the ground became wet and muddy – I like the theory behind barefoot running and I am old enough to remember wearing nothing but ‘pumps’ for all sports at school so thought I would continue to do my morning dog-jogs ‘barefoot’ through the winter.
The neo trail offers a totally flat sole (zero drop – heel to toe) but with a heavily lugged almost stud like grip – just the thing for staying upright on wet grass.
The first point to note is that they only come in full sizes, a fact I find odd considering their price. Next comes the issue of sizing – I usually take a size 9 so that’s what I ordered but when they came they were huge so back they went to be swapped for an 8. The 8s arrived and seemed to fit quite well although to be honest had an 8.5 been available I would probably have gone with that.
The customary walk around the house went without hitch and I was intrigued to find out what they were like on a real run – in the wet and in the mud. Thankfully, since buying the shoes at the end of November, our wonderful UK weather has provided ample opportunity to find out and their grip has been well and truly tested.
To give you an idea of what they’ve done, I’ve used them pretty much every day through December on my morning 3 mile steady run but to test them further I’ve also done a local 10 mile off road run and then last week an 18 miler around 2 of the Yorkshire three peaks.
Overall they have performed very well. They are comfy and do provide a decent level of traction – whilst not up to the level of a fell stud, they are as good if not better than most trail shoes. They also offer a sensible level of foot protection which I think is necessary if you are to use them as a true off-road shoe. I read reports of the laces coming loose and although they have the fat worm like laces, double knotting them has meant they’ve never come undone on any of my runs.
The sole is very thin – Vivo say 3mm (+ the tread) and this does make you think about where you’re putting your feet and encourages you to adopt a natural running style – i.e. run properly. If any mountain bikers read this I would liken using barefoot shoes to riding a hard-tail bike compared with a full suspension bike – you need to pick your line carefully but if you do you’re rewarded with a very fast and light ride.
The only real downside is that I think these shoes have been built more for dry and dusty off-road trails than the wet and sloppy tracks that I use them on. The uppers are very ‘enclosed’ meaning that once water enters the shoe it tends to stay there and make them feel a bit like a water shoe. The smooth material also seems very reluctant to release mud once it’s been applied so my shoes continually look like they’ve just been dragged out of a swamp.
Overall I would give them a 7 out of 10 and for them to be improved I would like to see half sizes, a mesh material used on the upper and a cheaper price.