Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Range Expanded

The excellent Vivobarefoot Trail Freak is one of my standout products of the year and, along with the Vivobarefoot Evo Pure, I reviewed the shoe for Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 12, Summer 2014.

I’ve certainly enjoyed letting my ‘inner freak’ loose in the Trail Freak, walking, running & cycling, from Ellon, to The Cairngorms, to Gairloch & the West coast of Scotland.

My review of the original Trail Freak, and of the Evo Pure, is included below but watch out for new colour variations of the Trail Freak, including an excellent, almost autumnal looking Navy/Green colour combination and also the new grey winter-proof Trail Freak which I hope to get my hands on in time for some serious winter training.

“Wet weather, muddy tracks and steep hills are no obstacle for the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Winterproof Mens trail running shoe. Durable and lightweight, with enhanced water proofing and a thermal insole to protect you from the elements, theres nothing stopping you hitting the trails all winter long.”

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak & Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

Vivobarefoot is “a shoe technology aimed at offering the optimum biomechanics and posture commonly associated with walking barefoot and barefoot running” and it has been described as “as close to going barefoot in the city as you can get.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivobarefoot)

The Vivobarefoot argument is straightforward – Your feet have all the technology you need. Their aim is to provide shoes that let your feet do ‘their thing’.

“The key for a long life of efficient movement involves reconnecting your brain and reconditioning your body. This is achieved by relearning the skill of locomotion by perfecting simple motor skill milestones and simultaneously, and gradually, building up adequate strength.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/learn)

This is achieved via the combination of a wide toe box, ultimate flexibility, and an ultra-thin sole.

The above content will already be familiar to you if you read my review of the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail in Barefoot Running Magazine issue 11.

If you didn’t read the review, the above will serve as an introduction to the Vivobarefoot ethos and I would strongly recommend that you check out the excellent, highly informative, Vivobarefoot web site:

I was impressed with the Breatho Trail, other than a minor issue with the laces, and, as such, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review not one but two new Vivobarefoot products for this issue.

The products in question are the Trail Freak, intended, as the name suggests, for trail running, and the Evo Pure, essentially a road shoe but touted for use from everything from road and treadmill running through to weight lifting, court sports and gym classes.

As with the previously reviewed Breatho Trail, the Trail Freak and Evo Pure and, indeed, all Vivobarefoot product, are constructed to be as minimal as possible, with a wide toe box, ultimate flexibility, and an ultra-thin sole.

Fit

Both the Trail Freak and the Evo Pure provided a perfect fit straight out of the box, with a lovely wide toe box to facilitate toe splay, helping with both balance and running efficiency. I found the Evo Pure in particular was especially spacious, far removed from the typically cramped toe boxes of more traditional running shoes.

Styling

Trail Freak

The Trail Freak is available in navy/sulphur (not unlike the Breatho Trail) or red/orange male colour combinations and pink/teal and blue/turquoise ladies colour combinations.

Aesthetically, the Trail Freak will never be accused of being subtle and, as much as I do like the slightly understated navy/sulphur, there’s something really appealing about the fiery red/orange colour combination. It screams for attention and looks fast – It’s just a shame I don’t have the turn of speed to match it!

Perhaps with the exception of the navy/sulphur, the colour combinations may reduce the likelihood of people wearing the shoes casually, outside of their intended environment.

Evo Pure

The Evo Pure is available in red or blue/sulphur male colour combinations and blue/turquoise and white/pink ladies colour combinations. The colours are on the vivid end of the scale but I would go so far as to describe the male colour combinations as classy and, unlike the Trail Freaks, the Evo Pure would be far easier to pass off if worn casually.

The male designs focus more on a single colour, with any alternate colour used minimally on trimmings. The ladies design, however, sees the alternate colour used throughout the hexagon design of the upper material and, I have to admit, I find that the contrast clashes a bit where my tastes are concerned.

Build Quality

Trail Freak

The upper of the Trail Freak consists of a dual layer mesh with a laminated hexagonal overlay. It’s a very lightweight, highly flexible overlay, adding a slight element of protection. A more robust heel counter helps hold the foot in position.

The upper sits atop a patented, ultra-thin, puncture resistant sole, constructed from V-grip rubber specifically designed for off-road surfaces, with multi-directional ‘V-teeth’ for improved traction. The 2.5mm outsole, with 4.5mm lugs is, by all accounts, the same sole that is used on the Breatho Trail.

A Dri-lex lining with lycra collar provides supreme comfort and moisture wicking. The Trail Freak is just as comfortable without socks as it is with socks, though I have found on numerous occasions that the insoles have a tendency to come with the foot when you slip the shoes off and getting them placed in exactly the right spot can be a faff.

Overall, the construction results in a ‘barely there’, almost ‘second skin’ fit.

I’ve saved one of the best elements till last. My biggest moan where the Breatho Trail was concerned was the overly long, chunky laces that had a habit of coming loose mid run. Double knotting them resolved this but, because the laces were quite so fat, this resulted in an unsightly lump of lacing on top of the shoe. I wasn’t alone in finding this and Vivobarefoot have responded to the feedback with a totally different approach to lacing.

Gone are the laces, replaced instead by a speed-lacing toggle system similar to Lock Laces and the system employed in a number of Salomon trainers.

No more stopping to double knot laces mid run! What’s more, once you have found your preferred setting, there’s actually little need to alter the lacing as I have found that the Trail Freaks slip on and off with ease. There may, of course, be occasion when you will want to tighten the lacing but this is easily done. Any excess lacing simply tucks away, preventing it from flapping around.

Evo Pure

The upper of the Evo Pure consists of a thin, durable polyester mesh with V Web lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support. The heel counter is considerably pared back in comparison to the Trail Freak, indicative of the reduced level of support required in an on road shoe.

The one thing that did catch my eye initially was the use of very thin strips of material on either side of the main flex point of the shoe, which I can only assume are intended to strengthen the area.

As with the Trail Freak, a Dri-lex lining with lycra collar provides supreme comfort and moisture wicking and the Evo Pure is also comfortable to wear both with and without socks.

The sole used on the Evo Pure is the V Multi 2, providing a ‘coned hexagon grip for perfect balance between on and off road (light trails) traction, control and sensory clarity’. By all accounts, this is a new approach from Vivobarefoot, replacing a thicker multi-terrain sole employed on previous road shoes.

Finally, the Evo Pure employs a standard lacing system. Thankfully, I have had no repeat of my problems with the Breatho Trail with the considerably thinner laces of the Evo Pure.

Performance

Trail Freak

The Vivobarefoot ethos is all about providing the necessary tools to let your feet do their thing, and there’s no doubt that the Trail Freak do just that.

“Your shoes and your feet will move as one, no matter what nature throws at them. The Trail Freak is a durable and lightweight barefoot trail shoe suited for the toughest mud sections, slipperiest descents, and filthiest climbs.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/trail-freak-mens)

Touted as shoes for ‘hot and fast trail running’, travelling, trekking, and even cycling, thanks to their pedal friendly, grippy lugs, the Trail Freak are a highly comfortable, highly breathable, trail shoe that manages to successfully combine a second skin feel with a spacious toe box.

One of the standout points of the Breatho Trail for me was the excellent off-road traction afforded by the patented ultra-thin, puncture resistant 2.5mm outsole with 4.5mm multidirectional lugs and this same level of protection from unknown terrain is equally as welcome on the Trail Freak. The lugs towards the rear of the shoe face the opposite direction from those on the front, helping to maintain traction on steep and slippery descents.

As with my experiences with the Breatho Trail, traction issues in the Trail Freaks have been limited to wet concrete, hardly the intended terrain for the shoe.

The Trail Freak isn’t a waterproof shoe, but then the jury is out on the merits of waterproof trail shoes anyway – far better to have a highly breathable shoe that drains well.

After a week of constant, often sockless, use in The Cairngorms, my Trail Freaks did start to develop an odour but this was nipped in the bud with a quick hand wash of the shoe and a machine wash of the removable insole.

My sole concern (no pun intended!) as far as the Trail Freak goes is the long term durability of the shoe. Given the lightweight upper and overlays, it’s not a shoe that affords much protection to the foot and, by virtue of that same lightweight upper and overlays, it’s also a shoe that might just suffer from continued use in harsh environments. I’m thinking specifically about the kind of damage that might arise from repeated exposure to dry Scottish heather, for example. Those concerns would apply, however, to any lightweight trail shoe and certainly not just to the Trail Freak.

The last time I enjoyed a shoe this much was the Inov8 Roclite 305, a shoe that felt like a favourite pair of slippers, and saw me through many, many miles of ultramarathon training and racing. By the time Inov8 discontinued production of the Roclite 305 (why!!!), I had gone through 5 pairs of them, and I can see a similar situation developing with the Trail Freak. If I had to choose a single pair of shoes to be stranded on the proverbial desert island with, they would be Trail Freaks!

Evo Pure

“There’s nothing holding you back, it’s just you and the Evo Pure working together. This road running shoe will let your feet perform, as if they were barefoot. They’re stripped back to ensure it’s your feet that are in control.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/evo-pure-mens)

I’m a trail runner at heart and, as such, I will likely never have quite the same affinity for a pair of road shoes as I do for trail shoes. However, I have no complaints whatsoever with regard to the Evo Pure and I am particularly fond of the versatility of the shoe. It’s touted as a shoe with many uses and I’ve certainly used it in this way, in running, treadmill, gym and casual environments.

I don’t have the same concerns vis-a-vis durability that I have expressed above about the Trail Freak. The Evo Pure is arguably lighter and with even less in terms of protective overlay. However, I just wouldn’t expect them to receive the same levels of punishment.

Barefoot Simulation

There’s little point in dealing with the Trail Freak and Evo Pure separately at this point. Barefoot simulation doesn’t get much better than this, other than actually running barefoot.

So lightweight you forget you are wearing them, so spacious as to provide ample room for toe splay, and with only millimetres of patented puncture resistant sole between your feet and the ground, both the Trail Freak and the Evo Pure certainly let your feet do their own thing, putting you in full control of the running experience.

Even the 4.5mm lugs on the Trail Freak do little to dampen the barefoot experience. You still have excellent ground feel and will no doubt need to rein it back a bit on the rockiest of descents.

Taking the Evo Pure off-road, on a short woodland walk, soon gave an idea of how good the ground feel on the Evo Pure is. I have to admit to finding the terrain underfoot actually made for an occasionally uncomfortable experience and was glad of a return to the pavement!

Price

  • Trail Freak RRP: £85.00
  • Evo Pure RRP: £90.00

Overall Rating

Having been suitably impressed with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail that I reviewed for Barefoot Running Magazine issue 11, I was looking forward to the prospect of reviewing the new Evo Pure and, in particular, with trails being my favoured running surface, the Trail Freak. I’m happy to report that both shoes lived up to expectations, providing shoes that appear to be perfect for their respective terrain.

I would advise anyone looking for minimalist trail or road shoes to at least consider these offerings from Vivobarefoot. Both shoes certainly follow the Vivobarefoot ethos of providing shoes that let your feet do ‘their thing’ and do it well.

Specifications

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak

  • Upper material: 3M Mesh
  • Upper description: V Web Lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support.
  • Collar/panel/lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining with thick mesh collar: Lightweight, performance lining for moisture wicking and superior comfort and thick mesh collar.
  • Sole unit: V Trek
  • Sole thickness: 2.5mm sole with 4.5mm lugs
  • Sole description: V Trek: Multi-directional teeth for the steepest, muddiest, wettest terrains. Ultimate off-road traction and sensory feedback (proprioception).
  • Closure/lacing: Lock-Lacing System with toggle: Webbing eyelets make sure the foot is secure in the shoe.
  • Eco-credentials: 100% Vegan

More info: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/trail-freak-mens

Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

  • Upper material: BR Mesh
  • Upper description: V Web Lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support.
  • Collar/panel/lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining and lycra lining, thick mesh collar.
  • Sole unit: V Multi 2
  • Sole thickness: 3mm
  • Sole description: V Multi 2: Coned hexagon grip for perfect balance between on and off road (light trails) traction, control and sensory clarity.
  • Closure/lacing: Lace-up System: Fasten securely with simple tie-up lace.
  • Eco-credentials: 100% Vegan

More info: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/evo-pure-mens