So, Iv’e finally gotten myself a pair of Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. I went for a test run today, trying to run on as many different surfaces as possible.
They are actually good on pavement, surprisingly. The lugs are so thick that they don’t bend much, making a pretty stable sole. It’s a sole with lugs but feel more like a thicker sole with some holes in it. About that: The lugs also give some cushioning. I’m used to the slightly thinner Evo/Neo sole, so this sole feels a bit softer, which I don’t mind. There’s still very little chance of heelstriking in these, thus it deserves the “minimal” label. Zero drop of course.
I tried the shoes in some muddy hills and some grass, and the grip is excellent. I’m glad I photographed the shoes before I ran, because the soles are full of mud now, and some dog turds as well.
I’ve read some reviews saying the shoe is much too warm, and that the watertightness is of no use, as many reviewers prefer a shoe that drained faster. My answer is, that it depends who you are and where you live. I live far north.
When running in temperatures well below zero degrees (30 F) I want dry feet if possible. If I get wet, I don’t want the shoe to let the heat out. I’d rather have a bit of lukewarm water in my shoe than solid ice. Overheating is not really a problem. The fact that they are waterproof and the overly aggressive sole make them excellent for conditions with slippery snow and freezing temperatures. I imagine I will be dry and comfortable all the way to april, when I will stow these away with the rest of my winter boots.
The midfoot is a bit stiffer than the other Vivobarefoot models, due to a protecting plastic piece under the arch. (I had to take two weeks off a while back after stepping on a rock, so I appreciate its usefulness.) This would be a problem if the midfoot wasn’t so roomy. My foot is allowed to move freely inside and doesn’t feel trapped in any way. The Neo Trail has a stiff midfoot, but that it does not inhibit my foot because it is wider than most shoes.
The upper on these shoes is a bit over-engineered; a bit bulky, but protecting you from roots and rocks. Vivobarefoot have another model of the regular Neo with watertight mesh on top, which should be an excellent trail shoe if you want something lighter for a race. These are made for comfort or extra gritty terrain.
This shoe is not a good all-round shoe, but rather a shoe that is perfect for certain conditions: if you usually have cold winters, or snow, or if you like to run on rough trails or where there’s no trail, this shoe is perfect. There are lots of shoes for light trail (e.g. Vivobarefoot Neo, Merrell trail glove, New Balance Minimus Trail, Altra Lone Peak), this shoe is for all the other trails. Also, if you live further south, there’s a more breathable version, called Breatho Trail, coming out next year, also for the tough trails.
Scroll down for some more photos.
And I must add the Neo Trails are simply amazing when it comes to grip on icy surfaces. Running on a wet icy wooden pier is generally considered dangerous, and I wouldn’t attempt it in any other shoe. I was a bit skeptic to this shoe after reading some mixed reviews, but I know for certain than none of the reviewers had tried the shoe in winter, as it only came out in summer 2011. Also it seems that people who live in warmer countries tend to conclude “too warm, doesn’t drain: Dealbreaker” or “No rockplate, overly aggressive grip”, while I’ve read reviews from Denmark and Britain stating “This is THE shoe for winter conditions”. I guess the same things that makes it good also makes it not suitable for hot weather. Anyway, amazing shoe.