Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail Review
At my first trail race I noticed banners for the Vivobarefoot brand around the start line. Like most people new to a sport, I had no idea what the common household names were and, since the brand was being sported by quite a few athletes on the day, I felt that I needed to up my knowledge on the company.
The Vivobarefoot philosophy of “to make everyone’s lives better, whether through providing a more enjoyable and injury free running experience or by allowing you to live barefoot with our zero-drop, anatomic width, total flexibility, ultra-thin, puncture-resistant sole shoes” piqued my interest and I was keen to try a pair.
The Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail shoe was launched in 2012, and in October I picked up a pair from the Native Sport store in Cape Town with the hope of furthering my education of the minimal side of running on trails.
So let’s get into it.
The Look and Feel
The Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail shoe is positioned as an all purpose trail shoe specifically designed for hot/summer running thanks to its breathable mesh uppers which are also really flexible. It uses the same sole technology as found on the Neo Trail, with the main difference being that the Neo is more suited to cold conditions with its thicker uppers.
The shoe has a very sleek look and its light-weight construction fits your foot like a glove – especially around the midfoot area. On the first wear, I was surprised to find how light the shoe was and how cool my feet stayed. The only issue I had was that the laces were too long and needed a solid knot to keep them tied, else it tended to loosen over the course of a run.
As mentioned earlier, the sole is the exact same as what can be found on Vivo’s Neo Trail and is constructed of a thin 2.5mm puncture-proof outsole with 4.5mm rubber lugs for epic grip. The fact that the sole technology was replicated on this shoe means that it is a winner and I agree! If it ‘aint broke…
Although the shoe fits snug around the midfoot and heel, the toe box is roomy to allow for the splaying of your toes while running. This added to the natural feel and balance when I tested the shoe out in the field.
Out in the field
I’ve had this pair of shoes for about 3 months now which has given me ample time to test out its performance in a few different situations:
Leisure and Gym
As a general walk-about, this shoe is really comfortable and I’ve used it to run some daily errands when I needed to quickly pull on some shoes and head out. You instantly get the sense of barefootedness, but there is still the reassurance that your feet are protected from any injuries (hot pavements, glass etc.)
In the gym, this shoe shone brightly where it was amazing during my squat and deadlift workouts. I’ve struggled a lot this last couple of months in feeling comfortable under the bar in my other trainers. After the first session, I was sold and now train almost exclusively in the Breatho Trails.
The only downer I found was when using them during my bootcamp training sessions. There were times while pushing a prowler sled or pulling a tyre that my foot twisted out of the shoe. Even tightening the laces didn’t stop this from happening and I suspect it is due to the low cut of the shoe around the ankle and heel.
Trail, Road and OCR Running
The Breatho Trails are tons of fun out on the trails. Since I am still new to the whole barefoot and minimal concept, I did prefer to run on softer trails like in forests or on sandier sections. Rockier trails were more tough as (although protected by the puncture-proof layer) you will feel EVERYTHING!
The grip on muddier or slippery sections is insanely good and I was thoroughly impressed by the Breatho’s ability to stick each foot plant.
I’ve used the Breatho’s on some short distances on the road (up to 5kms) and they were okay. I’m am still a heavy bugger, so I think some cushioning is still needed as I transition towards the minimal approach.
I also used the Breatho Trail shoes on the Impi Challenge and I was thoroughly impressed. On the downhill sections which were sandy and slippery, the shoe had awesome grip and just allowed me to confidently hit the ground and pick up speed while running, jumping and climbing over obstacles.
Even water obstacles were no match for the Breatho Trails. Whether we were submerged or after swimming across ponds, a couple of steps is all you needed as excess liquid was expelled from the shoe at a rapid pace – so you were ready to break out into a run almost immediately after the obstacle without that heavy feeling most shoes. Really an unsung feature of the shoe!
Living with it
As I mentioned before, this is my first real pair of zero-drop minimal shoes so I have been prudent to take some time to get more accustomed to the shoes and not risk injury.
Vivobarefoot actually has some great online resources to help you in your transition from normal runners to the minimal kind. I recommend checking these out and taking your time to fully adapt.
A tip one of the sales personnel at the Native Sports store gave me was to add an extra insole to the shoe and slowly remove them over time once you get used to running without cushioning. I am currently down to the single insole, but many say that removing all insoles are key to really seeing what the shoe is made of – I’m not yet brave enough 🙂
Trail running in this shoe is completely different to the norm. You feel more closely connected to the surroundings via the feedback your feet receive as they interact with the ground beneath you. The thin soles allow for maximum proprioception and will change the way you run and experience trails.
A word of caution: Increase your mileages slowly with this as you do not want to be caught on a long run and experience foot fatigue with a long way to go before you get any relief. Believe me, its happened to me and it was not fun (to say the least).
What are my alternatives?
There are a few similar shoes to the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail such as the Inov-8 Trailroc 235 and the Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon LS Trail Running Shoe which provide the zero-drop setup and some protection against the elements.
The Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail is a well-designed shoe that combines a comfortable fit and really great grip, all while staying true to the brands’ philosophies.
I was particularly impressed with how cool my feet remained in various environments from the gym to the obstacle racing ground.
Plus the fact that you can pull these shoes on (with or without socks) and still go ahead and tackle the outside comfortably is fantastic. Even after taking it through some heavy trails and obstacle races, a quick wipe down and the shoe is back to looking like new.
If you are keen to grab a pair of these, head over to Native Sport and check them out. They are relatively inexpensive and a great way to get into the minimal side of running.
If I have left out anything in particular that you may think is a critical feature/experience that you’ve had with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail shoe, please feel free to comment below.