Vivobarefoot Trail Freaks Review.
I’m going to try to keep this review in sync with the shoe. Everything you need nothing you don’t.
Testing ground - 1000kms, 800kms Bibbulmun track (pea gravel, mud, constant water, some softer trail, granite rocks, undulating) 200kms of other trail.
Requirements - A shoe to handle the terrain, carry myself, a52kg, 5ft 2in female across the country, running and walking,carrying a pack of approximately 12kgs with food and water, day in day out.
For further details on requirements visit www.octopus10000.com but suffice to say this shoe has a heck of a job to keep my feet sweet day in day out. I also prefer to run in zero drop shoes.
Background - After wearing altras for approx 2000kms on the trip, I was ready for a change, mostly experiencing drainage problems. With perfect timing Vivobarefoot announced a new shoe,the Trail Freak. The overview sounded amazing and they were making some pretty bold claims as to the shoe’s performance.
I contacted Soled Shoes in Melbourne, a distributor with a very decent reputation and asked them whether they would like me to review the shoe for them. It would surely be the ultimate test for the shoe. But there would be two catches. One I couldn't pay for a shoe if I wasn't sure it would meet my needs and two my integrity is super important to me, so I would only write a 100% honest unimpeded review. Thus I was asking them to absolutely put their money where their mouth had been.
I was quite surprised to be sent a pair of shoes for free, withSoled Shoes being absolutely keen for the feedback. So immediately my confidence grew. They must really believe in these shoes, right?
Initial thoughts - Great name and the shoe looks pretty flash I think! Straight on the foot and it actually takes a little work to fit your foot in. It’s a super snug fit but like a glove, comfortable. The wide toe box is an absolute must for my feet which love to wiggle and this shoe’s got ample room there. There’s no movement anywhere else from the feet. In short it feels dreamy.
Initial tests - Eagerly I tested them out over approximately 200kms on various trails and terrain and I mean I really tested!! I needed to be sure they were good enough to come with me on the Bibbulmun, a 1000km track.
They passed the test, never causing a doubt. They gripped to terrain better than any shoe I've worn, yet shedded mud immediately. They seemed to free drain water and the snug fit around the top of my foot led me to dispense with the need for gaiters.
The next 800kms. - The shoe seemed to hit the sweet spot for me in-between ground feel and protection. I could feel the ground perfectly, allowing for plenty of feedback. However very rarely did any rocks actually hurt on landing. My feet were initially sore going over the pea gravel. But speaking to hikers who had on boots of steel, they also had sore feet and many more blisters. I received a total of two blisters which came about fairly quickly and disappeared fairly quickly. Nothing since then.
This is fairly remarkable as I’ve been known to have some pretty funky blisters. Additionally the weather was quite wet and I was travelling through a lot of water. The shoes free drained perfectly and my feet never seemed to heat up, which was a little surprising given the snug fit. At night I would dry my socks and shoes by the campfire to make the mornings a little more pleasant. However I was a bit worried as to what this would do to the lifespan of the shoe.
Final thoughts - my feet absolutely love this shoe, so much so I have ordered another pair. They are hands down the best shoes I’ve ever worn. I’m imagining that I'll still get more kilometres out of the first set. The grip at the bottom is still nearly new. They strike the ideal balance between protection and feedback and fit so well you really fail to notice them. I'd love to be able to find a little fault so the review sounded a little less schmoozey but I honestly don't have one. Oh and the laces, they're not really laces and yes they also work perfectly.