Vivobarefoot Neo Trail Running Shoe
Rich Lawes, July 25, 2011
Vivobarefoot and its parent company Terra Plana offer a range of ‘barefoot’ shoes that cover everything from smart office wear to serious athletic shoes. Barefoot footwear bases itself on the idea that the closest experience between the sole of the foot and the ground is the best, an idea reinforced by Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University. I’ve been testing the Neo, Vivo’s designated cross-training shoe.
As runner who has put in thousands of miles of hard training over the years mainly in padded, supported, unethically sourced footwear, the barefoot running theory really appeals to me. In my late teens I sustained a serious injury to both my feet from jumping into a river (unsuccessfully) to the aid of a friend who ultimately drowned in a river accident. Both the incident and injury have haunted me ever since and I was told at the time I was likely to experience arthritic pain in my toe joints as I aged. Now that I’m clearly well-aged I wondered whether barefoot shoes may be good for my feet to strengthen my tendons, interconnecting tissue and muscles.
The Neo represent some of the best made footwear I’ve ever used and match the quality of top-end manufacturers of non-performance British classics such as Loake and Church’s. The stitching and materials used are superlative and eclipse all contemporary running footwear that I’ve come across. When you combine this with the fact that they have a strong ethical policy that emphasises stitched rather than glued construction, vegetable tanned leathers, vegan options, eco-friendly power sources and fairly paid co-operative workers I think that the quality of construction is to be hugely commended at the price point.
Initially as per the advice from Vivobarefoot I only walked in these shoes and to start with found them a bit unusual but very comfortable. After several weeks of testing I’ve come to find these the most comfortable and breathable of all my shoes, casual, formal or athletic. It would be fair to say I’m very fond of these shoes just for kicking around.
Running has been a bit of a mixed bag and sometimes the shoes don’t prevent aching at the hips, lower back and knees. However this afternoon I went out for a 45 minute run and they caused no discomfort and feel great. In my opinion I need to spend more time in them to get used to the sensation and strengthen my body to cope with losing my cushioned sole. I’d like to continue as I think being as close to your natural biomechanics as possible has got to be good.
Besides from performance, I do have an issue with the styling of the Neo since it has generated unprecedented abuse from colleagues, friends and even people I’ve run past in the street. I consider myself to have a robust and thick-skinned nature, but the attention they attract actually puts me off wearing them at times. They look daft and it is simply a matter of poorly matched colours and poor styling highlights. I’m no fashion guru, but as I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes them except my seven year old daughter who calls them ‘daddy’s cool clown shoes’ the conclusion is a thumbs down on the styling. To be fair to Vivobarefoot and Terra Plana I have seen models in their extensive range that are more socially acceptable and some of their leather deck and office shoes are positively stunning.
In conclusion I would recommend the Neo and other Vivobarefoot and Terra Plana products to runners and outdoor participants. If you invest the time to get used to them they are relaxing to wear and offer some great advantages including improvements to your health and fitness. The ethical stance and sheer quality of construction is an added bonus that for me and I’d be sure to buy another pair if only they could calm down the marmite euro-funky styling enough to enable me to blend in to the crowd in a grey Scottish city in winter!
As a fell runner who completes most training offroad it was exciting for me to discover that Vivo are about to introduce a trail shoe, the Neo Trail. Keep an eye for these and let me know what you think about the styling!
Header image: fitbodynow