Initial Impressions of VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail

Published by RunningPoint on Tuesday, 13 Sep 2011 12:07 EDT

I will admit that I am rather new to the world of blogging and product reviewing, but I had noticed a pattern in the way things work: I contact a manufacturer or they contact me and product is sent for review. Not so many days ago, I left my office for my daily lunchtime run and returned to find an unexpected delivery waiting for me. I wasn't expecting anything so I took a quick look at the shipping label and noticed that it was from VIVOBAREFOOT. I was immediately excited since both Ronald and I have had very positive experiences with the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo and the Ultra. I had no clue what would be in the box so I quickly opened it and I found a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails. I was so excited that VIVOBAREFOOT appreciated the reviews we had done in the past enough to send me a pre-release pair of Neo Trails to test and review. Hey, we must be doing something right!<--break->


As I opened the box, I found that each shoe was nicely packed in it's own individual recyclable bag instead of being wrapped in paper. Right off, this adds an air of quality and practicality. The bags are nice and soft and made from a paper fiber which I have seen before and I love the fact that they are recyclable. There was a very informative brochure in the box which detailed the entire VIVOBAREFOOT line and a short introduction to Proprioception by Lee Saxby.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the brochure was the illustrations and specifications for each VIVOBAREFOOT shoe's sole. For example, Ronald has a pair of the standard Neo which the brochure says weighs 5.4 ounces and has a sole thickness of 4mm. My Neo Trails, on the other hand, weigh 6.9 ounces and have a 2.5mm sole with 4mm lugs on top. I really appreciate these little details with extra information.

Finally, there was a tag included in the package that outlines the Dri-Lex fabric that the shoes are made with. The Dri-Lex allows the shoes to be water resistant, breathable, and quick drying. The Dri-Lex is protected by Aegis Microbe Shield to keep the odor down which all barefoot runners should appreciate. I personally have given up wearing socks almost 100% of the time and welcome any extra touches that will help reduce the inevitable foot funk.

Initial Impressions

When I finally got around to removing the shoes from the bags, I found a shoe that simply screams “GO TRAIL RUNNING!!!” The only trail shoe I have ever owned prior to the Neo Trail is the Merrell Trail Glove. Let me say that calling both of these shoes trail shoes is like calling a pick-up truck and a monster truck both trucks. The Neo Trail is extremely aggressive and purpose built for trail running just as a monster truck is extremely aggressive and purpose built for causing mayhem. The Merrells however, are less aggressive and good for multiple uses like a standard pick-up truck.

That being said, the first thing I did was put the Neo Trails on and walk around a bit. I was impressed at how comfortable walking around was on these huge, aggressive lugs that make up the entire bottom of the shoe. The Neo Trails are very flexible and immediately felt broken in. They are very light weight for such a full featured shoe and the padded ankle collar (which I thought would annoy me) was actually very pleasant and I can see how on a long trail run it would help to keep things comfortable and keep foregin objects out of the shoe.

The next thing I noticed was how attractive the shoes were. I had them on with jeans and they looked like a very nice athletic shoe. They didn't look out of place at all. I feel like I could wear them on a daily basis and can't wait to wear them on a snowy day so I can leave my snow boots behind and not have to carry 2 pair of shoes.

First Run

It took me a few days to get to my first run in the Neo Trails because I had to find a place that was close enough for me to get to, run, and get back to work in about an hour. I remembered that the local university had a decent trail system and plenty of hard surfaces so that I could test the shoes on both. When I got to the university, I found that construction and time had disturbed some of the trails so what I had originally planned to be a 60-70% trail to road ratio was reduced to about 40% trails.

I set out after a slow start involving discovering a trail to nowhere and ran down a long hill on the sidewalk to get to the first trail-head that I knew would still be there. It was immediately apparent that the Neo Trail was not designed with hard surface running in mind at all. I felt disconnected from the road and a litlle unsteady due to the extreme nature of the lugs and the way that they translated energy to the ground. Each lug acted as a tiny pier and they all moved in a different way depending on the force exerted on them. I has suspected that this would be the case so I wasn't at all disappointed that I couldn't use the shoe as a hybrid street/trail shoe. I also don't believe that anyone who holds this shoe would ever get the impression that they would be a good hard surface shoe.

When I finally made it to the trail, this shoe absolutely came alive. I became instantly unaware that the 4mm lugs existed and the 2.5mm sole transmitted absolutely every sensation that the trail had to offer. I felt like I was running barefoot down this non-maintained single track trail, just with extra traction (I never lost footing or slid at all) and no fear that I was going to injure my feet on a stray rock or root. As I ran, the woods consumed me and I faded into that awesome place where I was both aware of my surroundings and completely removed from the world. I didn't have to worry about falling, I didn't have to worry about cars, and I didn't have to worry about what was on my feet because the Neo Trail felt so natural to this barefoot/huarache runner that I never gave them a second thought. Unfortunately, the trails ran out and I had to complete my run on the asphalt which brought me right back to the real world of dodging cars, students, and the Neo Trails slapping me in the face and yelling at me to get them back on the trails!


The VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail provided me with my first experience in a truly purpose built trail running shoe and I loved it. They have inspired me to make an effort to break out of my everyday norms and search for local trails to run to add some more depth into my training. The Neo Trails are an impressive piece of hardware for the runner who wants to have security, stability and still feel the trails they are running over. I can't wait to go disappear again and again, and I know the Neo Trail will take me wherever I want to go for many, many miles.


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