Breatho Trail Vivo Barefoot Shoe Review
I'm planning on doing a GoRuck Challenge (GRC) in a few months, and I was at a loss for what type of shoe to use.
For those of you not familiar with the GRC, it is a 12 hour "adventure" designed by the GoRuck company to test their back packs, which will be filled with bricks (four bricks for those under 150 lbs and 6 bricks for those who weigh more than 150 lbs). Although each GRC is different the basic crux is lots of strenuous physical activity (like bear crawls, Indian runs, duck walks, and other forms of punishment) with a team of your peers. The GRC typically involves some sort of water activity, be it an ocean or a fountain, to add to the discomfort. For this type of abuse I needed a durable shoe that could support the weight of the ruck and be comfortable enough to wear for 12 hours.
Enter the Breatho Trail from Vivo Barefoot ...
About the shoes
I've had the Merrell Glove in the past, but found the arch of the shoe to be a little tight. I love my Five Fingers, but I had visions of the GRC destroying my feet in them. I did quite a bit of research and finally stumbled upon on the Vivo Barefoot Breatho Trails. Although Vivo Barefoot has many options, the Breatho Trail seemed best suited for the GRC because it was lightweight, breathable, and hopefully dries quickly.
The Breathos are zero drop and come with a very thin insole. These shoes are designed for trail running so they come with an aggressive tread that reminded me of cleats (The same tread as used by the Vivo Barefoot Hybrid, which is marketed towards golfers). They are composed of a lightweight mesh upper that actually breathes quite well and is the reason for the name "Breatho" — by comparison, their predecessor/cousin the Neo Trail has a hydrophobic upper. Lastly, the toe box is sufficiently wide enough for toe splay.
I tested the Breathos the same way I do all my zero drop shoes—at my Crossfit style gym. I had some reservations about how the cleats would work, but they provided great grip even on the rubber mats at the gym. Lucky for me, the day I brought the Breathos to the gym we had a whole lot of bear crawls to do. I found the shoes to be quite comfortable as I ambled along on all fours, and never once lost traction. The Breathos also performed well through a whole host of exercises ranging from jumping jacks to burpees.
The true test of the shoes came on "sled day" at the gym. The sled is a metal monstrosity that must be pushed and usually bears a hearty amount of weight. The sled weighed 209 pounds and we were tasked to push it 50 meters for 16 reps totaling a half mile. There really is no trick to pushing the sled other than mental will power and using the balls of your feet. The Breathos did great and like the bear crawls I never lost traction.
I've also ran quite a bit with the Breathos, and even did the Hot Chocolate 5k in San Diego with the Breathos. Once again, they performed great and I had no issues or pain with the shoes. Although I haven't ran in the Breathos on a trail they did perform phenomenally well on a recent hike in Joshua Tree National Park. I did about a four mile hike in varying terrain conditions from loose gravel to large rocks to sand. The shoes got a little dirty but the majority of the dirt stayed out of the shoes.
Lastly, the Breathos also make for great walking shoes and they pair quite well with a pair of jeans.
A few quibbles
I do have a few minor complaints about the Breathos. The aggressive tread is great for traction but tends to pick up a lot of junk. A quick workout at the park left the tread covered in grass which was then tracked into the inside of my car. I also found a handful of small pebbles stuck in the tread after the Joshua Tree hike.
The Breathos are constructed of mesh, but the one place they don't breath is under the tongue of the shoe. I'm consistently left with sweaty marks on my socks in the perfect shape of the tongue (see this pic).
Lastly the laces on the Breathos are really long, and I often have to use triple knots to pick up the slack.
It is also worth noting that the Breathos are quite low cut. I've always been a fan of the "no sock look" and my no show Vans socks still showed. The majority of low cut socks will still be visible above the heel and above the tongue. In my opinion it looked kind of silly, and I eventually found some socks made by Converse that won't show and are quite comfortable.
In conclusion I really love these shoes. They have become my all round shoe for workouts, runs, and casual weekend wear. I've yet to find a task in which they didn't perform well. At $44 on Amazon you can't go wrong, and I'm tempted to buy another pair to keep as a backup. I'm really looking forward to using them in the GRC, and I'm quite confident they'll be up to the challenge.