Barefoot Shoes

Review Softstar Shoes Primal RunAmoc

Always one for interesting designs, Softstar has released one of its boldest shoes to date, the toe-splay-happy, long-distance ready, RunAmoc Primal. Full disclosure: Justin was an early tester of the Primal RunAmoc nearly a year ago—and Softstar sent…

Always one for interesting designs, Softstar has released one of its boldest shoes to date, the toe-splay-happy, long-distance ready, RunAmoc Primal. Full disclosure: Justin was an early tester of the Primal RunAmoc nearly a year ago—and Softstar sent me these pair to see what I thought about them. In short, I’m impressed, but you’ll want to see my full thoughts on the Softstar RunAmoc Primal. So read on!


First take a spin around the Softstar Primal Runamoc through these photos: Here’s what Softstar has to say about the Primal RunAmoc:
Are you ready to go wild? Then we’d like to introduce you to the Primal, a wildly healthy shoe with our boldest sole shape yet! This innovative minimal shoe has an extra wide toe box for the ultimate in free movement and natural toe splay.
With our groundbreaking Primal shoe, we’re busting boundaries and embracing the natural physiology of the human foot like never before. This minimal footwear design is the perfect marriage of modern innovation with a pre-shoe-era mindset when our feet could wildly roam the Earth, unencumbered. Weight — 7.6 oz (mens size 9) Total Stack Height — 5mm Vibram Gumlite Trail Sole + 1mm insole = 6mm Total Stack Height Barefoot scale — Great shoe for experienced minimalist runners and hikers. New runners will want to take their time to adjust to the thinner sole. Ideal Uses — Road and light trail running. Light parkour. Adventures of many kinds. Pros
  • The most toe splay of any enclosed running shoe
  • Excellent materials
  • Versatile Vibram sole
  • Low ankle cowl
  • Squishy laces
  • Upcycled toe cap has excellent durability
  • Eye-catching shape
  • Low interior height
  • Not much to gain if you have narrow feet
Price$140 at the time of review

Initial Impressions

BOLD is not a term that minimalist runners shy away from. We are brazen, tough, and exceedingly eccentric, all at the same time. However, this shoe is definitely going to test some runners at first glace. The Softstar RunAmoc Primal (simplified to Primal) for the remainder of the review) features the widest toebox of any non-custom running shoe that I have seen and while some might think of it as clown-like, I think that it’s a game changer. Keep in mind, I’ve called Softstar a game changer before, with their bullhide RunAmoc: A shoe that is so durable and enjoyable, that I still wear it regularly more than three years after that first review and I’ve purchased a handful of other colors to bolster my collection. When running with their latest design, the Primal, my toes had a very interesting feeling of nothingness, an uncanny bubble of knowing that they are inside a shoe, but I cannot feel the shoe as I normally would; I am now able to splay my toes as though I was completely barefoot. And that is what the Primal is all about, total freedom for play and toe splay.


The Primal uses the classic Vibram Gumlite utility sole. More specifically, the 5mm variety. This is not a beefy trail sole, but can handle most light and medium trails, rocks, and tree trunks. This shoe is primary made for road and the nubs of the Gumlite sole are great for giving you plenty of traction, but without impeding your flexibility and movement; a strong balance between smooth and dexterous. Gumlite vaguely stiff, but still flexible. It is not quite as flexible as Vibram’s other sole rubbers, Morflex, Newflex or Cherry, but it provides more traction than most of its brothers. While the other soles are great for dry road running, Gumlite little 1-1.5mm nubs for traction. They cover the entire sole, in a uniform pattern; you will not see any zigzaging shapes, as with other soles. This gumlite sole is very flexible and can be easily rolled up. Aside from their Hawthorn boot, this is actually the stiffest Softstar Shoe that I have tested. The stiffness does not get in way of delicate movements though, such as wrapping your toes and sole around an object, such as a curb, concrete divider, or tree trunk; you still have incredibly flexibility, but just not as much as with thinner soles in previous shoes from Softstar. For climbing trails and anything with large rocks, the ability to shift your weight around any point in the sole is a fantastic advantage and I cannot see how anyone would want hiking boots when they can feel and adjust to every step with something as durable, capable, and flexible as you have with the Primal soles. There is a very slight “give” upon landing, but nothing jarring. The soles have a natural fall to them and running is very enjoyable. If you are used to running in Morflex shoes or regular running shoes, you may find an abrupt landing, but it’s nothing that you won’t adjust to within a few hundred feet; our bodies are amazing like that. If you are a seasoned huarache runner, then you will be right at home with the Primal. The wide toebox of the Primal makes for a very enjoyable running experience. I have particularly wide feet and I am almost always aware of the insides of my shoe when I run. For this reason, I have always enjoyed running in huaraches (custom-cut, whenever possible), but the Primal is easily the most comfortable shoe running experience that I had. It took all but five steps for me to stop thinking about the odd shape of these shoes and, instead, grin from ear-to-ear.
 One of the widest toeboxes in running shoes
One of the widest toeboxes in running shoes
As an aside: the little nubs of the Gumlite sole will pick up and hold all kinds of dirt, mud, or dog poo, so be careful with where you land! In testing on ice, the rubber in Gumlite is not made for that kind of low-temperature condition. You might want to look into something with Vibram Ice Trek or similar compounds made for cold-weather running, if you want complete confidence while running over snow and ice. There were a couple of instances where I did slip a bit when running over frozen puddles, but the Primal is so flexible and quick that I was able to recover, sticking to a slower pace on future puddles to be on the safe side.

Fit and Materials

The Primal is made almost entirely of surprisingly breathable premium, responsibly sourced leather. It’s beautiful leather, soft to the touch and seemingly broken in right out of the box. You can tell that Softstar takes a lot of pride in their shoes and the Primal continues that trend of quality, thoughtful, and hand-crafted design. The leather is soft to the touch and shoe adapts to the shape of your foot over time, giving plenty of freedom of movement when you flex and bend your feet. My Primal has very eye-catching contrast stitching and specific weakpoints feature criss-crossing patterns for extra durability. With my previous Softstar shoes, none of them have fallen apart on me yet, despite the seemingly soft leather construction. The stitch pattern is similar to the RunAmoc Dash that I reviewed years ago, but they have made subtle changes to the angles and a few reinforcement points.
 Excellent stitching throughout
Excellent stitching throughout
Softstar has creatively added a protective toe cap on the front of the Primal. These are made from upcycled bicycle inner tubes from Oregon. The toe area has been an issue with so many running shoes that I was surprised that such a simple and environmentally-friendly solution hasn’t bene used before. The bike tube rubber is very durable and can handle a lot of bushwhacking. I even did a little test and pressed a nail into the rubber to see how far I can press it. I was unable to puncture the rubber with just my bare hands, though it did leave a small indent. The color of the rubber actually blends well with the slight texture of the leather. At first, I didn’t even know that it was a tire tube, perhaps just a strip of black leather.
 The upcycled bike tire toecap provides good protection, while maintaining flexibility
The upcycled bike tire toecap provides good protection, while maintaining flexibility
For me, the heel is one of the most important points of any running shoe. I have found that some manufacturers do not give the heel enough attention and some heels can feel sloppy or too rigid. Softstar’s solution to the strengthening the heel without stiffening this important contact between foot and shoe was to use a thick wing of leather and stitch it into the heel section of the Primal. This provides a semi-custom fit that adds security to the heel, without sacrificing smoothness or comfort.
 One of the best heel designs, providing a near-custom fit to most heel shapes
One of the best heel designs, providing a near-custom fit to most heel shapes
Inside the shoe, there isn’t a thick insole, but the entire construction is quite seamless and very comfortable, even barefoot; no socks required. The cowl of the shoe is very low and this allows my ankle full and complete movement. This is incredibly helpful with climbing movements, cutting quickly, or just encouraging the overall feeling of openness. One thing to note is that it is not just the cowl that is low, but rather the entire show is pretty sleek and low-profile. While there is plenty of toe space for splay, there is not a lot of vertical space inside the Primal. If vertical volume is important for you, you might find your toes enjoying their freedom from side-to-side, but not up-and-down.

Future Improvements

While this did no affect my toe comfort, the Primal does have a low-profile shape and this may be a tough fit for anyone with those that require vertical volume. Someone with something like a hammer toe or just fat toes might not be too comfortable in the Primal. However, I am not sure how they can make the interior more voluminous without sacrificing the speed of the shoe. Aside from that, I suppose Softstar could have added more padding to the tongue, but this is a very complete design and one of my favorite enclosed running shoe designs.
 Flexible, roomy, and fun
Flexible, roomy, and fun


BOLD. Game Changing. Maverick. What-have-you. These are just words. How they speak to the character of the creative folks at Softstar is what matters. They are bold and have a lot of confidence in their designers and their craftsmen and craftswomen. I will admit that I initially thought that the shape of the shoe was a bit much, but it gave me a good reason to remind myself not to judge a book by its cover, because underneath that wide exterior was one of the most enjoyable running experiences that I would have otherwise missed out on. Combining the openness of a huarache with the assurances of an enclosed shoe, topped off with a beautiful leather upper with a capable and flexible sole, the Primal is a winner through and through. I cannot wait to take it on more adventures and I know that it will be a willing partner on the road ahead. If you’re interested in giving the Primal RunAmoc a go, head over to Softstar shoes and pick up a pair.

By Jarvis

Minimalist ultra-marathon runner with flat dinosaur feet.

50K Ultra-Marathon Runner

I hold a PhD in Political Science.
You can follow my photography adventures at and Instagram at

21 replies on “Review Softstar Shoes Primal RunAmoc”

Odd question, but if you had these loosely laced up, would you be able to casually slip them off and back on again without sitting down? Like a pair of Vans slip ons for instance?

They don’t slap anymore than, say, the Vibram Bikila LS or some of my other favorites.
They do slap LESS than your typical huaraches though. No worries here!


If I leave off the highest eyelet and keep the second eyelet loose, I can pretty easily slip my feet into the shoe! It really depends on how you want to enjoy the shoe. It does not require a untying of a ton of lacing to make it easy to go in and out.

Have you (or anyone else) had a chance to try to Carson Footwear shoe? Like Soft Star it’s another “made in USA” minimalist shoe, although I think the stack is considerably thicker than the Soft Star. Curious if anyone has had a chance to try it out and compare with Soft Star.

I’m trying to find the right size for me. How much space do you have between your toes and the front of the shoe? Thank you!

Finally picked up a pair of these and, while I’m still getting used to them, I’m optimistic. I tried Soft Star some years ago and, while I was impressed with the shoe on its own, it just didn’t fit me properly. This style, however, yields the first pair of non-VFF closed-toe shoes where I don’t feel myself being crushed by the toe-box. Now I just hope they end up being durable (USD 140 is a hefty price). If so, then I think I’ve found my new go-to shoe!

I love Soft Star…my biggest gripe with these is the lack of ventilation. My feet sweat, and the Primals are like a hot-box at any temperature above 60F, for me. Unfortunate as I love the reinforced toe…the Dash REALLY needs that.

Barefoot shoes are certainly my favorite type of shoe due to their feeling, but historically I’ve had issues in the past of my barefoot shoes developing a strong odor which is hard to waah out. Do these shoes also have odor issues or have you found that not to be a problem?

Hi Nick!

I highly recommend oil sprays as a funk-stopper.

Many people simply wash their shoes, but that may not be a viable option, depending on shoe materials.

I have found that tea tree oil and peppermint (you can find them online quite easily) are very effective as keeping things smelling nice and fresh!

Just ordered my Dash Primals.
(Picked the 5mm trail sole,and black/oxblood red for the color.)

Looking forward to getting them,hopefully within the next 2 weeks.

So far,ive had my new Runamoc Primals for about a week and a half.

(I received them on April 27,2019.It’s now May 7,2019.)

Love my new shoes.They’re so comfy.

I tried Softstar shoes once and hated them.

1) The “Low interior height” is horrible. The ankle height is WAY to low. It is horribly unstable and hurts. I got blisters after like 5 mins. Even with socks.

2) The sole / lack of padding is insanely painful. Sure, it has a Vibram sole, but something about the material offers 0 shock absorption. You can’t put an insole in the shoe either because of the “Low interior height”. Even 5-Fingers have shock absorption in them that is 1000 times better then Softstar. And YES, I know how to walk in Barefoot shoes. I’ve been wearing them for 5 years. I walk around barefoot all the time at home.

3) The tread texture is beyond annoying and impossible to keep clean.

4) The lip of the sole in the toes constantly catches on cracks in pavement etc. Yes, it could be because of the way I walk. The balls of my feet then toes touch down before my heels. WHICH btw, is how you’re suppose to walk

All in all, I’m really sad SoftStar are such non usable shoes. I love that you can design them however you want almost. It’s great.. but ugh, such horrid shoes.

Hi Ogden,

This particular model from SoftStar Shoes is designed for runners in mind and everyone will have their own experiences and preferences when it comes to each individual shoe and their needs.

Its stack height is average for minimalist shoes in this category–around 5mm with the Vibram Gumlite sole. The purpose is to provide very little shock absorption for better groundfeel, flexibility, and to facilitate proper running form.

If you feel that the lack of padding to be painful, perhaps you should consider listening to your feet and walking/running with better biomechanics efficiency (e.g. moving with less impact and more efficiency).

I find that the “lip” in the front is very minimal because it is folded back. Perhaps the shape of the shoe is too wide or maybe you have the wrong size?

In any case, each person’s feet will have their own experiences and I’m glad that we have so many options out there for minimalist runners. Personally, while the Moc was a highly reviewed model from SoftStar in the past, it was not really to my liking and I had to send mine back. This Primal is a marked improvement in terms of stability and comfort in my opinion.

Thanks for your thoughts! Perhaps Softstar will look at your comments and incorporate them into a different model.

I will ask the same question as David Couzelis.. Cant see your answer to him
I’m trying to find the right size for me. How much space do you have between your toes and the front of the shoe? Thanks

Hard to believe I’ve had my Soft Star Primals for nearly a year now.

(I received them on May 27,2019.It’s now March 3,2020.)
They’re still holding up fairly well..but I’m being tempted to buy another pair of Primals.

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