Barefoot Shoes


If you’re looking for a sturdy minimalist shoe to use over the roughest terrain, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails definitely deserve some attention. The no drop heel and thin soles provide an excellent feel for the ground that will satisfy any discerning minimalist shoe wearer’s requirements and the extra wide toe box gives your feet enough room to move with each step without any feelings of restriction.

Late this summer VIVOBAREFOOT debuted a new addition to their road, sandal and hiking shoe lineup which is targeted at trail running. The Neo Trails, which are offered in both Men’s and Women’s sizing in a wide variety of colors, differ from standard trail shoes with their extremely aggressive tread pattern. With a no drop heel, the sole thickness is the standard 3mm that you might find on a regular minimalist shoe, but the Neo Trails borrow 5mm luggs from their hiking shoe counterparts that are reminiscent of the tread on a mountain bike tire rather than a running shoe. In fact, when first unboxing the Light Grey/Red pair tested in this review, the pleasant smell of fresh rubber reminded me of the new tire section at an auto repair shop. Like many of their products, these shoes support VIVOBAREFOOT’s green mission of ecological survival and sustainability. The Neo Trails are manufactured in sweatshop free conditions, are 100% vegan, and the soles are made from recycled rubber. Even the shoe box they come in urges you to think of creative ways to reuse it or, at the very least, to recycle it. Full review and tons of photos after the jump!

Function, Barefoot Feel

The Neo Trails sport well crafted uppers that are kept together with double stitching and are made up of a strong material that has a canvas like feel to it. Inside they are comfortable lined and have a bit of light padding around the ankle. The tongue also had a bit of padding to it and is sewn in about halfway up the length of the laces. The heel cup fits snuggly so your foot will stay put without slipping when the shoe is under force.
As with many of VIVOBAREFOOT’s shoes, the Neo Trails have an ultra-thin puncture resistant sole with a wide anatomic toe box that has plenty of room for your foot to expand and contract with each step. As someone with fairly broad feet, when I say wide I mean that there is a substantial amount of room to wiggle your toes back and forth and flex your foot. If you are used to running in Vibram FiveFingers or other more tightly fitting running shoes, this may feel a bit disconcerting at first, but it’s actually quite comfortable. Even jumping straight into a few longer trails runs of up to 8 or 10 miles there were no hotspots or signs of rubbing anywhere that might cause blisters. Despite the tall luggs there is still a very good feel for the ground. I was very impressed to note that when walking around the house after trying them on the first time, the luggs would actually catch on the carpet. While you can still feel the shape of individual pebbles or small rocks underfoot, they aren’t painful to step on like one might experience with FiveFingers. The insoles are of a medium thickness, but are easily removable which lends itself to even better foot proprioception as VIVOBAREFOOT suggests the insoles are a matter of insulation and personal preference. In rigorous testing, the insoles were found to slip a bit and ended riding up behind my heel before I removed them permanently.


So how did they do? While worn around the local singletrack and dirt trails in the area they performed well with a solid feel for the ground. The Neo Trails handled dirt, sand, wet leaves and slippery rocks in streams as easily as any trail shoe might and even having the large lugged tread didn’t seem to make much of a difference on pavement. Running a few miles on asphalt to the trailhead was definitely doable and even making quick turns or shifts in weight on wet pavement pleasingly posed no problem. The only criticism here was that, like mentioned above, the insoles slipped around before I took them out. I also found that unless I double knotted the shoe laces they tended to come untied quite easily. But to really put these shoes to the test I competed in my region’s Tough Mudder obstacle course race while wearing them. For those unfamiliar with the Tough Mudder series, it’s a race designed by British Special Forces to test any athlete’s mettle and determination. Essentially it’s a 10 mile course running around a ski resort, up and down black diamond ski slopes while traversing terrain that includes pavement, grass, dirt, mud, freezing cold water, fire, and electrified wires. Perfect conditions to test any trail shoe! The words “Off Road Ready” are printed on the side of the sole and boy are these shoes ever!
The race series is popular among the Crossfit crowd, so many of the competitors were wearing FiveFingers which ended up being a poor choice on the slick, mud covered ski slopes. In soft dirt going uphill, the Neo Trails dug in well and provided great traction in loose sections. Going downhill I was even happier with the Neo Trails as I managed to keep my footing where others were losing their balance and were simply managing a controlled slide down the mountain. Even when the soles were caked with mud, the 5mm luggs provided enough grip to keep me upright. The shoes were generally comfortable to wear over the 10 mile course, but as the uppers aren’t as breathable as some other shoes on the market, once your feet were submerged they tend to stay wet for longer than desired. Under normal trail use, in the rain, or with the occasional step in a puddle, the Neo Trails shouldn’t let in too much water, but jumping into a dumpster filled with ice cubes isn’t normal trail use. Since the weather has gotten cooler now here in the Mid-Atlantic region I haven’t been able to test them in warm temperatures, but I expect that they might tend to be a bit on the warm side if you are running in the middle of the summer. Following the race they cleaned up easily, and looked as good as new after spraying them down with water and going over them with a stiff brush.


From a style standpoint, the Neo Trails look as good with a pair of running shorts as they do with a pair of jeans. I found myself occasionally grabbing these for casual wear and they felt good doing extended errands around the neighborhood despite the oversized tread. Even after being on my feet for several hours they remained comfortable. There are a number of color offerings from a muted black to a vibrant yellow and blue for the men and a pink and crimson for the women to suit your tastes.


If you’re looking for a sturdy minimalist shoe to use over the roughest terrain, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails definitely deserve some attention. The no drop heel and thin soles provide an excellent feel for the ground that will satisfy any discerning minimalist shoe wearer’s requirements and the extra wide toe box gives your feet enough room to move with each step without any feelings of restriction. Due to their aggressive treads, they have outstanding traction in wet and slick conditions, and other than a few small gripes about the shoe laces easily coming untied and their overall breathability, they perform very well on a wide variety of surfaces ranging from dirt and mud to surprisingly even pavement. The Neo Trails are available online at VIVOBAREFOOT’s website for $130, which is generally in line compared to pricing on many of their other casual and running shoes while coming in well below some of their pricier hiking boot options. I spend much of my time during the summer on the slick-tired road bike and pounding the pavement in Vibram FiveFingers, but once the triathlon season is over I look forward to going off road on the knobby-tired mountain bike. I found the Neo Trails to be the perfect complement to getting back to nature with trail running and rediscovering just how much I enjoy playing in the dirt. The Neo Trails weigh in at 198g/6.9 oz and list for $130.

By Tim

I’m am a bicycle advocate by profession and an Ironman triathlete for fun which keeps me healthy and fit. I got into minimalist footwear during the summer of 2009 after dealing with injuries resulting from running in “normal” running shoes. Check out what’s going on in my life through photos at [url=][/url] or follow me on twitter: [url=]@TimKelleyDotNet[/url]. Get to know Tim better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

22 replies on “VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail Review”

There is a $50 online coupon now through Nov. 14. To redeem this offer enter OFFROAD50 at the checkout on (create an account first if you don’t already have one, you have to be logged in for the coupon code to work).

The weight (and especially having a bit more structure around your foot) is a bit more noticeable if you are accustomed to spending most of your time in VFFs. If not, I’d say it is quite comparable to any other trail/running shoe.

I don’t understand why people keep saying that the Vivobarefoot shoes have a wide toebox. I have tried them and I have not found them to be very wide in the toebox. They are about average width actually. In the latest edition of Running Times, a 3D scan of the shoes with Shoefitter only gave them a 1.7 (higher number = more width) for width. The Pearl Izumi syncroFuel Trail II got a 2.0, and the Bikilas got and 11.1, so I don’t see how anyone can say these shoes have a roomy toebox.

I wasn’t too impressed with the rubber compound. After only one run on some fairly technical trails, some of it actual rock face, a few of the lugs are chipped and others cracked. I’m taking mine back out of fear they won’t hold up for more than a year. The toe spring can be annoying if you choose to wear them around town, and there is a stitch or something in that sock liner on the left shoe that chews the top of my foot up. I think overall, tho, they’re a good option, but not tough enough for REAL trails.

Not trying to be a know-it-all, but I couldn’t help but noticing that you’ve tied a faulty tie on the shoes – this might be the cause of them coming loose…? (What you did what the “granny-knot”, not the reef-knot, which is the one that’ll usually hold).
Otherwise thanks for the always thorough and awesome shoe reviews!

Aaron: Did you try Evos or Neos? Neos are much roomier in the toebox than the Evos first iteration. I find my Neos to b MUCH roomier, and it definitely was an adjustment to go from Bikilas to the roomy Neo. I imagine the Neo trail would be very close to my Neo in terms of “toe room”.

For some applications, I definitely prefer my Neos to Bikila. I would rather run in the Neos on a trail, and these Neo Trails sound fantastic.

Bikila is still my go to for speed training or long road runs, the weight of the Neo makes a difference here.

@Brett–the Neo Trails and the Minimus Trails are quite different. I like the Minimus Trails for road running and casual wear as they have less of a heel drop than their Minimus Road equivalents. The Neo Trails have a much more aggressive tread and would probably fair better for actual trail running. Hope that helps!

How do they compare sizing-wise with the NB Minimus Trail? If I wear a 9 in the Minimus, should I order a 9 in the Neo Trails?

Sounds good. I guess I also have the Trail Glove as a consideration. I don’t do much serious running right now, but I’m on my feet a lot. I’d like something fairly well-rounded that’s comfortable all day.


Do you (or anyone else) know how the width of the Neo Airmesh compares to the Neo Trail? I have very wide feet. Your review and some of the comments seem to indicate that the Neo Trail is very wide and generous.

I have no local Vivo retailers, so I hate to order them unless I’m sure they’ll be in the E – EE range.


Great review. I bought my VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails based on this review and ran the Chuckanut 50K yesterday in wet, cold, MUDDY very technical trail conditions. I couldn’t be happier. Around mile 25 my feet were wet because of all the mud and water we had to run through, but today – day after – my feet feel great and absolutely NO blisters. Wore Ininji cool max performance socks with them. Thanks again!

I have been running with the Evos for about a year. The Evos have a more natural feel when running. I really like them for road running. I have a harder time walking in them because I cannot seem to break my heel striking when I walk.

I have the Merrell trail glove that I use for both trail running and plyometric exercises like Beach Body Insanity. They feel better on my feet for walking.

I really want to give the Neo Trail a run for the money!

I bought the Neo Trails about 2 months ago based on this review and I have to say I am generally pleased with them. I normally wear Sprints for gym time and Bikilas for road running. Running in toe shoes though, on rocky colorado trails can have you throwing out swear words here and there. I needed a break from toe shoes anyway. I generally wear the Neo Trails running on the local trails (Cheyenne Mountain and the Barr trail on Pikes Peak, Iron horse Trail on Fort Carson)which are mostly rocks and loose dirt. The Neo Trails have great, let me rephrase that, AMAZING traction and great ground feel. I find that that the insole really makes no difference whatsoever. I put them to my ultimate test wearing them during my first ever race: the Spartan Race Military Sprint on Fort Carson, CO. It was fairly warm out that day, with temperatures ranging from the low to mid 80’s. In Colorado weather, these shoes are definitely OK for the summer, in my opinion. It’s so dry up at this altitude that any part of your body that sweats will dry up momentarily. Before I hit the mud pits, my feet were pretty cool and breezy. My only issues with them are 1) The laces are RIDICULOUSLY long, I wear a EU 35/US 5 womens and I have to triple knot the laces. They came undone to the first knot by mile 2 but held up throughout the race. (A lot of shod runners lost their shoes) 2) The hydrophobic mesh definitely holds water in…I was sloshing around after all the trenches and mud pits, it felt a little heavy. 3) It is not impervious to cactus needles. That has a lot more to do with the terrain in CO and me not exactly scrutinizing every single inch of the terrain, but it still hurts like a #*%(#$&%! Other than those I love the Neo Trails, thanks Tim for your review!

So can anyone compare these or the other Vivo’s (breathe i believe?) with the NB 110’s or MT10’s? Specifically protection, padding, sizing, etc.

I like my 110’s but they hurt my right foot a bit and slip on my heel. The MT10’s are a bit rough on long rocky runs. Thinking either some of these Vivo’s or the Altra Lone peaks

Glad to see the review included the Tough Mudder. I’ve been running in these shoes since last fall (purchased to go into fall/winter running season after using Pace Gloves in summer). I have found these shoes to be very comfortable and, for someone with huge bunyons on both feet, the toebox seems extremely generous to me. I recently discovered a permanent obstacle course where I live in VT (if you are anywhere near New England, check them out!! and these shoes perform amazingly well on very muddy – CRAZY obstacles! Love them and highly recommend.

The way to keep shoes tied outdoors is to ties a square, or reef knot, then leave maybe 4″ of lace and cut the rest off and burn/seal the end. They will stay laced, they can be unlaced with an upward flip of one end.

This only works with firm round-section laces. I usually replace whatever laces come with the shoes with reflective tent line 2.5 – 3mm works well in most eyelets. It lasts a long time and stays tied when reef-knotted.

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