Barefoot Shoes

VivoBarefoot Primus Lux Review

VivoBarefoot has been in the business of making minimalist, “barefoot shoes” for a long, long time. Looking back, I first reviewed Vivo Barefoot Aquas on BirthdayShoes seven years ago—this was back when they were Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot. What a…

VivoBarefoot has been in the business of making minimalist, “barefoot shoes” for a long, long time. Looking back, I first reviewed Vivo Barefoot Aquas on BirthdayShoes seven years ago—this was back when they were Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot. What a mouthful. Many, many Vivo Barefoot reviews later, today I’ll be reviewing the VivoBarefoot Primus Lux. The Primus Lux, which should exist right here on the VivoBareofot website (it is here for women), is one of the growing “Primus” line at VivoBarefoot. The VivoBarefoot Primus line is marketed as being “built around the concept, less is more. Less shoe, less weight – more freedom to move. We had a vision for the lightest movement shoe possible; a shoe that followed the natural shape of the foot and had the least possible interference with human movement.” To date, there are trail shoes, exercise shoes, and the “luxury” shoe shown here. Having had mine for about 3-4 months (Thanks, Vivo!), I’ve spent enough time in them to give them a proper review. The short of it? I really like these guys. For more, you know what to do …

Meet the Primus Lux

When the Primus Lux was launched in February of 2017—and Vivo shared the following about it:
We designed the Primus Lux to be our simplest premium shoe. We’ve taken man’s oldest material, natural leather, which remains unsurpassed by any other material for durability, and used the latest laser cutting techniques, to create a shoe that’s built to last, produced with minimal waste and designed to feel amazing. The full grain leather is completely unlined, making it much lighter and leaner than most leather footwear. A laser cut 3-piece upper is stitched to the on-road sole (not glued) to form a smooth casing around the foot. Laser perforations to the upper minimise weight and increase breathability.
Take a spin around the Primus Lux (in natural) via these photos:


If you’re talking about a “luxury” shoe with quality materials, it better look good. Right out of the box, I immediately took to the Primus Lux. The leather is supple and exudes high quality—in fact, it’s Pittards Wild Hide, which is a leather brand used by high-end products like golf gloves and shoes. As you read about above in Vivo’s description, this shoe is dead simple: it’s leather upper and insole, all stitched, and a rubber outsole. It’s got laser cutouts that keep the shoe breathable. Other design aspects include a few of the VivoBarefoot hexagonal Vs, but as those things go, they are pretty subtle—tasteful.
Design-wise, I appreciate the Primus styling where the side panels of the shoe are brought all the way to the front of the toe box, with the slightly larger cutout by the big toe. It breaks up the overall width and flatness of the toebox and makes the shoes look narrower than they are (a.k.a. less like duck feet). Contrast the Primus Lux to the VivoBarefoot Ra, which is just flat at the front, and you can get a sense of the difference this design quality makes. All in all, these are some of the best looking VivoBarefoots that fit squarely in that dressy sneaker look. They’re obviously not dress shoes but they’re also not exercise shoes. If there was one knock against them, I almost wish they had a little more color to them—either a bit darker shade of tan or brown. I don’t know, something. Yet I still like the “natural.” As for the all-important spouse-test, the Primus Lux passes with flying colors—Mrs. BirthdayShoes likes the look of the Primus Lux. And if you can’t tell, I do, too.

Build quality

While this bleeds into the aesthetics of the Primus Lux, I feel the build requires special attention. In addition to the high-quality material (Pittards leather), the Lux does something else that sets it apart from most of Vivo’s prior shoe offerings. For the longest time VivoBarefoot shoes would have a removable (albeit minimalist and with no arch support) foam insole. If you wanted a more barefoot feel, you could then take out the insole. However, the remaining footbed would have all these exposed stitches. “>This photo from my Gobi review is exactly what I’m talking about. In other words, wearing Vivos sans insole wasn’t a great experience. Contrast that with the Primus Lux—which lacks a removable insole or even a non-removable foam insole. Nearest I can tell, the Lux is just a thin layer of leather directly attached to the Vivo rubber outsole with no exposed stitches whatsoever. Just look at it:
This makes a huge difference in the way the build quality of the shoes feels. If you wear the Lux without socks, your feet feel nothing but super smooth leather—both on the footbed and on the upper, which is unlined. One thing I’d point out is that unlike what the above Lux description says very clearly, the rubber outsole does not seem to be stitched to the uppers. Glue seems to be involved. So far, that’s worked almost flawlessly. I see a tiny bit of separation (around a centimeter) on one shoe. Not enough to bother me. My most favorite pair of suede VivoBarefoot Oaks also have glued soles that came a bit undone years ago in a much more obvious way but it doesn’t really bother me and I still wear those Oaks regularly (for me, every other week or so). If the glue problem ever gets worse I’ll update this review.

Barefoot feel

All of this leads to the barefoot-ness of these shoes. How barefoot are the Primus Lux? The lack of any foam insole and the leather on rubber combo makes the Lux very minimally soled. If you’re used to wearing even lightly padded shoes—e.g. VivoBarefoots with the foam insole—you’ll find that the Lux offer an almost harsh ride. Worn with a pair of socks, though, and you’ve got a pretty smooth combo. The Primus Lux is definitely one of the more barefoot-feeling shoes out there. It’s not quite as barefoot as your most typical FiveFingers due to Vivo’s outsole being a bit harder as far as rubber goes. However, if you’re looking for a good-looking, everyday wearing barefoot shoe, the Lux is worth considering. I wear the Lux mostly sockless, so the foot on leather is pretty great. Sometimes I wish the leather insole was a suede instead of a smooth leather (perhaps personal preference as I’ve felt this way about other shoes and sandals), but if you’re going to have supple, smooth leather, hard to go wrong with the Pittards.

Fit considerations

I wear a size 11 in the Primus Lux, which corresponds to a 44 or so in European sizing. I’m a size 43 in FiveFingers and a 10.5 usually. I probably could go down a half-size in the Lux, but the 11s seem just fine worn barefoot or with socks. Of note, Vivo narrowed its last probably three or four years ago. While this has never been a problem for me and their last is still atypically wide relative to regular shoes, this could be an issue if you have notably wide feet (I don’t). Also, I’ve heard some folks who have higher insteps (think: the middle of your foot is thicker) can run into some fit issues with many of Vivo’s flatter-fronted shoes. Again, this is not a problem I have (and even struggle to relate to).

Final thoughts

I like the Primus Lux. A lot. Truth be told I saw some Primus Lux marketing and was immediately reaching out to Vivo for a pair to review. That initial impression was backed up on receiving the Lux and I’ve enjoyed wearing them for this review. That said, the Primus Lux isn’t cheap at about $150. And that’s if you can find them!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

18 replies on “VivoBarefoot Primus Lux Review”

I think I would take 3 simple pair of Sanuk Rounders over these, for the same price. Man those Lux are butt ugly.

I rather like mine too. They’re pretty much the next best thing to my Xero Shoes (that is, no shoes at all). I’d definitely prefer not to wear them in this 30° weather though. 😛


Sanuk Rounders are fine but they’re the typical, unrefined look of Sanuks and not made of quality leather — nor are they as minimalist.

As for the aesthetics, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder but “butt ugly?” These are easily one of the best looking pairs of minimalist shoes I’ve ever reviewed.

Glad to see you are getting some reviews in Justin!

These don’t look too bad. I saw them on line in black and thought they were pretty sharp. I have plenty of other models and don’t really see a need for these in my shoe lineup.

I like the aesthetics and the perforations. But I’m concerned about the width. I’m wondering, though, if the forefoot could be stretched or if there are seams that would prevent stretching without ripping?

Towards the end of 2009 I purchased a few different models of VivoBarefoot shoes and boots but had trouble with the width. At the same time I purchased my first pair of FiveFingers, the KSO Trek. The FiveFingers, with their stretchy kangaroo leather, quickly molded to my feet and were pain-free even on long hikes. I haven’t worn the Vivos since then except for a couple of times when I needed something dressier and more conventional.

Lately (last few years) Fivefingers have also become too narrow (for my feet). I’m able to wear the recently discontinued Trek Ascent Leather by going a size larger than my actual length and then moderately stretching them (the seams rip if I try stretching them very much). However an oversized shoe is not an ideal solution, especially when an off-trail hike involves a bit a rock climbing.

Admin, fair and true enough about the Sanuks.

I’ll still lean more to what Frans said about the Xero shoes. Amazing comfort and the casual Hanas look a million times better (in the eyes of this beholder) than this funky, off color, too high of sole material around the sides, shoe.

Yeah, I think they are great looking shoes too. Although I would like them in either black or a darker shade as well, but it looks like the natural leather goes well with jeans.
How do they look with khakis? (my wife has this impression that clothes have to “match”…)

So, I was looking over their site and they do have them in black…for women. 🙁
I like the Primus Lite also and almost bought a pair until I saw the white accents on the instep side of the shoe. Now it doesn’t matter since they don’t have my size in stock.

I’ve been looking at another pair of Vivo’s since my first pair of Ra’s (version 1’s even) finally died (the sole of one just fell completely off the other day). My Ra II pair are still going strong, but I need something I can wear with black. (more matching issues…)
These will probably fit the bill, I just have to justify the $150 price tag.

These look to have the same problem that exists on the Ra (and apparently other Vivo) shoes. The side of the big toe is not wide enough. The back half of the shoe is too wide in proportion to the front half. This shape is essentially backwards from how a shoe should be. When I go up in size to the point at which the toe area becomes tolerable, the edge of the collar is then too high, uncomfortably rubbing the bottom of my ankle bone.

I’ve had these shoes for maybe a month or so. Great summer shoes.
They look good, feel good, and because of the leather insole, they can be worn without socks for extended periods of time with getting that funky smell.

A couple of notes:

*As Justin says, the rubber sole is not actually stitched to the leather upper, like Vivo said in their press release.
This is kinda disappointing as these are expensive shoes made with high quality materials.
Vivo uses some kind of environmental friendly glue that isn’t as good as the nastier stuff other companies use. That’s great, but the downside is that it isn’t as effective, and many Vivos have the habit of separating over time.
Glue + stitches like their casual shoes would have been much better from a longevity point of view.
I’ve used them almost every day for over a month, and both shoes show signs of separating.
Nothing too bad so far, mostly cosmetic (and you can fix it with a bit of super glue).
But I really would have liked them to be stitched as this is marketed as a premium shoe.

*The press release and Justin say these are completely unlined leather.
This is also no true. It’s only the back part of the shoe that’s unlined leather. The toe box is lined with some kind of fabric. You can easily see that if you remove/loosen the laces and look into the toe box.
The great part of having an unlined all leather shoe is that they don’t start to stink nearly as easily as shoes made with other materials. You can actually wear them sock less and not worry.

I was worried this fabric would start to stink after a while and ruin the sock less shoe thing.
I’ve used them without any socks for about a month now… So far so good.
I guess Vivo put the fabric there to prevent blesters and hot spots, but I would have preferred a completely unlined version. That, and make the perforations on the toe box bigger so they would actually let in some air. Now they are mostly cosmetic, the ones in the arch area work great though…

But all in all a great shoe. One of the best from from Vivo so far.

I am a wide footed dude who has desperately tried almost all vivo shoes. The problem with their new last is not just the narrowing, its the shape of the toe box as well. The toe box is shaped like a banana instead of a more accommodating eggplant like profile 😀 If you look at their upcoming Betabrand projects you will find TONS of people sharing the same issue. In other words, if your pinkie toe is closer to the length of your big toe there is no way you can fit in 90% of vivo shoes. To me this seems silly since a banana can ALWAYS comfortably fit an eggplant toebox, but an eggplant can NEVER jam into a banana box.

The only options for feet like mine are softstar, xeroshoes and sandals. The new merrell vapor glove has a great toe box, but it is restrictive in the mid foot if your feet are at all wide.

Hope this info helps some folks and I’m glad you are enjoying your primus’ Justin. Great review as always. This site is great.

I have been a Vivo wearer for a long time. I bought the Primus Lux in black leather with white soles three months ago. At first I wasn’t sure about the white soles, But thy grew on me. To me, they look like a pair of hipster sneakers but with all the benift of minimalist shoes. I travel full time and need a pair of light weight, versatile footwear. I travel with one bag and can’t carry around a lot of stuff.
I’ve run, skipped rope, done ground based mobility drills, lifted weights, performed calisthenics and walked many daily miles in these. So far, no sign of wear or separation at the sole… the leather cleans easy with a wipe down with a damp hotel wash cloth..
So far they seem really durable and the leather looks good. Great everyday and training shoe.

Vivobarefoot shoes are too narrow theses days. The longer you go barefoot, the wider your toes get. Shoes should be WIDEST at the toes, but this is NOT the case with Vivobarefoot.

I always need to size up with Vivo just to be able to wear them and this results in a shoe that is too long and it creates a tripping hazard.

I hope Vivobarefoot changes their last to be wider at the toes. At least offer a couple models that are widest at the toes Vivo.

If you talk a good barefoot game Vivo, you need to deliver a better natural/barefoot shoe.

I love Vivobarefoot shoes, but they are very difficult to order online. I’ve been trying to order a pair for 3 day, and the website won’t take the order. It might be a problem with my computer, but I’ve ordered multiple times before. Their customer service is poor, and they won’t take orders online. Exchanges are impossible–you have to return and reorder, which is a super hassle. I’m looking for a brand I like as much as Vivobarefoot that I can order without all the trouble.

kyle, if you are STUCK with only softstar and xero shoes…you are in great hands. I think they are the two best barefoot shoe companies out there. Still hoping for a real waterproof winter boot. Come on Xero and Softstar, show us what you can do in that category.

I just ordered a pair. Why do you say they are not exercise shoes? I was planning on using them for everything. Softstar has all leather shoes that are for exercise, why wouldn’t these be?


I’m sure you could use them for exercise but they won’t breath as well because of the leather and I’d worry about sole separation because of shear stress between the upper and the soles.

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