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VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Review

by King Kong » on Jul 11, 2011 7

The VIVOBAREFOOT NEO is a great all around shoe that can be used in any sport by any level athlete. The look and feel of the shoe is appealing and can be worn casual and the overall structure of the shoe is sound and durable for any outdoor event. The structure and material construct provides a light weight semi-breathable shoe that helps bring your feet and legs out of atrophy while also providing a great base for lifting and other high intensity sports such as cross fit. The NEO has more support and cushioning than most minimalists will accept.

Curb Appeal

Once you get past the classic brand image of the VIVOBAREFOOT “V”, which looks like a UFO abduction mark from a scene on the X-files, you then have to deal with the European styling. The NEO reminds you of being at the mall watching guys with fanny packs and cameras around their neck…so, if you like being different and not falling into the ranks of social conformity, these are a good choice. The bright colors and the canvas type material used make it easy to wear these shoes with any outfit including jeans. The different color combinations make it semi easy to look casual at work in as well. [editor’s note:  I rather like the styling, so I suppose this is where personal preference comes into play]

Shoe Construct

The NEO is very durable and has been given many features that add to its long life and durability. For me, the biggest feature was the thin and flat insole that is laced with a bamboo/charcoal liner that can be removed for those not wishing to wear a liner in the shoe. This insert is basically a “stench absorber” and works well. It also helps to keep the moisture off of bare feet helping the fight against blisters and unneeded foot to shoe abrasion.  The shoe is rather narrow, but then opens up at the front of the shoe to give way to more room for the thickness of the upper phalanges. The shoe also has a natural lift in the front to provide support and contour, but still remains anatomically neutral.

The sole of the shoe is very supportive and made of durable rubber and provides protection from road debris and other hazards.

The exterior material is made of a thick mesh material, but still remains breathable. It is also adorned with a “leatherish” micro fiber material to provide extra protection to the sides of the shoe along with a rubber toe guard making this shoe a breathable and fortified tank for the feet.  The shoe is 100% vegan and has an overall “eco” score of 21:

Minimalism

This shoe wouldn’t really be considered an ultra minimalist shoe. The thick sole and insert mean that there is a descent of material between your feet and the ground. However, it is still a great “in touch” shoe that will help to strengthen the atrophic muscles and give additional stability to rigorous workouts. The design of the shoe still gives acceptable levels of road feel while running.  While not ultra-minimalist, these shoes are still light, thin-soled, and lightyears ahead of standard running shoes.

UPDATE:  The VIVOBAREFOOT team sent us a note after this review went live with the following:  “All of our shoes come with the removable insole but are intended to be worn without. The insole is strictly used for people who are transitioning or have a personal preference, however the shoes are designed for it to be removed leaving a 3.5mm outsole for ultimate barefoot experience. I just want to make sure that you’re aware and can really get more out of your experience with our shoes.”

Running

I logged around 15 miles in the shoes over two weeks and had no complaints. I am also not a long distance runner, so the main running was street, about 3 miles a pop. The NEO provides for a pleasant run due to the breathable material and the hard rubber sole. It makes your feet work, but still provides a good amount of protection from the elements. Some may appreciate these features and others may say they take away from the “minimalist shoe” movement. The flexibility of the sole while running is also appealing and provides motion contour while moving along. No aches, no pain, and no foot wounds from acorns, curbs, or other road debris. I did have a slight heel rub that could be problematic, but that depends on your foot type so try them on before you buy if you can.

Bicycling

I went mountain biking a few times a week in these shoes for two weeks and had great results. I had been wearing my Komodo Sports to bike, which made it difficult to pedal at times and lost traction due to having “toes”. These NEOs made it easy to pedal on my bear claw pedals and provided a breathable ride and kept my feet cool. I also noticed increased calf intensity while pedaling; I’m not sure if this was from wearing the NEOs or from the ride. The wide toe box of the shoe also provides a good base to contact the pedal and the toe protection proves to come in handy when stepping off or for foot to ground stability while making stops. The construction of the shoe is very durable and I would expect that they could hold up even if using over the shoe pedal strap- ins.

Cross Fit/Weight Lifting

This is where the shoe really starts to hit its stride. I wore them a few times to cross fit and was very happy with the results and benefits from the shoe. The flat sole helps to keep your body aligned and provides a good ground base while performing heavy, complex lifts such as deadlifts, sumo lifts, overhead squats and even the bench press. The structure of the shoe allowed fluidity and it was easy to shift weight to the heels when needed and gain proper heel over toe form. The rubber sole also provided a good ground and sticky contact with the floor. The lightweight and breathable material also fostered a good plyometric workout by keeping the feet cool and good stability doing lateral, explosive movements.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I liked the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo’s.  While I’m not in love with the styling, I realize that is a personal preference issue so I wouldn’t deduct a lot of points there.  If you are looking for an ultra-minimalist shoe, these aren’t it… but neither are Vibram Bikilas.  These certainly have some applications where they’d be great, and if you like the look, that is good too because they can we worn as casual everyday shoes.  Let us know what you think in the comments!

 

7 Comments

  1. Colin Hurst

    July 11th, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I bought a pair of Neo’s about 3 weeks ago and am transitioning into them gradually. I wear them around the house and casually outside as well as for running as I get used to no heels or cushioning. They are extremely comfortable and the wide toe box is perfect. They seem to actively encourage mid-foot or forefoot strike and different overall running form as it’s just about impossible to run in them as I do in ordinary training shoes. Add to this being able to feel the ground and still have the protection makes running feel much more ‘natural’ than in the motion control/stability running shoes I’ve worn up to now. Because they are so comfortable it’s hard not to be tempted to overdo it before my feet, legs and body have grown properly accustomed to the new running form. I’d recommend them to anybody.

    Reply

  2. Jamie Fellrath

    July 11th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Great complete review. I don’t own Neos but I do have a pair of Hinds (their “boat shoe” version). I had no clue that you’re supposed to remove the insole after a while… guess I’ll be doing that when I get home! ;)

    Reply

  3. Jeremy Vaught

    July 14th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks for the review. I saw these on their site and wondered about them. I sport the Evo and love ’em. In the seven months I’ve had them they have slowly taken over and my primary footwear from being just my running shoes. But I’m been looking for something I could wear into an office or to church, and the Bland & White Neo looks like it could pull it off. Perhaps the Miles. But the next one I want to check out is the Merrell Tough Glove.

    Reply

  4. Glori

    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    i just want to thank you for this awesome review- i have been doing some research looking for a minimalist shoe that i could cross train in. since i never did feel comfortable in toe socks i pretty much dismissed the vibramfive fingers. i stumbled across the Vivobarefoot Neo on sale online and was very hopeful about them. on the surface they seemed perfect, your review however is what sold me.
    im essentially a bike commuter who weight trains and relunctanly jogs from time to time.
    I hate traditional running shoes because the cushioning has always felt unnatural and uncomfortable to me, barefoot running in the city is unsafe and barefoot cycling has proven as awful as it sounds…
    anyway thanks to your thorough review i now know these are the shoes for me!
    thanks!

    Reply

  5. Norwegian

    June 21st, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I own a pair of Neo’s, and they’re easily the best shoes I’ve ever had :-) Really comfortable.

    I agree that they are perfect for biking. They also work well in most terrain, except for more extreme off road conditions, as the soles are too slippery (but so are all running shoes).

    Reply

  6. Leigh

    September 17th, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for the review. Im looking at buying a new pair of crossfit shoes..

    Just wondered how youve found these long term with crossfit, and how much rope climbing you did with these, if any? thanks :)

    Reply

    • KingKong

      September 17th, 2012 at 10:01 am

      I would suggest these for CF, long term, but would not recommend them for the use of rope climbs. The material could be torn due to high friction abrasion and depending on your foot grip during the climb, a more rigid sole shoe may be required.

      Reply

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