Primus Trail: Designed in the mountains

This is a little story about taking shoe design off road. A story about getting our feet wet and our hands dirty.

At Vivo, we are constantly learning, adjusting, stepping back and pushing forward, in our quest to make the best shoes for your feet, for your life. Just like the other parts of your kit, shoes are not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Some terrains require traction and bigger lugs. Some terrains call for water adaptability. For trail runners, your terrain calls for both.

Back in November 2014, we realized that our trail and mountain shoes were simply not good enough. We knew we could do better. For the past two years, a dedicated and talented team of designers, developers and athletes, from Sweden to China, have been devoted to a single mission: create the perfect trail shoe.

And this is where the story begins:


Back in November 2014, we began developing a new upper for what was, at that time, the Trail Freak outsole. However, our shoe design might be born as a sketch, and then a prototype or 5, but that’s just the beginning. Great off road shoes come from getting out in the wild and woolly environments for which they are designed. We knew that we needed to work with some genuine mountain people, who not only understood our ‘feet first’ values, but also called these tough, wild, beautiful terrains ‘home’!

That was when we met Sweden’s own Anders Nordström, a local trail running wild man with a tough-as-nails following of runners, willing to tap into this project.


We started with long conversations over Skype with Anders around GRIP, DURABILITY, WET WEIGHT, MATERIALS and the mountains. Using our old Trail Freak model as the starting line, Anders cut the off lugs and we shared ideas on the best elements of trail shoes, from properties of the rubber sole compound, to the best materials for running through water.

These early models really racked up the airline miles  - popping back and forth from our London HQ to Anders in Sweden.

Uppers, outsoles and molds all started to come together and the new shoe began take shape. It became obvious that to do this category properly, we needed one sole for firm, harder surfaces and one for loose, super soft terrains. With the FIRM GROUND and SOFT GROUND issue settled, we sent more specs for the new soles and uppers to our development team in China.


New prototypes in hand, we headed to Åre, Sweden, to work with Anders and the gang. This is where it got physical. For three days we walked, ran, climbed, swam, scaled and slid through breathtaking (and heart-pumping) mountains and trails. It was an adventure that I (and my calves) will never forget. Most importantly, we finally got up close and personal with the OFF ROAD trail shoes in their natural habitat!

Needless to say, we learned a lot about what these shoes do well and what they needed to do better.


After saying goodbye to our incredible hosts, we gathered all this new feedback and returned to London, inspired to begin the next round of prototyping. 

Our time in Sweden reaffirmed our goal: make the lightest, toughest shoe possible with heaps of grip and durability, to give the wearer a ‘close to nothing’ running experience. Simple! So back to china we flew, armed with new designs, and bags of worn shoes for a further few months of development.


A handful of prototypes and hundreds of hours later, we returned to Sweden for another feet first off road experience. The next two days were a blur of running, moving and talking about the new shoes while refilling on wild boar steaks and local brew.

The following day we took a boat to meet Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott, the originators of ÖTILLÖ Swimrun. Swimrun is an amphibious endurance race, that began as a drunken bet among friends. It’s now the fastest growing adventure race on the planet, of which we have since become proud sponsors (watch this space).


The fellas led us on a long, very rocky off-road run: our first swimrunning experience and the first round of shoe testing in open water swimming. Luckily, the soft ground shoes did as well as we thought they would. They went in and out of the water like true amphibians, unlike their humbled wearer… me. 

Fall of 2015 was a whirl of sales meetings and product presentations. We roped in athletes from the US, Canada and South Africa to alpha test our newest trail shoes along with our Swedish crew : the PRIMUS TRAIL SG & PRIMUS TRAIL FG.

The new shoes led us to a new year. 2016 went something like this:


It’s been another beautiful Vivo journey, working and moving with some incredible mountain talent, designers and suppliers willing to go the extra mile. What we have created together is the ultimate tool kit of shoe's that lets you move through nature and experience an enhanced sensory feeling of running like no other. As our sore muscles can attest, the PRIMUS TRAIL shoes are the ultimate shoe to take your life off road. 

Joel and I had an amazing time bringing these shoes to life and made some lifelong friends along the way. We hope you feel the effects of a new generation of off road shoes come to be known at the Primus Trail SG & FG.


“I have been running in nature my whole life and as long as I can remember, I have been very interested in shoes. When you have been running in all kinds of nature, all year around, since you were a kid, you know what works and you know what doesn’t. Long before I went into this amazing project with Vivobarefoot, I was thinking about how to make the best shoe for running in nature. So, when this opportunity came, I felt like a kid at Christmas! It’s been so much fun and extremely interesting to be part of the making these shoes - built from scratch, from the foot and from natures perspective. The coming trail shoes from Vivobarefoot are a result of letting nature and the human foot dictate the materiel, design, function and overall look.”  Anders Nordström, Art of Running

Words, story and photos by VIVOBAREFOOT Creative Director Asher Clark, Assistant Designer Joel Salamin and Art of Running's Anders Nordström


Our full off road collection will be available soon. You can buy the Primus Trail Firm Ground now.



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