VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof Shoe Review
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VIVOBAREFOOT has categorized this as an off-road shoe. I’d say!?! This shoe is a beast! Not in terms of it being scary big, but in its very aggressive lug pattern and ability to handle the roughest of terrain. The numerous technological advances and features will have you attacking the toughest of rocky terrain or slickest and muddiest tracks you can find. Add in the waterproof and insulated components, and you have yourself a mean machine when it comes to tackling the winter conditions and trails. The VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof will be a joy to take out especially in conditions you’d normally rather avoid.
First impressions of the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof
Now this is called the ‘Trail Freak’. At first the name seems a bit aggressive, even abrasive. Then you get to take a closer look, and the outsole lugs make a strong impression. In 4 x 4 terms, these are some serious mud boggers or rock crawlers. I have had the chance to take these out in a wide range of winter conditions from muddy icy trails to a very cold and ankle deep snowy mountain run.
The Minimal / Barefoot Movement
I will throw out my 2 cents on the fad, trend, and must-have minimal shoe thing that was 4-5 years ago. Or was it? I held a part time position in a running store a while back, and saw and heard it all. I also tried a wide array of shoes with more drops and technical features to name.
I believe the basic underlying concept for minimal and/or barefoot shoes is alive and well. Even though it may seem that these days, it’s all about cushioning. First of all, don’t take these trends and latest and greatest fads all too seriously. The basic premise of minimal running is a solid concept in my book. I know runners that shunned it from the get-go. Others dove right in with varying results or longevity from trying. Some loved it, and are still running minimal. Others got hurt by transitioning too fast. The Achilles tendon, feet, and calves are not used to a quick change at the drop of a hat. It’s these people that are giving the minimal movement a bad name.
I took it at face value, and for the past 4 years, I have been trending down to a more minimal shoe. I rotate through shoes to mix it up, while occasionally (once or twice a week) going with something from my minimal shoe collection.
Most importantly, running in a minimal shoe has made me a better and more efficient runner! Period. Exclamation Point!
I am in my mid 40’s, and have been running consistently for 9 years, and am still breaking P.R.’s in part because of my more efficient running style. I went from a lazy looking style where I did a pretty good heel strike to a forefoot/midfoot foot positioning when landing. My cadence is higher, and I am putting less stress on my joints, bones, and muscles.
My go-to marathon shoe is now a 4mm drop shoe with some cushioning. All that said, I was really excited to give the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof a try on my backyard playground called the Rocky Mountains.
With a mere thickness of 2.5mm, the sole is patented, ultra-thin, and puncture resistant to provide more than adequate protection. The lugs are what has been the most striking thing from the get-go. The VIVOBAREOOT Trail Freak Winterproof features aggressive 4.5 mm lugs to provide superior traction on rocks and roots while dispensing with water, mud, sand, and snow.
This lug pattern is a very key feature of this shoe in my opinion. I truly only tested this in hardcore winter conditions, and that’s why they made these. When accessing a local trail, I had to run the road for a few hundred yards, and I could really feel the lugs. Once on the wide varying conditions of the trail, the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof was right at home. I am going to take a stab at the fact that this shoe will also be a bit much for the hard packed trails I’m accustomed to around here in summer. That doesn’t even speak to the insulated qualities which I will touch upon below. On occasion, I do like to tackle some high alpine summits in the summer and fall where trail and weather conditions can be a mystery and ever changing. Hence, I won’t be stashing these away with all my winter gear.
Sockliner and Upper of the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail freak Winterproof
The full Hydro-Guard outer lining with a bellowed tongue will keep you dry in snow, rain, and wet muddy trail conditions. The upper is constructed with an HP Mesh and a V Web that allows for stitch-less lateral support. The inner Dri-lex lining has been designed with a lightweight and natural fit. Constructed with a 3M mesh and a laminated structure designed to provide a ‘second-skin’ feel. The lining is waterproof and breathable at the same time. This is a fine balance, but I think they nailed it. My feet were kept warm with movement and were able to shed any access heat to prevent sweaty feet. Going through puddles kept my feet dry to a point as water can and will creep in from the top if you go through something up and over your ankles.
My background is in soccer, and a glove-like fit was normal. That is definitely not a desirable thing (from my perspective) when running. The VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winter Edition has a nice comfortable and roomy feel, and I have not experienced any sliding, rubbing, or hotspots. This wider toe box provides plenty of room for natural foot movement, and the ability for your arches and toes to ‘load, splay, and recoil’.
Go to the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof page right underneath the sizing, color, and purchase information, On the left there is a simple sizing conversion chart, but right next to it is something truly remarkable. This new feature will help you figure out the correct size. It will ask you what your go-to shoe brand is. Then the specific model. And voila, it gives you every model, color, season of that shoe ever made. Select it, and it provides you with an outline of the Trail Freak overlaid onto your shoe. It even asks you how your current shoe fit you, and then it spits out a recommendation for you. Complete with a 3d view, footbed, and arch comparison. Pretty sweet if you ask me. I played around with it for a while with several shoes that I know work for me. From that information I was able to confidently select a good size for my VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof. And of course, they fit beautifully when they finally arrived.
With reflective printing and striping throughout the shoe, the Trail Freak provides that little bit of extra visibility for your morning or evening runs. I happen to have a lot of black running clothes, so I will take any help I can get. The side and upper area around the lacing system seems to give off an especially bright glare.
The Closure or Lacing system of the Trail Freak
I have to be honest. I am not quite sold yet on the lock lacing system with toggle. That’s nothing against this shoe, it’s just a general opinion of mine. I have, however, come a long way to accepting them as part of this shoe. Having worn these type of lace systems plenty of times when I compete in triathlons, they seem to work just fine for the most part. There it is a time saving element as much as anything. When taking the Trail Freak for a spin, I don’t mind spending 30 seconds lacing up my shoes.
At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to tighten the shoe enough to keep my foot properly in place. Turns out, the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof did a very fine job doing just that. The only thing I do now have to deal with is a rather long section of lacing that kind of flops around. I have tucked them into the front of the lacing, but that kind of defeats the purpose as now it takes me longer to adjust or take the shoe off that was designed with a system that allows for fast and easy tightening
I guess I still really like a regular lace with a special ‘runners knot’ to keep me going forever without a worry in the world. I suppose you could change out the laces, or VIVOBAREFOOT could throw in a extra set??
Final Thoughts on the VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof
I would purposely scramble over rocks, go through muddy sections, or tackle the scree sections of some runs just to see what these puppies could do. I took pleasure in the attempt as well as being able to conquer these elements. It kind of brought back an inner kid-like joy to running in the woods without a care in the world. The VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak Winterproof is a ‘minimal’ shoe that has the soul/sole of a Sherman Tank. I am pleased and impressed with the feel, traction, insulation, and waterproof features up to this point. I still have a fun winter ahead to play around in these, so maybe I’ll provide an update come Spring time once I have put a few hundred more miles on. For more information on the Trail Freak and other VIVOBAREFOOT products visit: www.vivobarefoot.com or www.amazon.com/vivobarefoot. For its summer sibling, The VIVOBAREFOOT Trail Freak, please check out the full review HERE