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Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV All-Weather Review

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Let me take you on a barefoot shoe journey, which has been my experience with the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW. To set the stage, I’m a big fan of the normal Primus Lite III, and I enjoy its breathable minimalist feel.

When I bought the Primus Lite IV AW, I was a little frustrated by this shoe. Maybe it was the lack of “innovation” that I expected with the IV with this model, or maybe it was the fact that I paid a fair amount for a shoe that had a pretty harsh toe break.

In fact, in my First Impressions YouTube video for this model, I ripped into them pretty hard. However, my take on these shoes has changed slightly since breaking them in and giving them more time.

Head up, y’all — I run That Fit Friend by myself and I buy the shoes I review and publish them under my own power with no influence from Vivobarefoot. I have a code that I ALSO use to buy my shoes [LOL]. If you grab a pair, use “JBOLY” to save 10%!

Show Me the Pros & Cons

Logo

Pros

  • Great for wet climates and commuting
  • Good all-season option
  • Decent performance in gym once broken in

Cons

  • Durability of toe box TPU gives me pause
  • Too niche for most, IMO
  • Toe break is pretty harsh

What I Like About Them

  1. Good sporty commute shoe for city dwellers. When I lived in NYC, I never liked rocking knit and mesh shoes for my commutes because the materials always took a beating. The Primus Lite IV AW’s upper is great for additional protection from dirt, stains, and moisture that you routinely hit when walking in cities.
  2. Solid performance in the gym. This shoe feels like a direct parallel to the Primus Lite III with its sole construction and well-rounded performance in the gym. I’ve used this shoe for multiple cross-training sessions with no issues and have even used them to deadlift a 585 lb PR!
  3. The Upper has a nice water resistance to it. For days when it’s raining, I found this shoe to do a good job of keeping my feet relatively dry. The water-resistant upper helps keep water out on occasions when it’s raining, or you’re going through shallow puddles.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW Review

What I Don’t Like About Them

  1. High price for not much difference. Look, if you don’t have the very specific ask for the water-resistant upper and the slightly warmer feel of these shoes, then I’d opt for more cost-efficient models. There’s no need to drop that much money when shoes perform just as well in the gym and for daily wear.
  2. Toe break isn’t the most comfortable. Some Vivobarefoot shoes have issues with their toe break, meaning that when the toe box flexes, the material presses into the tops of the feet. I found the TPU overlay on the lateral side of this model to have this issue, and it took a solid two weeks to break these in and for this to subside.
  3. Long-term durability of the toe box TPU is a little concerning. While my model hasn’t broken down yet, I am starting to see a little lipping of the TPU around my model’s toe box. It’s subtle, but I worry because it’s a more rigid material time will cause it to further pull away from the base material of this shoe.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV All Weather

Specs to Know

  • Price: $175
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9.15 oz (size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 3E feet and below.
  • Sizing: Runs long. TTS for most; size down if you like a snugger fit.
  • Good Alternative Xero Shoes Prio Neo: Read My Review

Primus Lite IV AW

$165

4.0
Stability
4.7
Versatility
4.1
Durability
3.8
Quality
4.0

Best For

  • Lifting
  • All-Day Wear
  • 4-Season Use
  • Cross-Training
  • Damp Climates

Falls Short

  • For Thicker Feet
  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Running

Performance Overview, How I Tested

As a model that I anticipate others using to train in and use as their daily driver, I pushed this model in tests that would reflect their key use points. That’s at least how I’ve used this shoe, so if you’re similar, this section is for you.

Some of the Things I’ve Done to Test These Shoes

  • Lifting Tests: Deadlifts, lunges, split squats, pendulum squats
  • Versatility Tests: Box jumps, sled pushes/pulls, skater strides
  • Walking/Daily Wear: 2-3 miles of dog walking, all-day wear on dry and wet days

These Performed Well for Lifting

I’m not shocked that this shoe performed well when lifting. The Primus shoes have gained a lot of popularity amongst avid gym-goers, so I figured this shoe would be just as solid as the Primus models I’ve reviewed and tested.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW for Leg Days

The Primus outsole does a good job of blending articulation and ground feel. I’ve deadlifted up to 585 lbs in my shoe and never had issues with slippage, and the low-to-the-ground build of this shoe is awesome for giving you a maximal ground feel.

This shoe’s outsole also has a lot of pliability, which is great for lower body days where you’re wanting more articultion through the toe box and midfoot. I never felt like the IV AW was limiting my foot’s ability to move freely when hitting legs.

I also appreciate that you can remove the Ortholite insole to get even closer to the ground. The internal construction is finished, so I don’t think you’ll have breakdown issues there. At least, I haven’t yet, or in my other Primus models, when training without the insoles.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW Width

My main complaint with this shoe for lifting is its toe break, which is NOT the most friendly to break in. For example, on my first few leg days, I seriously debated taking these off and training shoeless because of the pressure from the upper on the top of my foot.

However, I’m glad I stuck it out because it does subside — it’s just an annoying process. That said, I think it’s worth it for those wanting this shoe primarily for its all-season use. It’s almost like a right of passage to get the most out of this shoe year-round. If that’s not you, you can find better options for working out that will break in easier.

They’re Not Too Bad for Cross-Training

You better believe I’m starting this section with the toe break comments. I pair plyometrics with most of my leg days, and yep, you guessed it — this model is not going to be your most comfortable option.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW for Sled Drags

I’m also nervous about the TPU layer on this shoe and its longevity for high-stress cross-training workouts. If there’s any activity that causes the TPU to lip, it will be when doing cross-training workouts, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, these performed well for most of my cross-training sessions once broken in, but for the price, I thought they were so/so. Will they work? Sure, but they’re expensive, annoying to break in, and they don’t breathe the best.

Again, I think it comes down to your “why” for buying them, which will dictate if these knocks on their performance are worth it. There are multiple shoes that outperform this model for cross-training, but they don’t have the upper to fare for all-season use.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW for Deadlifts

If you take anything from this section, it’s that this shoe will work for cross-training, but it wouldn’t be my first recommendation for most athletes. There are too many little things that bother me with this model for the price, especially if you’re not buying them first for their all-season functionality.

Good for Damp Climates, Wear Socks to Break Them In

I feel like I’ve been alluding to this for the whole article, but when you’re breaking in your Primus Lite IV AWs, you will want to wear socks. I’m a guy who loves rocking barefoot shoes with and without socks, and this is NOT a pair that is sockless and friendly.

This is due to the harsher toe break and lack of breathability through this model’s upper. Trust me because I’ve made this mistake before with similar models — if you want this shoe to smell less long-term — wear them with socks. This is not a good sockless barefoot shoe.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW Flexibility

For general comfort, I do like this model and the Ortholite insole gives this shoe a little more cushion for all-day wear. It’s also nice that this insole is built with 98% recycled materials. I think this is a nice touch for the higher price point of this model.

If you wear Vivobarefoot shoes now, then I think you’re safe, assuming these will feel the same on your feet. For example, they have the same amount of width and ground feel as models like other daily wear shoes like the Geo Court III and Primus Asana.

Construction Details

Outsole

  • Primus Outsole is built with a rubber tread pattern and features minimalist lugs. This outsole is similar to every other Primus model.
  • The outsole wraps around the entirety of the shoe and it comes up slightly on the lateral and medial midfoot and heel.
  • This model’s stack height sits around ~5.5mm, which is the same as the other Primus models.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW Outsole Construction

Upper

  • This shoe features a  Pro5 Puncture Resistant finish, which helps it with abrasion resistance and protects the foot a little more than the looser mesh and knits used in other barefoot shoes.
  • This shoe has water-resistant components, and it does a fairly good job with this component. Even when purposely putting my pair under my sink, they deflected water pretty well.
  • There’s a pretty aggressive TPU around the toe box, midfoot, and heel, which gives this shoe a little more structure. The boot does not have a rigid cup or padding.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW Upper Construction

Midfoot and Laces

  • The mesh tongue is thin and wide with an additional loop for security. There’s a low gusset that also helps it stay in place.
  • There are four core eyelets that utilize a traditional lacing system, and there’s a fifth eyelet for lace-locking.
  • The laces are thicker padded laces that run a little longer; however, this is honestly a nice thing compared to the short laces in the older Primus Lite III that constantly came undone.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite IV AW Midfoot Construction

Final Verdict, Would I Buy These Again?

Probably not — unless I moved back to a wetter city and was commuting.

While these shoes have grown on me, and I don’t necessarily think they’re bad shoes, they just don’t deliver a performance that I think justifies their price for most.

They’re a niche model with a specific functionality. If you keep that in mind and buy them for that reason, then yeah, they’re worth it. Otherwise, I think most will be better suited opting for other models that breathe better or cost less.

If you have additional questions on this model, drop a comment below, and I can help you out!

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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