Vivobarefoot Stealth 2 Swimrun – Get Ready To Train
Vivobarefoot recently partnered up with the Ötillö Race series, to bring us a trio of shoes that fall in line with their mantra: ‘Train, Race, Rest’. We’ve got our hands on the training shoe, the Stealth 2 Swimrun.
Ötillö (Ö till ö) is Swedish for “island to island”, and is home to a one-day swimrun race in the archipelago of Stockholm. Teams of two (connected by a 10m cord) compete over 75km, swimming between 24 different islands. They teamed up with Vivobarefoot to deliver the ultimate shoe (Primus Swimrun) for the race, but two further models for Training (Stealth II), and for lifestyle (Gobi II). Both Ötillö and Vivobarefoot share the belief that “getting out of the urban habitat, and back into our natural one, not only feels amazing, but is fundamental to our health”. Instead of just creating a shoe designed for the race itself (Vivobarefoot is now a partner), they wanted to create three to suit all aspects of life.
Ignoring the affiliation with Ötillö for a moment, the Stealth 2 was initially released as a standalone shoe, upgraded from the original Stealth. Now, there is a second Stealth 2 model, identical to the first, but with a different aesthetic and a thermal insole.
There’s also a slight naming difference, with the Stealth 2 I’m reviewing being the ‘Swimrun’ variant, and its full title therefore being the ‘Stealth 2 Swimrun’.
The obvious difference between the normal model is the sole colour, which is orange. This is merely to create an obvious link between the three shoes in the ‘Train, Race, Rest’ Ötillö lineup. The Primus Trail Swimrun (Race) and the Gobi II Swimrun (Rest/Lifestyle) also get the orange colour treatment.
Second to that is the coating on the toe-guard, heel, logo, and tongue, which is reflective. It’s incredibly effective at making the shoes visible at night, and whether you’re running or just walking around, you will definitely be seen by cars more easily!
The third difference is the insole, which has been insulated on this model. Like in a number of other models in the Vivobarefoot range, the Thermal insole gives a little bit more warmth when the weather gets cold. If you remove it and look at the underneath, you can see the heat-reflecting foil inside.
The Stealth 2 Swimrun, is designed for on-road training, with a V-web upper made from an engineered hex-patterned mesh which offers stability or stretch, depending on the shoe area. It has been heat-fused together for ‘lightweight and stitch-less durability’. In short, because it is a seamless construction, it should withstand a beating more than an upper which is stitched together.
The stitch-less design also means that the shoes are more comfortable to wear without socks. There is no chance of rubbing on a rough edge, or a fold of material. The upper is engineered with foam and mesh, which creates a soft feel, and something with a bit of substance – it’s not like the mesh you’ll find on the Primus. It’s also very breathable, which is a good thing if you’re going barefoot…
The upper is nicely padded around the ankle and sides of the heel, before becoming thinner over the top of the foot and around the sides where padding isn’t necessary. This helps again with the breathability.
In a size 8 (42), the shoe weighs (on my scales) 245 grams with the insole, and 223g without. This might be a gram or two heavier, due to the addition of some sawdust – I may or may not have worn them while doing some woodworking!. This makes them just 20g heavier than the One, which was more of a sock than a shoe. It also wasn’t as comfortable.
The 3mm PRO5 sole is made from TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), which is their lightest, and yet most durable sole. It has five times the puncture resistance of a sole of the same thickness, so anything sharp isn’t going to penetrate. It’s also extremely grippy on hard surfaces, so you can be sure that your feet will stick, even with sudden (or fast) direction changes.
“The concept of building a healthy foot can’t be overlooked. To achieve this, you need to work on it every day, which is why we have a lifestyle shoe at the centre of our co-branded footwear.”
I started off wearing the Stealth 2 Swimrun with the insole, and have also used it without. Of course, it adds a bit of padding to the shoe, but the insulating properties aren’t needed in summer. I’ll put it back in once the weather gets colder.
I did have a bit of movement with the insole (I’ve experienced this before in the Neo Trail and Aqua Lite), where it shifts backwards ever so slightly and rides up at the heel by a few millimetres. Unfortunately, there is no fix I’ve come across which doesn’t involve a bit of glue – usually I put a dot of UHU (don’t use strong glue!) on the toe end of the insole, and a couple of dots further back. It just helps it to stay in place. I haven’t heard of anyone else with this problem, and luckily for me, I don’t use the insole very often anyway.
The laces are the flat, lightweight ones used in the old Aqua Lite and the One. They are, and always have been, the best laces Vivobarefoot use. Not necessarily in terms of their durability, but in the fact that they never come undone. I have found in the past that the thicker, round laces they used their trail shoes (not Primus Trail) and Hiking boots were prone to coming undone every now and then – particularly if they were snagged on some foliage.
At the front of the shoe is a reflective toe-guard which gives a bit of structure to the shoe. It also protects the front of the mesh, which would have no support and probably not bond to the sole correctly if it wasn’t there.
When I first put the Stealth 2 on, I thought I’d purchased the wrong size, or that I should’ve sized up (I’ve never done that in Vivo’s, although I should have with the first iteration of the Tracker). I soon realised that the shoe wasn’t too short, but it was the toe-guard touching the top of my toe, which made it feel tight. This sensation went away after about 10 minutes of wearing them, as the upper, sole, and toe-guard flexed and bedded in a bit. I haven’t noticed it since then. I have had zero pressure points, zero rubs, zero hot spots; nothing at all. So besides the toe-guard, there was absolutely no breaking in process. They feel as nice now as they did ten minutes after I first put them on. The toe-box is actually very wide, so space for the toes is a non-issue entirely.
Aesthetically, I find the shoe very nice to look at. I actually prefer the swimrun version to the ‘standard’ black/red model – the orange sole makes it a bit different, and it certainly stands out. Perhaps I find the standard model a bit plain – especially in comparison to some of the other Vivos I’ve worn. The reflective material is a nice touch as well – it makes no difference in the day, but who wouldn’t want to be more visible at night-time? They kept the two upper lace-loops in red, rather than black, which just adds a little bit more colour.
Parts of the upper/sole separator seem ever so slightly translucent, or they are stained from one of the manufacturing processes. You’ll notice in a couple of images that there is some bleed of black into the sole – mainly around the toe-box. It isn’t something that stands out — in fact it is barely visible unless you view it under certain light, at a specific angle.
On the heel you will notice the Ötillö branding, which replaces the ‘Stealth II’ text that is on the standard model. It’s nicely debossed, just like the Vivobarefoot logo next to it.
90 miles or so in, I haven’t had any problems (besides the moving insole) with the Stealth II Swimrun. I’m happy to say the glue fixing the sole and upper together is perfectly intact, and if I cleaned the sawdust out of the upper, you’d think they were brand new!
They retail at £105, which is identical to the standard model. If you’re looking for a pair to wear in colder weather, go for the Swimrun version, because you’ll get the thermal insole.
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NB: Vivobarefoot call this model the ‘Stealth II Swimrun’, but I have used ‘2’ instead of numerals to make the review easier to find, and to read.