Vivobarefoot Magna FG: Training in Zero Drop
Recently, I tore my Achilles tendon. I’ve played basketball my whole life and have always been very physically active. Needless to say, it was a big blow. Going from dunking one day, to not being able to walk the next, was tough.
Once I was back home post-op, I began planning my rehab to get back to playing basketball and testing shoes as soon as possible. One of the things I wanted to make sure of was that this wouldn’t happen to me again. One thing trainers and physiotherapists brought up several times was to train with flat shoes. The theory being that with a flat shoe, the achilles tendon is completely extended while training. Shoes with a lift in the heel or heel drop (the majority of athletic shoes) shorten the tendon slightly causing the tendon to be less prepared to hyperextend when beginning to sprint. I didn’t know if I believed this theory 100%, but it was enough to pique my interest.
So, I started looking into barefoot sneakers. The brand I chose was Vivobarefoot. I was particularly interested in the The Magna FG model. It seemed to be their most versatile model and sort of resembled a hoop shoe.
It’s been seven months since my injury and I have been training with the Magna FG for just over a month. Here’s the performance review, based on my personal experience.
The traction on these shoes is aggressive. They feature what Vivobarefoot calls their Firm Ground Sole, which includes an effective and durable t-shaped traction pattern meant for a variety of different surfaces.
The sole is primarily a semi-translucent gum rubber that sits on a 2.5mm base with a 4mm lug height. It’s designed to maximize ground feel and grip on everything from wet, dry, to rocky and firm terrain. The textured arch also provides zonal grip for technical trail movement.
I’ve used these shoes everywhere: on grass, over rocks, in the gym, and even on the outdoor courts near my house with zero performance issues. If I continue playing basketball outdoors, I might grind down the traction pattern. I don’t think the rubber compound was designed to withstand the sandpaper-like surface of the blacktop for long.
This answer is simple. The shoe does not provide cushion and that’s the point. I can’t say I missed the cushion terribly. They take a little getting used to. But once you get accustomed, at least in my experience, you are not begging to have a slab of Boost underfoot.
The little (and I mean little) cushion you do get comes from the Outlast Thermal Insole inside. I really liked this feature. The temperature regulating insole helps keep your feet cool as you train by absorbing, storing and releasing heat. I haven’t had any blistering or overheating issues during the blazing hot summer months in Spain. So, I assume these guys are doing their job.
I really love the materials. They are functional, designed to take a beating and still look good. The shoe is made from naturally scarred leather from free-roaming cattle sourced from small-scale farmers (so not vegan friendly) with a water-resistant treatment so you can use them cross country without getting your feet wet.
The shoe’s body is made with Woolmark certified Merino wool. Wool is naturally breathable, temperature-regulating and sweat-wicking. Merino sheep are originally from Spain, so that was also a plus for me. The attention to detail and care with which the materials were selected made me feel good about the product.
I have only one bone to pick with the materials. The metal eyelets and the laces affected the long-term usability of the product. In general, l I like metal eyelets, but the laces that come with the Magna FG are TERRIBLE. The metal eyelets cut through them with only two lace-ups. Not good.
The shoe fits true to size, but the shoe is purposely roomy. The forefoot area is wider than normal to allow your toes to spread out naturally, instead of being pushed together by a more traditional pointy shoe shape. So, they feel loose in the forefoot. In this case, that’s a good thing.
The support is as good as it can be with such a minimal set up. The shoe features a rubber cup in the heel and two wings on either side that pull your foot into the shoe bed and hold it in place. Aside from that, you are depending on the lacing system to keep your foot stable.
There is nothing in the midsole, and I mean nothing. You could practically roll these shoes up and put them in your pocket. Again the lack of support is purposely designed so the shoe moves naturally with your foot.
One thing to note is that if you like to really cinch up your laces, you won’t like this shoe. If you tighten the shoe too much, it will begin cramping your foot.
I was pleasantly surprised. I was initially excited to get these shoes as a sort of novelty item that might possibly get me back on my feet again. I thought it would be similar to getting a brace when I injured my knee. A brace helped me play and exercise again, but I really didn’t care too much about the brace itself. That’s what I thought these shoes would be. Just the pair I would grab when I went out the door to do my rehab. But I find myself reaching for these shoes way more often than I expected. I look forward to training with them. If the lacing system were better, these would be in my permanent pantheon of training shoes.
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