Overview: The Vivobarefoot Stealth II WP, is the Vivobarefoots winter proof update to their Stealth II running shoe. Like the Stealth II, the Stealth II WP is a minimalist running shoe that features the company’s patented 3mm V Road out-sole. An out-sole designed to protect the foot from environmental hazards while allowing for as close to barefoot experience as possible. To make the shoe “winter proof” Vivobarefoot added insulated insoles and an upper that is both water-resistant and insulated. While the shoe is designed with cooler weather in mind I would not expect it to keep ones feet warm in truly cold weather say bellow 10ºF, additionally the tread of the out-sole was not designed for snowy or icy condition.
Out-sole: Vivobarefoot’s 3mm V Road out sole is made of durable abrasion resistant rubber. The sole’s thinness and hardness means that it does little to absorb the impact forces, the end result however is an out sole that doesn’t ever seem to wear and good traction on hard packed surfaces such as roads.
Mid-sole/insole: By cutting out the mid-sole the Stealth II WP allows the foot to behave similarly to barefoot calling on foot’s built-in capacity to absorb the sock of impact. Part of the shoe;s “winter proofing” is the inclusion of insulated insoles by Outlast. The insoles are an ambitious laminate of foam and Mylar, unfortunately for me this proved to be the shoe’s most disappointing feature as the insole quickly delaminated. This is somewhat of a critical failure for the shoe because the thin out sole readily transmits the surface temperature to the foot. Fortunately there is an easy work around for those of us who need the reliable insulation, wool felt insoles.
Performance: On the road the Stealth II WP does the job it was designed to do: protect the foot from environmental hazards while still allowing for a close to barefoot experience. The shoe’s lightweight construction keeps things responsive and fast. The one weakness of the “V Road” sole is that it lacks an aggressive tread pattern, having the appearance of a car racing slick as opposed to a tractor tire, this means that off the road or in the snow this shoe will leave the runner slipping and sliding around.
Summary: The Stealth II WP is a great all season shoe if you live in one of those perpetually cool and damp climates such as can be found in the Pacific Northwest of North America. The shoe is not really winter proof for place that see a lot of snow and ice, as the sole lacks any kind of traction providing tread. Where the shoe comes into its own is on the roads, its durability makes it an appropriate and economical choice for every day use, at the same time it is light enough to toe the start line on race day. Make no mistake though this is a road shoe and if you’re a runner looking for jack of all trades minimalist shoe this isn’t it. That is not to say that you wouldn’t be happy with the Stealth II Winter Proof it just means that you’ll need to invest in a pair of dedicated trail shoes for those days when the conditions get slick.