If you’re in to watches, you are also likely into some other aspects what you have on your person, day in and day out. That’s why you’ve seen us cover off on things like everyday carry (#EDC) items, such as the flashlights from ASP (psst! we also have a giveaway running for one of those). That also explains why we’re in to talking about articles of clothing, as – if chosen and constructed well – they will be as indispensable in your daily routines. The last pair of boots I talked to you about unfortunately did not hold up well at all. The time I’ve spent so far with the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG, well, that seems to indicate a much different – and better – pair of footwear.
Here in the midwest, we’re deep in the midst of winter. Particularly in Chicago, we’ve just come out of a stretch (as of this writing) where we had 5 days of snowfall in a week’s time, with some fairly significant accumulation. The means that boots are all-but-critical pieces of equipment. And now, as we look at a brief warming spell – which means melt and rainfall – the right boots (these ARE waterproof, for the record) are critical for keeping your feet dry, and your steps confidently placed on the ground. This is why, for our initial outing with footwear from VivoBarefoot, that I requested the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG.
Now, why go with something from VivoBarefoot? In large part, it’s because of the construction, and what it does for your feet. The short version of it (as I understand it) is that the thin, flexible soles, combined with a roomy toe box (that’s the end of the shoe) that allows your toes to spread, gives you as close to a “walking barefoot” sensation as you can have while still wearing shoes (and not wearing those goofy-looking toe glove things from Vibram). This purports to bring a whole host of good things to the table. For my book, if it gets you closer to a natural (aka shoeless) form of walking, it can’t be but good for you.
That was actually one of the biggest shifts I had when I first started walking around in the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG – just how it felt to walk in them. With the thin soles, you really do feel your feet hitting the ground. And if you’re used to striking the ground hard with your heel (because your trainers have two inches of foam under the heel) you’re going to be in for an adjustment. It forces an alteration – you take easier steps, which aren’t pounding on your knee and hip joints. With the thinner sole, you can more quickly feel any unevenness in the flooring or pavement, which allows you to adjust, or, say, not throw all of your weight onto a foot that may not be totally supported by the surface under it. I’m not going to say that it puts you totally in-tune with what’s under your feet, but it’s definitely a lot more communicative. Sort of like the difference in steering and suspension going from an econobox to a sportier ride. You’re just more aware.
Now, you might be thinking that a thin sole, such as we have on the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG, means you’re just asking to get your feet cut up or otherwise abused. Well, given that these boots are truly meant for the outdoors (read: hiking) that simply would not do. Along with a pretty grippy rubber in a chevron pattern (seriously, these have the best grip of anything I currently wear), the sole is specifically designed and built to be puncture resistant. Which, you know, is a very good thing, when you consider the soles are about one quarter the thickness of a standard pair of boots you might find yourself in.
That thin sole also makes for some odd visual proportions to the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG, at least when you first take them out of the box. You see, these boots are very tall. Put side-by-side with my trusty steel-toed workbooks, the tops are actually about at the same height. The difference here is that the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG are indeed intended as hiking boots – which means they are built to give solid ankle support. With the speedlacing setup on the upper portion, you can get these snugged nice and tight to your ankles.
If you’re like me, it’s been a long time since you’ve had boots go this high. It’s an odd feeling at first, but I quickly got used to it. The collar is well-padded, and once laced up, really helps the boot to stay in place. Which then makes it feel really like it’s simply an extension of your leg, moving with you, rather than rattling around and doing something of it’s own thing. I’m a bit removed from my backpacking days, but this is the sort of fit that not only keeps you confident on the trail, it keeps you comfortable by minimizing the chance of blisters forming, because the boot moves with your and your foot, not against it.
Winter comfort in the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG is also addressed. Thin soles plus pliant leather generally means cold feet. Here, Vivo has gone with a thermal insole that, while still thin, helps to keep your feet warm. I can’t speculate as to what exactly is in there (their site goes into it a bit LINK), but it is reminiscent of what I’ve seen in those shiny-dot-lined jackets from Columbia – some space-age trickery to reflect the heat back into your foot. For my experience, it works pretty well. Though the leather (and sole) are much thinner than my heavy workbooks, my feet did stay warmer. You could, of course, wear somewhat heavier socks (to a point) for the outdoors, but once you’re back inside, those heavy socks will be a liability, as things could get a little too toasty, actually.
That said, these insoles in the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG were part of the appeal in the boots. Aside from helping my feet stay warm, they’re something you can completely remove, or swap out for their non-thermal insoles, and now you’ve got a boot that’s ready for a wider range of temperatures. And since the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG are boots you can wear in more than just the winter, that means styling needs to be a bit of a concern for the consumer as well.
In many ways, the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG are reminiscent of a streamlined pair of hightops. In other words, while they’re intended to be outdoorsy hiking boots, they aren’t screaming “I should be in the woods!” No, they’re built to be out there, but they seem just at home in the concrete jungle. From my experience, once my cuffs covered up the tall uppers, they looked not much different from any other pair of sneakers you might see in your office. Sure, a little wider up front, but otherwise unobtrusive. Or, well, I suppose if you did want to draw some attention, you could swap in alternate laces (the black boots we were sent came with a second pair of red laced), or you could purposely have your cuffs catch in the thumb loops on the back to show them off a bit (more on those in a second).
Past that, if you are headed out into the woods, whether you’re in pants or shorts, the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG should look right at home. Your fellow hikers might wonder about those thin soles, especially compared to what they’re clomping around in, but they’ll be envious at the end of the day when they realize how much heavier their boots are than what you’re wearing. Again, hearkening back to my backpacking days, any weight you can cut out is a good thing, and helps you to conserve energy. Boots are as good a place to start as any, no?
Now, back to those thumb loops on the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG that I mentioned. You no doubt have seen loops like those on many other types of shoes. I know I have, and I generally end up ignoring them, because I really don’t need to use them. On these boots, they’re all but a necessity. Given how tall they are, they give you an easy place to grab to help hold the boot still (with one hand) while you push your foot in. I suppose if you’re the type to wrap your longer laces around your ankle, it’s a convenient spot to lace as well. Needing to use that loop might make it sound like things are too tight, but that’s not the case. These boots are intended for the outdoors – and if you have loose boots, you’re going to get friction, which means blisters. While keeping things snugger in all areas but the toe box, the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG makes for a boot that stays where it should.
As you can tell, there’s a lot about the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG that make them different from any other boot you’ve had. Another area that is different is the leather. Often, hiking boots are thick, and take a good long time to break in. Here, the leather is quite soft, and it formed to my foot rather quickly. In other words, this is an instantly comfortable shoe. So, yeah, if you’ve got that big hike coming up in a week, this is not one you need to worry about getting broken in for a comfortable walk.
Or, you know, if you’re like me and just walking around in the suburbs and downtown most of the day, again, instant comfort. And with those thermal insoles, it’s almost like wearing a pair of slippers on your feet (nice and toasty). Albeit, very second-skin type of slippers, and ones you can go scrambling around outside without much worry. At $240, the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG offer a great mix of styling and comfort, as well as putting some nice waterproofing action into the mix. AKA, if you’re on the hunt for a winter boot, or even a cooler weather outdoors boot, I think this is an interesting option.
I’ll see how it works out when the warmer weather hits, make sure they’re not unbearably warm (either with their other insoles, or no insoles at all). Then again, there’s some other very mesh-covered options from the brand (as well as sandals) if you want to check out the whole barefoot aesthetic. As for me, I do believe I’d put myself into the category of fan. For those concerned about resoling their shoes, you will want to check out the hand-cut lineup, though I’m told their Everyday lineup should have some resoling options in the works as well.
You may also be concerned about materials, and from my conversations with the brand, they are very committed to sourcing things from the right places, making things sustainable, and in the cases where leather is used, ensuring the animals are treated properly. The Tracker FG does use standard leather, but other shoes use their wild Buffalo hide. For the non-animal-based materials, you’ve got such things as Eco Suede- (made out of recycled plastic bottles), algae blooms, and eco canvas. In short, the shoes will be as comfortable for your conscience as they are for your feet. vivobarefoot.com
If you’ve got any other questions about the boots, or think there’s some others we should check out, sound off below, or head on over to our Slack channeland make yourself heard.
Tech Specs from VivoBarefoot
- Premium Action Leather – water resistant treatment
- Waterproof Construction – with sealed inner membrane
- Firm Ground Sole – 3mm lugs for multi-terrain traction
- Mountain Lace – for non-slip adherence
- Removable Thermal Insole – provides up to 300% more thermal protection
- Weight : 1100g