Sometimes you just need an old fashioned hiking boot. But you don’t have to settle for the traditional kind. The Off Road Hi boots are VivoBarefoot’s minimalist version.
I was intrigued by the minimalist boot idea since boots tend to drag me down. Before I switched over to VFFs a few years ago, I was wearing my heavy duty Asolo boots on all my adventures. They performed well, but wow, they were like lifting dead weights with every step and I always ended up with blisters after the trip. So I was curious to see how my legs and feet would fare after a few hours of walking the trails in this minimalist version.
I think the style blends right in as an average hiking boot. You really can’t tell that they’re a minimalist design by looking at them. Mine are an olive green with gray accents but it looks like they’re only offered in black and a gray/pink combo for women now. (Important to note: I think it’s unfortunate that there’s only two colors to choose from for women and one of them has to be pink). Why do they always have to pink everything just because it’s women’s specific?? I like the olive green the best. Simple and classic.
VivoBarefoot Specs from VivoBarefoot.com:
Upper: Pull Up Leather: Vegetable tanned leather with abrasion leather and rip stop Nylon trimmings for increased durability
Lacing: Speed hook Lacing: Quick fastening with a secure and personalized fit through speed hook eyelets
Collar/Panel & Lining: Woven Nylon & Polyester, Polyurethane
Insoles: Removable: 3mm Pressed EVA Insole for additional thermal protection when necessary
Sole Construction: Off Road: Rubber outsole specifically designed for off road surfaces with directional lugs to maximize surface contact for superior barefoot traction
Outsole Thickness: 2.5mm with 4.5mm lugs: Offering maximum proprioception with protection and ultimate grip
Toe Guard: Leather Toe Guard: Abrasion-resistant leather
Eco Credentials: Usage of Eco Friendly materials; Minimum chrome leather; Soles made from recycled rubber; Dri-lex performance lining with environmentally sustainable Sorona yarn
I love VivoBarefoot’s use of eco-friendly materials like the use of sustainable yarns and recycled rubber in the soles...bonus! For a boot they are extremely lightweight. My size 8 weighs 12.2 oz each/24.4 a pair. Perfect for travel and will lessen the weight in your backpack. They come up high around the ankle and the back is cut a little lower at the achilles. Also, the upper is reinforced to protect your foot from rocks and debris and the lugs on the outsole are chevron shaped and are multidirectional.
It says in the description, “Designed with a waterproof sock construction...barefoot boot is suitable for waterproof approach and hiking - even on the most challenging terrains.” I was curious to see how they would hold up while standing completely submerged in fresh water, so I put them through a bathtub test. It’s important to note that the tongue is not gusseted very high so you can only submerge these boots up to a certain point before your foot gets soaked. To test the boot, I filled the tub up with 2.5 inches of water and stood in it for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds I took off the boots and found that my socks were wet. It seems that water somehow leaked into the shoe through the upper. After this test, I’d say these are more of a water resistant boot rather than completely waterproof. Might be okay for quick traverses through shallow streams, but definitely not for lingering in them.
These guys seem to run a little bit small. I have a size 38 which is equivalent to a size 8, but it fits a little too snug in the toes. I would recommend sizing up so your toes have room to move. But the proper sizing will depend on what kind of socks you plan on wearing with them. There’s also a removable footbed that can change the way it fits. I prefer wearing the boot with the footbed since it feels more complete that way - so that’s how I’m basing my sizing. Also, the interior is very soft and comfortable.
The boot comes up around the ankle in the traditional “ankle protection” style. The laces use an eyelet system at the top that are easily adjustable. I haven’t worn a hiking boot in a long time so it felt odd to have my ankle restricted once again. Also, there’s no pressure points in the heel or hotspots anywhere in the back which is good. The only hotspots I had were in the pinky toes and big toes due to sizing.
I walked the trails on short quick hikes and also went on longer 2 hour hikes. It was pretty wild to be hiking in a boot that has a barefoot feel to it! The ground feel is good and not over the top. I could feel the rocks and ground beneath my feet unlike a typical boot with a thick outsole. If you want more ground feel you can remove the footbed, but just note that it will make it a little roomier in there.
There was a noticeable difference in height when comparing them to a traditional boot. When I wear my Asolos it feels like I’m walking on a platform. In this barefoot model my foot feels more level to the ground and I never felt like my foot wanted to “roll”. I loved that aspect!
I could definitely tell that they were more lightweight than your typical boot too. I could walk a fast pace without feeling like I was being overly bogged down by weight. Although, since I’m used to wearing VFFs most of the time, the weight of the boot was still noticeable to me while going downhill. This is a big factor that deters me from wearing boots since it causes IT band pain in the knee for me. I noticed some slight knee pain on the occasional downhill, but everyone’s legs are different so it might not affect someone else the same. Also, I had some pinky toe and big toe pain (especially on the downhills) due to the smaller fit. I ended up with a blister on my pinky toe because of it.
When trying on for size, there should be enough room in the toes for expansion so they don’t hit the end of the boot. The heel was very comfortable so I didn’t have any issues there.
The tread is equipped with 4.5mm multidirectional lugs which provided some great traction. I could walk up and down hills without having any issues with grip and I didn’t slip at all. I didn’t get a chance to test the tread on the trail while wet, so I’m curious to know how well they would do while rock hopping through streams. So let me know if any of you try it!
These boots are great if you’re looking for something more robust that still retains minimalist footwear qualities. I liked the fact that even though I was wearing a boot, I still felt the ground beneath my feet. The outsole allows you to be connected to the ground but also provides the right amount of protection from rocks and debris. I love that they’re lightweight too...most boots are heavy and can weigh you down. It’s a bummer that my pair fits too small because I’d love to test them out on much gnarlier hikes. MSRP $175 (Note: the colorway seen in these photos is no longer available. Also, the Off Roads come in a "Mid" version which has a lower cut ankle covering.)
- Great traction
- Lightweight for a boot
- Lots of ground feel
- Good for when you need something more robust on the trails
- Tongue is not gusseted very high
- Runs small
- Not waterproof