Vivo Barefoot Porto vs Soft Star Shoes Hawthorne Chukka (Comparison)
Time for a comparison update!
As a supplement to my review for the Soft Star Shoes Hawthorne, I will be adding additional thoughts on the shoe and a comparison with another handcrafted leather chukka, the Vivobarefoot Porto (That's a link to Justin's review). Given the similarity of the two shoes, I decided it was time for me to grab my blazer, lace up, and do a dress shoe shoot off.
Read on to hear my thoughts and a verdict on which leather dress chukka gets my recommendation!
Below is a gallery of both shoes with the Hawthorne from Soft Star Shoes on the left (pebbled leather) and the Porto from Vivobarefoot on the right (smooth leather).
Some Sears catalog shots for a style reference! Overall, both shoes look pretty similar from a distance--they are handsome dressy shoes, but the Hawthornes have their telltale leather midsole, which adds a bit more rustic charm and the leather has a nice pebbled texture, while the Portos have a smooth texture on their leather.
Both shoes are very handsome with their nice leather uppers and classy laces. I would say that the Hawthorne has a more cohesive design (more on that later), while the Porto has a more rustic, worn quality to it, even right out of the box. Both are classy and simple-looking and work well with dress pants, jeans, dress jeans. They would also be great for ladies.
Soft Star Shoes have been asked by their customers to create a re-soleable option as a more green way to re-use resources, move away from the disposable aspect of shoes, and add long-term durability for buyers.
If any of you have ever tried to take a non-resolable shoe to a cobbler, you may find that you local cobbler be unable to accommodate your repair needs because resolable shoes typically require a platform to adhere (whether using screws, glue, or nails) the new sole to.
To the best of my knowledge, the Hawthorne is the only resolable shoe on the minimalist market.
While I commented that the leather midsole in the Hawthorne was a bit stiff, the Porto is a much stiffer shoe. It is so rigid that I would not even consider it a minimalist shoe because of how stiff and "traditional dress shoe" they feel.
While both shoes can be worn sockless, the Hawthornes are definitely better more longer distances and durations because of its softer Geo sole/leather midsole option, while the Vivobarefoot Porto has this annoying (to me) dense leather plate in the middle of the shoe.
I was able to ball up the Hawthorne, while the Porto could barely muster past a "banana" shape.
The sole on the Hawthorne is more pliable and comfortable, while the Vivobarefoot's sole is much stiffer. I usually am a big fan the Vivobarefoot sole (I personally own the Jay, Dharma, Mata, Gobi, and Ra minimalist dress shoes), but the Porto has an added layer of thick, dense leather that is frustratingly stiff. I am actually a big fan of running around in my minimalist dress shoes and it was not not possible with the Porto, while I can get away with it in the Hawthorne. I really wished that Vivobarefoot gave the Porto the same sole as their other lifestyle shoes, all of which are flexible and have excellent ground feel.
While both shoes use very nice leather throughout their construction, the leather is very different between the two. The Hawthorne uses pebbled leather that is very soft (like all the leather that Soft Star uses), while the Porto has thicker, more rigid leather. The noticeably thicker leather makes the shoes different in terms of climate uses. I cannot really say which leather is more durable, but I would guess that the Porto's leather--at the very least--more puncture resistant than the softer Hawthorne leather.
While I will wear my minimalist chukkas and boots all throughout the winter, the Porto will be slightly more warmer than the Hawthorne, while the Hawthorne would be more comfortable to wear in warmer seasons. For me, it's a bit of a wash, but the difference is worth noting. The Porto also has a "sealed" tongue area, which may prevent some debris and snow from getting in, while the Hawthorne has a separated tongue.
The difference in tongue design actually has an effect on aesthetics of each shoe, as the Hawthorn's leather pieces are able to lay flat against each other, while the Porto bunches up a bit at the points where things come together around the lacing area.
In terms of weight, the Porto weighs 4 oz more per shoe than the Hawthorne (12.2 vs 8.2 oz in a mens size 9).
This extra weight is attributed to its denser sole and thicker leather. Sizing is similar between the two, but the Porto has a roomier toe area right out of the box. However, the leather in the Hawthorne stretches more readily and even the leather midsole has become softer over time. If you recall from my review of Soft Star Shoe's Bullhide RunAmoc Dash review (one of my favorite shoes of all time), the toebox was a bit cramped at first wear, but it stretched and became much roomier over time. The same should apply--to a degree--to the Hawthorne.
However, both shoes are not exactly what I would call "roomy" for those with really wide feet. As I stated in the original Hawthorne review, the stitching around the toebox is "fanned" out, rather than "tucked in", which takes away a bit of foot real estate. Compared to other shoes from both companies, the toebox is simply average for the Hawthorne and Porto.
In terms of performance, both shoes are great to kick around during a wedding, conference, or party, but while both shoes look strikingly similar from a distance, its the guts of the shoe that make them different. Both shoes are aimed towards a style-minded minimalist shoe buyer, but only one of these shoes is flexible enough to be considered a minimalist shoe in my eyes, the Hawthorne. The Hawthorn can actually be balled up, while the Vivobarefoot Porto is way too stiff. In fact, when I was testing it's ball-ability, I was actually afraid that I would damage the sole in the process. The Hawthorne, on the other hand, has only become more flexible and enjoyable over time and will most likely be my go to fall shoe until the snow starts coming down. After that, I will be returning to my Feelmax Kuuva 3 waterproof boot.
I usually do not comment on pricing as value can be very subjective, but I will say that at the time of writing this review, the Portos are selling for $290, while the Hawthorne severely undercuts the Vivobarefoot shoe by $100, selling at very competitive $190.
For my money, I cannot justify the $100 difference. Both shoes are very well crafted, stitched, and designed. I prefer the softer leather of the less expensive Hawthorne and--most importantly--the minimalist aspects of the Hawthorn are superior to the less flexible, heavier Porto.
In this shootout, my pick goes to the Soft Star Hawthorne for its softer leather, resolable durability, much better flexibility, lower weight, and better price point.
For the more minimalist-minded shopper, this is your choice. If you need to read more on the Hawthorne, be sure to check out my full review!