Barefoot Shoes

VivoBarefoot Gobi 2 Hopewell Boot Review

Almost exactly two years ago I reviewed the Vivo Barefoot Gobi on this site. The Gobi is a desert boot that took the ever-popular Vivo Barefoot Ra clean-cut style and made it a boot. (Note: You can find some heavily discounted Vivo Gobis and Ras — the…

Almost exactly two years ago I reviewed the Vivo Barefoot Gobi on this site. The Gobi is a desert boot that took the ever-popular Vivo Barefoot Ra clean-cut style and made it a boot. Note: You can still find some significantly discounted Vivo Gobis and Ras — the original versions, anyway — in a couple places. You’ll want to skip to the end for that! Today, I’ll be reviewing the Vivo Barefoot Gobi II. What’s the Gobi II (and how does it differ from the original)? New to the Gobi and curious to learn more? Read on!

The Boots

The VivoBarefoot Gobi II Hopewell
The VivoBarefoot Gobi II Hopewell
Here is what VivoBarefoot says about the Gobi II:
The classic design of our Gobi desert boot injected with extra style and class thanks to the use of Hopewell leather, contrast stiching and 2-tone laces, the Vivobarefoot Gobi II Hopewell Mens unites simplicity with style, offering premium appearance appropriate for work and play.Retail: $150 (Note: some suede varietals are only $130 MSRP)
Sounds about right. From Gobi (1) to Gobi 2: A few of you who have the Gobi might be wondering what’s changed going from Gobi 1 to 2. It’s probably not obvious, but there are a couple significant changes:
  • The Gobi II has a new last that is more narrow than the original Gobi. You can see a comparison via this photo. I don’t have overly-wide feet but based on at least a couple reviews over at Zappos the new last is too narrow for some who enjoyed the original Gobi.
  • As an extension of the new last, the Gobi 2 has a new sole. If you’ve owned any of the more-minimalist of Vivo’s offerings over the last few years, you’ll immediately see the difference in soles when you look at this photo. Based on a subjective analysis bending the soles side-by-side, I’d say that the Gobi II sole is just a little stiffer than the original Gobi. To my knowledge, it’s no thicker though. More on the soles later.
For now, take a spin around the shoes via these photos:

The Soles

The Gobi II features a the new 3mm "V - LIFE" sole.
The Gobi II features a the new 3mm “V – LIFE” sole.
The Gobi 2 has a 3mm TPU sole Vivo has dubbed the “V-Life.” It’s a reboot of the sole Vivo’s been using for the past few years and if I had to guess, it is an extension of Vivo’s choice to narrow up the last of some of their shoes. Why the change? One complaint about at least a few Vivo Barefoot shoes is they look over-wide up front—even clownish” (A Google Search for VivoBarefoot and clownish turns up almost 300 results). Fashion and footwear don’t always work well together (see high heels or men’s dress shoes). There’s also a compromise between having a large enough toe box and a too large toe box. What’s the right balance? It’s hard to say, exactly. For my feet, I can’t say I’ve noticed any real difference in the feel or fit of the Gobi. However, I don’t have particularly wide or high-volume (or high instep) feet. If any of those traits fit your feet, the Gobi II might not work for you. To that point, you’ve settled on Vivo as your minimalist, everyday shoe of choice in the past, you may need to give these new lasts a test-run and see if they work or not. Like all Vivo Barefoots, the Gobi II have a removable foam insole:
The removable insoles of the Gobi 2
The removable insoles of the Gobi 2
I opt for wearing my Vivo’s with the insole as underneath that thin layer of foam are some exposed stitches. The insole is so thin and lacking in structure, it doesn’t detract from the overall “barefoot” feel of the Gobi II. Of course, a little bit of foam will make for a more cushy ride; said another way, if you wear the Gobi 2’s without the insole, you’ll find the foot-feel a little more jarring—you’ll want to walk a little more lightly. Regarding the Gobi 2’s “barefoot feel,” despite the V-Life sole being a little less bendy relative to the now-deprecated original sole, ground feel is excellent in these shoes, you can expect to get a great sense of the textures beneath your feet. Socks or no socks? That is the question! While my original Gobis were suede, the Gobi II Hopewell is a less soft leather. I’ve worn them sans socks all day and they are plenty comfortable worn this way; however, I’d not hesitate to wear my suede Gobis without socks as the leather just felt nice against my bare feet. I’m more on the fence about doing that with the Gobi II Hopewells. Mind, if you get the Gobi II in suede, you’ll get the bareskin comfort of suede, too. Then again, as the Hopewell Gobi 2s are a bit more dressy, socks make some good sense!

The Looks

Note how the leather breaks in.
Note how the leather breaks in.
I recently reviewed the Vivo Barefoot “handcut” Porto. The Porto is by far the most dressy VivoBarefoot model I’ve ever owned and in the top tier of dressy “barefoot shoes.” That said, the Porto comes with a serious pricetag of $400. By comparison, the Gobi 2 looks right at home with a pair of khaki pants or nice jeans — if you’re into selvedge denim, you can see the Gobi 2s worn with some Gustin jeans
VivoBarefoot Gobi paired with Gustin Sixteener jeans.
VivoBarefoot Gobi paired with Gustin Sixteener jeans.
Note on the jeans — Those are Gustin 16 oz raw denim selvedge jeans. If you’re not familiar, Gustin makes crowd-sourced, high-end raw denim jeans whereby you fund a campaign based on unique denim selections. You then get your jeans in 2-3 months. Selvedge jeans are an experience. You break the jeans in to you over time, which means that the denim fades in wears in places based on you. Over time, you get a custom pair of jeans. It’s kinda fun and is almost a hobby for some. If you’re interested in that kinda thing or curious and want to dabble with selvedge, use my invite link here to get $5 off at Gustin.
The leather on the Gobi II Hopewell marks in distinctive ways (compare the photo of them new here vs. worn, above). This surprised me at first—seeing how quickly the leather changed on wear—but after a day of wear, they don’t seem to get particularly more distressed looking. One thing you might notice based on the photos is how flat the Gobi II looks at the forefoot. That’s not a trick of the eye—it really is that flat up front. This is a common thing with many VivoBarefoot shoes (scan some older reviews on BirthdayShoes here and you’ll see what I mean). If you have a higher volume foot or instep, this could make the Gobi 2s not fit well on your feet. Something to keep in mind. Overall, I like the brown tan leather of the Gobi II Hopewell. I also think that the less wide toe box improves the overall look of the boots (but at a price for some!). But since it’s easy to suggest improvements, I’ll say that it’d be great if Vivo took the Gobi II and gave it the Oak’s wallaby treatment. This would do two things that would improve the look of the Gobi. One, it would make them look a lot less “flat” up front as the elevated rim would give dimension to the forefoot of the boots. Two, it would make an otherwise wide toe box (even less so than the original Gobi) look more regular. And while I’m at it: might I suggest Vivo brings back the Oak already? Still my favorite Vivo’s of all time and still the Vivos I wear most regularly!


The Gobi 2 makes for an interesting evolution of the original Gobi. Some will appreciate the changes and others may not. I’m a little on the fence. For me, the narrow toe box is an overall, if only slight, improvement—I didn’t feel the original Gobi looked as wide-footed as the Ra, but the Gobi 2 is a slightly more conventional looking shoe. That said, it is flatter up front (than the Gobi 1) in addition to being narrower. These are important considerations for at least some of us! At the pricepoint, if you’re looking to pick up a dressier pair of barefoot shoes, the Gobi 2 is worth consideration—it is certainly a lot more affordable than the Porto. And if you had to choose between Gobi 2 and Ra, the benefit of the Gobi 2 is a little more ankle coverage, which can be nice from a style-standpoint. Because of the changes to the last, if you’re accustomed to a certain fit from Vivos, you might pick these up from an easy-to-return online retailer like Zappos.

—OR— You Can Get the Gobi at 50% off (While they last!)

On the other foot, you can still find the original Gobi at a significant discount. One option is to hunt down a pair at 6pm (on sale for $80-90 or 40% off). AN EVEN BETTER OPTION: Left Lane Sports. The first Gobi in a nice dark-brown suede is available in a number of sizes for $68 $51 in an early-Black Friday sale on 11/21/2014! That’s good, but read on because it gets better. Here’s how to get the best deal: become a “member” of LeftLane using my invite to sign up and you’ll get $10 credit off your first purchase over $50. More: you get free shipping on orders over $75. Here are the Gobi’s at LeftLane (ignore the Pur varietals — different shoe entirely); note they list the Gobi II but not at a discount (for now!). You can hunt down some other minimalist shoes at LeftLane to meet a threshhold: Good luck!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

17 replies on “VivoBarefoot Gobi 2 Hopewell Boot Review”

How do these compare looks and comfort wise to the portos? They seem similar. I’m curious if you think the portos are worth the hefty price tag. I have the hopewells and they are starting to break in. Interested in the portos, but not sure how much different they are. Thanks!

I am a big buyer of Vivo Barefoot shoes specifically because I have very wide feet with high inseam and volume and this brand is making one of the only shoes I can actually put on (with the insole removed).
I realize that Vivo wants to expand their market, but I dislike that it is at the expense of people like me.
I have bought a pair of Gobi 2 and I can hardly fit in them (width and volume wise).
Oh well, time to stock up on Gobi 1 I guess..

Have you tested how these go in the wet? The Vivobarefoot website talks of an ion-mask treatment to the outer. Have you tried conditioning the leather at all?

Is the white stitiching on the sole (on the border of the black and brown rubber) the same stitching that we see on the inside of the shoe? Seems like it would wick water in pretty easily?

Not much has changed since I started with barefoot and minimalist running stuff. Back then there were only vivos and vibrams and all other shoes were too narrow or too thick. Now vivos are also too narrow, so it’s pretty much fivefingers only for minimalist shoes. There are tons of bit too thick and/or bit too narrow minimalist shoes. Atleast huaraches are getting better – not so hard to adjust anymore.


I’d say that lookswise, the Portos win — just a much more expensive-looking, dressy shoe. This is driven by the sole but also by the simplicity of the Porto design, which is cleancut and stylish. That said, the Gobi II is definitely more comfortable. It’s comfy right out of the box, pretty much. That said, just talking about Gobis, I’d go with the suede Gobi over the Gobi 2 Hopewell for max comfort.


At least you can get the original Gobis still — and at a hefty discount.


I haven’t tested them wet so it’s hard to speak to that water-resistance. I don’t think the stitching is quite the same and I believe the wicking wouldn’t be a problem.


Interesting thoughts/analysis. It is fascinating to reflect on the emergence of minimalist shoes and how they have evolved over the last 5-6 years. VFFs were the only gig in town in the beginning. Over time, there were true minimalist shoes but as people wore them, I think they forgot the amazing simplicity of VFFs—though there are drawbacks to toe separation/toe pockets (driven mostly, I think, by the strain created by flexing toes upward), there are a lot of sensational benefits (it’s a much greater sensory experience).

A lot of the pros of “barefoot shoes” (call it, less than 8mm soles) gets lost when you go to “minimalist shoes” that have, call it, 8+mm soles or greater. So then consumers think, “well if I’m at 8mm, why not try 12mm? More?”

With low and more narrow toebox Vivo is probably trying to imitate that locked on feeling of fivefingers that you get from toepockets – foot can’t move inside the shoe and sole of shoe is glued into sole of foot, which causes shoes to feel quite agile. Some vivos feel bit jarring on hard surfaces, I would guess it comes from looseness, when there’s bit of room between sole of shoe and sole of foot.. It just can’t be about thinnes of sole, because there are other, even thinner shoes that don’t feel like that. Barefoot doesn’t feel that jarring. But lower toebox has side effects, it seems to resurrect that old first generation evo’s problem, upper that draws blood from big toe during push off phase. I have stealth, and it does that (I haven’t exactly run until seeing the blood coloring the upper, but they feel like evo and I did that bloody thing with them). One reason is rigid toe bumber they use, so upper can flex easily from just one point. If you have shortish toes, then that point is probably right on top of the big toe’s “flexing upward joint” and there’s no problem. But with longer toes they flex on front of that point causing upper’s flexing crease on top of toe.. They just probably don’t have any long toed people on vivo’s shoe testing team, so it’s bit hard to see that flaw on design…

Well, atleast gobi 2 don’t have that toebumber, but I wouldn’t trust it to flex on right point without testing, so no internet vivobarefoot new models shopping for me.

I bought a pair of Gobi IIs. I think. I don’t see mine as being as narrow as the they look in the pictures. The sole does look the same though. Could the Hopewell be narrower than the regular black Gobi II?

If I do have Gobi IIs then some people must have seriously wide feet to complain!

About the Porto. I said before that I think the Porto is too wide for a dress shoe. This is made worse by the fact that the sole extends out. A dress shoe is not used for running or jumping so some performance characteristics can be sacrificed to looks. I wrote an e-mail, respectful, I hope, to Asher Clarke the designer at Vivo explaining why I returned my Portos. If Vivo comes out with a redesigned dress shoe–ie narrower–I’ll jump on the. Otherwise Primal Pros have several new models and colors

Hey anyone, a couple years ago I wore KSOs but I didn’t like the feeling of being watched or people asking about them. It’s like having an accent, as an American living in Australia which is enough for me.

I was wondering if there’s a shoe that has the toe pockets, articulation and groundfeel of VFF but with the toes not noticable. Maybe covered with mesh?

Also this would help because when I was wearing them I constantly had to stop and pick dandelions out of my toes.

I thought the old toe box was too narroe ant pointy, not happy with the change of last. 🙁
90 % of my shoes are vivos, now I’m looking into ANI or even Russell moccassins.
Perceptions of what looks good have changed in the past and will in the future. Most women don’t wear corsets anymore…

I got a pair of these two weeks ago. Fabulous! Better looking in person and they break in beautifully with a subtle two tone look. They are not as good looking as the Porto but at half the price, the Hopewell leather RAII wins.

Also, the new Vivobarefoot mail order service is first rate. I am still trying to forget my experience with the old third party distributor here in the US.

Hi! I have the portos and am considering getting another pair of Gobis. I usually am a UK 5/38 for most shoes, but wear a 37 for the Portos. Would you say the sizing for the Gobi is the same as for the Porto (I.e running a bit large?) Or is the Gobi narrower compared to the Porto? Thanks, appreciate your advice!


I was wondering what you use, if anything, to polish or protect the leather. I wrote to Vivo to ask and they told me they use nubuck cleaners. Is Hopwell leather nubuck? I suspect they confused this model with the suede one.

Hmm I have not used a polish on the Gobi 2. That said, my brother has them now (paid them forward 😉 ) and he has used Leather Honey on them — apparently he likes it!

Thanks for that Justin. Does your brother have the tobacco color and did the Leather Honey change the color much. It is said to do that with lighter colored leather and I would hate to have that happen to my pair.

have you had any experience conditioning the vivo ra? I bought a pair that is tobacco in color and the smooth leather finish, but they seem to scratch or scuff rather easily. any advice?


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