Ever wanted to try a minimalist shoe? What about a minimalist hiking boot? Introducing the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG – a new spin on a classic hiking boot but with a zero drop.
Casting my eyes over a map of Chamonix I’d already decided the hikes I wanted to complete on my trip to this incredible mountain town. Instead of taking my standard hiking boots (which I’ve had for many years), I bravely decided I was going to be testing of the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG hiking boots in their place, a zero drop and minimalist shoe that is described as an item of footwear designed for wild and rough terrains.
This kind of footwear (that costs £190), was very alien to me, as ordinarily I’d opt for bulky supportive footwear for my hikes. But other companies tend to use a ridiculous amount of rubber and can be extremely heavy (the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG boots weigh 329g). But this time I was trying something new, but could a minimal hiking shoe really cope with the mixed terrain of a Chamonix hike?
Let’s start things off with the design of the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG boot. This hiking boot is made with high-quality leather, waterproof lining and thermal protection. Designed to give your feet the opportunity to work for themselves.
Sliding these easy lace-up boots on, it was a strange feeling if I’m honest, the lack of sole was bizarre. You might be reading this having already tried minimal shoes of some kind, but this was my first time. So, what does Vivobarefoot say about this particular hiking boot?
- Firm Ground sole with 3mm lugs that provide traction over trails and rocky landscapes.
- Premium action leather waterproof upper, constructed with a breathable sealed inner membrane reinforced by hydrophobic leather proofing. Mountain lace for non-slip adherance and webbing made out of recycled RPET.
- Recycled RPET mesh lining.
- Removable Thermal Insole – 4-season protection.
*Taken directly from Vivobarefoot website
Agreed – there is no denying the quality of this item to be nothing but fantastic. Extremely well made with a lot of thought into the design. Beyond the design is the ethos of this brand, boasting many products that are sustainable and vegan.
After wearing the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG boots initially across the gravel paths into Chamonix town centre from Les Bois, I soon found my feet to be enjoy this zero drop shoe. Say what?! I know, I’m as shocked as you. I loved the brown shade of the soft leather and red laces, giving these boots a classic look, especially with their hook up fastening.
The Vivobarefoot Tracker FG hike
We previously hiked up to the Montenvers to get a look at the Mer de Glace when we visited 3 years ago, so decided this would be the perfect hike to test the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG boots out.
I knew the terrain was different in various of spots, such as gravel or muddy paths, the need to scramble over rocks, then of course wet and dry patches along the way. Could these boots deal with such a mix?
Climbing up the mountain
As we began, I immediately found the love for these boots I had on my standard dog walk, beginning to grow significantly. Going up the hilly portions of the hike and especially where it became more technical, scrambling over rocks, these boots became my best friends. I cannot fault them at all for this. Seriously comfortable and supportive. Whilst we climbed over some of the loose rock paths I noticed that having that extra flexibility of a minimal sole, feeling the path more because my feet were doing the work, I was able to climb and hike really efficiently.
Feeling everything under my feet allowed me to tackle any rocks that felt unstable, something you can’t really do if you have an over support sole. I was able to judge the terrain and my next move because of this minimal boot, something I’ve never really been able to do before.
Most confident hiking climb
The climb up was one of my quickest and best climbs I’d ever done. There was a surge of confidence, and for someone who has previously had two ACL knee operations, confidence for things like this can often be tricky. On this particular climb up – I was flying up that mountain, and stronger than ever.
Coming down the mountain
Let me begin by saying, hiking up the mountain these were amazing, but going down the mountain, at points I wanted to take them off. The grip I had on the climb up vanished on the way down, they couldn’t cope with the mixed terrain on the descent. I had such stability over loose rocks on the way up, but now any loose rocks on the way down, my feet would slide. It was like I was wearing another pair of shoes.
Granted when you descend after a hike up, you can often feel tired, so I considered this and that I could have just got sloppy. But I took it seriously steady and yet I felt like all my foot support on the way up had vanished. Was it me, or was it the boots?
It felt almost like this minimalist sole needed more grip added to its design to cope with this differing terrains we were on. On the dry muddy paths especially, I lost my grip and nearly went over a few times from sliding. It perhaps didn’t help we were going through areas where it was dewy, grassy and damp from lack of sunshine one second, then hot dry areas with rolling rocks and powdered mud the next. I was hoping these boots would be joining me on all my upcoming hikes, but coming down the mountain I was doubting them.
Maybe I need to try these out again when I climb Snowdon next month, after all as Vivobarefoot say, shoes should let your feet do their thing, maybe my feet didn’t know how to do it themselves, after all the bulky support from previous footwear.
Verdict; Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
There is definitely a positive from using a minimalist shoe from Viviobarefoot, actually, there are scientific benefits from using zero drop shoes. I had the opinion previously that in order to hike well, I had to have a super supportive shoe to take care of my high arches. After trying these it was clear to see how investing in such footwear would benefit you.
Climbing up the steep mountain, I was incredibly impressed with how using a minimal shoe (particular over the rocks to scramble), could significantly assist this hike. The lack of additional grip on the sole for my descent was the issue. If they had that extra grip perhaps I wouldn’t have had such a negative part two of my hike. These Vivobarefoot Tracker FG boots were tested where the terrain changed quickly. The hike would go from climbing over wet rocks from a waterfall, to completely dry with loose rocks and gravel, all in the space of seconds. Maybe the quick switch meant these boots couldn’t cope.
The fit and feel of them gave me absolutely no issues at all, my feet felt supported, comfortable and absolutely no rubbing, which as many of us know (especially on a first long hike in new boots), can often result in painful issues – not the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG boots. These boots cuddled my feet and supported my ankles throughout.
To summarise; great for any scrambling, supportive on an incline, but a bit hit and miss on grip on mixed terrain on the decline. Would I still use them? In a word, Yes. The up was so positive that I’d be stupid not to give them another go, and perhaps they are more designed for my hilly UK Peak District walks rather than mountains – watch this space.
*These were a gifted item but all views and opinions are that of my own
Hi! Thank you for your honest review. I am thinking about buying these but as they are a bit pricey, I want to make sure they’ll be right for me. I don’t like coming down loose gravel on mountains. Have you tried them again to see if you got used to them?
Hey! Yes after a few more hikes I’ve gotten used to them.I’m enjoying making my feet work rather than just relying on a boot if that makes sense. My feet feel stronger because of it.
Amanda Humphries says
Thank you for such an in-depth review. I am really thinking of purchasing these, but I mostly deal with more level paths that often get muddy. Have they gotten better with use in the mud?
Hey! Yes they have, a lot of my issue was not being used to a minimal shoe, but since wearing them more they’ve gotten far better and they are my go to hiking boot now.
They’ve now brought out the forest esc with a more tractiony sole – haven’t yet had a chance to try mine on a mountain but it looks as if it may solve the grip issues of the fg sole.
How did you find the sizing of the boots?
I always struggle with narrow heels and ankles but i’m looking to widen my forefoot for better balance, hence wanting to try these.
I would say i’m a 6.5 so vivo says go up to the next size. However i quite often find that from size 6 to 7 shoes/boots end up being much bigger in all directions than say the 5 to 6 ratio.