“With 200,000 nerve endings, 33 major muscles, 28 bones, 19 ligaments; the human foot is a biomechanical masterpiece.”
Yes, barefoot running is all the rage these days and while it’s taken awhile for my legs to get used to the new running style, I have to say I love it.
Check out Sharkman’s extremely informative article on barefoot running 101.
I’ve tried a number of shoes from various barefoot running companies and plan to review them all. But today I want to talk about hiking.
So how about barefoot hiking? Not literally barefoot, but in the same thread as barefoot running, using a shoe that’s well, less of a shoe,and allowing the muscles in your feet to do what they were designed to do, move you forward correctly and efficiently as well as support your balance.
I’ve recently started wearing the ladies Off Road Hi light hiking boot from Vivobarefoot. Personally I think they are awesome! But let me tell you more.
First, for all of you analysts out there who want the nitty gritty down and dirty details, here are the specs straight from the manufacturer’s website.
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
How it Really Feels On Real Feet
Me? I’m not one who really looks at all that. I simply know what I like by how it feels and works on my own two feet.
The first day I wore the shoes, I stomped around my 23 acres, up and down the hills, working around the property. A couple of things I noticed straight off the bat.
Wow, these boots are light. They weigh in at only 11.5 ounces and what you don’t feel is what you get. I loved the fact that I wasn’t dragging around a heavy boot.
My feet fit well into the boots and the sizing matched my “normal” boot size to a T. My toes had room to spread out which is how barefoot shoes are designed, to let all the muscles in your feet work in harmony and not be bound. There was no “break in period” for the boots, slip on and go!
Adding together the factors of light weight and an easy fit, these boots were extremely comfortable from the git go. There was no rubbing, no blisters, no nuttin!
Hitting The Trail With Vivobarefoot Off Road Hi
So it was time to hit the trail and see how these puppies held up over hill and dale, rock and limbs, up and down and through and around.
My training mountain is called Goat Mountain in the Bitterroot Valley in SW Montana. Yep, the name is descriptive for a reason. Not a long climb, just 1.5 miles up but 1700ft of elevation gain. It’s a fantastic training mountain for your cardio system as well as your calves. So off we went, me and my new boots, for the test up Goat.
The first impression of the boots, again was the lack of weight. These super light weight boots (I almost hesitate to call them boots!) allowed me to step up this steep slope much more nimbly. However, then I noticed it was more of a workout on my calves. My take on that is that with less “padding” in the shoe, it was a longer stretch for my calves to reach the ground on this very steep terrain. That was okay, it was a good workout but something to be aware of. Eventually my calves would have a greater range of motion because of this.
The boots are not only light but supple. My feet wrapped (for lack of a better word) better around the rocks and roots on the trail and I felt more stable. I had no issues with lack of support in the ankles, a normally weak spot for me. Because the boots are not stiff, I did not experience aching feet on that climb nor on any longer climbs that I often do with stiffer, heavier boots.
The tread was awesome! Okay, technically it’s the lugs. The lugs rocked. Normally coming down this incredibly steep trail means slipping and sliding all the way. I really had phenomenal grip with these lugs.
So, what didn’t I like?
One of the big issues for me on the trail is cold. I have a very hard time staying warm, even in the tropics! I’ve been hiking in the Off Road Hi boots for a couple of weeks and the weather has been in the 30’s and 40’s. Yes, my feet have been cold even with good wool socks. I was thinking that these would be great boots for me even on bigger mountains like Kilimanjaro or the lower elevations (snow free) in the Himalayas. However, given that my feet were thermally challenged, I’m not sure they would be my “summit night” boots of choice. I have yet to have them in soaking rain or snow conditions. I’ll have to update that when I do.
Lugs. Yes, I mentioned I love the grippiness of the lugs. I do I do. But lots of things stick in the lugs because of this. It’s not a huge issue but it can make a mess of the inside of the truck and the house if you don’t pay attention coming in and out.
Price. Yes, they are pricey at $175. So if you are a Walmart shopper, move on. So far, for me, they are worth the price but it’s something to consider.
And finally, the color. I have NO issue with the color. However, reading other reviews on the Vivobarefoot website, lots of ladies do. Mine are grey with “crimson” trimming. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what color my boots are. And if you do, you’re probably not the person who’s going to be hiking with me. If the color of your hiking boots matter, get on guccihikingboots.com (I just made up that website by the way) and find something else. I prefer something that works.
All in all, I’ve been very impressed with my new Off Road Hi hiking boots. Check out the website and see what you think! I’ve love to hear your impression below.
Stay tuned! Soon I will share my impressions of Vivobarefoot running shoes!