Have you ever heard of the barefoot shoe movement? It strips shoes of thick soles and padding and allows your feet to ‘feel' the ground as you walk, which is believed to be better for foot health and posture. And lovers of the minimalist movement can now buy a weatherproof hiking boot for when they're hitting the trail – Vivo Barefoot's Tracker II FG (£190/£240).
This pared-down, flexible and rather luxurious-feeling leather boot has a far thinner sole than you're probably used to in a hiking boot, but it's still warm and waterproof, and its light weight makes it feel very freeing to hike in. Read on for our full Vivo Barefoot's Tracker II review (of if you prefer something sturdier, head to our best women's walking boot or best men's walking boot guides).
Vivo Barefoot Tracker II review: Design and features
If you like to move fast and light on your feet, the Vivo Barefoot Tracker IIs, weighing in at 330g per boot, might be your new favourite hiking boots. Unlike traditional walking boots, which put a lot of material in between your foot and the ground, the whole point of Vivo Barefoot's soles is that they allow you to feel what's underfoot as you go. This design is not for everyone – and definitely not for those with foot issues such as flat arches, who need more support – but if you find most boots heavy and restrictive, we definitely recommend giving 'barefoot' boots a go.
The Tracker IIs are made with soft, supple leather but also sport a surprisingly solid toe box, which gives good protection when you're on uneven terrain. The high padded ankle cuff can be laced tightly for good support, and the sole has 4mm lugs (these are the indentations that grip the ground) that offer decent traction on dry ground and rocks, although we found they weren't deep enough to take on thick mud – save these boots for established, well-groomed trails. The Trackers also have minimalist leather looks that make them easy to wear casually with jeans as well as for more adventurous hikes.
Vivo Barefoot Tracker II review: Performance and comfort
What stood out on test is how delightfully lightweight these boots feel to wear compared to other, clunkier hiking boots – if you find most designs weigh you down, you'll love how freeing the Trackers feel underfoot. They may be constructed with leather but these boots feel very supple straight out of the box, moving and flexing along with your foot as you walk. Vivo Barefoot reckon their designs are ‘foot-shaped, not shoe-shaped'. This is definitely true in the wide toe box, where there's plenty of room for your feet to splay out, but we found thee boots quite tight around the bridge of the foot, so it's definitely worth trying a half-size up, especially if you want to wear these boots with thick socks.
Once you've got the right size for you, they do deliver relaxing, almost slipper-like comfort. The boots are also surprisingly warm despite their light weight thanks to a thermal insole, which you can swap out for a lighter insole for summer hikes. A waterproof lining coupled with leather's naturally water-resistant properties make them waterproof enough to put up with a storm.
Vivo Barefoot Tracker II review: Verdict
Light and liberating but still warm and waterproof, these comfy boots are ideal if you don't like being weighed down over long distances, but the lack of cushioning and arch support might not suit everyone. Overall, the quality of these leather boots stands out – coupled with their very versatile looks, we think these are a solid buy, especially for lovers of the barefoot shoe movement.