Opinionated World


The Featherweight Vivobarefoot Synth Hikers

A few weeks ago, I was sent a pair of the previously un-released Synth Hikers from Vivobarefoot and now, having worn them for over 60 miles, I’m ready to give you the lowdown.

I actually specified a pair of the Breatho Trails because I wanted to test the style and image with everyday clothes, rather than just  how they perform in the ‘outdoors’. I was only aware of the Synth Hiker because of a tweet sent out by Vivobarefoot a few weeks beforehand where they wrote “next year’s Synth Hiker, waiting to be tested”.  It was surprising to then receive a reply suggesting I give these new boots a go.

Even more surprising is the fact that they’re now released.

Vivo sent the shoes out with a super-quick courier which meant they were with me the next day. The box retains the usual re-cycled materials and minimalist look, as mentioned in the review of the Off-Road Mid shoes so I won’t cover old ground.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the box was the weight. Or rather, the lack of weight. Apple defines the depth of their products by ‘thinness’ rather than ‘thickness’ and I think Vivobarefoot should follow suit and adopt some new terminology that describes the lack of weight rather than simply ‘weight’. Lightweight doesn’t really cut it. Instead of grams, why not measure in feathers? I’ve done the test and these weigh approximately six feathers. That sounds better, doesn’t it?

Un-boxing the Synths.

Un-boxing the Synths.

In all seriousness though, there’s an immediate sense of how little these weigh. So little in-fact that I decided to weigh them in comparison to my other shoes. Now, I wasn’t expecting them to weigh less than my low shoes, simply because these are boots and there’s more of them. How could they possibly be lighter?

To the scales then. Lets start off high, with my Merrells which weigh in at 298g or 596g for a pair -over half a kilogram. Moving onto the Vivobarefoot kit, with my favourite Kariba’s. Bearing in mind these are simply a sole and a leather boot with laces, these shouldn’t weigh much. 149g or 298g as a pair. A huge difference, but what about the Off-Road Mids? 284g for a pair, lighter still. I honestly don’t believe that anyone would take a look at both of those pairs and suggest the Off-Road was lighter than the Kariba. Finally, what about the Synth Hikers. They’re a boot, remember. 270g for a pair. Wait, what?

Weighing my Merrells.

Weighing my Merrells.

That’s right folks, the Synth Hikers weigh less than the Off-Road, they weigh less than the Kariba’s and of course, they weigh less than the Merrells. A whole 55% less infact. A pair of Synth Hikers weigh less than an individual Merrell and that is simply no mean feat.

They’re marketed as a ‘fast and responsive approach shoe’ – an in-between hiking and climbing shoe suitable for long distances while having an appropriate sole that provides traction on steeper terrain. Hence, the Synth’s come with the rubber off-road sole, the same as the one on the Off Road shoes. Directional luggs are again in place for maximum grip.

The boots are made from a hydrophobic mesh with a hydroguard waterproof ‘sock’ inside. These materials combine to make them extremely breathable, while maintaining their waterproof-ness. Once again they’re shipped with fairly long, round laces – some people prefer flat laces because they slip less – which I found to stay secure over long periods. I took to using the top lace clip to double over the laces, leaving less of a bow at the top.

The always awesome Vivobarefoot red V.

The always awesome Vivobarefoot red V. Stylish even with casual dress.

As always, they seem very well made, and took little breaking in. Though it has to be said, they did take more than the Off-Road’s, which essentially needed none at all. I think that’s down to them being higher, so they need more of a bedding in process around your ankle which of course is non existent with shoes. The upper material does seem to pucker slightly when pulling the laces tight but this didn’t affect their performance in the slightest.

Grip on very wet, woodland terrain was exceptional thanks to the off-road sole but I thought the ‘feel’ was a little lacking in comparison to the Off-Roads. Clambering over fallen trees which were infinitely slippy proved the soles don’t grip on everything. However, I’d challenge anyone to find a shoe (that doesn’t have spikes) that’ll prevent you sliding over something of this nature.

The easiest of terrains for such a grippy sole.

The easiest of terrains for such a grippy sole.

Over a seven mile hike through dense, off-track woodland, through boggy ground, up steep banks and through wet fields, the shoes were very comfortable. There was plenty of room for my toes – which usually take a bit of a beating with non Vivo footwear – thanks to the ever present anatomical toe box.

Grip galore on slippery mud.

Grip galore on slippery mud.

Strangely, these come in at £99 which is £10 less than the Off-Road’s. Worth the price then? In some ways, yes. The lightness for one but I’ll never prefer boots to lower shoes because I favour the greater range of movement my ankles have without a boot tightly laced around them.

They come in a ‘range of colours’ which is currently limited to two – Olive and Black. Presumably the colour options will be increased – the image Vivo tweeted initially were black with red lettering and highlights.

Once again, I highly recommend these boots, just as I have with the other Vivo’s I’ve tested to date. They’re well made, incredibly light, durable, take little breaking in, perform when needed to and they’re cheaper than most alternative good quality boots.

Video Review

Here’s my video based review of the Synth Hikers. Please be sure to follow the video through to YouTube for better quality by using the YouTube button on the video controls. Like and subscribe would be much appreciated.


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12 comments on “The Featherweight Vivobarefoot Synth Hikers
  1. Bojan on said:

    I am very interested in those shoes but I am somewhat puzzled about sizing. Usually I wear an UK 8 size shoes with an insole of about 26.5 cm in length. Since Vivo haven’t got size chart for Synth Hiker and other models seams to be a little larger in size I don’t know what would be the right size for me?

  2. Hi Bojan,

    I take a UK8 most of the time and I have the Synth Hikers in an 8 (42) as well. I’ve not found them to pinch or rub, my feet don’t nudge the end of the boot either. I also always wear a thick sock – a Bridgedale Summit hiking sock.

    Your best bet is to get a pair in your usual 8 and if they don’t fit – send them back. Of course, popping into a Vivobarefoot store (if there’s one close to you) would be easier. I’d suggest purchasing through Amazon as they might be cheaper and if you should need to return them, the process will be quicker and easier.

  3. Mats on said:

    Hi, despite this seemingly very positive review, you’ve stated in the the review of the off-road models that you prefer them to the synth hiker, but I could not find any info on why you prefer them, or what weak points the synth hiker has that you have discovered on synth hiker. Could you elaborate?

  4. Hi Mats,

    I found that all three pairs needed no bedding in. Though, I did find the Synths needed slightly more bedding in around the ankle area. Never a problem in terms of rubs or blisters but slightly stiffer, for a while. Not much of an issue.

    The main reasons for choosing the Off-Road Models are the following:

    In the summer, when its warmer, the ORM’s will keep your feet cooler due to them being lower, while providing you with the peace of mind that they’re still waterproof. I’d take them merely for that.

    In the winter, the ORM’s are far less practical. No good in deep snow, or through deep water and also too low to provide your ankle with any warmth. Hence, what’s best? SH or ORH? Well, which is more waterproof? Clearly the ORH is. It’s also a high top, which gives you slightly more warmth. They’re also incredibly comfortable.

    Unfortunately, the Synth Hikers lose out just because they have a better competitor for both of those situations.

    The Synth Hikers work as a good to between in the rare times its too cold for the Mids or too warm for the High’s. However, if you were to buy just one pair – rather than having the luxury of both the ORH and ORM – you should buy the Synth’s.

  5. are they good also for walking in the rain in cities , or is the sole to unconvenient to use on asphalt??? here in greece when it rains, it pours so id appreciate a real barefoot waterproof shoe. roads are certainly not straight or so flat as in europe.
    what do you think? and what about the size in comparison to other barefoot sizes? i am using new balance minimus trail W10 in 41.5. and the Vivos dont have inbetween sizes. wondering if i should get 41 or 42. …

    • Hi Maria,

      The shoes do work well on asphalt and they’re of course waterproof, as you say. However, the Off-Road sole is of course made for the off-road, where terrain is un-even and slippery so the luggs will inevitably wear out more quickly on the road than on mud for example, since it’s much more abrasive.

      If you think about it literally, there is less contact with the sole on the ground because of the luggs than if the sole were flat, so grip will be less. However, I have worn my Breatho Trails extensively on tarmac and never had a problem with lack of grip.

      You could check out the Neo Trail too. They’re more of a trainer (a trail shoe, in-fact) but they’re pretty water resistant thanks to the Hydrophobic Mesh. They won’t be AS waterproof as a full-waterproof boot, but they do a solid job. We reviewed them here – http://www.opinionatedworld.co.uk/vivobarefoot-neo-trail-great-winter-companion/.

      As for sizing – always go up. It’s better to have a little more room around your toes than have them touching or close to the edges. The toe-boxes on Vivobarefoot shoes are wide for a reason – to allow your toes to splay as you walk (though the Synth Hiker is a big narrower than some others in the range).

      Hope this helps,


  6. Mat on said:

    I’m thinking of trying these – I’m heading out to South America for 6 months from January. I’m looking for something lightweight and versatile as I’ll be doing a bit of trekking in Patagonia, the rainforest, Peru… Do you think these would be suitable?

    • Hi Mat,

      Absolutely they’d be suitable. They don’t have the largest of the toe-boxes in the Vivo range, and I’d size up too. I take a 42 (Size 8) in all Vivobarefoot shoes and the only one that was a little tight was the Synth Hiker. Especially if you’re a middle size normally, go up (though that applies to all Vivo shoes).

      They’re waterproof, very light, breathable and ultra grippy. Plus they’re pretty easy to clean as well. I reckon they’ll be perfectly suited to your trip.

      Thanks for the comment – if you’re on Facebook, we are too at http://www.facebook.com/opinionatedworld – it’d be good to have you there and it’s a good way to keep up with our reviews and news pieces if you’re not subscribed.



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