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The Best High Top Hiking Boots – Vivobarefoot Off-Road Hi

I’ve spent a week now with Vivobarefoot’s high top hiking boots, the Off-Road Hi’s.

I mentioned in past reviews that I’ve never been a fan of high top boots because they restrict your ankle and, in my opinion, are more likely to cause you an injury. I saw it first hand a couple of years ago when a good friend, sporting a pair of Solomon boots twisted his ankle not once, but twice. Luckily the damage was confined to a short period of soreness and nothing more but my own theory was proven.

My mind was somewhat changed with the Synth Hikers, which are more of a mid boot (with the Off-Road Mid actually being a low boot) after spending a great deal of time with them on my feet. Unfortunately, despite their positives, I’d still have chosen my Off-Road Mids (lows!) over them.

The Off-Road Hi compared with the Synth Hiker and Kariba.

The Off-Road Hi compared with the Synth Hiker and Kariba.

Now, however, the choice isn’t quite so simple. I spent a while awaiting the arrival of the Off-Road Hi’s after a request from a reader to test them out. Their stock levels of them are so low that people are finding it very difficult to get hold of them. The Off-Road Hi is a higher take on the low version of the companies popular Off-Road Mid that I reviewed previously. I’ve used those as the benchmark for this pair, while I’ll refer back to my old clunky Merrells for a different comparison.

Taking a first look at the boots, you’ll notice a huge similarity with their lower counterparts, so similar in fact that they’re actually identical, minus the additional material at the top. I’ve already concluded that the Off-Road Mid were a fine shoe and this version is merely a bit taller. It’s completely personal preference. High top or low top, that’s how you decide between them.

My first high top hiking boot.

My first high top hiking boot.

There are a couple of bonuses to these boots however – one is the lace locking system I previously said was pointless. It appears it does have a benefit after all. On the Off-Road Mid and also the Synth Hikers.

How the lace locking system works.

How the lace locking system works.

So why is this better than a simple clip? If a lace comes undone in a clip, it falls down and you tread on it. If the laces come undone with the lockers in place, it simply hangs from that point. So, not only is it quicker to secure but it also means your laces don’t get wet and muddy, should they come undone. It’s a feature that’s actually quite well thought out, despite first appearances.

The next positive I found with a higher top is the ability to walk through deeper water than with a low boot. I did a walk through water test with both the Synth Hikers and the Off-Road Hi’s and while neither gave me a wet foot, I’m very aware that in deeper water, the Synth Hiker wouldn’t fair so well. Which means the waterproof Off-Road Mid can withstand even shallower water. Common sense of course, a lower shoe will obviously let in water faster than a high top. Never the less, it’s a point in favour of the Hi’s.

The Off-Road Hi's are fully waterproof.

The Off-Road Hi’s are fully waterproof.

I found once more that these boots require zero breaking in. The Off-Road Mid required none, while the Synth Hikers needed the ankle to bed in slightly. I was incredibly surprised to find that the even higher top on these boots didn’t hold me back in any way right from the get go. They’re much more flexible than the high top boots I’ve seen before – especially those Solomons!

Clambering up a fallen tree.

Clambering up a fallen tree.

In terms of weight, they hit the scales 40g heavier per boot than the Off-Road Mid and so are quite a bit heavier than the Synth Hikers too. The weight is still considerably lower than what you’d find in a non-minimalist shoe and frankly, in a cold winter, I’d be happy with an extra 40g of insulation around my ankles!

Like all the Vivobarefoot boots, these again come with the Off-Road sole which does a fantastic job with traction on slippery surfaces. Again I found the luggs to clear very quickly after walking through boggy, sticky ground. A short walk through wet grass or a stream seems to dispel any mud that was stuck there. I still haven’t cleaned an off-road sole to this day. When I compare this to the Vibram sole on my Merrells, it’s night and day in terms of mud retention. From experience of walking through similar ground in those, they come out weighing more than like a kilo than a few hundred grams. It’s like wearing lead boots. I find it somewhat surprising that this is the case and I think most people would expect the pointy luggs on the Vivo’s to clog up more easily than the sole of the Merrells but its truly not the case.

From the top.

From the top.

They come in two colours – black and brown – with me having chosen the former simply for variety within my collection! I’d have loved for Vivobarefoot to highlight some of the details on the boots or have additional colour-ways. There’s no reason they couldn’t highlight the ‘V’ on the side or have the upper and lower separator in a different colour. Think of the Breatho Trail details I spoke about previously and apply some of them here, it’d make the boot far less bland.

The black version of the Off-Road Hi.

The black version of the Off-Road Hi.

I gave these boots an OW rating of 4.5 out of 5 in my video review last week which means there’s not much they can improve on. A better selection of colours and some minor cosmetic changes could make them stand out in terms of looks as well as performance. I would pick them over the Synth Hiker but would I take them instead of the Off-Road Mids? That just depends on the weather…

Video Review

Please check out the video review of the Off-Road Hi’s below and click through to YouTube for better quality.


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22 comments on “The Best High Top Hiking Boots – Vivobarefoot Off-Road Hi
  1. Geogi on said:

    Hi there! Very thorough review – good job :) I have a question since you’ve tried both off-road hi and the off-road mid. Frankly, I lean towards the Hi ones, though I’ll mainly wear them in the summer for lightweight amateur treks in warm/hot weather. So in your opinion will they keep me hot with thin socks or not?
    Cheers!

  2. Hi Geogi, thanks very much for the comment.

    I received the ORM’s first and I loved them. They were my go to shoe – and for the summer, they will remain so. While the weather is colder and while the ground is wetter, I’ll stick with the ORH’s. Simply because they offer waterproofness up to a greater depth whether I’m walking through deep snow or through a river or boggy ground.

    In the summer, I’ll be back to using the mids. The sole is the same and they’re essentially the same shoe, but they’ll offer me more cooling. I don’t need the high top when the ground is dry and the weather nice.

    I always wear thick hiking socks – Bridgedale Summit, even in the summer. I haven’t tried the ORH’s yet in warmer conditions but I imagine that my feet will be pretty hot and probably a bit sweaty (nice!) with them.

    Hence, in the winter, the ORH’s win and in the summer; the ORM’s do.

    I hope that helps,

    Ste.

  3. Geogi on said:

    thanks a lot for the quick reply! :) ill probably go for the mids then.
    Best regards!

  4. I quote:

    “I’d have loved for Vivobarefoot to highlight some of the details on the boots or have additional colour-ways. There’s no reason they couldn’t highlight the ‘V’ on the side or have the upper and lower separator in a different colour.”

    Well, maybe the reason is people like me, who don’t like shoes that deliberately try to catch the eye. I especially dislike prominent logos.

    • Ah, yes, but then you’re talking of producing more models (with different colors), which doesn’t come cheap — not only their manufacturing but the related logistics (how many pairs to produce, how many to stock, how many to ship to different retailers …).

      So there *is* an obvious reason why they haven’t done it (yet). And thus, I still disagree with your: “There’s no reason they couldn’t highlight the ‘V’ on the side or have the upper and lower separator in a different colour.” They just chose to start with a neutral styling, which won’t please everyone, but which is more likely not to put off many customers either. That’s actually the reason I didn’t buy the original Evo when it came out: They were too flashy for me.

      Oh, eh, while we’re at it: I know you chose black for the sake of variety; but as a rule, isn’t brown less likely to look dirty (during a hike or even after being cleaned)? It’s a genuine question; last time I hiked, I was broke, and just used the only pair or shoes I owned. Now I’m not broke anymore, but too busy to hike; I can only dream to do it again.

  5. I give any information in my reviews as a personal view based on performance, aesthetics, quality and my own personal preferences to things. For me, having a red V (which is prominent in a lot of their shoes) is a great thing. Obviously not for you. But all of this is feedback to them – and that’s the whole point of reviewing and receiving comments such as yours.

    Vivo will take all customers’ comments into consideration for their next line or update and make an informed decision based on what they want.

    Brown would probably show the dirt up a little less than black, but when you get them as dirty as I do then it’s always visible whatever the colour is!

  6. I know they’re likely to read comments to your review, since they sent an email linking to it. That’s why I took the time to comment, since I don’t want all their models to start showing a big bright V. :oP

    • Hi Joyce,

      I haven’t seen any super-long-term reviews about, but I can give you a near nine-month view if you’d like?

      I used mine throughout the winter, venturing out in waist deep snow and walking through icy streams. I’ve trained in them for nearly nine months and even completed the 54 mile Caledonian Challenge in them recently. Mine are still absolutely fine.

      There is some wear on the luggs at the bottom – the paths along the West Highland Way gave them a bit of a beating. The paths were all rocks/stone, so abrasion would have been incredibly high. ‘Normal’ off-road stuff wouldn’t be that harsh for so long. Even so, the damage is minimal and I think the boots will go on perfectly well for another few years with the same treatment. I’d estimate that I’ve done about 400 miles in them since mid-November, to give you a rough guide of distance.

      I did notice waterproofness degrade ever-so slightly and I ended up with the smallest amount of water through. I solved this by using a few coats of Nikwax. I presume that as they bed in, stitching and everything else moves slightly and compromises it.

      Hope this helps,

      Ste.

      • Joyce on said:

        Hi Ste, many thanks for the very useful report. My boots are the ladies grey and pink model, which I’ve had for 11 months. The “tyre” round the outside, between sole and leather, is rubber, and has just begun to crack where the toe/foot joints bend. All of a sudden, they are letting in water. I have been diligent in maintaining them with Nikwax products, so I’m very disappointed, because otherwise they are perfect. In the light of your comments, maybe mine were a Friday pair!
        Luckily I’ve been able to return them to the retailer, and I’ve invested in a pair of Synth Hikers – as they are fabric at the bend points, perhaps they will fare better!

        • Thanks for the information Joyce, that’s definitely an interesting one. Very surprised to hear of the rubber cracking so it’s definitely better that you took them back. I have the Synth Hikers too (also reviewed) and they’re a great boot. How’s the space in the toe-box for you?

          • Joyce on said:

            Hi Ste, my Off-road His are on their way back to the retailer for credit now – sad, as they were really comfortable and suited my feet – I have long toes, especially the big toe, and my feet are quite wide across the toes – so as you can imagine, since I grew out of Birthday sandals, getting shoes to fit has been a problem. I have a pair of ladies Synth Hikers, size 43, which I use as everyday outdoor wear in winter or wet weather, so no problems with feet swelling in the heat or in sustained exercise. However, I do find the toe box more restricted than the Off-road Hi – it seems to be coming more to a point, and goes against VivoBarefoot’s own criteria for allowing more space for toes to spread! I must contact them about it. So, having read your review of the Synth Hiker, I ordered a pair of men’s size 43 (lovely olive colour)which give me a tad more width. I hope the lacing will be good enough to stabilise them around the midfoot and ankle. When I’ve had a few good walks in them, I’ll let you know how they perform!

          • Sorry Joyce, I completely missed this post and have only just stumbled across it!

            Glad to hear you’re finding a little more room with your latest Synth Hikers – I too have found them slightly narrower than the other boots Vivobarefoot do. I would size up in them next time I think – I found it touch and go whether I needed to or not.

            Let me know how you get on. :)

    • Hi Simon,

      The boots work very well for day to day wear on the streets. However, the sole of course isn’t made for use on tarmac but rather for off-road use, so you’ll see the luggs wear out more quickly if that’s where you’re going to use them. I can’t say how long they’ll last or how many miles you’ll cover before the luggs start abrading as I’ve primarily used them off-road with a few miles on-road here and there.

      Hope this helps,

      Ste.

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