Vivobarefoot Off-Road Mid – Near Perfect
So, only a few weeks into running Opinionated World, I’ve secured and received my first pair of shoes from Vivobarefoot
Anyway, let’s get into this.
Un-boxing and first thoughts
My shoes arrived early on Tuesday morning by Fed-Ex and I eagerly ripped the packaging off. The box from Vivobarefoot is as minimalist as ever. A simple, re-cycled cardboard box with a single logo on top and brand name on the front edge. It’s nice to see another company, along with Apple, make such an effort with their packaging. There’s nothing nicer than un-wrapping something for the first time and nice packaging makes it all the sweeter – especially with a premium product.
I checked the label on the side of the box to see which pair of shoes I’d been sent. I had spoken about what I enjoyed and what I could do for them and I guess they duly listened – I received the Off-Road Mid shoe. Essentially a hiking shoe. I’ve looked at every shoe on the website, deciding which I like best and – bank balance permitting – which I would purchase next. I’m more a fan of mid/low shoes than high boots (Kariba’s aside), so I was pleased to have been sent these.
Inside, the shoes are covered with a thin paper sheet marked with the companies hex pattern. The inside of the lid has a simple sticker showing a little about the shoes, proprioception and the barefoot revolution. I removed the paper and took out the shoes. Nice. I’m not usually a fan of brown shoes, but these are forgiven since the colour is broken up by a high edged sole and other interesting features. These shoes also come in black.
I had asked for a size eight which is what I usually take. My Kariba’s are a size nine. Upon purchasing them in 2010, I had done my research, as always, and found recommendations to size up with Vivobarefoot shoes. Tense moments then as I donned my thick hiking socks. I needn’t have worried. The shoes fitted snugly around my heel, mid-sole and over the top of my foot. Crucially though, my toes weren’t cramped. Infact, they had the perfect amount of room to move around. As I mentioned in my earlier article, Vivobarefoot shoes always have a wide toe-box, to allow your toes and feet to spread naturally when you move. I have pretty wide feet anyway, so a bigger toe-box is a bonus for me.
What I noticed mainly was that the fit was so nice. Most walking shoes feel tight and pretty stiff until they’re broken in over the course of quite a lot of miles. This wasn’t the case with these, they felt instantly comfortable, as though I’d worn them many times previously. I took them off, smiling.
Cosmetics, look, quality and finish
The Off-Road Mid shoes have a total weight of 244 grams. My Merrel’s, by comparison weigh in at 565 grams. Meaning these are over half the weight. I remember after a long 20 mile (not including elevation changes) walk in the Lake District, removing my shoes at the end of the day made me feel as though I was floating. Now I’m not surprised. Being ‘barefoot hiking shoes’, these have a 2.5mm base with 4mm luggs. The insole is a removable ultra thin, 3mm puncture resistant, anti-bacterial sole. The sticker on the box even suggests removing this to allow greater proprioceptive feedback, once you’re used to them.
The bottom of the shoe has v-shaped luggs which should potentially provide great grip on wet, slippery ground. The luggs at the rear face forward, while the ones at the front face backwards. In-fact the one’s on the sides are set in a slightly different angle as well. All catered towards better grip. There is nothing on the inside of the shoe – where the bridge on the inside of your foot is. You don’t stand on that part of your foot, or at least shouldn’t so there’s no need. The usual Vivobarefoot red V covers five luggs on the inside forefoot. Cool detail. The sole is made from re-cycled rubber as well, boosting the eco credentials of the shoe.
The top of the sole is lined with a black band, separating it from the waterproof hardwearing mesh above. The upper is ‘abrasion resistant leather with rip stop Nylon trimmings for increased durability’ while the shoe collar and lining are ‘woven nylon and polyester’.
The tongue is bellowed for better comfort and breathability. The laces are said to have a ‘speed hook system for secure and quick fastening and personalised fit’. That seems a little gimmicky to me frankly, they’re just laces.
The finish is pretty immaculate. No glue lines, neat stitching and good quality materials.
I was pretty desperate to get out with the new shoes and give them a test. I called my cousin to see if he could come and photograph the adventure and the shoes. Luckily he agreed so we both chucked on our outdoor gear and set out. As always, I had all my Bear Grylls gear on – Survivor trousers along with my Basecamp fleece and Trek micro-fleece for additional warmth. For the first time though, I wasn’t wearing Kariba’s on my feet.
I jumped over the first gate, into a field and set out – first thing was to jump a stream. Despite only having walked about half a mile, the shoes felt brilliantly comfortable. Wearing my Merrels for the first few miles in 2010 gave me a blister and were quite un-comfortable. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with these. I have seen a customer review to the contrary of this, but in my experience, these were great from the outset. I felt light on my feet, the shoes flexing and bending as I jumped the stream a few times. Enough spring to get me over, enough cushioning on landing and the perfect amount of ground feel, meaning I never lost my balance.
The shoes were grippy on slimy, slippery, algae’d up rocks. They allowed my ankles to flex through gloopy, wet and boggy mud. I climbed a few trees with ease, the luggs clinging onto the bark nicely and my feet stayed completely waterproof the entire time. The breathability seemed good, though there was some moisture. I put that down to my thick hiking socks, which don’t allow for much breathability even in the most vented shoes.
Overall, I did a thorough first test with the shoes. Enjoying the outdoors, jumping, hiking, climbing, sitting by fires, the lot. My initial impression after hours of use is excellent. I wouldn’t take a second thought about wearing these over my Merrels. I’ll find out more about their durability and wear rate after more use, but for now I’m impressed.
You Can Help
If you’re looking to purchase any products after reading the reviews on Opinionated World, we’d really appreciate you following the links through from here to the web-stores (links are highlighted orange) before buying – we get a very small commission which helps to keep things up and running. Thank you for any help you can give us.