Opinionated World


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.

A minimalist Vivobarefoot box.

A minimalist Vivobarefoot box.

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.

The Off-Road sole.

The Off-Road sole.

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.

Back to front.

Back to front.

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’.

Comfortable at the first try.

Comfortable at the first try.

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.

First test

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.

Off track here we go.

Off track here we go.

Enough grip to climb trees.

Enough grip to climb trees.

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.

Grip on wet, hard surfaces.

Grip on wet, hard surfaces.

Bear Grylls Esque?

Bear Grylls Esque?

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.

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6 comments on “Vivobarefoot Off-Road Mid – Near Perfect
  1. Barrie Grieve on said:

    I’m a newcomer to “barefoot” walking but all I can say is after buying a pair of
    Breatho Trail’s and doing some light hill-walking, I couldn’t agree more over the comfort and grip – the GRIP is amazing and not once have my feet been sore. I would recommend trying a lighter pair of socks, either merino or bamboo. Great review ;-)

  2. Hi Barry, thanks very much for the message.

    I wear Bridgedale summit socks but Merino sound like a good option so I may have to give them a try as well. Agree with all your comments. I own a pair of Ultra’s and also Kariba’s as mentioned above. Love them all.

    There will be more stuff like this, so feel free to subscribe (and like on Facebook!) if you haven’t already. Thanks again.

  3. Attila Topolics on said:


    How much did you go up in size? I ordered a size 43. My other vivo shoes, a pair of Ra’s are the same size, but these Off Road Mids feel too big. I mean the Ra is also very big and spacious (my non barefoot shoes are size 41) but these maybe because they are heavier, feel a bit too big…. Do you think I should go down a size?

  4. Hi Attila,

    I haven’t gone up in size in any Vivobarefoot shoes. I am a UK 8 (42). The only shoe I’ve found a little tight was the Synth Hiker. Wearable, but I could probably do with a tiny bit more space on the little toe side.

    I have all these in a Size 8:

    Breatho Trail
    Aqua Lite
    Off-Road Mid
    Off-Road Hi
    Synth Hiker
    Neo Trail
    Ultra – these could also do with a size up, unless you wear them without the ‘sock’.

    Hope this helps.

    • Attila Topolics on said:

      Thank you for the quick reply :)

      Might sound silly, but how much room do you have in the front of the shoe? I mean between the end of your big toe and the tip of the shoe? The reason I ask is hat in the vivobarefoot shop where I bought my first pair (an aqua lite) I was told that always buy at least one size up but more advisable, two sizes up… So I did, I have a size 43 in both the Ra and the aqua lite, but the Off Road Mid in 43 seems a bit too big. I don’t know…maybe I’ll send it back and get a smaller pair.


      • The room at the front of the shoe varies between models. For example, the Synth Hiker has very little (smaller toe-box) whereas the One has a lot.

        Going up two sizes is silly and I’d only recommend going one size up in some of the shoes if you want a bit more room. As long as your toes are able to splay out when you walk, that’s fine. If you can feel the end of the shoe with your toes, they are too tight (imagine going down hill, or stopping quickly if your toes are near the end…). If you are a half size, always size up.

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