Down ‘N Dirty: Vivobarefoot Tracker FG

My Vivobarefoot Tracker FG hiking boots have been with me through three seasons as I adventured in the sunny summer weather of the Appalachian Mountains, all of the way to the snow-covered trails of Alberta, Canada. In the summer, these lightweight leather hiking boots kept my feet nice and comfortable, even along tough terrain. In the fall, I splashed through rain puddles in these boots — and when the snow started to fall, and I continued to explore new trails, these are boots that I grabbed for — their fully waterproof construction keeping my feet dry with each use. It helps that the Tracker FG’s have a removable thermal insole, so that you can make the seasonal transition with ease. When the cold weather starts to move in, the addition of the thermal insole provides up to three times more thermal protection than a regular insole, making these boots a great year-round hiking boot option. I live in a van where space is always at a premium, so when a piece of gear can span through the seasons, it’s worth its space in my tiny living space.

I have always been a fan of minimalist shoes, so I was happy to purchase the first minimalist hiking shoes I saw on the market from Vivobarefoot years ago. This is their second rendition, still with the barefoot sole, but beefier than before. In the summer it’s not unusual for me to put thousands of miles on a hiker, and so far these Vivos have stood the test.

MSRP: $250 (available in both men’s and women’s sizing)

Pros: It is clear Vivobarefoot put a lot of brain power into this boot. Weighing in at just 269 grams (9.4 ounces), the weight to work ratio is high. You can throw these in a backpack (they even roll up to save space) for river crossings, rock wall approaches and most other outdoor activities. They’re made with a hydrophobic leather as well as a sealed inner membrane, so you won’t feel the snow on your toes at any point. I’ve hiked in these boots through the snow on a cold morning, brushed them off and put them away, then grabbed them for another hike in the evening, and they’re still dry on the inside. They are legitimately waterproof. The sole is made with their Pro5, patented, ultra-resistant, puncture resistant layer. Just because they’re barefoot, doesn’t mean they aren’t hardy. That same sole has great clinging power due to chevron lugs. The laces are non-slip, so you tie once and go. It has a wide toe box, great for when your feet expand after a few too many miles. One of my favorite parts? They transition to your après activities! Because they aren’t a bulky mass of hiking boot, I don’t mind leaving them on to get a beer or some grub.

Cons: With three seasons of testing, I’ve found one con. The construction of the chevron lugs on the sole of the shoe works great for rock, snow, and gravel, but put these shoes on the ice, and you may have an issue. They can be slip-slidey on frozen terrain. Luckily, a set of crampons will solve that problem. You may have to purchase a size down from your usual pair because the Tracker FG has a smaller profile than most hiking boots and they won’t fit similarly. Also, be warned: With this type of sole, you can feel rocks and terrain change under your foot, which is healthy and good for your gait, but it’s best to ease into it. Take some time to build all the tiny muscles in your feet on shorter hikes. Your body will thank you for making the transition!

Where I Took It: Hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail, jaunts along Colorado’s Front Range, snowy excursions in Banff National Park, exploring in Kootenay National Park, snow fields in Eastern Montana…

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