Because it is quite difficult to find some preview or review of this interesting shoe and it might help someone..
After few years of usage I have great experience with the ultralight barefoot shoes New Balance Men’s MT10v2, mainly for everyday walking, geocaching trips, etc. During the summer I do use only them when not at work.
Therefore I was wondering which alternative would be for autumn/winter and I have found the VivoBarefoot Tracker FG. First impression – great design, very pricey, ankle-high lether boot!
Main focus was on boot for geocaching/1 day trips, but recently when I started to focus on weight during my 3-4 day backpacking trips on trails around the Czech border (or maybe already Ultralight or Hyperlite,…), I was wandering if this boot would be an option to my time-proven Asolo Sasslong NBK GV. Quite tough to compare but.. let´s try it:
Asolo Sasslong NBK GV – you can walk through springs and creeks and your feet will stay dry (thanks to its very high rubber edging, high heel, perfect nubuk leather and in combination with the GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Membrane), while you may notice it´s weight of 730 g each, after the whole day of walking. Also in warmer conditions, you may get a little moist in them, expecially with the long trousers over them. Great boot for mountains and winter. Anyway for longer tracks I would choose just a little bit more flexible alternative.
VivoBarefoot Tracker FG – first I have compared the older VivoBarefoot Tracker version with the 2016 brand new version VivoBarefoot Tracker FG. Even at first sight, before I new about the new FG model, I was in doubt about the very low front edging. The 2016 model FG has in the front much higher solution for the thumb and that was also the decision maker between the older version and 2016 FG model. Other changes include another outsole material, outsole pattern and warmer optional (included) lining. I would not buy the older version – I was too scared about the low front rubber profile.
After purchasing the Tracker FG, I was still a little bit unsure about the used noname membrane.. Therefore I have immediately applied the impregnation TARRAGO HighTech Nano Protector spray and tested it during one slightly rainy day on shorter 2 hours geocaching trip. First impression – very comfy, very slippery! Anyway after the trip, maninly through the wet woods and meadows I could experience only few wet spots on my instep bones. I have to admit – a little bit dissapointed, but have also to say that feet of my wife (NorthFace boots with gore and no impregnation) and children were totally wet..
After that experience my doubts to use it for 4 day backpacking track increased. I have applied the FIBERTEC SHOE WAX thoroughly several times, and again the TARRAGO HighTech Nano Protector spray in several layers. Last evening news before our track – 45 cm of fresh snow on the way! (I have woken up during the night and was 20 minutes deciding which option to choose and I have falen asleep with the safe alternative. Anyway fresh morning, fresh thoughts and I said to myself – when should I test it than now?.. I have read recently a lot and followed our succesful czech through-hikers on PCT and this definitely opens the new horizons on many front-lines. : )
And then started the snow line.. We were in the realm of Krakonos (the famous Czech good ruler of the highest Czech mountains). After 2 hours of wading though the snow (you had to follow carefully the track, every step aside would mean deep sinking into the snow) I decided to insert the inner warm inserts – suprisingly still no cold feeling (while still walking) but just for sure.. The inserts stayed there for the rest of our trip, first because of the snow (cold), later, because of the moist under them. I have used them with the snow gaiters to protect my trousers a snow faling to my boots around the ankle. If I would have my Asolo´s, this combination would mean 100% water resistance in any rainy conditions. On Tracker FG I would not bet in case of half day rain. For such case prepare „the safety“ HDPE bags (from your afternoon snack 😀 ) that you can put them on your bare foot, into the wet boots.
The snow was not the worst part. Much worse were the passages on the border of snow line, with temperatures around +2 – +4 oC, where the track seemed more to be the creek than something called a trail. With Asolo you would simply go straight through it. With Tracker FG, you have to choose your steps very carefully, to avoid the more deeper wet spots. Anyway, with the combination of the ultralight backpack, this might be the fun combination, jumping from the stone to stone (I had more than 1/2 lighter backpack than my mates, together with food and 1l water below 7 kgs). With the heavy backpack probably not so much fun.. After 3 days we had to cut the last night due to some complications but I was very positively surprised, that my feet were still very comfy and DRY! I detected the moist under the warm inserts, but based on the conditions I can call this big positive surprise and success! I will definitely take them next time again. If it will not rain a lot.
For comparison, my friend with the heavy-duty leather mountain boots, had wet inside, due to the zero care..
I do see weak points but for shorter/lighter/mainly dry trips I would definitely recommend them for similar nerds like me. For the „real offroad“ boot I would mark these:
- the weakes part is the very very low rubber edging. It has been increased at least in the front in comparison to the previous version, but the sides are still not solved. I do understand that it is designed mainly to be the flexible barefoot boot but if it tries to be at the same time the „offroad“ hiking boot, it should also resist a little bit more. You never know, when the rain/snow surprises you. I would definitely recommend to use some flexible thin rubber or durable paint, etc. all the way round over the leather, so that you can walk safely and dry in 1cm of water etc.. Please see the attached pictures and you will clearly see what I mean). This feature would extend the usage of this interesting boot so much.. I would try some DIY tuning, with something like McNett FREESOLE Shoe Repair glue, but for such price of the boots I will not experiment much I think.. 😀
- the ASOLO nubuk leather seems to me more durable
- pricey (you could use the ASOLO „forever“, I am not sure about this with the very thin outsole)
- would preffer eVent or GTX Performance membrane
- why is it soo slippery when wet? Could be very dangerous and again, if this boot should be targeted as hiking boot..
- superb shoe-laces which won´t untie by itself
- comfortable very lightweight boot!
- leather boot
- the warm inserts
Please let me know your experience and usage.