The Featherweight Vivobarefoot Synth Hikers
A few weeks ago, I was sent a pair of the previously un-released Synth Hikers from Vivobarefoot and now, having worn them for over 60 miles, I’m ready to give you the lowdown.
I actually specified a pair of the Breatho Trails because I wanted to test the style and image with everyday clothes, rather than just how they perform in the ‘outdoors’. I was only aware of the Synth Hiker because of a tweet sent out by Vivobarefoot a few weeks beforehand where they wrote “next year’s Synth Hiker, waiting to be tested”. It was surprising to then receive a reply suggesting I give these new boots a go.
Even more surprising is the fact that they’re now released, already, suggesting they found nothing wrong with them in testing and were happy to start shipping them. Still, my luck was in because I got a pair before anyone else!
Vivo sent the shoes out with a super-quick courier which meant they were with me the next day. The box retains the usual re-cycled materials and minimalist look, as mentioned in the review of the Off-Road Mid shoes so I won’t cover old ground.
The first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the box was the weight. Or rather, the lack of weight. Apple defines the depth of their products by ‘thinness’ rather than ‘thickness’ and I think Vivobarefoot should follow suit and adopt some new terminology that describes the lack of weight rather than simply ‘weight’. Lightweight doesn’t really cut it. Instead of grams, why not measure in feathers? I’ve done the test and these weigh approximately six feathers. That sounds better, doesn’t it?
In all seriousness though, there’s an immediate sense of how little these weigh. So little in-fact that I decided to weigh them in comparison to my other shoes. Now, I wasn’t expecting them to weigh less than my low shoes, simply because these are boots and there’s more of them. How could they possibly be lighter?
To the scales then. Lets start off high, with my Merrells which weigh in at 298g or 596g for a pair -over half a kilogram. Moving onto the Vivobarefoot kit, with my favourite Kariba’s. Bearing in mind these are simply a sole and a leather boot with laces, these shouldn’t weigh much. 149g or 298g as a pair. A huge difference, but what about the Off-Road Mids? 284g for a pair, lighter still. I honestly don’t believe that anyone would take a look at both of those pairs and suggest the Off-Road was lighter than the Kariba. Finally, what about the Synth Hikers. They’re a boot, remember. 270g for a pair. Wait, what?
That’s right folks, the Synth Hikers weigh less than the Off-Road, they weigh less than the Kariba’s and of course, they weigh less than the Merrells. A whole 55% less infact. A pair of Synth Hikers weigh less than an individual Merrell and that is simply no mean feat.
They’re marketed as a ‘fast and responsive approach shoe’ – an in-between hiking and climbing shoe suitable for long distances while having an appropriate sole that provides traction on steeper terrain. Hence, the Synth’s come with the rubber off-road sole, the same as the one on the Off Road shoes. Directional luggs are again in place for maximum grip.
The boots are made from a hydrophobic mesh with a hydroguard waterproof ‘sock’ inside. These materials combine to make them extremely breathable, while maintaining their waterproof-ness. Once again they’re shipped with fairly long, round laces – some people prefer flat laces because they slip less – which I found to stay secure over long periods. I took to using the top lace clip to double over the laces, leaving less of a bow at the top.
As always, they seem very well made, and took little breaking in. Though it has to be said, they did take more than the Off-Road’s, which essentially needed none at all. I think that’s down to them being higher, so they need more of a bedding in process around your ankle which of course is non existent with shoes. The upper material does seem to pucker slightly when pulling the laces tight but this didn’t affect their performance in the slightest.
Grip on very wet, woodland terrain was exceptional thanks to the off-road sole but I thought the ‘feel’ was a little lacking in comparison to the Off-Roads. Clambering over fallen trees which were infinitely slippy proved the soles don’t grip on everything. However, I’d challenge anyone to find a shoe (that doesn’t have spikes) that’ll prevent you sliding over something of this nature.
Over a seven mile hike through dense, off-track woodland, through boggy ground, up steep banks and through wet fields, the shoes were very comfortable. There was plenty of room for my toes – which usually take a bit of a beating with non Vivo footwear – thanks to the ever present anatomical toe box.
Strangely, these come in at £99 which is £10 less than the Off-Road’s. Worth the price then? In some ways, yes. The lightness for one but I’ll never prefer boots to lower shoes because I favour the greater range of movement my ankles have without a boot tightly laced around them.
They come in a ‘range of colours’ which is currently limited to two – Olive and Black. Presumably the colour options will be increased – the image Vivo tweeted initially were black with red lettering and highlights.
Once again, I highly recommend these boots, just as I have with the other Vivo’s I’ve tested to date. They’re well made, incredibly light, durable, take little breaking in, perform when needed to and they’re cheaper than most alternative good quality boots.
Here’s my video based review of the Synth Hikers. Please be sure to follow the video through to YouTube for better quality by using the YouTube button on the video controls. Like and subscribe would be much appreciated.