What sort of barefoot shoe should you wear if you want to go for a full day of hiking? Given the general rigidity of your average hiking boot, with emphasis on grip and protection from the elements, is it even possible to get a shoe that can manage a full day of hiking, with a barefoot experience, whilst still supplying you with the right amount of protection.
If you want the classic look of a Vibram Five Fingers Shoe with the added protection of extra insulation and deeper tread then the Trek Ascent is for you. It gives you all the features of a Vibram Five Fingers shoe, such as maximum foot flexibility, individual toe movement and accompanying funny looks from the uninitiated public.
The Trek Ascent comes in two varieties, as a simple walking shoe and as the Trek Ascent LR which has added insulation and a higher collar on the ankle.
The padding and grip are sufficient to keep your feet warm in most conditions. You might well want to buy a pair of Injinji Toesocks to go with the shoes for those colder treks to keep your feet extra warm and toasty.
The only real disadvantage with these is that if you are walking on really muddy ground you can end up getting a lot of mud stuck between your toes. This is more of an annoyance that anything else but it can feel a bit funny.
Vivo Barefoot’s off road range is impressive. They have products for every off road activity all the way up to full day trekking. Their Tracker product offers a genuine minimalist alternative to the more traditional heavy, structured, thick soled walking boot. It does this whilst providing a grippy, minimalist sole that ensures good ground feel. In keeping with more traditional walking boots it is made of high quality durable leather to keep the worst of the conditions out and provide protection from rocks, thorns and brambles.
If the Tracker is a little too much for you, then the Hiker is another option. This shoe it slightly less structured and made of synthetic materials, but offers many of the same features to the tracker. It is also about 30% cheaper, but still in a comparable price range to high quality walking shoes.
If you are looking for something a little different to take you out on long walks in the winter, you may want to check out the range from Sole Runner. This German company are not one of the bigger names on the market but they offer a really interesting alternative.
Vario II offers great insulation from the elements, it is full boot size with a water repellent breathable upper mesh and sewn in tongue. It has a removable winter lining and winter insole making it comfortable in all all conditions.
The flat sole means it may not be as good on slippery ground and in more challenging wet and muddy conditions.
If you are looking for a boot that looks like a traditional hiker, whilst providing all the benefits of a barefoot shoe, you should consider Lems’ Boulder Boot. A great looking boot that comes in a variety of styles and materials. Our particular favourite is the Leather Russet version.
Lems describe it as the “World’s most packable boot”. And it certainly can pack up small. Perhaps taken as an addition to a lighter shoe for when the going gets tougher. With a 10mm stack height there is enough protection without losing ground feel. An additional footbed of 3mm can be added for rockier ground. This boot is a top quality addition to the Lem range and definitely one of the best barefoot trekking shoes out there.
It could perhaps do with a more grippy sole for muddier conditions, like the Vivo Barefoot Tracker or VFF Trek Ascent but this is a minor point. It is also one of the best looking barefoot boots around so can double up nicely as a boot for daily wear.