Karel De Vriendt is an active 70-year-old and has been hiking with the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG for years. This summer he bought the new
Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC. The right person for an extensive product review. Intro
Since about ten years I have been going out with my backpack for one or more weeks every year. Ghent - Santiago de Compostela, Porto - Santiago de Compostela, the Olav Trail in Norway, the Eifelsteig in Germany, Coast to Coast in England, the Wicklow Way in Ireland, the Via Algarviana in Portugal, the GR 16 along the Semois. The first years on classic hiking boots, then on Vivobarefoot Tracker FG hiking boots. Always combined with Injinji liner/hiker combination socks.
Last year I had to skip a year due to corona, but now it was possible again, albeit in Belgium
So we asked a hiking buddy how long we could go and which GR we would like to hike. First choice was the GRP571, the "Tour des Vallées des Legendes, Amblève - Salm - Lienne". But finding a place to sleep within a day's distance was impossible. Fortunately, because the chosen period was from 12 to 17 July 2021. The week of the "water bomb".
Then we opted for the Green Belt around Brussels. 6 days, 150 km, never further than 15 km from the Brussels Grand Place, but always in the countryside.
The opportunity to test my beautiful new Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC shoes.
They look fantastic but are they also suitable for trekking? With my Tracker FG shoes (I am on my third pair) I have never known any problems. Never felt unsafe due to lack of grip, never had blisters. I have always experienced "the path", but when you walk as a pilgrim you have to feel every stone.
Are the Tracker Forest ESC shoes equally useful? Do they pass the test?
Shoes greased before departure and backpack loaded. All set. Off we go. I did not "break in" the shoes beforehand. This has not been necessary for me with any Vivobarefoot shoe (and I have a whole collection). And I have only had barefoot shoes for almost ten years.
The shoe feels really good. They are enormously supple shoes with high shafts that give sufficient support around the ankles without completely locking them in. And although they have a different sole than the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG, the grip is also sufficient.
The weather during the trip was not good.
Wet feet on the second day already. In defence of the shoes: if the walker is too lazy to put on his rain trousers and walks for two hours through high grass during torrential rain, it is inevitable that wet legs will first lead to wet stockings and then to wet feet. I put some newspaper in my shoes and the next morning I could set off again with dry feet. This could not be said of my hiking partner who was walking with classic, sturdy mountain shoes (just like my Tracker Forest ESC shoes without membrane but infinitely heavier).
Day three was a day of heavy rainfall which caused flooding, destroyed villages and deaths in the Ardennes (where we had originally planned to walk). Around Brussels it was less bad, but we still had to walk all day in a downpour. This time we had to wear rain trousers and a rain cape.
Despite the water regularly reaching our ankles - no wet feet. We did, however, take a critical look at the bending point on the top of the instep of the foot. These are flexible shoes that fold at the transition between toes and feet. It seemed very wet there. Wouldn't the wet folded leather cause problems? But the next day everything had dried out again.
The next few days the weather improved a little, but there was still a lot of grass and mud. But never had wet feet again.
Back home, the shoes were cleaned with water, left to dry for a day, brushed well and greased up again. They look good again.
Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC are smoother than the Tracker FG but run super comfortably. And they can take me anywhere my Tracker FG shoes take me. I tested them in super bad weather and the fact that they are theoretically not waterproof did not cause me any problems. Because they are very light, they also dry quickly.
Will they last as long as my Tracker FG shoes which I used for hikes up to 650 km? I do not know.
And, like the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG shoes, they are probably not suitable for very unstable terrain such as found in the real high mountains (where, for example, crampons become necessary). But
everything you can do with a type B mountaineering boot, you can also do with these shoes.
Karel De Vriendt - 22/07/2021