Bendable Boot: Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC Review

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The introduction of Vivobarefoot’s newest ESC (Extreme Survival Collection) boot in April, the Forest Tracker, gives the leather walker a flexible, minimalist feel. We tested them on Pacific Northwest trails and in forests.

If you have never experienced the Vivobarefoot design before, It offers one of the clearest foot sensations in the shoe sector. With brand principles that embrace the natural flex and movement of the foot, the footwear offers a wide, thin and flexible design to allow the foot to spread naturally. It looks different. It feels different.

The Forest Tracker ESC Brings all of this into an outdoor-ready hiking shoe that lets you feel the terrain – without injuring yourself – and let your foot do the work while enjoying comfort and extreme flexibility.

In summary: Vivobarefoot offers a unique shoe experience with high quality construction in the Forest Tracker. The $ 220 Forest Tracker ESC includes suede for natural water resistance, a unique Michelin-designed outsole and traction pattern, and a minimalist feel that is different from a traditional hiking shoe.

Photo credit: Helen Newcomb

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC Rating

Out of the box that Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC lets you know that you will have a different experience. The trunk just looks different. The minimalist design is the opposite of built-up walkers, and the wide toe box is pronounced.

Vivobarefoot does not use a waterproof membrane to keep the shoe light and breathable. Rather, a suede is used for natural water resistance and an air mesh lining for improved breathability and drying.

The boots contain a 50g tub of Renapur leather balm that the user can apply for improved performance and durability.

Even without cushioning under the feet, the upper material offers a lot of comfort, as the lining as well as the ankle and heel construction are padded. There’s a unique blend of what the brand likes to call “old-fashioned” for natural foot movement.

And this modern design makes the Forest Tracker an incredibly flexible shoe – yes, you can completely roll the shoe up into a ball – that can still handle the ruggedness of a real hiking trail.

The Forest Tracker is an accredited brand of the B Corp, which is sustainably obtained from natural, organic and recycled materials. It also has an outsole side stitch for easier repairs.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESCPhoto credit: Helen Newcomb


Just because Vivobarefoot has no foam underfoot and the cushioning removes neither protection nor grip. Vivobarefoot worked with Michelin on a “unique” rubber compound and then designed V-shaped lugs to ensure traction in multiple settings.

While the wearer can certainly feel the ground under their feet – and whatever contour the ground has to offer – they remain protected from it. And thanks to the aggressive pattern of tunnels, they remain trapped in the terrain, even if the tunnels sometimes struggled to completely remove the dirt common in PNW.

The brand’s logo in the arch of the foot offers an extra effort to get more support underfoot and a different pattern in the metatarsal area to provide traction on uneven surfaces.

When you stay low to the ground – and we’re speaking deeper than you’ve probably ever felt in a hiking boot – you feel every aspect of the trail. But you also have the freedom to accelerate knowing that you are not floating too high on your footbed.

While the traction pattern hit the dirt, branches, and rocks of the Pacific Northwest, it performed well and provided safety.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESCPhoto credit: Helen Newcomb

Fit & Feel

When you buckle up for the first time Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESCYou will be shocked by the space in the toebox and wonder if you can even hike in your boots. You can.

The European-sized design allows you to tighten the laces around your ankle – the stainless brass eyelets are a nice touch, by the way. This design then allows your foot to enjoy the natural splay and space to do so when you start moving.

It takes getting used to, there is no doubt about that. It’s another sensation if you’ve never done it before.

When switching from a heavily built shoe to a Vivobarefoot product, you may want to take it slow rather than breaking out on an epic journey. The first time you try, your feet are forced to work harder and can get tired faster.

At the same time, the feet have room to move and stay relatively cool on the way. This mesh lining increases airflow and keeps moisture away from the foot.

The high collar height means that a tight tip will hold the boot tight and even tight. If you lace the upper eyelet loosely or do not buckle it up, there is additional freedom around the lower leg.


Flexibility was the unsung hero of design. Now what was certain was what to expect, aside from the fascination with the malleability of the entire boot, the ability of the footwear to move so easily.

It didn’t interfere with security and improved the natural feel of the experience. Even with a padded collar and extra protection around the ankle and heel, flexibility wasn’t compromised.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESCPhoto credit: Helen Newcomb

Should you buy the Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC?

When you’re ready to try a new hiking experience, give the Vivobarefoot principles a try. And the Tracker Forest ESC is a high-quality platform for this.

The Michelin outsole provides secure traction and protection underfoot (remember that there is no cushioning underfoot). And the inner lining was a welcome addition to comfort. The suede offers a durable, natural option that protects against the elements.

The natural, flexible feel of the Tracker Forest ESC was just as intriguing as the minimalist barefoot feel and provided a connection throughout the shoe that inspired an approach to the trail.

The Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC is certainly not for those who long for the comfort of tall tops on large foam beds. But for those who want to move their feet, get in touch with the trail, and possibly force your feet to work a little harder, the Tracker Forest ESC has it all in a premium package.

Check the price at Vivobarefoot

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