After releasing the Off-Road Hi waterproof hiking shoe last year VIVOBAREFOOT brought an all synthetic, vegan friendly, hiking and approach shoe to the market - The Synth Hiker.

VIVOBAREFOOT Synth Hiker - Fall Leaves

The Synth Hiker and the Off-Road Hi have a lot in common: the off-road sole, the waterproof/breathable HydroGuard liner, and the over-the-ankle height. The main differences between the two are the materials used for the upper, and a slight difference in height (the Off-Road Hi being a bit higher). The Synth Hiker sole features a new, stronger rubber compound that is more abrasion resistant. This new compound will also be used on all the other VIVOBAREFOOT shoes that have the off-road sole.

VIVOBAREFOOT Synth Hiker Next to Off-Road Hi
The Synth Hiker with Off-Road Hi in the background, which is slightly higher.

I really loved wearing the Synth Hikers. They were very comfortable on my feet.

The VIVOBAREFOOT off-road sole gives good ground feel despite the deep lugs, though the proprioception is not the same as with shoes with flat soles. The lugs give good grip - and in combination with the low stack height - provide safe traction on uneven terrain and when traversing hillsides.

VIVOBAREFOOT Synth Hiker - Sole

VIVOBAREFOOT shoes are known for their wide toeboxes. However, I am not happy with the toebox on my Synth Hikers. I think the toebox is too pointy and does not leave much room for the big toe toe.

I would like to hear from other Toe Salad readers: what do you think of the toebox on shoes with VIVOBAREFOOTs off-road sole? (Neo and Breatho Trail, Off-Road Hi and Mid, Synth Hiker and Hybrid). Please leave your opinion in the comments.

The synthetic uppers appear strong, but are also a bit rough. Mud sticks easy to the fabric, even after cleaning the shoes with water. An important part of waterproof/breathable uppers is the ability of the uppers too repel water. The uppers of the Synth Hiker do this very well but this DWR (Durable Water Repellency) needs maintenance. Especially in the areas that bend a lot and that suffer a lot of wear and tear.

In the tongue VIVOBAREFOOT made a triangular hole. This makes it easy to pull up the tongue but it also makes my socks become wet when walking in wet conditions.

VIVOBAREFOOT Synth Hiker - Tongue

A piece of webbing is stitched over the lacing system. At first I thought this would make it difficult to tighten the laces, but a gentle pull is enough to tighten the whole lace. The laces glide easily through the webbing loops. As with most VIVOBAREFOOT shoes I think the laces are a little bit too long.

My Synth Hikers weigh 843 g (29.7 oz) for a pair in size EU 45.

For men, the Synth Hikers are currently available in a matte black colour - which I think is very beautiful - and brown olive colour. For women they come in black, aubergine and light grey. For 2013 Vivobarefoot added royal blue details to the man's black version and salmon (dark pink) details to the women's black version.

Just like the Off-Road Hi, the Synth Hiker is foremost a waterproof hiking shoe. With their more classical look, the Off-Road Hi will be a good choice when you want a shoe that looks good in town too. I think the Synth Hiker will attract hikers that just need a technical hiking shoe, or who are looking to save a little money over the cost of the Off-Road Hi. At the moment VIVOBAREFOOT is the only company that makes waterproof minimal hiking shoes.

The Synth Hiker is already available in Europe and will become available in North and South America in spring 2013.

VIVOBAREFOOT Synth Hiker - In the Snow