Tracker Forest ESC: Best Hardcore Vivobarefoot Hiking Boots

December 2, 2023Hiking boots with an aggressive 9.5mm Michelin sole, wide leather toebox, and inner mesh.

Hello, my name’s Andrew, and these are the Tracker Forest ESC, the best Vivobarefoot hiking boots for hardcore trekking.


For the past year I’ve been getting comments about Vivobarefoot’s new ESC series with some people saying it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever worn and other people saying it’s not for them.

So I asked Vivobarefoot for a pair of Tracker Forest ESC’s to test, and they look like something you’d wear on a terraforming mission in deep space, but how does that translate here on Planet Earth? Let’s find out.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Toebox Desk


For starters the Tracker Forest has a wide foot-shaped toebox that’s made even more roomy by the stretchy wild hide leather and metal eyelets, which allow you to customize the lacing tension at multiple points.

Above that there’s a fourth eyelet with heavy duty reinforcement to prevent tear-outs, two lace hooks for quick release, a slanted ankle cuff for mobility, a large pull tab, and some sleek topographic map designs.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Side Desk

Inside the Forest ESC has a padded leather lining that’s soft and flexible for long hikes, along with mesh panels for breathability and a removable insole for a bit of extra padding.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Inner Mesh Desk


Underneath you’ve got a beefy 9.5mm Michelin sole that’s surprisingly flexible in all directions, plus an aggressive tread that’s grippy enough for muddy hills, but still flat enough to handle rocky terrain.

Finally, the sole is treated with a puncture-resistant finish and the sole is stitched to the upper all the way around for extra durability.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Tread Front Desk


While I was living in New Jersey I went on a backpacking trip along this hardcore trail called the Devil’s Path, and my Merrell pack boots held up, but they were so stiff and clunky that by the end my knees were freakin’ KILLING me.

So at 581 grams and 30% lighter I thought the Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC’s might be like the perfect balance of rugged protection and barefoot agility.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Front Trail


Going out for a hike I was pretty shocked by how flexible the Forest ESC was for such a thick boot and the padded ankle cuff felt like so comfortable that it was like curling up on an old leather couch.

That said, the deeper lugs definitely didn’t give as much ground feel as a thinner shoe like the Vivobarefoot Primus FG.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Lgs Back Trail


Obviously, where the Tracker Forest excelled was going down steep hills where the aggressive lugs could bite into slippery mud, and up rocky inclines where the beefy sole kept my feet from getting sliced by sharp edges or pinched between shifting boulders.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Rocks Front

In terms of waterproofing I wouldn’t recommend wading through a stream, but the leather upper did solid job of repelling puddles and wet grass, and without heavy insulation, it was easier to layer my Injinji merino wool toe socks and swap insoles to make the boot more versatile for both warm and cold weather.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Puddle Water

Finally, for longer treks, it worked really well to pair the Forest ESC with some lightweight trail shoes, so I could switch them out when I got to a stretch of more gentle terrain that didn’t require as much protection.


Overall the Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC is a great hardcore trekking boot and whether or not it’s the right pick for you just depends on how much protection you need.


Because the toebox is wide and stretchy, the leather upper is comfy and breathable for long hikes, and the Michelin tread is extremely tough, while still allowing for natural movement.

However, the modern design may not appeal to classic sensibilities, the protective features can be overkill for casual walks, and the deep lugs don’t provide as much ground feel as a thinner tread.

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Voiceover 45deg


In terms of similar barefoot hiking boots…

  • Softstar Switchback: thinner 6.5mm tread with a 3mm midsole, aggressive Vibram lugs, a lightweight leather upper, merino wool insulation, and an optional extra-wide toebox.
  • Vivobarefoot Tracker Textile FG: medium thin 7mm sole, aggressive lugs, lightweight synthetic insulation, and a waterproof vegan upper.
  • Xero Alpine: more rigid 9mm sole, aggressive lugs, synthetic insulation, and waterproof vegan upper that’s great for snowshoeing.
  • Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest Esc Walk Side Down Hill Trail


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    Finally, if you have a question about the Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC, or about barefoot boots in general, let me know in the comments.

    Thanks for reading, catch ya next time. Peace!

    Andrew Folts

    Andrew is a writer/filmmaker who creates video guides and reviews for a community of 25K+ creative rebels on YouTube.