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Vivobarefoot Magna FG shoe review

Barefoot style shoes turn conventional hiking shoe philosophy on its head. They have thin, flexible soles, designed to bring the best out of your feet. But do they work? Daniel Graham tries the Magna FG from British shoemaker Vivobarefoot

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
Vivobarefoot Magna FG - Obsidian - £170 available from www.vivobarefoot.co.uk

Our review

This lightweight, thin-soled, and extremely flexible shoe is a great option for fare-weather days out – but be prepared for something quite different to your traditional walking footwear.
Pros: Light, flexible and comfortable
Great for balance and manoeuvrability
Good traction
Casual yet stylish look
Ideal for summer walking
Cons: Water resistant but not waterproof
Lack of protection in colder months
Thin sole may not appeal to some users

Minimalist shoe company Vivobarefoot believe that shoes should be “foot shaped (not shoe shaped), to let your feet do their natural thing.” In design terms, this means that their footwear is made to complement biomechanics – how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to produce movement – and posture associated with walking or running barefoot. The result of this design paradigm is series of lightweight shoes that are wide, extremely flexible, and thin-soled.

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The Magna FG is one of Vivobarefoot’s mid-weight options, branded as a shoe “that will take you from city to summit.” As a relative novice to barefoot-style shoes, I was keen to give the Magnas a good test, so wore them almost continuously for several weeks, from the hard pavements of the city to the uneven trails of the countryside. Here’s how they fared.

The only other Vivobarefoot shoe I had worn prior to this test was the Tracker FG, and much like this slightly more substantial shoe, the Magna felt instantly comfortable. The wide toe box allows your feet to spread out into the shoe, the leather upper feels really comfortable, and the Woolmark knitted collar – thin, stretchy and made with merino wool – hugs the ankle. It feels a bit like a slipper. Even the sole is minimal, with a 2.5mm base and 4mm lug height. Part of Vivobarefoot’s philosophy is to maximise ground feel, and even after a quick stroll around the block you’re more aware – and feel more connected to – the ground on which you’re walking.

It’s clear from the off that the Magna offers something quite different to traditional walking footwear. This, in part, is down to the thinness and lightness of the shoe, but also the lack of drop from the heal to the toe. From some people, this can take weeks or even months to get used to as it directly influences your posture, but for others who are used to wearing flat shoes or flip flops (like me), it is more like minutes or hours.

The minimalism of the shoe, as well as its casual appearance, makes it an excellent option for city life, from commuting to and from work and walking the dog, to visiting galleries and trips to the pub. But it also performs well on country trails. It’s flexibility, lightness and decent tread allow you to move quickly and precisely along rough paths, over boulders and along tree-rooted trails. The thin sole means you’ll feel much of this on the underside of your feet, but advocates of barefoot shoes will tell you that that’s all part of the appeal – they allow you to feel more, thus encouraging natural movement.

The Outlast thermal insole, as well as the thinness of the leather (from free-roaming cattle sourced from small scale farmers) that makes up most of the shoe, combine well to offer a good level of breathability and temperature regulation. The supple ankle collar provides a bit of support, though not with the same firmness as a traditional boot.

An important thing to note is that the Magna is not 100% waterproof. Vivobarefoot state that the shoes are “made using waterproof technology or water resistant treatment uppers with hi-tech seal.” On test, the Magnas coped well in light rain for short periods of time, but were unable to keep water out in long, wet grass, puddles, and sustained periods of heavy rain. The shoes are perhaps best suited to summer walking when conditions are more predictably dry.

Available in two colours: obsidian and sedona sage. The women’s version of the Magna FG shares the same features at the men’s version.

For more expert walking shoe reviews head across to our list of the best walking shoes.

Review by Daniel Graham

Magna FG at a glance

  • RRP: £170
  • MATERIAL: merino wool, hide leather
  • WATERPROOFING: water resistant
  • FITTING: wide fit.
  • ECO: Woolmark certified merino wool. Made from renewable natural materials. When you are finished with them please send to revivo.com.

Also consider: Waterproof socks

EDZ Waterproof Socks with Merino Lining Black

When you can’t trust your walking shoes not to leak, consider a pair of waterproof socks.

These calf-length socks from Cumbria-based gear-makers EDZ have breathable waterproof membrane  and a 50% merino wool lining, which keeps feet feeling dry and smelling fresh.

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