When it comes to footwear, two concepts you don’t typically associate with each other are barefoot and boots.
Minimalist shoe aficionados generally seek the lightest, lowest profile footwear that’s necessary to protect their feet while still allowing good ground feel and natural foot function. And boot wearers tend to like ‘em big, either with tall sexy heels for women, hard-stomping heels and steel toes for cowboys and construction workers, or rugged sturdy midsoles for hikers of both genders. So the two user groups wouldn’t seem to have any common footwear interests at all.
Leave it to VIVOBAREFOOT to think outside the box and combine them – and the result is a much nicer product that you might initially think. On the scale of completely unexpected but pleasantly surprising collaborations, it ranks somewhere between Aerosmith singing with Run-DMC (unimaginably cool) and Eminem singing with Elton John (pretty darn cool, but seemed a little bit forced).
(And on a completely unrelated tangent … have you noticed that I haven’t embedded any songs here for a while? I’ll take care of that today, with a holiday-themed "unlikely combination" song after the post.)
The result of this mad experimentation is four models that VIVOBAREFOOT classifies as functional/waterproof: the Franklin and Aqueous for men, and the Brooklyn and Belle for women. I’ve been wearing the men’s models for about six weeks now, and found that they provide a nice option within this untapped niche for minimalist footwear users. And at the end of this post, one reader will have a chance to win his or her choice of these models, just in time for winter.
The Aqueous is basically a high-top version of VIVOBAREFOOT’s best-selling Aqua model. Like other VIVOBAREFOOT models, it’s made with eco-friendly construction and stylish design for everyday use. The upper is made from abrasion-resistant polyurethane and nylon, and the interior lining is a material called Airprene (breatheable neoprene) for water resistance in rainy or muddy conditions.
The Franklin is a hiking boot with extra side padding for improved comfort on day-long treks. The upper is a combination of nubuck, nylon and abrasion-resistant vegetable-tanned leather, with a microfiber and nylon mesh lining. It has a neoprene lining like the Aqueous for similar water resistance.
Both of the men’s boots have a 5mm outsole that’s both functional and eco-friendly: a TPU abrasion-resistant sole made partially with latex rubber and recycled woodchips. It’s similar in structure to the outsoles for the Oak, with slightly better grip on slick surfaces. It’s certainly not as grippy as the super-knobby outsoles on traditional hiking boots, but does reasonably well in most off-road situations.
Each of these models has a thin memory foam insole that can be removed for better ground feel or decreased weight. As you’d imagine with more substantial shoes, these boots are heavier than most VIVOBAREFOOT styles, with the Franklin weighing in at 11oz, and the Aqueous at 13oz.
Despite their larger dimensions, both of these models are still very flexible and allow natural foot movement. Dedicated minimalist users may experience the strange sensation I felt with having a high-top collar against my ankles; I compensated for this by leaving the collar area excessively loose to ensure that I had unimpeded ankle range of motion while walking.
On the ladies’ side, VIVOBAREFOOT offers the Belle, a short waterproof nubuck boot with an adjustable elastic strap, and the Brooklyn, a waterproof knee-high leather boot made with faux-shearling lining for increased warmth during cold winter outings. They have the same 5mm outsole construction and removable insole features as the men’s styles. Weight for these is 10oz for the Belle, and 16oz for the Brooklyn.
A couple of important notes should be considered if you’re thinking about purchasing any of these boots:
1) Some of these styles have some size variance, so be sure to check the webpage of the specific items for sizing guidelines, or call VIVOBAREFOOT for further clarification.
2) The remaining online stock of the Franklin has a minor design flaw in the tongue area – that I honestly didn’t notice even though it was pointed out to me - so it is only sold through telephone orders and comes with a 30% discount. You can still use my coupon code (a very generous one, see below) associated with this post on top of that 30% discount as well.
So let’s get to the good stuff: between now and December 20, you can purchase any of the models described above at a 30% discount by using coupon code RRWATER at checkout. The banner ad at the top of this page will be in place all week long to remind you. And on Wednesday night of this week, I’ll pick one winner to receive a free pair of one of these models.
We’ll do the regular link method with this one: one entry for a comment, one for a Facebook/Twitter link, and one for a blog link to this contest page. And to throw in a little bit of fun, I'll give you one additional entry if you name any other unexpectedly pleasant musical collaboration (there's one rap/metal classic from the 1990s that I'll be totally disappointed if nobody remembers) that hasn't been mentioned yet. Let me know in the comments section how many entries you deserve, and submit your entry by 5PM PST on Wednesday December 15 so I can announce the winner later that night. Good luck to everybody!
As for the musical selection: it’s a decent piece of holiday music on its own, but the remarkable thing about it is the players involved. In the late 1970s, David Bowie was nearly at the height of his androgynous Ziggy Stardust glam-rock reign, and Bing Crosby was the embodiment of traditional, conservative America. Fortunately, they had enough musical respect for each other to recognize that their differences were the small stuff, and the message of the season was far more meaningful.
And yes, you have to sit through a couple minutes of scripted banter before you get to the good part, but the song that follows has become a holiday classic in its own right.
David Bowie and Bing Crosby, "The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth" (click to play):
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