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October 23, 2012

VIVOBAREFOOT Gobi Boot Review (And Discount Offer)

Beginning in the summer of 1940, Allied and Axis troops pushed each other back and forth across North Africa for three long years, in battles whose outcomes were largely determined by the ability of either side to mobilize troops and supplies more effectively than the opponent in the harsh desert conditions.

In November of 1942 the British Eighth Army secured a key victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein, a coastal Egyptian city, and ultimately drove Erwin Rommel’s Panzer Army westward all the way to Tunisia. By the end of the year, thousands of American and British troops joined the attack, and the North African Campaign ended with the surrender of all remaining Axis troops in May of 1943.

British 8th Army in WWII; photo from ww2incolor.com

So what does any of this have to do with a product review?  Well, one of the smallest historical footnotes from the North African theater was the popularization of what came to be known as the desert boot, also sometimes called a chukka boot.  With high leather siding and rubberized soles, the British Army’s footwear of choice was highly durable, effective at keeping sand away from the feet, and comfortable enough for seemingly endless hours of use.


While the desert boot has become a modern fashion staple, it wasn’t until VIVOBAREFOOT (coincidentally and perhaps fittingly, a company of British origin) introduced its Fall 2012 lineup that a suitable barefoot equivalent existed.  The company now offers the Gobi, a low profile boot that echoes the styling of classic desert boots and maintains all of the biomechanical benefits of modern minimalist footwear.  It’s available in three different styles, and is also available for a short time at a 20% discount.  More on that later – for now, let’s march (get it?) through a review.

The Gobi’s uppers are composed of full grain leather on the black version, and suede for either the dark or light brown models.  My suede version is quite comfortable against the skin, making it suitable for use without socks – however, there isn’t any sort of liner against the foot, so you may develop some odor issues with prolonged barefoot use.  I wear thin socks with mine just to be on the safe side.

Otherwise, the uppers are fairly simple and nondescript, with three large panels enveloping the foot, and a heel pull in the back to help get them on.

Three eyelets and traditional cotton laces in the front help secure the fit.

Considering that this is technically a boot, the Gobi is impressively light at only 8.2oz for the suede versions, with the leather version slightly heavier at 8.6 oz.  By comparison, two pairs of VIVOBAREFOOT boots I reviewed a couple of years ago weighed in at 11oz and 13oz, so the Gobi is a huge improvement from a minimal standpoint.  When reviewing their running models, I’ve often been critical of VIVOBAREFOOT for not making their shoes lighter, so I owe it to them to make this a high point of praise for the Gobi.

Like all VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, the Gobi comes with a removable insole that expands the toebox and lowers your standing height by 3mm when absent.  Removing the insole leaves you practically touching the ground …

… because the Gobi outsole is a mere 3mm thick, using one of VIVOBAREFOOT’s original high-abrasion puncture-resistant TPU materials that I also tested on the Dharma a few years ago.  This is the company’s thinnest outsole, so it’s unbeatable from a ground feel and proprioception standpoint, but it definitely lacks some traction on slick or wet surfaces.

For that matter, the entire Gobi has minimal water resistance – although the leather would be a little more effective than the suede - and isn’t well suited for harsh winter conditions in general.  This shouldn’t be surprising for a boot that was made with the desert in mind, but it’s worth noting that you’re buying these more for fashion than for true winter weather protection.  However, with its above-ankle height and classic styling, the Gobi easily complements a pair of jeans or dress pants in your fall wardrobe.

VIVOBAREFOOT’s Gobi retails for $150 from the company website, but for the remainder of the month you can get them for 20% discount by using coupon code RUNNINGANDRAMBLING20 when you check out.  The discount applies to all styles of VIVOBAREFOOT footwear, including their running and dress models.

*Product provided by VIVOBAREFOOT.  Affiliate sales support Running and Rambling.

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Mats,  10/24/12, 6:46 AM  

Is the discount only for the US webshop or Europe as well?

Donald 10/24/12, 7:05 AM  

@Mats: no restrictions that I was told. Let me know if you have problems.

Mats,  10/24/12, 4:32 PM  

From the Euro store:

Coupon code "RUNNINGANDRAMBLING20" is not valid.

Too bad, feels like whenever they have any sort of discount or promotional thing going on it's always exclusive to the american market...And they are a British company as far as I know....

Anonymous,  10/25/12, 8:35 AM  

I received a message from the US store also telling me the coupon code was not valid.

Anonymous,  10/25/12, 8:37 AM  

Mats, try putting the code in in lower case. That worked but the cut-and-paste in caps did not.

Mats,  10/25/12, 11:05 AM  

"Mats, try putting the code in in lower case. That worked but the cut-and-paste in caps did not."

That didn't work either. I actually tired copy/paste on the US website and it worked for me. Tried them all UK, Euro and US.
US is the only one that accept the code.

I was actually considering buying these before I read this review, so this seemed to good to be true. And it was :)

Donald 10/25/12, 12:28 PM  

@Mats: I'm forwarding your comments to my VB reps to see if they can figure out what the problem is. Can you send me an e-mail offline in case they want to contact you directly? I'm at info@runningandrambling.com.

Unknown 10/29/12, 5:48 AM  

Hi All,

We've now activated the code so order from the UK and EU website will be able to get 20% off their VIVOBAREFOOT shoes.

Jamie at Vivobarefoot

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