review: Vivobarefoot Magna Forest ESC – Escape outdoors.

A hybrid blend between the ESC Tempest, Magna Trail, and Tracker, the new Vivobarefoot Magna Forest ESC combines elements of all three into one shoe. A big $255/€240 price tag is affixed to these – not cheap!

Designed for adventures off the beaten path in cool climates, this Magna Forest ESC review will cover the important aspects such a durability, comfort, grip, and so forth

For 10-25% off Vivobarefoot shoes use the code CNOMAD10 on the Vivobarefoot website!

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View current price of Magna Forest ESC

Comfort

In all honesty, the Magna Forest ESC doesn’t quite match the comfort levels of their minimalist-type shoes such as the Primus Trail FG or casual shoes.

However, when we compare them to other hiking-style shoes (barefoot and not), they compare quite well.

Vivobarefoot-Magna-Forest-ESC-snow

The initial break-in period will last 2-4 weeks (depending on frequency of use). At first they were a bit stiff and uncomfortable. However, just like the original Magna Trails I had – after the wear-in period they fit very nicely.

Comfortable, flexible, forgiving – my feet really enjoy them and while everyone’s foot is different, I reckon they’ll fit great. Use my Vivobarefoot sizing guide to find out how to size Vivobarefoot from Adidas and Nike shoes!

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Currently 28% off on Amazon

Grip of the ESC shoes

Compared to the Magna FG and other Vivo shoes with that sort of tread pattern, the Magna Forest ESC have quite a bit more rubber and traction when it comes to loose mud, snow, or scree. They have a 2.5mm base and 7mm lug height.

Perfect for scrambling, hiking, wading through snow, and similar activities – the grip is definitely a step up over most barefoot shoes.

Vivobarefoot-Magna-Forest-ESC-sole-tread

With that in mind, this amount of extra sole does reduce the barefoot feeling of feeling cracks, rocks, and similar terrain.

In my comparison of the Vivobarefoot FG vs ESC soles you’ll see the stopping power of the ESC shoes is much better.

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Currently 28% off on Amazon

Temperature & water resistance

The Manga Forest ESC are definitely for cooler climates. Ideal temperature range would be between -20 to +15°C (-4-59°F) , assuming you’re walking up a mountain or moving. These shoes are toasty.

Due to the leather build you’ll have a decent level of water resistance. I wouldn’t say these are waterproof barefoot shoes, but they’ll certainly repel snow/sludge/water in the majority of scenarios.

Vivobarefoot-Magna-Forest-ESC-snow-mud

As a result of though, you won’t have quite the amount of ventilation you might get with other Vivobarefoot shoes. Keep this in mind when it comes to late spring, summer, and early fall months.

Merino wool socks IMO are a must have when it comes to barefoot shoes and they’ll improve comfort, smell, and temperature range over cotton/polyester/nylon socks.

I definitely would not use the Magna Forest ESC for trail running regardless of climate. Instead I would choose the Primus Trail All-Weather (review) for trail running in the winter.

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Build quality/durability

Vivobarefoot has always made high-quality shoes in my experience and the Magna Forest ESC are no different. Well-implemented stitching, good material selection, and overall a very good design.

The upper is made from cow leather, the upper collar is made of Merino wool, the insole is a recycled PU, and the Michelin sole is made of rubber. Overall, a great choice of materials.

However, I found that the laces on the Magna Trail lineup have frayed and become destroyed rather quickly, and I reckon this will happen to the Magna Forest ESC as they seem identical.

Magna Trail broken laces
My laces died quite quickly

It’s too early to say how durable these shoes are, however if they’re anything like my other Vivobarefoot shoes – I reckon they’ll last a good chunk of time. Usually I burn through a pair in around 1-2 years, so if I get 1.5 years out of them I’ll be very happy! I’ll update this section later 🙂

Practicality

For daily use in the fall, winter, and spring I think these shoes are excellent – whether it’s going to the supermarket or up some mountains. When it comes to warmer climates however you will absolutely notice how toasty these shoes are.

They aren’t too hot by any means, but for hiking and such in the summer (or above 15°C) I would much prefer a lighter, more breathable shoe.

Vivobarefoot-Magna-Forest-ESC-barefoot-shoes-review

Something to mention about the style too – I think they look pretty sharp and appropriate for many scenarios! While they’ll be a bit hot for wearing indoors at the club if you move and dance a lot, they’re perfect for a night out in the winter.

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Magna Forest ESC vs Tracker Forest ESC

Seemingly two very similar Vivobarefoot shoes, however there are a few key differences to take note of when it comes to deciding between the two:

  • Collar – The Tracker Forest has a higher collar to keep snow, water, and debris out better.
  • Tongue – The Tracker Forest has a leather upper while the Magna has a wool upper. Leather keeps out wetness, wool breathes better.
  • Temperature – The Tracker Forest is a warmer shoe.
Vivobarefoot-Magna-Forest-ESC-review

As a result, the Tracker Forest is even better for cold-weather hiking and activities, while the Magna Forest is a little more versatile in the temperature range and activities it can accommodate.

Ethics of Vivobarefoot

Morals and ethics is a major thing for me when it comes to products.

Vivobarefoot has an awesome return and refurbishing program. With Revivo, you can send in your old shoes and give them second life, or buy a secondhand, refurbished pair of shoes!

I love this because sustainability is a big thing to me.

The shoes are made in Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), and they claim the leather is sourced from small-scale farmers and the wool is sustainably sourced. While I obviously can’t confirm & witness these practices, I like to give the benefit of the doubt.

Overall

$255/€240 is a pretty big price tag. Clearly, these shoes are high-quality, technical, and have a good sustainability ethos. However, is it worth it?

It’s purely a matter of opinion at this point and to me – yes they are. However, the regular Magna FG are ~$50 less and just about as good (sacrificing a bit of traction).

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Currently 28% off on Amazon

I find the Magna Forest ESC are really designed for pushing the limits and achieving optimal performance in places where conditions are not so great. I wouldn’t use them in races, but I absolutely would use them for summiting some difficult, scrambly mountain peaks.

Yes, it’s a high price tag, but creating a sustainable, ethically-produced product with high quality materials is expensive in itself. There’s a cost to cheap items.

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View current price of Magna Forest ESC

Anyways, I hope you liked this review and if you have any questions please let me know!

For 10-25% off Vivobarefoot shoes use the code CNOMAD10 on the Vivobarefoot website!

Check out my related Vivobarefoot articles like best winter barefoot shoes guide, Ultimate Vivobarefoot buyers guide, and Sizing Vivobarefoot guide.

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review: Vivobarefoot Magna Forest ESC - Escape outdoors.
Vivobarefoot Magna Forest ESC barefoot review

Very good shoes! Expensive but absolutely the cream of the crop and overall excellent barefoot hiking shoes.

Product SKU: Magna Forest ESC

Product Brand: Vivobarefoot

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: $255

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.5

9 thoughts on “review: Vivobarefoot Magna Forest ESC – Escape outdoors.”

  1. Thanks for your review (and discount code!), I’ve bought a pair recently. I found comfort out of the box to be very good, other than where the thick leather strap for the top lace loop runs across my medial ankle bone. Hopefully this will improve as the leather softens. I’m impressed with the grip, the rubber seems far superior to Vivo’s usual over-hard offering so it’s good on wet stone/pavement/wood, and decent lug depth is great for mud. They’re quite a lump at twice the weight of the primus trail FG, but I’m happy with that sacrifice for their performance (in the wetter months anyway)

    Reply
  2. I bought the Magna Forest ESC, and though I haven’t as yet taken them on a demanding hike, I think they are great because of the comfort and perceived durability. However on my first short walk with them, not going through any difficult bush scrub or anything, I noticed quite a scratch on the toe box. So the leather being very soft, flexible and comfortable, is prone to scratch easily it seems. Waiting on some Renapur leather treatment to protect them.

    Reply
    • Yes leather will show wear however it should last a long time as long as the sole stays glued properly. Use some leather treatment to keep em nice and soft and healthy!

      Reply
  3. It’s sad that $250 is expensive for a pair of shoes. People need to stop buying shoes for fashion, and buy a couple very well made pairs they can wear for the next 5 to 10 years. The amount of waste this continent creates is disgusting.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the thorough review!

    For someone who’s been wearing barefoot shoes for a while, do you recommend going up a half size to accommodate thicker socks?

    I’m hiking half dome, so it’s a fairly long hike – would you say the ESC soles have a drastic difference for grip compared to the FG soles or do you think it’s really just preference for price?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • ESC definitely have more grip though I found the FG grip to definitely be enough – even for challenging scrambles (Devils Head, Alberta, for reference).

      Half size up isn’t a bad idea either, especially if you want to wear a thicker pair of socks!

      Reply
    • I normally take an EU 46 or 47 with most brands of barefoot footwear. With the Magna Forest ESC, I find the 46 fit comfortably only if I take out the insole when wearing (medium weight) merino socks – otherwise they are too tight on the top and sides, though my toes have plenty of forward room. If walking without socks (as some prefer), it allows for some foot movement, without feeling too loose, depending on your how tight you lace up. Size 45 in this shoe were much too tight.

      Reply

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