Memory Foam Molded to Your Feet: Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hiker Review

(Photo/Will Brendza)

I used to dread breaking in new hiking boots whenever I finally had to retire a pair I’d beaten to death. New pairs of boots always pinched, rubbed, and squeezed my feet in weird ways until, eventually, they would soften up and relent.

For whatever reason, that process has gotten easier over the years. Maybe I just got used to the discomfort after burning through so many pairs of hikers. But still, I’ve never put a brand new pair of hiking boots on that were comfortable, let alone enjoyable, to break in. It was always a chore, even with the most pliant and comfortable boots.

As soon as I laced up the Meindl USA Vakuum Hiker, I knew I was in for a different experience. I’d worn Meindl boots before on a hunting trip in Nebraska. But I’d never tried any of the brand’s hikers or boots with its proprietary MFS-Vakuum tech. I was caught off guard after just a few steps. They weren’t just bearable; my feet felt like they were enveloped in a memory foam hug.

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

In short: The Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hiker is an exceptionally stable and comfortable full-grain leather hiking boot. It leverages memory foam linings that help them break in quickly and mold to the wearer’s feet. No boot is perfect — and these aren’t either — but they have impressed me enough to replace an old, weather-worn pair I’ve been struggling to let go of. They are some of the most comfortable leather hiking boots I’ve encountered.

If you’re shopping for hiking boots and shoes, compare the MFS-Vakuums to some of those that made it onto our Best Hiking Boots and Best Hiking Shoes roundups.


Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hiker

Specs

  • Height
    7.75"
  • Weight
    3.65 lbs.
  • Waterproof
    GORE-TEX
  • Upper material
    Full-grain Nubuck leather
  • Insole
    AirActive
  • Midsole
    EVA polyurethane
  • Outsole
    Meindl Multigriff 2 by Vibram
  • Last
    Standard
  • Resolable
    Yes

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable; very fast and painless break-in period

  • Heel lock lacing system holds your foot very firmly in place

  • Great grip and tread

Cons

  • Lacing is somewhat time-consuming

  • Lace hooks susceptible to bending


Will Brendza

Meindl MFS-Vakuum Review

I wore the MFS-Vakuum boots every day for about 2 months. I took them on dusty hikes around my home in Colorado, forded overflowing creeks in Oregon, and trudged across summer snowfields on Independence Pass. But I also wore them through airports, around town, out to breweries and restaurants, and even zig-zagging the aisles of the summer 2024 Outdoor Retailer show.

I have a soft spot for full-grain leather mid-hiking boots. I’ve worn them since I was a kid. I tried branching out and wearing speed hikers, trail runners, and even low-cut hiking shoes, but they just aren’t my jam. Boots are heavier and drain your energy faster. But my ankles like the extra support of a mid. And generally, I just like the aesthetic. Call me old school.

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

I know I’m in the minority these days. Light, low-cut hikers are all the rage, and I get why. I won’t set any speed records in my Meindl MFS-Vakuum boots, but I don’t intend to. For my intended uses, though, they’ve proven to be pretty adept. They’ve got a few quirks and at least one feature I think could be improved.

But those minor gripes pale compared to all that impresses me about these hikers.

Fit & Feel

My most beloved, best-fitting pair of hiking boots felt like undersized kennels when I first jammed my dogs into them a few years back. That wasn’t the process at all with Meindl’s MFS-Vakuum Hikers. They were plush and hugged my feet like old friends from day one.

To me, this is the most impressive aspect of these boots. Nubuck leather mids are typically a bear to break in. But the MFS-Vakuum tech uses an adaptable memory foam lining that molds around the user’s foot that, according to the brand, creates a near-custom fit.

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

I can’t confirm these feel truly bespoke, but I can attest to the boots’ comfort on backpacking and camping trips, long airport days, and daily hikes. If you shop for comfort, I’d rank these Meindl hikers pretty high on the list.

Be mindful of the correct fit, though: Size a half-size down. Meindl recommends this for all its boots. I’ve been a 10.5 all of my adult life, and a size 10 in the Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hikers fits me perfectly.

Function

The first thing you’ll notice when you lace up the Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hikers is how far down the lacing system starts. There are only six eyelets and 11 hooks — one of which is situated dead center of the tongue to prevent it from moving around.

It’s a rock-solid support system, and the number of hooks really allows you to control how tight the cinch is around your foot.

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

One of those lace hooks attaches to a flap of nubuck leather that connects to the boot about 1.5 inches back toward the heel, relative to the others. That is Meindl’s heel lock lacing system, which the brand claims helps secure your heel in place. Compared to some of my other hiking boots, my heels feel notably more secure after a few miles of hiking in these Meindls.

Unlike a lot of hiking boots, the tongue on these isn’t just attached to the shoe at its bottom but along most of its length. That functions almost like a tiny inner gaiter, keeping dirt and small rocks out of the shoe.

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

The Vibram sole and tread are pretty standard. They grip well on rocks and loose dirt. And the GORE-TEX waterproofing is impressive so far. Water seems to bounce off of them as if they’re hydrophobic. We’ll see how well that holds up over time, but at least so far, they’ve kept my feet consistently dry.

Room for Improvement

The lacing system on these boots is unique, and I like it. But it falls short in a couple of areas for me. First, lacing these boots is more time-consuming than any other hiking boot I own because there are so many hooks on both sides. I’m talking about a matter of maybe 10 or 15 seconds extra per shoe — so it isn’t a massive difference. But over time, that adds up.

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

I also think the lace hooks themselves could benefit from some improvement. I have seen hooks like these before, and they have a tendency to get bent out of shape.

I’ve already noticed one of mine has bent slightly outward, and another has been bent in. When enough hooks get bent, it drives me nuts. You can rebend them into shape — but only so many times before they break.

My final quibble with the Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hikers is the breathability. These boots cook my feet. This summer, I’ve had to choose the thinnest and most moisture-wicking socks so that I don’t soak the boots with foot sweat. This could be a deal-breaker for those who highly value breathability in their hiking footwear.

Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hikers: Who Are They For?

Meindl USA MFK-Vakuum Hiker hiking boots leather
(Photo/Will Brendza)

If you’re like me and you prefer a mid-height leather hiking boot over a low-cut hiking shoe, I’d recommend that you at least consider the Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hikers. It’s tough to try them on because the brand currently only sells its footwear in the U.S. direct to consumers. So, you won’t find them at any retailers.

If you hate hot feet and prize breathable footwear above all else, stop here and look elsewhere. However, you might love these boots if you’re a hiker with two key pain points (literally). If you have a tendency to roll an ankle on trail, these are worth a look. The Meindl lacing system on these boots held and braced my ankles better than just about any other boot I’ve tested.

But the biggest selling point for the MFS-Vakuum Hikers is for those who hate spending weeks breaking in a pair of boots. For that reason alone, these are worth rolling the dice on an internet purchase. You can always exchange them if you get it wrong. But the memory foam linings make a world of difference regarding out-of-the-box comfort and fit.

hiker wearing hiking boots through stream

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The post Memory Foam Molded to Your Feet: Meindl MFS-Vakuum Hiker Review appeared first on GearJunkie.

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