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I heard a lot about “Barefoot” and “zero drop” style shoes over the years and was pretty curious how they’d feel and if they’d work for me. I needed to get a new pair of hiking shoes anyway so I decided to finally give Xero Shoes a try.
Barefoot style shoes simply mean that they’re made very minimally, so that you can feel a lot more of the ground with your feet. This can potentially stimulate your nerves and give you better movement and balance. They’re also very lightweight, so with each step your foot isn’t lifting something heavy which is very unnatural.
Zero drop means that the heel of the shoe is made to be flat, in line with the rest of the bottom of the shoe. A lot of modern day shoes lift the heel several millimeters off the ground. Having a zero drop shoe can give you better posture and help with alignment of your spinal column. This was something I was definitely interested in because my posture is pretty terrible from working at a computer for so many years. I noticed that in all my shoes the insoles wear out with the big toe area first–which definitely sounds like my heel is being raised and I’m putting a lot of pressure on my toes. Other than that however, I personally have no problems with my feet.
A lot of people with plantar fasciitis and other foot problems report that zero drop shoes help them quite a bit and their problems go away! Other people say that opposite however. Shoes are very much a personal thing, what works for one person might be wrong for the next. You really just have to try and see.
Disclaimer: I personally bought and paid for all the Xero brand shoes shown here, this is not a sponsored article. I’ve had plenty of use out of them and thought it’s time for a review!
Z Trail Sandals
These were the first pair of Xero shoes I purchased. The reason? They had a claimed weight of 8oz for the pair…a good lightweight sandal that I could bring with me while traveling or on a backpacking trip and not worry about the extra weight!
These sandals are definitely lightweight, I weighed the exact pair I purchased(women’s size 10), and they weigh a total of 9.56oz. There’s not a lot of cushion but they give enough that when you’re walking on rocks you have protection. And the thick well made straps keep your feet secured. There’s a standard velcro adjuster for around your ankle on the front and back, and even a little heel guard in the back.
I love how flat and packable these sandals are, they’re easy to toss in a side pocket of your bag so if there’s a chance you might need them, there’s no reason not to take them!
Although I wouldn’t want to hike for miles and miles in them in the back country, I did put a few miles on them on well maintained trails and my feet felt fine! The straps worked well, my feet didn’t slide around in them(I purchased my usual size), and the velcro never came undone.
They do have some decent treds on the bottom, however I’m not sure how long they’ll last if used every day. I plan to use them more as a backup if needed on a trip somewhere, when crossing streams, or when I want to air my feet out at camp.
The straps on them are well made, a thick woven material, I don’t feel like they’d ever break on me. The rubber sole would wear out first. The sole is very flat as you can see in the pictures, however there is a small heel protector on the very back.
Conclusion: overall I’d give a thumbs up! I’d definitely buy these sandals again when I wear out my pair! They come in men, women’s, and kids sizes!
TerraFlex Hiking Shoes
I have the first version of these shoes(the TerraFlex II are the newest available). They’re the first zero-drop and barefoot style hiking shoe I tried.
The first thing I noticed was that these shoes have a lot less padding than what I’m used to. They’re not cushiony on the bottom, so I was a bit worried at first and started out with them on some easy semi-paved trails. The pavement was fine, and when I went on the dirt section of the trail, I noticed being able to feel all the sticks, rocks, etc beneath my feet. However my feet didn’t feel bad, it was just a new sensation for me(I never walk around barefoot).
Since that first trail, I’ve done many miles in the TerraFlex on rocky, tree root filled terrain where I live in Pennsylvania, and so far my feet felt fine! I even hiked several miles up and down a rock filled mountain trail!
So yes my feet do feel the rocks and branches a lot more than with any other shoe, but it doesn’t hurt or bother me. In fact it makes you become more aware of what’s beneath you.
I will say I had one bad experience however. I did some hiking on flat terrain, on the Florida Trail, and after almost 5 miles I had a some pain in my feet, in the heel area. I’ve heard from others that this could be a problem with zero-drop shoes when road walking-or on flat terrain. I’d have to do more tests to be sure, but I have a feeling it’s due to not fully being used to the zero drop(I alternate what shoes I wear and don’t wear zero drop all the time). I never had this happen on any hilly or rocky terrain with these shoes-in which I also did many more miles in.
My other concern is for backpacking, which I have yet to try with the TerraFlex. I’m not sure if there’s enough cushion or padding in the sole for carrying so much extra weight on your back. I will try them out on a short trip and see, and will update this article here when I do. I know that others have taken the shoes backpacking and been fine. Again, everyone’s different, and everyone carries different amounts of weight when backpacking too which is another factor.
The last thing I’ll mention is the width. They’re stated as having a wider toe box. As someone who always buys wide width shoes, I wouldn’t mind the toe box being a little wider still. However, they weren’t too narrow or restricting for me, so I would say unless your feet are REALLY wide, it’s not an issue.
Conclusion: I like them, but I personally prefer a little more cushion and padding on the sole for longer hiking trips. However, that would probably take away from the “barefoot” feel, which is what these shoes are all about. Also, I wish they came in more colors!
Colorado – Water Sandals
So these are currently sold out on Xero Shoe’s website*, but I still wanted to review them because I have to honestly tell you that I love them! They were a complete surprise to me. I took them with me on a backpacking trip, to switch out my hiking shoes when crossing streams, and they preformed wonderfully!
They’re good for more than just stream crossings too. I wore them for miles hiking (I didn’t feel like changing back out of them, and wanted to see how they did while hiking). I went up and down mountains wearing them, on rocky as well as more flat terrain. While crossing the streams the shoes never felt slippery, even though I did have trekking poles to steady myself-I never once fell in!
They’re heavier than sandals of course, coming in at 14oz for the pair, but they do offer substantially more protection for your toes. Yes gravel, small twigs, and pebbles can get in them, but that didn’t happen as often as I expected. And it only became annoying when I stepped directly in some muddy trail sections, so I couldn’t just shake my food to get the debris out because it was all wet and stuck to the inside.
Conclusion: The Colorado shoes didn’t look like they’d be comfortable. I was afraid I’d get blisters hiking in them and purchased them just to have a pair of water shoes on the side. But turns out they were actually quite comfortable, and no blisters or problems whatsoever! I’d recommend these water shoes to anyone!
*Note: I contacted Xero Shoes and they said that this particular model is being discontinued, but they will have something new in the future. In the meantime they do offer the Aqua X water shoes, which are also very lightweight!
The last pair of sandals by Xero Shoes I tried are the very minimal Cloud Sandals. The newer updated model is the Aqua cloud sandal, which has updated straps and more cushion extending beneath the heel.
The pair I have is a women’s size 10 that weighs 8.5oz, only one ounce lighter than the Z-Trails. They are more flexible however and I feel like they’re more useful in casual water environments, whereas the Z-trail is made more for hiking rough terrain.
Conclusion: If I’m going to the beach, or want a little more support than just a flipflop, these would be the sandals I’d choose!
Do you have any experience with Xero shoes? Tried another style and liked it or not? Let us know your thoughts on these shoes in the comments below!