Xero Shoes – Review and Factory Visit
Barefoot running has been getting a lot of traction (puny!) over the last few years, with an almost cult-like following. Inspired by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico – who made their huaraches sandals out of tires and string, they would run on them for very long distances. If they can do it, then surely you can too! Sounds a bit crazy to run around in sandals, but there are a lot of good reasons it may be good for you. Is barefoot running your thing? Are you looking to find out what it’s all about? Check out this article. That was pretty informative, wasn’t it?! Makes you think….
Steven and Lena Sashen are making some really cool minimalist (like really minimalist) sandals called Xero Shoes that are getting good recognition from runners, outdoor enthusiasts, paddle boarders and lots of folks who just like to feel the ground beneath them. So I got a pair (Amuri Cloud) to try out for myself. At first, I was taken back by how thin and light they were. That is the idea though, to not have a supportive and restrictive shoe on. In fact, Steven refers to shoes at “foot coffins”. The theory makes sense. Why put your foot in a shoe that basically creates a cast around your foot, creates arch support that should already be there and takes tactile sensation away from the wearer?
I have Hallux rigidus in both feet and it is a real pain in the foot. I have tried a dozen custom orthotics and almost every over the counter insole out there. Heck, I have even tried cortisone shots, acupuncture and chiropractors to see if it would help. I would put the orthotics in cushioned shoes as well. Hoping to find some relief. Nothing seemed to help. So I thought, what the heck, why not start over completely see if I can relearn how to use my feet. I reached out to Steven at Xero Shoes and met him at the Xero headquarters in Broomfield. He was very kind, passionate and knowledgeable about feet biomechanics. We talked for an hour about how the foot works, how to make it work better and why barefoot and/or thin sandals are effective. It was an eye opening experience and I learned a lot about footwear and how it affects biomechanics. He gave me a pair of the Amuri Z Trek Sports Sandals to try alongside the pair of Amuri Clouds.
The Z Trek looks akin to a super thin soled Teva or Chaco sandal, but very different in the way it works. It has a super thin 5.5mm outsole, weighs in at 6.5 ounces (men’s size 9) and of course, is zero drop. There is plenty of adjustable to make it fit your foot. One of the big things that set this sandal apart from the other Xero shoes is that there is no toe post or webbing between your big toe. Some really like not having the post between their toes, and if this is you then this is your sandal.
The Cloud is a more traditional looking sandal but functions much different than your everyday flip flop. It is even lighter than the Z Trek (even floats in water, great for you SUPers!) It has a more cushiony (is that a word?, if not it should be) feel to it, though it is not much thinker (6mm thick). So this is not your fat soled Rainbow or Reef. Both of which I used to was all the time and really loved the arch support they had.
After 3 weeks of daily use on both pairs of sandals, I feel like I can offer a decent opinion on them. I do not run, so, unfortunately, I can not chime in on their performance in that category. I do, however, train clients for 10-12 hours a day in them. Walk the dog, drive, hike, and lounge in them. In fact, I ditched the Reefs for these. I do have to were minimalist shoes when performing lateral motions (like agility training) and I will have a review on those shoes in the future as well, but when not doing aggressive side to side movements, I live in these. I lean towards the Clouds over the Z Trek, simply because I feel like they are a better fit to my narrow, jankety feet. Speaking of messed up feet, after 3 weeks of barefoot living, the feet are feeling better than ever. So there is some major real-world experience to back up the barefoot craze.
And these aren’t just for people with janky feet. Dave wore Xero Shoes on his trip to China, including his walk on the Plank Walk at Hua Shan. His experience with Xero Shoes was also good. They worked with him via email and phone to find the correct size (their standard sizes were a bit narrow). After his trip, Dave’s pair broke. Xero Shoes immediately shipped him a new pair at no cost. If your feet don’t fit exactly into one of the templates on Xero Shoes’ website, call or email them and they can guide you through the process of getting a sandal custom made for your weird feet. Get some here