Monday, July 18, 2016

Sandal Reviews - Xero Z-Trail

This is installment #2 for running sandal reviews.  Last time we looked at the Bedrock Gabbro, which is a great all-around trail sandal.  Today we'll take a look at the Xero Z-Trail sandal, which is basically a 2.0 version of the Xero Z-Trek.

Introducing the Xero Z-Trail

Here are your sandal stats:
Zero-drop sandal, 10mm thick
3-layers (BareFoam comfort layer, TrailFoam for protection, FeelTrue outsole)
5.4 ounces (for men's size 9)

Price: $79.99
Xero offers a 5,000 mile warranty for all of their sandals.



Out of the Box:

Right out of the box, the Z-Trails are very easy to set up.  You'll notice right away they don't have a toe-post, they are much like a Chaco, except not...because they are so darn light and have no arch support.  A toe-post can provide some level of security for your foot staying on the sandal, but I find the Xero Z-trail overall does a nice job as long as you get the straps fitted correctly.  The main strap is adjusted at the ankle and if tight enough can prevent most of sliding your foot might do when running down a steep hill.  I don't like my sandals super tight, but even in that case, my feet stay on the sandal except in the most extreme conditions.  The heel strap is velcro and very secure.  I use the heel strap to get the sandal on/off easily.


I generally like to cut excess off of my sandals.  Out of the box there is a "lip" near the heel of the sandal.  I took kitchen scissors and cut the lip off since I didn't need it.

Trail Capability
(excellent)

The Z-trail gets a grade of excellent after having tested it during the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 earlier this summer.  The tread pattern is similar to other Xero outsoles.  In this case, they have used two separate densities of outsole to keep the weight of the sandal very light (the brown outsole is actually the TrailFoam midsole carried through).  In areas needing to withstand more abrasion, they have a higher-density (black) outsole.  As you can see from my sandals, the black tread is wearing away much slower than the brown treat along the arch and a small section near the toes.  The tread pattern seems to work very well in most trail conditions (as well as wet rocks).  Just keep in mind this pattern is not a deep-lug pattern and there may be cases when you want a deeper lug pattern for grip.
  
The high-density outsole is very resistant to abrasion.  Xero shoes offers a 5,000 mile warranty on all of their soles.


The Z-Trails performed very well on this 32-mile trail race.  The race was mostly single-track with a mix of dirt and very rocky terrain.



Durability
(holy shit amazing)


I have probably logged a couple hundred miles on the Xero Z-trail sandals thus far and have noticed no major breakdowns other than the following exceptions.  Exception #1: I tend to create a lot of friction near my great toe (first metatarsalphalangeal joint), and I have rubbed the BareFoam comfort layer raw in that location.  This may not be an issue for others...and it has not affected the performance or comfort of the sandal.  Exception #2: The low-density outsole will likely wear down much more quickly but will not actually affect the performance of the sandal.

The fact that Xero shoes offers a 5,000 mile warranty demands respect and that's why I rate the sandal durability at holy shit amazing.  Thus far any wear and tear noted has not affected the performance or the comfort of the sandal which makes this sandal a very good buy.



Comfort
(excellent)


Technically some runners may feel that this sandal is holy shit amazing as far as comfort goes.  I think it depends a little on foot-type and I am going to be a stickler for a moment.  When I first started wearing the sandal, I had a short period of time where I kept getting irritated over my big toe where the strap holds it in place.  Loosening the strap over the big toe fixed the problem.  That said, the essence of not having a toe post, means for me at least, that my big toe might get pushed inward more than I would like from time to time.  Remember I have deformed feet (bunions) so I really like sandals that support good, straight big toe alignment.

The sandal is very light-weight and flexible, which goes a long way in making it a comfortable sandal.  You truly can wear this sandal all day and barely notice anything on your foot.

The BareFoam layer is extremely smooth and soft and yet provides a grippy-feeling that keeps the sandal in place well despite not having a toe post.  As much as I love my other sandals, it's really nice to have a pair of sandals without a toe post.



Minimalism
(holy shit amazing)


For a sandal with this much protection (and a dreaded midsole), it maintains amazing ground feel.  It's hard to ask for more from a sandal.  You get reasonable trail protection and a foot bed that is super soft to the touch without sacrificing your ability to feel the ground.  This sandal allows your foot to flex and move in a completely natural way without any interference.  One of my pet-peeves is a shoe company calling their product "minimalist" when it has no flexibility at all.  You'll never have to worry about this with Xero shoes.  They understand that part of letting your foot be the miracle that it is is allowing it to move freely.


The Xero Z-Trail maintains excellent ground feel, flexibility, and light-weight features.





Lifestyle
(excellent)



Honestly, I'm not sure who really cares about personalizing their sandals...not to say you're silly if you trick out your footwear...I only mean that whomever is considering Xero shoes (or active footwear) will likely prioritize function and comfort.  You don't have much option to personalize the sandal unless you want to get really creative.  The Z-Trails come in three colors (for the straps); black, mocha, and red pepper for both men and women.

If you think Chaco sandals look good, then you should like how the Z-Trails look on your feet.  They're very similar except I think they're much more comfortable and user-friendly.  These would make excellent travel shoes as well as you can comfortably wear these sandals all day for all of your activities (land and water) and then wear them to dinner later in the evening.



Z-Trails along Rampart Reservoir.  Comfortable, affordable, and high-performance.
Who are they for?

* People who like the look of Chacos but want something more minimalist.
* Cheapskates like me who like shoes with warranties.
* Sandal runners, great for road and most trails.
* Sandal wearers who would like an alternative sandal without a toe post.
* Travelers who want a sandal for everything

Stay tuned for a review of the Bedrock Cairn sandal...

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