My Favorite Running Sandal is Actually a Water Sandal! – Xero Shoes Aqua Cloud Review

Discovering minimalist footwear is like finding a new way to enjoy movement. For those who want to get close to the barefoot experience while still being protected, the Xero Shoes Aqua Cloud could be the one for you.

Its hybrid design, blending a water sandal with a casual all-rounder, makes it an ideal choice for beach excursions, riverside adventures, and lakeside lounging.

While the sandal is technically water-focused, I took it out running on the roads to test its performance, focusing on the fit, feel, and durability to determine if it was worth “splashing” out on the Xero Shoes Aqua sandal.

xero shoes aqua cloud big toe

Highlights

  • True-to-Size Fit: The Aqua Cloud sandals are true to size and have many adjustment options. However, those with a wide big toe splay may find their toes hanging over the sides.
  • Great Pricing: Compared with shoes, sandals are budget-friendly and could even last longer! 
  • Adjustable Lacing System: Mastering the lacing system ensures a secure and customized fit, with the ability to adjust tension for optimal comfort and lockdown.
  • Minimalist Design: Offering an experience close to barefoot running, these sandals are perfect for those looking to transition to a more natural gait.
  • Durable Outsole: The robust outsole is designed to withstand varied terrains, you’re only limiter is the strength of your feet.
  • Potential Lace Vulnerability: The attachment of laces to the outsole may present a weak point over time.
  • Foam Compression: While the foam insole may compress with extended use, it doesn’t compromise the sandal’s usability, maintaining its functional appeal.
  • Effortless Wear and Removal: The design allows for easy slipping on and off without the need to adjust laces every time, highlighting the sandals’ practicality and simplicity.

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Fit: A Delicate Balancing Act

These sandals run true to size, but I suggest looking at different brands if you’ve got a wider big-toe splay. Xero Shoes aren’t the widest on the market, and that’s true for their sandal bases too. In my older Genesis sandals, I found my big toe hung off the base a little, and while I don’t have the same issue in the Aqua Cloud, the shape is fairly similar. I’d suggest looking at Earth Runners if you need a wide-toe base. 

As with most sandal designs, dialing in the lacing can be long and arduous. Although at the outset, it seems you only need to tighten the heel straps to obtain a perfect fit, you’ll want to pay close attention to the lacing over the top of the foot and through the outsole. 

xero shoes aqua cloud side straps

I advise pulling the lacing through the outsole holes towards the heel area. And pull more than you’d think! Keeping the outsole close to the foot throughout the stride is the key to a perfect fit. To do this, you’ll want it tight around the midfoot. You achieve this by pulling more lace to the heel area when the sandal is off. 

Slip the sandal on, and adjust the heel strap until your foot is comfortably on the sandal footbed. And never touch it again! 🙂 That’s not entirely true. I have to tighten the heel straps a little every few weeks to get that locked-in feeling. 

Expect this adjusting and readjusting to take up to 2 weeks! 

Once you get the lacing and fit dialed in, these sandals easily slip on and off. I slip the heel strap down and slide the sandal off my foot. You’ll get used to it once you do this a few times. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Xero Shoes Aqau Cloud

Feel: As Close to the Ground as It Gets

If you choose the correct size, you’ll have no problems with the laces or toe post rubbing. The comfort strap threading through the middle of the big and second toe is the first worry of most people. But it’s a great design that’s proven to work repeatedly! If you’ve ever had sandals where your feet slip side-to-side over the base, you’ll want to try a sandal with a toe post! 

xero shoes aqua cloud style

Perfect barefoot running option

With 3mm of foam and only a few more mm of rubber, these sandals provide an amazing ground feel. I’ve recently become more and more of a sandal-running fan. And these sandals are part of that story! There’s something freeing and almost effortless when running in sandals, but that’s only true when your feet are close to the ground. With a total stack height of ~6mm, you get maximum feedback, and you’ll notice your running gait change immediately. 

In short. If you want to improve your barefoot running, the Aqua Clouds could be a great way forward. Or, if you’re looking for an option with 0 foam, you could try the DIY kit. A product that’s on my shopping list next! 

xero shoes aqua cloud hero

Are they made for the water?

This is where it gets tricky. 

When the foam sole gets a little wet, it becomes slippy. If you don’t have your foot well locked down, you’ll find your foot slipping over the base of the sandal. 

This is true for most sandals. I’ve never found a grippy footbed, even when wet. 

But as this is marketed as a water sandal, I’d expect some solution to this problem. 

It won’t be an issue for me, and maybe others, because we’re not buying it for water activities. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Xero Shoes Aqau Cloud

Durability: Solid Ground with a Hint of Vulnerability

Xero Shoes are known for their durable soles, with a 5,000-mile sole warranty. The sandals are the reason Xero Shoes started with this warranty. I’m 99% certain you won’t wear through this outsole, but you may find another aspect of the shoe fails first.

The weak spot could be where the lacing attaches to the sides of the outsole. Similar designs in the Z-trek and Z-Trail fail when the forces through the laces rip straight through the rubber loop. This could be made worse if you leave your sandals in the sun, so ensure you store them appropriately! 

xero shoes aqua cloud heel cup

This might be a great shoe if you’re looking for more sustainability! Because these sandals use minimal materials, are thin, and will (likely) last longer (no upper to rip or cushion to break down), there’s a big environmental argument to be made for sandals like the Aqua Cloud. In the summer, I’ll switch to more sandal running to minimize my horrible shoe habit and save some money!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Xero Shoes Aqau Cloud

Conclusion: A Step Towards Minimalist Mastery

As you can see, I’m sold on sandal usage for training runs, especially in the summer months. The Xero Shoes Aqua Cloud fits perfectly into my rotation as both a casual run-around and a road runner. 

This versatile sandal may not be the perfect water sports option, but it’s an option. But so is any shoe you’re willing to get wet. Still, it wins in so many other areas that I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a minimal and cheaper option to the more expensive barefoot shoes. 

So, if you want a minimal sandal with a ton of comfort.

If you have very wide-toe splay

If you want a water shoe for intense water sports, look at other options such as Xero Shoes Aqua Sport, or Vivobarefoot Hydra

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Xero Shoes Aqau Cloud

FAQ

Are the Xero Shoes Aqua Cloud sandals true to size?

A: The Aqua Cloud sandals are true to size. However, if you have a wide, big-toe splay, it’s recommended to be cautious as there might be some overhang. Exploring other brands like Earth Runners might be beneficial for those with significantly wide feet.

Does the lacing system stop your foot from moving around?

A: Yes, the Aqua Cloud features an adjustable lacing system for a highly customized fit. It might take some time to master, but by adjusting the lacing through the outsole holes and fine-tuning the heel straps, you can achieve a snug fit that stays comfortable throughout your stride.

Are These Sandals Suitable for Barefoot Running?

A: Absolutely. With a minimalist design, including just 3mm of foam and a thin layer of rubber, the Aqua Cloud sandals offer an experience very close to barefoot running. They’re perfect for those transitioning to barefoot running or improving their gait, providing excellent ground feel and feedback.

How do the Aqua Clouds perform in wet conditions?

A: While designed as water-friendly, the foam sole can become slippery when wet. It’s important to have the sandals well-adjusted to prevent your foot from sliding. Though marketed as water sandals, if your primary use is for water sports, you should explore other options specifically designed with a grippier footbed in wet conditions.

Are the Xero Shoes Aqua Clouds Durable and Sustainable?

A: The Aqua Cloud sandals boast a durable outsole backed by a 5,000-mile sole warranty, showcasing Xero Shoes’ confidence in their product’s longevity. However, care should be taken where the laces attach to the outsole, as it can be a potential weak point. From a sustainability perspective, the sandals are an environmentally friendly option due to their minimal material use and durability, making them a great choice for eco-conscious consumers.

Nick
Nick

Nick is a UESCA-certified ultramarathon coach and avid barefoot runner, having over 5 years of experience in barefoot training and has competed in multiple ultra marathons wearing barefoot shoes. Starting his journey in the running industry over 10 years ago in New Zealand, Nick evolved from a running shoe salesperson to a passionate advocate for the transformative power of barefoot running. He believes in its potential to enhance running experiences for all and combines his unique insights from both personal achievements and professional coaching to guide and inspire the running community."

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