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The Forza Runner is the newest in the running shoe lineup for Xero Shoes, and it claims to be super lightweight, unbelievably comfortable, and incredibly flexible. But does it beat out the likes of the Xero Shoes HFS, the Prio, or the Zelen? We find out in this review.
Who is the Xero Shoes Forza Runner for?
If you want a barefoot-inspired shoe that’s close to the ground and hugs the foot like a sock, then the Forza runner is for you. Although the toe box is not the widest in the Xero Shoe lineup, it can work for most, and the bootie construction may be enough to win many of you over.
In the review, I’ll take you over the shoe’s fit, feel and durability and tell you exactly who this shoe is for, and if it’s not for you, tell you where to look next.
Let’s jump in!
The fit is the biggest decider when buying this shoe.
Because every shoe, and every foot has a different shape, it’s essential to find the shoe for your foot, and in this case, it’s going to suit someone with a narrower foot without a large toe splay.
Which minimal running shoe is for you?
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The toe box is moderately wide, but the sloping on the big toe is too aggressive for some. If you’ve ever tried the Xero Shoes Speed Force in the past, you’ll know the fit of the Forza Runner. The toe box has room, as the barefoot philosophy goes, but it cuts in too much on the big toe for some. The shoe will still work for someone with Morton’s toe (see picture below) or if your big toe tends to slope inwards, but if you have a wide splay, I’d tell you to try a different model (Xero Shoes HFS, Vivobarefoot Primus Lite). Just ensure you tie the laces well towards the toe box, because this will help pull your foot in to line.
Ideal feet for the Forza Runner
You MUST order a ½ size larger than your regular size. Even Xero Shoes advises on their website to order a half-size larger. My regular shoe size is US9, and I ordered a US9.5. It was long enough, but if I were to order again, I’d get the US10 just to allow a little more room for my toes to splay.
The bootie-style upper works fine, but it’s nothing to shout about. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get these shoes with no tongue. If I were to have a shallower foot, I’d be relying on the stretchy material to hug the foot to ensure I didn’t get material bunching when I tie the laces. I have an average volume foot and had no problems with bunching, but I imagine it could become problematic if you have a shallow volume foot. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a super high volume foot, the material is accommodating enough to get your foot in, so I’d just expect a bit of break-in time for the upper to stretch out.
The heel is fitted and narrower than other Xero Shoes. If you’ve had heel slippage in Xero Shoes in the past, this fitted and narrower heel could be a good thing for you. There’s even a hint of structure in the heel, which could help lock in your heel. If you’re wider in the heel and the ankle, I feel it’s better to look at shoes like Xero Shoes HFS or Xero Shoes Prio, as these are very forgiving.
It feels gooood!
If you like minimal.
If you like to feel the ground.
If you want less bulky materials.
The Forza Runner will work for you.
If we’ve got through the Fit section, and you still feel the shoe is a go for you, let’s dig into the feel of the shoe and decide if it’s what you’re looking for in a minimal shoe.
That sole is thin and flexible, similar to the Xero shoes HFS or the Xero Shoes Speed Force. I did the old test of scrunching the shoe in my hand, and the Forza Runner passed the test! Not only did it flex in the common flex points like the ball of the foot, but the sole had flexibility in every direction. That’s important because our feet don’t just flex front to back. They bend side to side and even torsionally like a screw.
I felt the ground, and it’s possible to feel even more! Although I found no stats on the thickness of the rubber sole on the Xero website, I’d guess it’s around 4-5mm. There’s also a 3.5mm insole that sits inside the shoe. So if you want more volume or more ground feel, take that insole out! The closer to the ground, the closer to barefoot you’ll get.
There’s a slight stiffness towards the rear of the shoe. Likely lending itself to a perfect fit, the side walls around the heel diagonally run down to the sole of the midfoot. But these tend to be a little stiff, which inhibits natural movement VERY slightly. You’ll likely not notice anything if you’re a strong forefoot lander, but a midfoot strike may highlight a little stiffness.
The midfoot fits like a sock, so you don’t have to crank the laces too much. Back to that bootie fit. The stretchy material does an excellent job at hugging around your foot, but I ended up tightening down my laces to feel more “locked in.” I’d suggest you avoid doing so! The laces will end up digging in a little, and you’ll not get much more lockdown. In the end, the bootie feeling is just something to get used to.
(45-day exchange period)
The Forza Runner is a lightweight shoe. And lightweight shoes are not usually as durable as their beefier siblings.
That said, the build quality of the shoe is high, and with the 5000-mile outsole guarantee, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what will break down first.
Welded overlays cover the midfoot, the heel, and most of the shoe! Usually, multiple overlays add a lot of weight to a shoe, but they’ve still managed to keep the weight at 7.2oz (204g) in a men’s US9. The added protection and comfortable fit that the overlays offer is well worth the added weight and likely extend the lifetime of the mesh material, ensuring it doesn’t overstretch.
The mesh knit material throughout the shoe is more plastic than fabric, protecting against rips and scuffs. The only highly exposed area of the shoe is the upper toe box and a little around the ankle cuffs. Again the overlays cover the fragile areas, so I don’t feel the mesh will break down in the shoe’s lifetime.
I don’t think the outsole rubber would make it to 5000 miles of running, but even 1/5th of that is way above industry standard. The outsole is a joy to run on, so the fact Xero Shoes are confident enough to put an extended warranty on them is a bonus. I’m guessing you’d only get around 1000 miles from the rubber before you’d look for another pair, but at that point, if you want another pair of Forza’s, hit them up on the warranty!
The inside liner may be silky smooth, but it’s the weakest part of the shoe. Your feet will inevitably move around a little when running in these shoes. It’s not just because of the bootie style; your foot moves around in every shoe. All those micromovements cause friction, and that friction wears on the materials inside the shoe. Whereas the silky material feels great, it’s thin. I see my foot wearing through it before anything else fails on the shoe. If I were to guess, I’d put 500-1000 miles on the heel material. This is relatively normal for shoes and depends on your foot type and the shoe fit.
The Xero shoes Forza Runner is another awesome barefoot running shoe. It won’t work for every foot type, but if it works for your foot shape, you’re in for a treat!
The bootie style is not for everyone, but Xero Shoes has executed the design well.
So how do you choose between the Forza Runner and all the other shoes on the market!? Here’s a start.
- If your toe splay is relatively small and your foot is moderate – narrow.
- Choose the Xero Shoes Forza Runner!
- If you have a wider toe splay but still moderate – narrow
- Choose Vivobarefoot Primus Lite 3
- If you have a wide toe splay and wider, voluminous foot
- Choose the Xero Shoes HFS
(45-day exchange period)