The Z-Trail is a “barefoot-like” sandal from Xero Shoes aimed at walkers and runners who are looking for some underfoot protection, with as little as possible getting in the way of proper foot mechanics.
The Z-Trail is inspired by the original DIY huarache sandals comprised of string and a simple cut-out sole; the Z-trail upgrades this concept with solid straps and a quality outsole to improve the performance on the trail.
Unlike some other Xero Shoes models, fitment is true to size.
I opted for my normal US9 and found the strap length and sole sizing to be perfect.
Slipping your foot under the front straps, you’ll find the soles of your feet comforted by a soft foam running throughout the top of the outsole. The feeling is unlike any other sandal or shoe that I’ve used before, but it left me wishing I could find shoes with an insole made from this material.
Setting up the straps can take a little trial and error while wearing the sandals the first few times.
A single strap wraps from behind the big toe to the outside of your foot and continues up toward your inner ankle. Here it is attached to straps running down to the sole and another wrapping around the heel. With a simple velcro mechanism, the heel strap is the only strap that comes undone to allow you to slip your foot in and out, creating a secure fit every time.
You can tighten the single strap by pulling at the loose end, allowing you to synch down your foot to the sole. Finding the sweet spot between tight and comfortable can be tricky at first.
You’ll want to play with tightening and loosening the straps until you find a comfortable compromise, and from that point on, leave it alone!
Having hiked, run, and lounged around in the Z-trails, I feel I’ve found my happy point with the sandal.
The sandals have a great flex to them, even though they are a little more built-up than the likes of the Xero Shoes Z-Trek. The extra cushion does not detract from the barefoot feel and only protects you a little more from sharp rocks on the trail—a must for hiking and running.
Although, running in the sandals left me feeling a little uncomfortable with the fit. With sharp corners, my feet would slip to the side of the sandals, an odd feeling when you expect your feet to be planted.
Hiking in the sandals was a much more enjoyable experience. It’s not often that you change directions like with running, and having your feet free and open was freeing.
Something to be aware of is to be careful with your step. I’ve had an instance where I sliced my toe after kicking a rock during a walk. It would have hurt if I wore shoes or at least closed-toed sandals, but the blood would not have been shed! If you’re worried about this happening to you, it could be an idea to look at a sandal like the Xero Shoes Colorado.
Lastly, I get the most use out of the sandals in casual day-to-day use. I like having my feet free, so sandals are a natural fit. They may take 2 seconds longer to strap up, but this inconvenience is so minor compared to a sandal that fits well and feels comfortable. And that’s comfortable in a barefoot sense!
With Xero Shoes 5000 mile guarantee, I’m expecting big things from the Z-Trail.
After nearly 100km on the sandals, I have minor wear on the soles and no issue with the straps.
The outsole is a hybrid rubber/foam makeup. I assume the foam is to add a little cushion and lighten the overall sandal. I’ve noticed this foam flattening out and looking a bit “squished.” But the rubber is holding up better than any shoe I’ve seen on the market. I would hope that the rubber in the strategic places does its job of prolonging the whole sole.
There is minor fraying on the foam sole topper where I’ve caught rocks, but it doesn’t look bad, nor does it affect the performance of the sandal.
I fully expect to use these sandals for years to come, and that’s using them day in day out. Now that’s $60 well spent.
Xero Shoes Z-Trail
These are my everyday sandal… yes… even in the winter. Take them to the shops or take them on the trail, you’ll never miss your old shoes.