Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals Review

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals Review: Wearing Sandals in the Mud

Overall Score:8.8

The Xero Shoes Z-Trail are a pair of lightweight, minimalist sandals that perform exceptionally well on trail and in the city. Over the past 9 weeks, they’ve become my go-to choice for day hikes, trail runs, and camp shoes. During testing, they’ve truly impressed me with incredible comfort.

Durability: 8.0
Functionality: 9.0
Performance: 9.5
Aesthetics: 8.0
Value: 9.5

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0 mm

Stack Height: 10 mm

Weight: 153 g per sandal (size 9)

Fit: True to size

Manufacturing Country: China

Warranty: 5,000 miles (soles) / 24 Months (manufacturing defects)

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Length of Test: 9 weeks

Acquisition: in exchange for our honest feedback, Xero sent us the Z-Trail sandals with zero expectations. As always, the content of this review wasn’t shared with the company prior to publishing. Just know, our job isn’t to tickle the ego of a gear brand… its to provide you with the insights you need to make a sound buying decision – nothing more, nothing less. 

Countries: Thailand

Climate(s): Tropical Savanna

Weather: Hot and Humid (highest temp 32 C), Light and Heavy Rain

The Z-Trail is designed for:

  • Hiking and trail running.

The Z-Trail is not designed for:

  • Fashionistas.

Table of Contents

Durablity

Build Quality

Construction: the Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals are made with two layers of dense foam and a rubber outsole that are glued together to form a relatively durable shoe. One that’s built to flex with the natural movement of your feet, while remaining ultra lightweight. Even the polyester webbing and plastic hardware used prioritize weight reduction foremost.

Unfortunately, the featherweight build and thin outsole won’t be the most durable in the long-run – as compared to heavyweight Chacos. But as a durability tradeoff, the minimalist and lightweight construction allows you to maintain a better posture and more natural gait pattern when walking or running. 

For myself, this tradeoff is completely warranted and I’ll never go back to wearing overbuilt shoes again – even if that means replacing my shoes more often. 

Functionality

Main Feature Set

Traction: during the peak of Thailand’s monsoon season, when the ground is perpetually muddy and frequently flooded, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals surprised me with their overall grip-ability in much less than ideal conditions. 

For the most part, the outsole’s dual chevron lug pattern outperformed on wet trails and even slippery rocks, by providing me with a relatively stable surface. This allowed me to move quickly down trail without the fear of sliding like a penguin on ice, when hitting a wet or muddy patch of land.

However, while the outsole does well in muddy and wet environments, the foam FeelLite sole does become “slippery when wet.” In excessively rainy conditions, there were some minor issues with my feet sliding around inside, but nothing that I’d consider to be a deal breaker or even unexpected relative to design choices. 

Fit: the Xero Shoes Z-trail’s solid traction is aided by a snug yet comfortable fit, thanks to its dual-layer adjustment system.

On the back of each sandal, there’s a Velcro adjustment strap that allows you to dial in a custom fit for your foot. When tightened, the strap wraps securely around your heel to assist with support and stabilization.

For additional foot stability, the FeelLite sole is home to a modest heel cup that helps lock your foot in place during fast and sharp movements.

At the top of each sandal, there’s a second adjustment layer that securely fastens the front section of webbing. This section is primarily responsible for stopping your feet from shifting too far forward and cinches tight with the pull of a strap.

Thoughtfully, the strap comes with a built-in silicone web keeper to help manage any excess dangle that may occur with tightening.

It’s also worth mentioning that you’re able to tighten or loosen the strap that runs directly over your metatarsal phalangeal joints (aka toe knuckles) for final fitment. However, this strap doesn’t 100% lock your feet into place and from time-to-time your feet will slide a bit forward (primarily when walking downhill).

Performance

Practical Utility

Proprioception: from hiking mountain trails to just running errands around town, the “barefoot” nature of the Xero Shoes Z-trail allows you to feel the ground beneath your feet.   

The overall ground-feel combined with the thin and flexible nature of the sole, enabled me to optimize my stability over varied terrain. As surfaces changed, I was able to apply pressure at certain stress points for balance, splay my toes for added grip, and/or curl my toes to curve the sandals over jagged rocks and thick roots.  

Additionally, the ground-feel helped to optimize my foot strikes. For example, when stepping over rocks, I was forced to walk softly and apply less pressure when placing my feet on the ground. Over the long-term, this type of sensory feedback loop and real-time adjustments in my gait will go a long way in reducing degradation in my knees and hips from undue stress.

Comfort: right out the box or after prolonged use, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals are surprisingly comfortable. At first glance they might not seem like much, but don’t let the minimalistic build fool you – these suckers are damn comfy. The foam has some give while still being firm enough for shock absorption and the webbing is soft and pliable.

After weeks of use, I experienced zero rubbing or chafing and absolutely zero hot spots. Just pure comfort – as much as a minimalist sole will provide.

Just be aware that minimalist shoes require a transition period of a few weeks to a few months, depending on your fitness level. So don’t be shocked if your feet and calves are a bit sore after wear – this is normal and will fade away as your foot’s kinetic chain grows stronger with day-to-day use.

Aesthetics

Design Elements

While Xero Shoes epitomize function over fashion, the Z-Trail sandals have a crossover and muted design that we dig. 

Aesthetically speaking, the sandals look good in both outdoor and urban environments, enabling them to transition seamlessly between the two. So… if you’re looking for one pair of do-it-all sandals that can go straight from the trailhead to bustling city streets, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail will likely fit the bill. 

As for colorways, you can choose from green, black, and brown webbing options.

Value

Primary Alternatives

The Z-Trail sandals are a mid-tier offering and fairly priced, especially considering Xero Shoes’ excellent warranty and customer service. 

They’re a solid choice for most people, but… at the end of the day, when it comes to choosing a pair of minimalist sandals, it really depends on three things: (1) your foot health which will determine stack height, (2) outsole traction which will determine the ideal lug pattern for your needs, (3) strap style for comfort – over toes vs cross in-between, and (4) aesthetic preferences.

Did you know that… when you purchase something through one of our links, we earn a small fee. However, you still pay the exact same amount. It’s a win-win that helps us produce new content.

Sandals Outsole Drop Stack Height Toe Strap Weight
Xero Shoes Z-Trail FeelTrue Rubber 0 mm 10 mm Over 153 g
Xero Shoes Naboso FeelTrue Rubber 0 mm 10 mm Over 153 g
Earth Runners Circadian Vibram Gumlite 0 mm 8 mm Cross 156 g
Luna Sandals Flaco Vibram Newflex 0 mm 11 mm Cross 159 g
Shamma Mountain Goats Proprietary Rubber 0 mm 12 mm Cross 156 g
8.8/10 Rating

Overall Verdict

The Xero Shoes Z-Trail is a comfortable pair of sandals that perform well in multiple environments – even in wet conditions. For hiking during Thailand’s monsoon season, these sandals have become my go-to footwear for muddy days on the trail. 

Overall, I consider the Z-Trail sandals to be one of the best and most accessible minimalist footwear options available. I wholeheartedly recommend them to devout “barefoot” enthusiasts as well as individuals that are interested in making the switch from heavy / clunky footwear. 

Long story short, if you’re in the market for a pair of outdoor capable sandals… keep the Z-Trail by Xero Shoes on your radar. 

  • Comfortable for all day use, even while wearing a pack.
  • Traction and proprioception is excellent – barefoot feel allows for a natural gait pattern.
  • Packability and lightweight makes them an excellent choice for camping, travel, and digital nomads.

There’s not much we disliked about the Xero Shoes Z-Trail, but we would like to see more color options for webbing while keeping the outsole black.

Longevity

Usage Timeline

Excellent

Initial Usage

Looks can be deceiving – at first I was a bit underwhelmed, but they were incredibly comfortable out of the box and easy to adjust.

Excellent

Excellent

9 Weeks of Usage

So far everything is still going strong – tread is intact, zero fraying on the webbing, and zero issues with the FeelLite foam.

Excellent

Fine

1 Year of Usage

The Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals are still in good shape and likely have another year of life left in them.

Fine
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Alan & May

Welcome to North of Known! We’re Alan and May, a married couple who have embraced digital nomadism while calling Bangkok, Thailand, our current home base. Over the past 7 years, our shared passion for exploration and adventure has fueled our journey across the globe. Join us as we continue to embark on our nomadic adventures, sharing our insights, discoveries, and travel tales along the way.

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