Xero Z-Trail Sandals Are the Best Shoes I’ve Worn, and They’re Hardly Shoes at All

This carries into adulthood. What do we do at the end of the long day? We take off our shoes. If you’re barefoot, it’s unlikely you’re working. (And if you can do your job barefoot, congratulations, you win.) If you’re barefoot, you’re also unlikely to have any pressing tasks. You’re more likely to be in the backyard or at a pool or at the park or at the beach. You’re probably outside and free, or at least doing something delightful.

There was only one thing that ruined those barefoot summers. It was that sign you’d always see at the entrance to the mini mart: “No shirt. No shoes. No service.” Ah, commerce, enemy of freedom.

That’s where the Z-Trails come in. I’m not ten anymore. I want my freedom and I want to go into the store. The soles of the Z-Trails are 10 millimeters thin, and the shoes are enough that I don’t even notice them in my bag. (They’re a favorite camp shoe among ultralight backpackers.) Walking around, I still feel like I’m barefoot. My feet stretch and flex and bend and roll the same way they would even if I wasn’t wearing the sandals.

Photograph: Xero Shoes

While I had already tried a few barefoot shoes, I wasn’t sold on the idea until I tried the $80 Z-Trails. Every other “barefoot” design I had tried felt too much like a regular shoe. Then Xero sent me a pair of the sandals to test for a barefoot shoes buying guide I’m working on. I distinctly remember putting them on and going outside to walk around the yard for a bit. I remember following my kids around the yard, and when they headed into the brambles at the back of the house, I hesitated. I thought I wasn’t wearing shoes. Then I looked at my feet, and surprise, I was wearing shoes. I plowed right into the brambles. Twenty minutes later, I was on the Xero Shoes website buying myself three pairs. Since that day, I have worn next to nothing else on my feet.

Barefoot shoe advocates would probably prefer I extol the science behind the benefits of barefoot shoes rather than sounding like a hippie chasing childhood memories down flower strewn trails, but you can discover that yourself by starting with the links I put at the top of this piece. I will also say that an increasing body of evidence shows that, while comfortable shoes make life easy on our feet, they make life much harder on the rest of our body. Balance and coordination decline over time, injuries become more likely.


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