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Xero Shoes Speed Force - Women's Review

This performance racing flat is fun for a variety of workouts and terrain types
Xero Shoes Speed Force - Women's
Photo: Xero Shoes
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $105 List | $114.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Lightweight, supple, breathable, excellent ground feel, 2mm removable insole, great value
Cons:  Less durable, not water resistant
Manufacturer:   Xero Shoes
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 10, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • Natural Feel - 40% 9
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Xero Speed Force is a performance racing flat that is fun on various terrain, winning our Editors' Choice Award two years running. They feature a soft and supple 4.5mm sole with a removable 2mm insole if you want to get even closer to the ground. The suppleness of the sole makes for a particularly nimble feeling when running. The soft uppers and wide toe box allow toes to splay and move in all directions virtually unencumbered. These are made of very lightweight and breathable materials and, as such, may not last as long, but they are well made and well priced, making them an excellent value. We enjoyed running in these shoes for everything from dusty trail runs to hot track workouts.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $114.99 at Amazon$89.99 at Amazon$124.99 at Amazon$79.95 at Amazon$140 List
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Pros Lightweight, supple, breathable, excellent ground feel, 2mm removable insole, great valueLightweight, nimble, extremely minimal, moderate priceVersatile, durable, comfortableLightweight, sock-like fit, simpleSoft and supple uppers, simple design, thin sole, durable materials
Cons Less durable, not water resistantPermeable to water and dust, some may experience frictionNot the lightest, less casual appeal for wearing around townLess versatile, too minimalist for untrained feetLess secure fit for aggressive or uneven terrain
Bottom Line This performance racing flat is fun for a variety of workouts and terrain typesThis shoe is a truly novel concept that is as close as possible to being barefoot in a closed-toe shoeA true all-rounder, these minimalist shoes are highly versatile and comfortable in a variety of settingsThis shoe is so light and nimble you'll barely know it's thereThis is one of our favorite strict minimalist shoes, and it looks nice enough for casual wear
Rating Categories Xero Speed Force Vibram FiveFingers... Xero Shoes HFS - Wo... Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Softstar Adult DASH...
Natural Feel (40%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Weight (20%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (15%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Versatility (15%)
7.0
5.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
6.0
4.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Xero Speed Force Vibram FiveFingers... Xero Shoes HFS - Wo... Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Softstar Adult DASH...
Style Barefoot performance Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot trail Barefoot road
Weight (per pair) 12 oz (size 10) 8.5 oz (size EU 41) 13.5 oz (size 10) 11 oz (size 10) 12.5 oz (size 9U)
Stack Height (mm) 4.5 mm (2 mm removable insole) 5 mm 7.5 mm 6.5 mm 5 mm
Heel to Toe drop (mm) 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Outsole 4.5 mm FeelTrue 3 mm 5.5mm FeelTrue® Vibram EcoStep 5 mm Vibram OmniFlex
Midsole Removable 2 mm insole 2 mm 2mm removable Feel The World® insole N/A N/A
Upper Material Mesh Polyester fabric Mesh Mesh and TPU Leather
Best For Running, gym, performance Running, gym Running, gym, casual Running, gym Running, gym, casual
Width Options Regular, wide Regular Regular Regular Narrow, Regular, Wide

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Speed Force is an impressive addition to the excellent lineup of minimalist footwear from Xero Shoes. It is designed to be a racing flat, but we loved it for all of our runs.

Performance Comparison


Testing the Speed Force at high speeds.
Testing the Speed Force at high speeds.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Natural Feel


The Speed Force is a force of nature. Or, at least it lets you use natural force. These kicks have just 4.5mm of shoe between you and the earth, giving excellent ground feel in a lightweight performance running shoe. Something Xero does remarkably well is design shoes that create minimal resistance to the natural flex and bend of the foot. The soft and supple sole is almost as soft and supple as the uppers, so no matter how you want to move your foot, the shoe goes easily with you. We particularly appreciate how easy it is to raise the toes just before landing on the foot — a critical, if nuanced, technique especially important for running in minimalist shoes (or barefoot). Lifting the toes pre-tensions the plantar fascia prior to impact with the ground, providing natural impact absorption using the design and mechanics of our feet.


Xero designed these shoes to be a performance racing shoe, and with Steven Sashen as the company's "visionary," it is no wonder they feel like our favorite old track spikes. Sashen's bio on the website notes that he is a Masters All-American sprinter and one of the fastest men over 50. It just so happens that our lead tester has also been a competitive sprinter and hurdler in another life, so she particularly appreciates the performance fit and feel of this excellent shoe. They are so lightweight that your feet may actually feel faster, so soft you might think you're barefoot, and the fit is still so precise (due to the Huarache-style heel strap system) that they'll move with you, any way you go.

The Speed Force goes any way you do, making rapid direction changes...
The Speed Force goes any way you do, making rapid direction changes a breeze.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

In our heel-to-toe inspection of the Speed Force, we asked the following questions to add objectivity to our assessment of the shoe's natural feel:
  • Zero drop from heel-to-toe? Check.
  • Sole made of one material? Check.
  • Soft and flexible sole? Check.
  • Thin sole, less than 10mm thick? Check.
  • Non-restricting but secure lacing? Check.
  • No arch support? Check.
  • Breathable uppers? Check.
  • No forefoot concavity? Check.
  • Wide toe box? Check.

We then twisted and rolled the shoe to visually compare its suppleness to others in the review and were impressed yet again. Some shoes in this category have a stiffer sole (which may be good for more rocky terrain), which creates a resistance that your foot must overcome to move naturally. Consider gloves as an analogy. At rest, our hands do not lie perfectly flat; they have a slight curve. Therefore, many gloves are slightly pre-curved so that at rest, you don't have to expend any energy in those small hand muscles to resist the shape of the glove. It's subtle, but if you're looking to run a lot of miles and/or strengthen your feet to be balanced for barefoot travel, this will matter over the long haul.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

What we found to be a true stand-out feature of the Speed Force is how the suppleness of the sole matches the suppleness of the upper materials. It does this so effectively that we felt minimal restriction as we lifted and flexed our toes, letting them feel free and easy. This ease of natural toe movement is also a critical component in barefoot running technique, which uses the strength of your toes to pre-tension your plantar fascia and thus help to absorb the impact of each footfall.

And if all of this isn't already enough, there is a 2mm insert inside the shoe which can be removed for an even closer-to-ground feel.

Speeding along the trails in the Speed Force.
Speeding along the trails in the Speed Force.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Weight


At 12 ounces for a pair of size 10 shoes, the Speed Force is on the lighter end of shoes in this review. Putting these on feels a lot like putting on racing spikes for the main event at a track meet. We imagine this is intentional since they are designed to be performance racing shoes, and the visionary of Xero Shoes is also a competitive sprinter. The light weight of these shoes makes us feel giddy with joy and anticipation of the thrill of the race ahead of us — or just excited for our morning run.


We are strong believers in lightweight footwear. For many years, as runners, backpackers, climbers, and mountaineers, we have intimately known the importance of minimizing the weight on our feet. It's much more important than lightening up the weight of your backpack, for example, because for every step you make, you are lifting and setting down your foot with all the weight of the shoe on it. Some estimate that for every pound of weight you put on your feet, it is as if you added between 6 to 10 pounds of weight to your backpack. That's huge. We like to run long distances, covering miles of terrain, and sometimes we like to run short distances really fast. Either way, we appreciate having as little as possible on our feet to weigh us down.

Light and nimble, launching off in the Speed Force.
Light and nimble, launching off in the Speed Force.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Traction


The 4.5mm thick FeelTrue rubber sole on the Speed Force has chevron-shaped lugs on the bottom for traction in all types of terrain. These are not deep lugs for maximal traction on trail, but we find that with softer, more supple shoes in the minimalist category, this is unnecessary. With thinner soles, your foot can bend to match the terrain (if you have adequately trained your foot's proprioception by easing into minimalist footwear or doing a lot of barefoot walking and some running and foot strengthening drills), which means your feet can actually grip the ground.


This not only feels great but with our carefully-trained feet, it works. The lugs on the Speed Force change direction from heel to toe to help your toes grab the earth and propel you forward, switching at the heel to help prevent you from sliding downhill on loose dirt.

The Speed Force have great traction on the court, track, road, and...
The Speed Force have great traction on the court, track, road, and trails.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Versatility


The main limitation of these shoes is really rugged and/or sharp terrain. The thin soles don't tell the whole story here — some other shoes with only 5mm of rubber underfoot feature a stiffer rubber. The sole on the Speed Force shoes is so supple that it doesn't blunt sharp objects quite as well as stiffer rubber soles.


The sole is plenty for sharp (and consistent) gravel, so long as you have trained your feet adequately to handle some stimulation. But if you're launching into really rocky terrain, you're likely to find discomfort, and you may even damage the shoes. These are lightweight specialist shoes designed for gentler terrain, like a track, road, or soft dirt trail. That said, we took these on a lot of rough trails, and they still emerged in our ranking near the top of this review.

The Speed Force is designed as a racing shoe, but we loved it for...
The Speed Force is designed as a racing shoe, but we loved it for all of our runs.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Durability


The Speed Force is designed to be a performance racing shoe, not a daily driver. The fabrics are light, breathable, and quite thin. The Huarache-inspired heel strap will likely get scuffed over time if you regularly run on rugged trails. However, the shoes are also very simple, and the suppleness means minimal stress at the seams. There is little to fail, so these are most likely to wear out over time.


Value


As a performance racing shoe, you may not turn to the Speed Force as your daily running shoe. However, we enjoyed running in them so much and on such a variety of terrain — from roads to gravel to trails — that we ended up grabbing them often for a quick trip around the block or for a couple hours on the trails. If you love running in minimal footwear, these shoes are an excellent value and are well worth it even if they wear out a little sooner because of the lightweight materials.

Conclusion


The Speed Force is one of the best minimalist shoes we have tested and was the clear choice for our Editors' Choice Award. We have followed Xero Shoes since we started reviewing barefoot shoes, seeing great attention to detail and passion for footwear you'll love to wear. We did not anticipate such a step up from Xero, and we are thrilled at the inspiration behind the Speed Force. It is so light and soft you'll barely know it's there, yet reliable and secure in its fit, staying close and moving with you. This is an excellent value for a running shoe that will help your feet stay strong and cover miles of diverse terrain — anywhere you're bold enough to take them.

Ready... Set... Go! Get yourself a pair of Speed Force shoes and...
Ready... Set... Go! Get yourself a pair of Speed Force shoes and prepare for fun on all your runs.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Lyra Pierotti