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Xero Shoes Prio Review

This versatile, rugged shoe is a bit bulky and clunky looking but performs as well or better than more established minimalist designs out there.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $90 List | $90.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, durable, tough, unique
Cons:  Weighty, aggressively barefoot in design
Manufacturer:   Xero
By Thomas King and Aaron Rice  ⋅  Aug 21, 2019
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#2 of 8
  • Running Performance - 30% 9
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 7
  • Comfort - 15% 8
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 10% 8
  • Durability - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The Xero Shoes Prio strikes out new territory for a manufacturer who largely made huaraches and sandals before now. They struck it big with their ultra-running sandals modeled after the Tarahumara came to fame in the book "Born to Run." Xero came out with some interesting design choices that look bulky for a barefoot shoe. These are the heaviest at just under 10 ounces, but we found that they were a great first effort for the company and an excellent choice for runners who want some of the features that this shoe offers. Those features melded into a fair priced model make this our Top Pick for everyday use. These are best for runners that want a shoe that looks conventional, that gives the user some options and performs very well as a road trainer.

New Colors

Though the Prio is no longer offered in the yellow and black combo that we tested, you have several other color options to choose from, like the black and white shown above. Besides color options, this shoe

April 2019

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Our Analysis and Test Results

With an optional removable insole that drops these from a 2mm cushion to practically nothing, we enjoyed running in these barefoot shoes. The wrapped straps on the upper can be adjusted to form-fit your feet, and it even wraps around the entire shoe. These options give wearers the opportunity to make their own choices about how the shoe should fit, and we're confident everyone would appreciate a little bit more control over fit.

Performance Comparison

Running Performance

These road trainers are deceptively minimalist in design and accomplish exactly what they set out to do.

Whether you use the optional 2 mm insole or not, you feel every hit of the ground in these. After a few runs without the insole, you will have an idea whether you want it or not. Frankly, these are as aggressive as other more minimal designs when it comes to raw feedback and road performance, but that's not a good thing for all runners.

They may look clunky for a barefoot style shoe  but the Xero Prio feels great on a long run day.
They may look clunky for a barefoot style shoe, but the Xero Prio feels great on a long run day.

Some may like that amount of feedback; we chose to put the insole back in though. With the added insole, the Prio is an excellent, genuinely barefoot road-style shoe with zero drop.

Barefoot Accuracy

Again, they don't look like a barefoot shoe, but who cares? We still drew looks on a couple of group runs for their yellow flair and probably because they aren't as obviously branded as other, more dominant brands in this category.

However, the actual accuracy of being both a shoe and a barefoot shoe suffered some against the leaders in the pack. It is a delicate balance to strike in a category that can be so nuanced.

Side by side comparison of road shoe design.
Side by side comparison of road shoe design.


We found that the more looped lace design, as well as the option to remove the insole, created an excellent mix of comfort and accuracy to the stated effort of producing a barefoot trainer.

As you can see, the insole slips right out, and instead of revealing an unfriendly picture of the visible inner construction of the shoe, staples and bolts and the like, there is another option for runners, the choice to run even more barefoot — with even less support than the insole offers!

The Prio has a removable insole if you'd rather stay true to barefoot-style.
The Prio has a removable insole if you'd rather stay true to barefoot-style.

Other trainers in our review could have been served by having a more robust insole like the one here. Runners looking for the flexibility to decide before a run whether they want more or less support based on how well they recover might prefer a shoe like this one. But, alternatively, run without it and it's low-profile is unforgiving at transferring the feel of the road. Maybe the heavier weight of this shoe gives it a better overall comfort. It's hard to determine why these felt so good to wear, but they just nailed it in ways other shoes could not quite match.


It was the rainy, misty season when we tested these out in Central Virginia, and that means we saw how they did on wet roads and cobbles.

This outsole design just didn't cut it. Maybe it needed more pockets or better water-flow management, but on even damp, dewy flat surfaces we had a couple of weird slips.

Not the best purchase in wet conditions  the Prio fared just average in traction.
Not the best purchase in wet conditions, the Prio fared just average in traction.

On the dry days and mixed surface runs, the Prio is a fair shoe. It's fantastic at airflow management and keeping your feet dry and cool unless you're getting rained out, but you probably have a special trash-shoe that you run on downpours anyhow.


Based on the fact that the Prio is a shoe devoted to core ideals of barefoot running, in that light we found it to be incredibly versatile. It was lightweight and breathable enough to run roads even in the hottest weather, and burly enough to withstand light precipitation and cold. It only fell short on trails, particularly in technically rugged terrain, where we didn't feel as confident due to its unreliable tread-pattern.

Most interestingly, we felt the Prio could be a great option for those looking to transition from conventional to minimalist running shoes. It maintains core traits, like a wide toe box and low stack height, but feels more substantial than other models. Most importantly, it sports a comfortable amount of cushioning in the insole, that — when the time comes to devote fully — may be removed to put your foot right next to the ground.


This is a rugged shoe. We've harped a lot on how it doesn't look like a typical barefoot shoe, and that might be why it feels so durable.

It's not weighty by any stretch of conventional running shoes, but it is the weightiest in this review at 9.7 ounces with the insole in and 9.3 ounces without it (on a size 11). The Prio differs in a big enough way from other, flimsier designs in terms of the amount of material that went into this meatier build. No other contender stuck out as having exceptionally bad or good durability. Some shoes had some spots we cast sideways glances at, but among the barefoot competitors, everyone did reasonably well.

These huarache-like straps on the Prio are also reflective tape and are very visible in low-light conditions.
These huarache-like straps on the Prio are also reflective tape and are very visible in low-light conditions.

We dug the wrap-around reflective material built-in with the huarache style straps that secure the shoe. There's a lot of it, and it promotes visibility out there on the road in any low light scenario, whether early or late in the date or during rainy days like the one in this picture.


These are a great price for such a versatile shoe. This price, coupled with the shoe's performance in the pack of barefoot shoes, earned it Top Pick for everyday use. Frankly, not enough companies throw fun, cool ideas at you. Sure, you might never take the insole out of these, but at least you know you can. A lot of shoes out there cost way more than this and are only marginally different, so if you want bang for your buck, these are for you.


The Xero Shoes Prio is a new product line for this company which has mostly been doing sandals before now. The options you get for the insole and the adjustable wrap-around strap are cool new features whether you use them or not. Among the pack of winners in the barefoot shoe review, this is a great first new stab at the product line from Xero.

Thomas King and Aaron Rice