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Xero Shoes Prio Review

This versatile shoe may be a bit bulky, but it helps set the standard for barefoot trainers
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xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review
Credit: Amazon
Price:  $90 List
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Manufacturer:   Xero
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 1, 2020
  • Performance - 30% 8.0
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 8.0
  • Weight - 15% 5.0
  • Traction - 15% 6.0
  • Versatility - 10% 7.0
  • Durability - 5% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Xero Shoes Prio comes from a manufacturer who largely made huaraches and sandals up until the release of this shoe. Though bulky in appearance and weightier than most, these shoes stay true to the barefoot design that first brought Xero recognition — the footing of the Prio feels very similar to the huraches modeled from the sandals worn by the ultra-running Tarahumara tribe of Chihuahua, Mexico. These trainers offer an overall roomy fit, a particularly wide toe box, and an optional insole if you're looking for a little additional support and cushioning. Though the outsole isn't particularly grippy on trail, the flat, flexible design allows for natural foot positioning and improved proprioception. The Prio earns our Top Pick for Road Running, as well as a recommendation for those looking to transition to barefoot running.
Minimal stack height
Overly padded upper

Our Analysis and Test Results

A true zero-drop shoe that lays close to the ground, the Prio offers an optional removable insole that adds an additional 2mm of cushion to the otherwise ultra-minimal 5.5mm outsole. The straps on the sides of the shoe are more for function than fashion. Based on the huarache design, these straps can be pulled to tighten the heel pocket, and since they are incorporated into the lacing system, naturally pull the upper around your foot the tighter you tie the laces.

Performance Comparison

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - these ultra-comfortable, true barefoot trainers are ready to tackle...
These ultra-comfortable, true barefoot trainers are ready to tackle as many miles as you can handle.
Credit: Aaron Rice


Although these road runners do not fit the archetypal appearance of a barefoot shoe, they are deceptively minimalist in design. More than just an extra-wide toe box, the whole shoe is specifically designed to be roomy so that your entire foot has room to spread out. This is particularly noticeable in uneven terrain, where your foot is unhindered to adjust to its proper position within the shoe, offering you naturally more stable footing.

This is one of the few shoes we tested that has absolutely no toe-spring, rendering it completely flat from heel-to-toe. While it does lack a bit of downward flexion, it is incredibly flexible upward right at the natural point where the ball of the foot meets the toes. This allows for a comfortable running experience and enables you to activate both the support of your arch and the rebound of your toes. Though not as lightweight as other trainers we tested, the Prio glides smoothly across pavement.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - fortunately here in the desert southwest, we're blessed with dry...
Fortunately here in the desert Southwest, we're blessed with dry trails all year long. Despite their durability, these shoes fair better on the roads.
Credit: Aaron Rice

The Prio includes a Chevron-style tread that efficiently sheds water, but the low-profile lugs are not exactly grippy off-road. It is certainly possible — and quite enjoyable — for these shoes to crossover as trail runners, but they are more apt to the road or gym. We particularly appreciate the thoughtful addition of an optional, 2mm insole. This provides a bit of arch support for those who need it (without diminishing ground-feel) and will likely help ease the transition for those trying out barefoot-style shoes for the first time.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - pulling back the optional insole reveals nothing but a thin, mesh...
Pulling back the optional insole reveals nothing but a thin, mesh base overlaying the topside of the outsole.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Barefoot Accuracy

With the added insole, the Prio is an excellent, genuine barefoot-style road runner with just a bit of cushion. Without the insole, the proprietary FeelTrue rubber of the thin, 5.5mm outsole provides the raw feedback diehard barefoot runners expect. Xero designers wouldn't dream of including a midsole, so your foot lies right next to the ground in this true zero-drop shoe.

They are certainly not as lightweight as other road trainers we tested, but they are nearly unmatched when it comes to barefoot accuracy. Without the optional insole, there is no form of conventional support — but even with the insole, the difference in ground-feel is negligible. Mainly, the Prio is remarkably stable, thanks to its wide design that allows your foot to create its own solid platform naturally.

These shoes don't need any support from built-in toe spring. All of...
These shoes don't need any support from built-in toe spring. All of the power and action should derive from your feet.
Unfortunately, they do not have the same downward flexion in the toe...
Unfortunately, they do not have the same downward flexion in the toe box. Instead, they tend to flex closer to the midfoot, which helps with arch rebound but doesn't do much for pushing off from your toes.

Although the Prio is flexible upward, we do wish we were able to dig-in more with our toes to grip the ground for improved bounding — we often found our toes slipping in the oversized toe box. It seems like some of the extra padding on the upper could be sacrificed to save on swing weight, but it does make this a super comfortable shoe to slip on. The upper is a majority mesh, which does a fantastic job when it comes to breathability and thermoregulation.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - we found that the way that these shoes allow your feet to settle...
We found that the way that these shoes allow your feet to settle into their natural positioning results in a fun, springy gait (or maybe that's just how we're supposed to run!)
Credit: Aaron Rice


Still much more lightweight than many other conventional trainers, the Prio is easily one of the heaviest shoes in our review. Regardless of its true barefoot-feel, this shoe is bulky — the design almost reminds us of a skate shoe. At its most minimal, it weighs in at 8.4 ounces per shoe. That's nearly two ounces heavier than the closest competitor, and if you include the optional insole, each shoe tips the scale at 8.8 ounces.

Despite its extra weight, we believe other trainers in our review could have been served by having a more robust insole like the one in the Prio. Oftentimes, runners struggle with giving themselves time for their feet to recover between workouts. The optional insole provides you the flexibility to decide before a run whether you want more or less support that day. While these options mean that this trainer is heavier than most of the pack, it does afford an extra level of comfort that those transitioning to barefoot-style shoes will likely appreciate.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - here, the prio weighs in with the optional insole inserted.
Here, the Prio weighs in with the optional insole inserted.
Credit: Aaron Rice


Like many of the barefoot runners we tested, the Prio fails to achieve high marks in traction as soon as the roadways become wet or slick. On damp, flat surfaces in particular, the low-profile lugs don't do a great job of shedding water, leading to a few awkward slips.

But on dry days and mixed-surface runs, the Prio is a fair shoe. The rubber is not particularly tacky, and although the downward flexion is somewhat compromised compared to others we tested, the thin outsole still offers natural grip from the toes. The v-shaped, "Chevron" style lugs are thoughtfully reversed on the heel, providing some level of extra traction on downhills. Expect better performance on pavement and compact surfaces like gravel or dirt roads — on loose, rocky trails, the lugs are simply too shallow to prevent slipping.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - the v-shaped lugs work well on pavement, but are too shallow to grip...
The v-shaped lugs work well on pavement, but are too shallow to grip very well on trail.
Credit: Aaron Rice


As a shoe that is clearly devoted to the core ideals of barefoot running, the Prio is surprisingly versatile. It is lightweight and breathable enough to run roads even on the hottest days of summer, yet burly enough to withstand light precipitation and the colder running conditions of spring and fall. Unfortunately, this trainer does not confidently crossover into trail running, where its unreliable tread pattern left us feeling less than confident, particularly in rugged, technical terrain.

The Prio seems like a compelling option for those looking to transition from conventional to barefoot-style running shoes. Notably, it feels more substantial than other core models while still offering a true zero-drop design and superb barefoot accuracy. Most importantly, the optional insole offers enough additional support while you work on adjusting your running style and building up the musculature of your feet.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - for even, packed dirt like this popular river path, these shoes...
For even, packed dirt like this popular river path, these shoes perform just fine. We also appreciate the extra warmth they offer when running in the fall.
Credit: Aaron Rice


We've driven home the point that the Prio doesn't look like a typical barefoot shoe. But, this point is amplified when considering the durability of this rugged shoe. Though far from heavy by conventional standards, these shoes differ greatly from the pack when you consider their meaty build.

The upper utilizes a tightly woven, dual-layer mesh. That body is overlaid with a synthetic leather that is both remarkably flexible and impressively abrasion-resistant. The durable design is most easily noticeable around the toe box, which is reinforced with multiple layers of this same synthetic layer.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - toe boxes often see a lot of wear-and-tear, so designers opted to...
Toe boxes often see a lot of wear-and-tear, so designers opted to reinforce that zone with an extra layer of synthetic leather.
Credit: Aaron Rice

An integral part of the huarache-inspired design, the external straps also add an additional level of support to the lacing system. The sole extends up the sides at the midfoot, almost like an external TPU stabilizer. While this in no way adds the same type of conventional support, it does help secure the shoe to your foot and increase durability in a spot that often scuffs and wears out quickly.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - the adjustable, huarache-style straps also include a reflective...
The adjustable, huarache-style straps also include a reflective strip, improving your visibility when running at night.
Credit: Aaron Rice


For those who are looking to bridge the gap between conventional trainers and barefoot road runners, the Prio offers you a shoe that comfortably walks that line. This is a great trainer, offered at a great price. Although the skate-shoe inspired design may not appeal to all, we appreciate that these shoes can be worn more casually than some of the other models we tested, only adding to their versatility.

xero shoes prio barefoot shoes review - don't be thrown off by their unusual size and shape... we absolutely...
Don't be thrown off by their unusual size and shape... we absolutely loved running in these high-quality, barefoot trainers.
Credit: Aaron Rice


When it comes to minimalist training, the Xero Shoes Prio is a shoe that offers solid protection while staying true to its barefoot-running roots. From the adjustable huarache-style straps to the optional insole, no other shoe we tested provides the same flexibility of design features. As our Top Pick for Road Running, this shoe is likely to inspire your running for years to come.

Aaron Rice

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