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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
Pros:  Versatile, durable, tough, unique
Cons:  Weighty, aggressively barefoot in design
Manufacturer:   Xero
By Thomas King and Aaron Rice  ⋅  May 8, 2020
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 7
  • Performance - 30% 9
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 7
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 10% 8
  • Durability - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The Xero Shoes Prio comes from a manufacturer who largely made huaraches and sandals before a couple years ago. They struck it big with their ultra-running sandals modeled after the Tarahumara came to fame in the book "Born to Run." Xero then 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 are a great first effort for the company and an excellent choice for runners who want some of the features that this shoe offers. A roomy fit, removable insole, and truly flat sole — all melded into a fairly priced model — make this our Top Pick for Road Running. These are best for runners that want a shoe that looks conventional, but 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 in this review, you have several other color options to choose from, like the black and white shown above. Besides color options, this shoe remains unchanged.

May 2020

Compare to Similar Products

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, even wrapping around the entire shoe. These options give wearers the opportunity to make their own choices about how the shoe should fit, something we're confident everyone appreciates having a little more control over.

Performance Comparison


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.

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 the Prio. 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.

When you remove the insole, 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! 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, the Prio doesn't look like a barefoot shoe, but who cares? It is a delicate balance to strike in a category that can be so nuanced. We found that the looped lace design, as well as the option to remove the insole, creates an excellent mix of comfort and accuracy to the stated effort of producing a barefoot trainer.


Weight


Still much more lightweight than many other conventional trainers, the Prio is by far the heaviest shoe 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 9.3 ounces per shoe — that's two full ounces heavier than the closest competitor. If you include the optional insole, each shoe tips the scale at 9.7 ounces.


But 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. 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. While these options mean that this shoe is heavier than most of the pack, it does afford an extra level of comfort.

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.

Traction


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.


Unfortunately, the outsole design just didn't cut it. Maybe it needs more pockets or better water-flow management, but on 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 in during downpours anyhow.

Versatility


We found the Prio to be incredibly versatile when based on the fact that it is a shoe devoted to the core ideals of barefoot running. 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.

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

Durability


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.


The Prio is not weighty by any stretch when compared to conventional running shoes, but it is the heaviest in this review at 9.7 ounces with the insole and 9.3 ounces without (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 dig the wrap-around reflective material built-in with the huarache style straps that secure this 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 day or during overcast, rainy weather.

Value


These are a great price for such a versatile shoe. The price, coupled with the shoe's performance compared directly to other road trainers, earned it a Top Pick for Road Running. 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.

Conclusions


The Xero Shoes Prio is a great shoe to consider for minimalist road running. The options you get for the insole, and the adjustable wrap-around strap are cool features, whether you use them or not. Among the pack of winners in our barefoot shoe review, this is a great product from Xero that we were psyched to review and bestow a Top Pick Award upon.

Thomas King and Aaron Rice