Xero Z-Trail EV Review
Compare to Similar Products
Xero Z-Trail EV
$79.95 at REI
|$115 List||$65 List|
$59.99 at Amazon
$15.80 at Amazon
|Pros||Minimalist, flexible, featherweight, eco-friendly||Lightweight, versatile, excellent traction||Very affordable, light, comfortable||Comfortable, lightweight, low-profile design||Adjustable slip style, soft footbed, comfortable|
|Cons||Thin, lack of support, durability||Not best for high arches||Less supportive than others, loses some traction when wet||Narrow, lack of traction, no adjustability||Limited traction, stability, and versatility|
|Bottom Line||An amazingly lightweight sandal with superb comfort, flexibility, and a compact design||This lightweight sandal is comfortable, durable, and capable of handling anything out on the trail||Impressive comfort and solid all-around performance in a lightweight and affordable package||As simple as simple gets for a slip-on sandal that is ready for casual daily use||Solid sandal with a gel-like footbed, perfect for around the house and town|
|Rating Categories||Xero Z-Trail EV||Bedrock Cairn Adven...||Teva Katavi 2||Adidas Adilette Aqu...||Under Armour Ignite...|
|Specs||Xero Z-Trail EV||Bedrock Cairn Adven...||Teva Katavi 2||Adidas Adilette Aqu...||Under Armour Ignite...|
|Weight (per Pair)||0.76 lbs (size 10)||1.10 lbs (size 10)||1.36 lbs (size 9)||0.59 lbs (size 10)||0.61 lbs (size 10)|
|Footbed Material||BareFoam||Granite Grip rubber||Contoured EVA||Cloudfoam||Performance 4D Foam|
|Midsole Material||TrailFoam||Rubber||EVA||EVA||Performance 4D Foam|
|Sole Material||FeelLite rubber||Vibram XS Trek Regolith||Durabrasion rubber||EVA||EVA|
|Upper Material||Polyester||Premium webbing||Suede||Molded EVA||Synthetic strap with soft foam|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Xero Z-Trail EV was designed as a minimalistic barefoot-style sandal. This is a unique sandal within our lineup of more general-use options; however, it is still a solid contender. Chosen due to the splash it has caused amongst the barefoot running community; this sandal handles itself well compared to its more technical or perhaps well-rounded counterparts. The ultralight design didn't cut any corners or produce a fragile sandal compared to others. Instead, it provides a ridiculously lightweight sandal suited for adventures.
Minimalistic shoes and sandals, in general, have a bad rap for being too thin or uncomfortable, especially when it comes to cushioning. The Z-Trail EV still offers some cushion and scores well in our rating, despite being thinner than most. The sandal features a dual-layer footbed with a mix of three materials. The softer footbed provides some cushion to the sole of your foot, mixed with alternating harder rubber for traction and softer foam sections for flexibility. Add in the subtle cupping of your heel and thin webbing, and this sandal is a highly comfortable option for lounging around.
The Xero Z-Trail EV is the successor to the ever-popular Xero Z-Trail. Xero's update to a fan favorite brought a slightly thicker footbed and reinforced the side tabs and nylon webbing made from water recycled water bottles. The feel of this sandal is even better than its predecessor, with these upgrades in both sustainability and comfort.
The Z-Trail EV features a unique mix of rubber and foam tread on the outsole. Starting at the forefoot, there are relatively dense lugs for steep scrambling on rocks, followed by a thin foam strip offering flexibility at the tarsals of the foot. At the ball of the foot, there is a beefy strip of rubber with open lugs for dirtier or even muddy trails. The midfoot features a foam section that doesn't provide much traction but does increase flexibility. The heel features both kinds of lugs, which are good for stopping power and downhill terrain. This mixed tread design, atypical of a sandal, offers solid traction across most terrains.
The composite sole works well but falls short on slimy, wet rocks and tree roots, especially midfoot. However, this sandal was designed to provide a barefoot running feel, and when barefoot running, your midfoot is rarely the point of contact. That being said, it functions well as a running sandal but less so as an adventure sandal.
Stability is at the opposite end of the spectrum from minimalist design. As expected, the Xero Z-Trail EV underperformed here. The heart of a minimalist design is to add as little structure or support or change to how a foot naturally moves when under load. The footbed conforms around your foot and moves with it well, but if support is what you are after, a minimalist sandal isn't what you want.
The tabs that the webbing attaches to are reinforced at the instep. This and the minor heel cup give a rather nice hug-like feel to the sandal. Giving this sandal a conforming fit adds stability for your foot within the sandal. The Z-Trail EV isn't going to move or leave your foot, but it isn't going to give your foot much structural support. The Z-Trail EV is explicitly designed not to provide structural support.
The strap system on the sandal is straightforward, with a buckle over the top of your foot and a velcro strap around the heel. The forefoot adjustment runs back to the same buckle on the top of the midfoot. Dialing in the fit with the shoe is easy and locks your foot in well. Our testers found the Velcro adjustment in the back makes slipping in and out of the sandals easy and quick.
The Z-Trail EV flexibility makes it hard to get a snug fit. Tightly cinching down, the webbing pulls on the rubber, and there is some give, making these sandals less ideal for technical terrain where a tight fit is needed. Some mild friction across the forefoot causes hot spots and even a tiny blister when pushed hard over scrambling terrain. We feel the Z-Trail EV comes close to a perfect fit, but not entirely due to its flexible sole.
It is clear by now that the Z-Trail EV was designed to hit a niche crowd. Its minimalist design paired with ultralight style and construction makes this shoe great for some, but not for all. This sandal can still handle moderate trails and inclines, but pushing its limits to the technical side of the spectrum for the average user will fall short.
The traction mentioned above issues takes this sandal out of the running for wet weather activities or water sports. While great for trail running, its limited rubber sole doesn't lend itself well to watersports. These ultralight sandals make for a great companion outside of technical hiking and watersports. Lending itself well to a camp sandal for the backpacker, ultralight urban sandal, or any place your average day takes you. These sandals' packability and lightweight design on or off your feet can easily fit in a backpack or pocket. The versatility of this footwear comes not from their technical prowess but from their ability to go with you anywhere.
Should You Buy the Z-Trail EV?
We found this sandal to be a nice overall sandal throughout the testing. The comfort, style, weight, and easy packability make it a solid go-anywhere choice. Not as high-performing across the board as more technical options, the Z-Trail EV has tremendous potential as a second footwear option for adventures. The sandal will serve the average user well as a lower-cost and lighter-weight alternative to a heavy sandal for those who appreciate lightweight flexibility over a workhorse sandal. Pricewise these sandals fall near the middle of the entire lineup. While a minimalist design limits the overall versatility of the sandal, users looking for a minimalist sandal will surely enjoy this one. Some may get more out of it, while others may need a burlier sandal to suit their needs. Overall, the value of the sandal accurately represents its versatility for the average user.
What Other Sandals Should You Consider?
A lightweight, easy to pack, and wear sandal is the Bedrock Cairn Adventure. This shoe offers impressive traction and adjustability for almost any foot. It has a slightly higher price, but you get better stability and versatility with the Cairn, making it a potentially better option for some. If you are looking for a closed-toe shoe for more rugged protection, the Keen Newport H2 has better overall protection and stability with good traction. The Chaco Z/Volv 2 is a great choice for a more traditional sandal with ample straps.
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More