Xero Z-Trail EV Review
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Xero Z-Trail EV
$79.95 at REI
|$48.72 at Backcountry||$70 List|
$65.00 at Amazon
|$39.25 at Amazon|
Compare at 4 sellers
$21.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Minimalist, flexible, featherweight, eco-friendly||Affordable, lightweight, great traction||Affordable, light, comfortable||Classic design, plush footbed, great value||Comfortable, lightweight, low-profile design|
|Cons||Thin, lack of support, durability||Less padding, not as supportive||Less supportive than others, loses some traction when wet||Poor wet traction, limited adjustability||Narrow, lack of traction, no adjustability|
|Bottom Line||An amazingly lightweight sandal with superb comfort, flexibility, and a compact design||This one is worth a look if you are looking for a solid mid-range sandal with decent traction, comfort, and no need for extra support||Impressive comfort and solid all-around performance in a lightweight and affordable package||This sandal combines classic aesthetics with lightweight comfort and a lightweight price tag||As simple as simple gets for a slip-on sandal that is ready for casual daily use|
|Rating Categories||Xero Z-Trail EV||Teva Hurricane XLT2||Teva Katavi 2||Teva Original Unive...||Adidas Adilette Aqu...|
|Specs||Xero Z-Trail EV||Teva Hurricane XLT2||Teva Katavi 2||Teva Original Unive...||Adidas Adilette Aqu...|
|Weight (per pair)||0.76 lbs (size 10)||0.97 lbs (size 9)||1.36 lbs (size 9)||0.84 lbs (size 10)||0.59 lbs (size 10)|
|Footbed Material||BareFoam||EVA||Contoured EVA||EVA||Cloudfoam|
|Sole Material||FeelLite Rubber||Rubber||Durabrasion Rubber||Rubber||EVA|
|Upper Material||Polyester||Repreve Recycled Polyester||Suede||Recycled Plastic||Molded EVA|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Xero Z-Trail EV is a minimalistic barefoot-style sandal, setting it apart from our general-use options. But it remains a strong contender, owing to its impact on the barefoot running community. This sandal performs well compared to its more technical or well-rounded counterparts. The ultralight design does not compromise durability, resulting in an exceptionally lightweight sandal suitable for adventures.
Minimalistic shoes and sandals often receive criticism for being too thin or uncomfortable, particularly regarding cushioning. However, despite its thinner design, the Z-Trail EV provides some solid cushioning and ranks well in our comfort rating. The sandal features a dual-layer footbed composed of three materials. The softer footbed offers cushion for the sole of your foot, combined with alternating harder rubber for traction and softer foam sections for flexibility. The subtle heel cupping and thin webbing make it a highly comfortable option for lounging.
The Xero Z-Trail EV succeeds the popular Xero Z-Trail. Xero's update to this fan favorite includes a slightly thicker footbed, reinforced side tabs, and nylon webbing made from recycled water bottles. The sandal feels even better than its predecessor, thanks to these upgrades in sustainability and comfort.
The Z-Trail EV has a distinctive mix of rubber and foam tread on the outsole. Dense lugs at the forefoot provide grip for steep scrambling on rocks, followed by a thin foam strip offering flexibility at the tarsals of the foot. A robust strip of rubber with open lugs at the ball of the foot is suitable for dirtier or even muddy trails. The midfoot features a foam section that increases flexibility but offers limited traction. Both lugs are in the heel, making them suitable for stopping power and downhill terrain. This mixed tread design, uncommon in a sandal, provides reliable traction across most terrains.
While the composite sole functions well, it struggles on slippery, wet rocks and tree roots, particularly in the midfoot. However, this sandal is designed for a barefoot running experience, and when running barefoot, the midfoot is rarely the point of contact. With that in mind, it works well as a running sandal but is less effective than an adventure sandal.
Stability contrasts with minimalist design. As anticipated, the Xero Z-Trail EV underperforms in this area. The goal of this design is minimal change to the natural movement of a barefoot under load, and the footbed molds around your foot and moves with it effectively. But a minimalist sandal might not be the right choice if you need or want extra support from your footwear.
The tabs connecting the webbing are reinforced at the instep. This reinforcement, combined with the slight heel cup, creates a snug, hugging sensation in the sandal. This conforming fit adds stability to your foot within the sandal. While the Z-Trail EV won't move or leave your foot, it also won't provide much structural support. The Z-Trail EV is explicitly designed to avoid providing structural support.
The sandal's strap system is simple, featuring a buckle over the top of your foot and a Velcro strap around the heel. The forefoot adjustment connects back to the same buckle on the top of the midfoot. Dialing in the fit is easy and securely locks your foot. Our testers found that the Velcro adjustment in the back allows quick and easy slipping in and out of the sandals.
The Z-Trail EV's flexibility makes it challenging to achieve a snug fit. When tightly cinched, the webbing pulls on the rubber, resulting in some give, making these sandals less suitable for technical terrain where a tight fit is essential. Mild friction across the forefoot can cause hot spots and even a tiny blister during strenuous scrambling terrain. The Z-Trail EV comes close to a perfect fit, but its flexible sole prevents it from reaching that point.
It is evident now that the Z-Trail EV is designed for a niche audience. The minimalist design, ultralight style, and construction make this shoe perfect for some, but not all. This sandal can handle moderate trails and inclines, but pushing its limits to the technical side of the spectrum for the average user will fall short.
The abovementioned traction renders this sandal unsuitable for wet weather activities or water sports. While excellent for trail running, its limited rubber sole is unsuited for watersports. These ultralight sandals serve as an excellent companion outside of technical hiking and watersports, functioning well as a camp sandal for backpackers, an ultralight urban sandal, or any place your average day takes you. These sandals' packability and lightweight design make them easy to carry in a backpack or pocket. The versatility of this footwear stems not from their technical prowess but from their ability to accompany you anywhere.
Should You Buy the Z-Trail EV?
Throughout our testing, we found this sandal to be a pleasant overall option. Its comfort, style, weight, and easy packability make it a solid go-anywhere choice. While it may not perform as well as more technical options, the Z-Trail EV has considerable potential as a secondary footwear option for adventures. The sandal will satisfy the average user as a lower-cost and lighter-weight alternative to a heavy sandal for those who value lightweight flexibility over a workhorse sandal. Regarding pricing, these sandals fall near the middle of our entire lineup. Although its minimalist design limits the overall versatility of the sandal, users seeking a minimalist sandal will enjoy this one. Some may get more out of it, while others may require a sturdier sandal to meet their needs. Overall, the value of the sandal accurately reflects its versatility for the average user.
What Other Sandals Should You Consider?
The Bedrock Cairn Adventure is a lightweight, easy-to-pack sandal that offers impressive traction and adjustability for almost any foot. Though slightly more expensive, the Cairn provides better stability and versatility, making it a better option for some. If you want a closed-toe shoe for more rugged protection, the Keen Newport H2 offers improved overall protection and stability with good traction.
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