An almost impossibly lightweight and immediately comfortable shoe, the Xero Z-Trail EV gets our Top Pick for Camp Sandals. Whether you take them along for the occasional creek crossing or have them ready to change into at camp after a long day hiking in boots, you'll barely notice them in your pack and they'll be worth every ounce. Not only are they great in the backcountry, but they look good around town too. A slim and stylish fit makes them a great sandal to wear biking to the closest brewery in your best casual outfit. This minimalist sandal is a fantastic option to add to your warm-weather wardrobe.Editor's Note: This gear review now includes information about the top-ranking sandals we love and why you should consider them. It occurred on March 23, 2022.
Xero Z-Trail EV - Women's Review
Cons: Thin sole not comfortable over varying terrain, minimal adjustability, becomes unstable hiking downhill or when wet
Manufacturer: Xero Shoes
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Xero Z-Trail EV - Women's
$79.95 at REI
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|Pros||Ultralight, comfortable, stylish, great for camping||Stable and supportive, stylish, durable||Great traction, stable, stylish||Versatile, adjustable, excellent traction||Comfortable, good traction, stylish|
|Cons||Thin sole not comfortable over varying terrain, minimal adjustability, becomes unstable hiking downhill or when wet||Annoying to adjust, uncomfortable for the flat-footed, heavy||Short straps, difficult to adjust, can't be worn with socks||Doesn't fit all feet, tricky to adjust at first, heavy||Very floppy sole, not suitable for rugged use|
|Bottom Line||Our tester's pick for best camp sandals, this shoe is comfortable and versatile||Whether you're hiking or rafting or hanging out, this classic design plays well for the long haul||This pared-down sandal delivers the performance wearers expect from a classic Chaco, but with less weight and bulk||This durable, versatile model will keep you comfortable from the backcountry to your own backyard||This classic option can't hack it on super rugged terrain, but it's a great value pick for casual outdoor use|
|Rating Categories||Xero Z-Trail EV - W...||Chaco Z/Cloud 2||Chaco Z/Volv X2 - W...||Chaco Z/1 Classic -...||Teva Original Unive...|
|Specs||Xero Z-Trail EV - W...||Chaco Z/Cloud 2||Chaco Z/Volv X2 - W...||Chaco Z/1 Classic -...||Teva Original Unive...|
|Weight (pounds per pair)||0.60 lbs (size 9)||1.44 lbs (size 9)||1.23 lbs (size 10)||1.30 lbs (size 10)||0.73 lbs (size 10)|
|Footbed Material||BareFoam||LUVSEAT PU with textured grooves||LUVSEAT PU with textured grooves||LUVSEAT PU||EVA|
|Midsole Material||TrailFoam||Women's specific LUVSEAT dual-density PU||Women's specific LUVSEAT PU midsole||LUVSEAT PU midsole||EVA|
|Sole Material||FeelLite rubber||Non-marking ChacoGrip||Non-marking EcoTread rubber compound (25% recycled)||ChacoGrip rubber||Rubber|
|Upper Material||Polyester||Polyester jacquard webbing||Polyester jacquard webbing||Polyester jacquard webbing||REPREVE recycled polyester webbing|
|Width Options||Medium||Medium, Wide||Medium||Medium||Medium|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Xero Z-Trail EV gets high marks in many of our testing categories. Our testers were very impressed with how comfortable they were right out of the box, appreciated the simple adjustability, and praised the sandal's versatility and style. While this shoe is not our first choice for all-day, rugged hiking and is not quite as stable as some of the other models we tested, it's a fantastic option for wearing around camp, going on light hikes, and transitioning easily from trail to town.
Though they don't look like much right out of the box, essentially made of a few thin layers of foam with webbing straps, our testers were pleasantly surprised how well they slipped right on and immediately felt comfortable. The texture of the upper layer is soft and supple. The light, Z-pattern webbing straps aren't sharp at all and rest comfortably over your foot, and there is a slight heel cup to keep your heel in place. Our testers experienced no rubbing or chafing and developed no hot spots or blisters from these soft sandals even after weeks of wear.
This "barefoot" design really allows you to feel what's underneath your foot, which is desirable to some but not all. Because these sandals are a mere 10 millimeters thick, you will still feel sharp rocks or sticks under your foot which, to the unaccustomed, will be uncomfortable. It's also worth considering the potential adjustment period for minimalist shoes such as these, especially if you are used to more supportive footwear. If you have arch-support needs or prefer more cushioning for long walks on the pavement around town, you might want to look elsewhere.
We also loved wearing socks with these sandals, which might not gain you the most style points but is definitely a plus for when you're getting camp set up at night, and it starts to get chilly.
The lugs of the updated EV model are deeper than its predecessor, providing better traction over uneven and slippery surfaces. We were impressed how well this shoe fared, gripping well to granite slabs, soft trails, and moderate amounts of scree. The Xero does not quite match the traction of some of the other sandals we tested that have deeper lugs and Vibram rubber, but for a minimalist, lightweight sandal, these do better than expected in this category.
However, this shoe loses points in this category because of its smooth footbed that makes the shoe a bit slippery underfoot. When it gets wet, it becomes a challenge to keep your foot in place, and there are better options if you are looking for a sturdy creek-crossing or water activity-specific shoe.
The Xero is minimalist in many ways, including adjustability. This, however, is not a bad thing, as the simple Z-pattern webbing is a breeze to cinch tight with a mere pull of the strap. This webbing is redirected through a piece of rubber at the toe bed, allowing you to pull it tighter around the front of your foot if so desired.
The back of the foot is supported by a heel strap that cinches closed with velcro. The straps are soft and comfortable against the skin and never feel like they are digging into your foot.
To assess the stability of this sandal, we took it on all different types of trail, from scree to talus to dirt, uphill, and downhill, and noted how well our feet stayed in place. We assessed whether there was a gap between the foot and the footbed and how much the foot tended to slide forward when walking downhill.
This shoe did moderately well in this category but cannot stand up to the heavier and beefier models out there that offer more support. When walking downhill, our feet tended to slide forward no matter how much we adjusted the strap, and the soft material of the footbed made our feet tend to slide slightly when encountering rough terrain. However, this barefoot, minimalist design also has its strengths. Because the shoe is so thin and flexible, you can really feel the changing terrain underneath you, which encourages better balance and allows you to grip the rocks, slopes, or trails you encounter.
While this is not the shoe you would want to wear on rough and technical hikes or backpacking, it is a fantastic shoe for light hikes, easy creek-crossings, to wear around camp, and to waltz into town for a beer when you're done. We love this shoe for its versatility. It performs well enough to meet simple needs in the backcountry, is supremely comfortable for lounging around camp with a pair of socks after a long day in boots, and even looks good enough to pair with some jeans to run errands in town.
It is not our first choice for a versatile technical sandal that can handle hiking with a backpack, spending a lot of time in a river, rough creek-crossings, or running, mostly due to the slippery footbed, tendency for the foot to slide forward in the straps, and thin sole that will unfortunately not be the most durable in the long run.
There are a lot of functional adventure sandals out there that are truly "function over form," but we like that the Xero is simple enough that you won't get strange looks if you walk into a bar wearing them.
One might even say they are actually quite nice looking, with their selection of earth-tone colors and demure and minimalist look. You could easily wear these sandals with a sundress, shorts, or jeans, and tuck your old flip-flops away for good.
Should You Buy the Xero Z-Trail EV?
If you're looking to enter the "barefoot" revolution, the Xero Z-Trail EV may be the perfect gateway drug. Light, comfortable, and supple with decent traction and versatility, this shoe surprised us on many fronts. But a simple sandal can only do so much, and it's best not to have too high expectations from footwear that is best used in more lightweight activities and casual settings. If this is what you're looking for, the Xero will be a great companion for your next camping adventure. It can be hard to justify buying a sandal made with only a few pieces of foam and some webbing for a high price. And if you're looking for a burly, outdoor sandal to last you years of hiking, this is probably not your best bet. But the Xero isn't made for burly pursuits that will wear its thin sole out faster than you can say, "I should've bought Chacos." This sandal's value lies in its incredible weight to be carried along easily on your longest thru-hike, deployed for quick and dirty creek crossings, and pulled out each night at camp to relax in. This is our favorite camp shoe we've come across, and we will use it time and time again as such, and for that reason, we find it worth the cost.
What Other Sandal Should You Consider?
If you want better traction, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure - Women's is a super adjustable thong style sandal with some of the best comfort and traction going. It is slightly heavier than the Xero but still maintains a lighter weight than most competitors. It is more versatile, adjustable, and stable than the Xero as well. It will cost you more, but we think the versatility makes the higher price worth it. Alternatively, if you want a budget sandal that is still light, the Teva Original Universal - Women's is only slightly heavier, and it scores higher in our tests for comfort and traction.
— Miya Tsudome
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