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Xero Z-Trail EV Review

An amazingly lightweight sandal with superb comfort, flexibility, and a compact design
Xero Z-Trail EV
Photo: Xero Shoes
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $85 List | $79.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Minimalist, flexible, featherweight, eco friendly
Cons:  Thin, lack of support, durability
Manufacturer:   Xero Shoes
By Jacob Clark ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 3, 2021
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Traction - 25% 5
  • Stability - 20% 4
  • Adjustability - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Xero Z-Trail EV is one of the lightest, most packable, flexible, and eco-friendly sandals in our lineup. While it may not be the highest rated in the review, this sandal packs a punch and stand out for its featherweight design at only 12 ounces in Size 10 pair. Using recycled materials and simple lightweight design principles, it lends itself well to the gram counting enthusiasts everywhere. This model is a great companion for everyday users as well as ultralight travelers on wheels, trails, or roads. If you want a sandal that feels like it isn't there or a second footwear choice on your next adventure, you are looking at the right sandal.

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Xero Z-Trail EV
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Xero Z-Trail EV
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $79.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Minimalist, flexible, featherweight, eco friendlyLightweight, versatile, excellent tractionSolid construction, comfortable and adjustable, good traction, weighs less than typical ChacosComfortable, rugged, grippy on variable surfacesVery affordable, light, comfortable
Cons Thin, lack of support, durabilityNot best for high archesAdjustment can be tediousExpensive, somewhat heavyLess supportive than others, loses some traction when wet
Bottom Line An amazingly lightweight sandal with superb comfort, flexibility, and a compact designThis lightweight sandal is comfortable, durable, and capable of handling anything out on the trailWith solid all-around performance, this is one of the most dependable models we testedChaco takes a classic sandal and enhances it with a softer footbed materialImpressive comfort and solid all-around performance in a lightweight and affordable package
Rating Categories Xero Z-Trail EV Bedrock Cairn Adven... Chaco Z/Volv 2 Chaco Z/Cloud Teva Katavi 2
Comfort (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Traction (25%)
5.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
4.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Adjustability (15%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Versatility (15%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Xero Z-Trail EV Bedrock Cairn Adven... Chaco Z/Volv 2 Chaco Z/Cloud Teva Katavi 2
Weight per Pair (pounds) 0.76 lbs (size 10) 1.10 lbs (size 10) 1.65 lbs (size 10) 1.81 lbs (size 9) 1.36 lbs (size 9)
Width Options Medium Medium Medium Medium, Wide Medium
Footbed Material BareFoam Granite Grip rubber LuvSeat PU LuvSeat PU Contoured EVA
Midsole Material TrailFoam Rubber LuvSeat PU LuvSeat PU EVA
Sole Material FeelLite rubber Vibram XS Trek Regolith Non-marking EcoTread ChacoGrip rubber Durabrasion rubber
Upper Material Polyester Premium webbing Webbing Polyester jacquard webbing Suede

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 in comparison to others. Instead, it provides a ridiculously lightweight sandal suited for adventures.

Performance Comparison


Full submerged creek crossing are only a small obstacle when...
Full submerged creek crossing are only a small obstacle when utilizing these sandals.
Photo: Jacob Clark

Comfort


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 an extremely 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 the nylon webbing, which is 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 minimal design of these sandals makes them surprisingly...
The minimal design of these sandals makes them surprisingly comfartable on mellow terrain.
Photo: Jacob Clark

Traction


The Z-Trail EV features a unique mix of rubber and foam tread on the outsole. Starting at the forefoot, there are rather 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 in the midfoot area. 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.

The tread is quite a mix on these sandals. The lighter sections of...
The tread is quite a mix on these sandals. The lighter sections of the sole are made of foam and the darker sections are rubber.
Photo: Jacob Clark

Stability


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 do give a rather nice hug-like feel to the sandal. Giving this sandal a conforming fit adds some 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 designed specifically not to give structural support.

These sandals perform well when conforming around smaller wet rocks...
These sandals perform well when conforming around smaller wet rocks, but large slippery surfaces can be tricky.
Photo: Jacob Clark

Adjustability


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 flexibility of the Z-Trail EV does make 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 some 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 quite due to its flexible sole.

Versatility


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 aforementioned traction issues take 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 water sports. Outside of technical hiking and watersports, these ultralight sandals make for a great companion. Lending itself well to a camp sandal for the backpacker, ultralight urban sandal, or any place your average day takes you. The packability and lightweight design of these sandals on or off your feet can easily fit in a backpack or pocket. The versatility of these sandals comes not from their technical prowess but from their ability to go with you anywhere.

While the Xero Z-Trail EV lacks stability, it has an extremely...
While the Xero Z-Trail EV lacks stability, it has an extremely flexible and packable sole design.
Photo: Jacob Clark

Value


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.

Thin, ultralight, and comfortable, these sandals can go with you...
Thin, ultralight, and comfortable, these sandals can go with you anywhere and you'll barely notice them.
Photo: Jacob Clark

Conclusion


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.

Jacob Clark

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