Xero Shoes Alpine Review
Cons: Not the warmest, low shaft height, not very supportive
Manufacturer: Xero Shoes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When we first put on the Xero Shoes Alpine and went out in the snow, the first thought that came to mind was that they feel like house slippers, beefed up a little bit to take on a winter boot appearance. They are that comfortable! While most winter and snow boots are very large, heavy, and so material-heavy that there is a total dissociation with the ground as you "tromp" through the snow, the Alpine leaves you happily in touch with what you are walking over. They don't lift your foot far off the ground with a huge thick midsole, and they are very flexible, so much so that you wouldn't even consider needing to break them in. While we enjoyed wearing them for short snow hikes and for running errands, we also feel that, compared to the competition, they are light on insulation. Their very short shaft height also means that you can't wade into deep snow without expecting to get wet. One nice bonus is how incredibly light these boots are, weighing in at a mere 2.1 lbs. for a size 11. This is far and away the lightest winter boots we've ever worn and makes hiking in them a far more enjoyable experience.
These boots feature 200g of insulation and are lined on the inside with a comfortable fleece. Xero claims they are rated to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, but we have a hard time believing your feet would feel comfortable for long in temps that cold. We tested them in early winter in Colorado and only dealt with conditions of around 10 degrees, but noticed that they were quite a bit less warm than other larger and thicker boots. A close inspection also reveals that the entire upper booty is completely stitched through, from the outside, through the inner insulation, to the inside of the boot. Wherever there is stitching like this, there is a gap in insulation, minimizing the boot's overall warmth. While the reality is that you can pair them with a good pair of socks, stay active when you are outdoors, and have a great time with warm feet in relatively mild winter climates, these boots are not prepared to tackle the deep northern freezes that many other boots are designed specifically for.
The Alpine has a water repellent membrane, and as far as we can tell, it's also coated on the outside with a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating. We stood in a flowing slushy creek for 10 minutes to test this, and our feet stayed dry. It was also impressive to watch how the water flowed right around the boot without seeping in at all. That said, our feet felt a bit clammy on the inside during and after this test. We had to feel around a lot inside the boot to be certain that no water had leaked inside. We also had to be careful not to let the water overtop the notch in the tongue. We measured the effective water entry depth at around 5 inches, which isn't super deep but is actually a bit deeper than the tongue entry point on some other models. That said, the shaft itself is only 7 inches tall, making it one of the shortest boots we have reviewed, and ensuring that your main threat for wet feet while wearing this boot is snow leaking in from the top.
Fit and Comfort
These boots are really comfortable. They have a super spacious fit, which is enhanced by how incredibly flexible the upper material is, allowing your foot to expand or bend as needed. This is a stark contrast to thick leather or rubber boots, which tend to be very stiff. The forefoot of this boot is very wide, with plenty of room for wiggling your toes to keep them warm. It sticks to the classic zero-drop fit, which allows for plenty of forefoot splay. The low to the ground feel is refreshing, especially when hiking, and these boots truly feel similar to minimalist shoes, but in boot form. We recommend ordering your normal size, but the boots feel a tad large, so keep that in mind.
Ease of Use
The upper of this boot is very flexible, so it is easy to slip on and off. However, it does have long laces that must be done up and tied, so it is nowhere near as convenient to put on and take off as some of the slip-on options. The laces stay crossed at the junction between foot and leg, so you must double them back and loop them through two metal hooks on each side before tying. Due to the flexible upper, it is really easy to cinch these boots way too tight around the ankle if you're not careful. If you do this, hiking is nowhere near as comfortable since the upper material rubs a lot. If you tie them up significantly looser around the ankles, they are, no surprise, far more comfortable to walk in.
The sole of the Alpine is made with 5.5 mm of Xero's FeelTrue rubber. While we didn't find this rubber compound to be anything all that special compared to others, it's worth pointing out that Xero offers a 5000 mile guarantee, saying that if your sole wears out within this amount of time, they will replace it "for a nominal fee." We don't think there is any winter boot out there that would survive 5000 miles, but we like that Xero stands behind the quality of their products.
The lugs on this boot are arrow-shaped, numerous, and well-spaced, allowing the sole to bite pretty well into soft snow. We were impressed with the traction on slippery, slushy trails, as well as hardpacked snow.
These boots are not super cheap, retailing for roughly an average price for a winter snow boot. If the zero-drop and minimalist feel are right up your alley, then we think the value is likely pretty good. However, if you simply want the best winter boot you can get and don't care much about the drop, many boots rank higher in our overall ratings and are warmer.
The Xero Shoes Alpine is a fascinating boot because of how atypical it is. It is outside the norm to have a minimalist, low riding, zero-drop winter boot, and in that way, we found wearing them refreshing and a bit invigorating. However, they also have some serious drawbacks and are not the best option for deep snow and extreme cold.
— Andy Wellman