Xero Shoes Review: Huarache Barefoot Sandals of the Mexican Tarahumara

A few years ago I became aware of the horribly dangerous drawbacks of modern shoes. It didn’t come as a surprise though, I was always doubting their safety considering the recent science on our human evolutionary history.

Beautifully, our feet are an amazing outcome of millions of years of walking, running, climbing and jumping completely barefoot in the savannahs of Africa. They’re biomechanically built for the harsh reality of nature. Adidas or Nike ain’t gonna change that.

Anyway, right before I embarked on my 7 months journey back then in South East Asia, I was looking for the best barefoot sandals out there, a pair of minimalist shoes that’ll fit the philosophy and physical limitations of my minimalist travel gear.

I needed them to be lightweight enough, keep the grip of my feet healthy and natural, be easy to slip on and off in airports and be awesome to run with when running barefoot isn’t optional. After some research – I found the InvisibleShoe Huaraches, renamed since to be called XeroShoes.

The moment I wore them – I fell in love.

Xero Shoes Review

The original InvisibleShoe Huaraches sandals were a modern take by Steven Sashen on the traditional running sandals of the Tarahumara people in the Mexican copper canyon. These amazing dudes run more than what we consider to be marathons on a regular basis, practically barefoot. They wear those thin sandals they call ‘huaraches’ to keep their feet-strike natural and barefoot-like – while still protecting them from the rocky terrain.

Me and the original XeroShoe Huaraches in a Thai floating bridge. Back then they  were called 'Invisible Shoes'.

Truly yours wearing the original Xero Shoes huaraches in a floating bridge in Thailand. Back then they were called ‘Invisible Shoes’ and you can see why. Pure awesomeness they were!

But Why Exactly is Barefoot Better Than Modern Shoes ?

Modern heeled shoes cause your body to land on your heels instead of your forefoot. And that’s very bad. Landing on your heels mean putting the weight and impact on your posterior chain, and that sets the stage for lower back and other serious health issues. The muscles, tendons and ligaments work at their best when confined to their evolutionary-designed natural grip, barefoot that is.

All across our evolution we humans have wandered the planet completely barefoot, overcoming the obstacles of a harsh natural environment and perfecting every little nuance of the biomechanics of our feet. This video by Dr. Silverman explains that very clearly and visually:

How Was My Reaction to the Original Xero Shoes Barefoot Sandals?

From the moment I put those little bastards on my feet – I never looked back. They are simply awesome. I did a few test-runs with them here at the beach in Haifa and then took them with me for my journey around Asia for seven months. Been with them through plenty of countries since then and I just can’t get enough of them. Hiking, trekking, running, walking, everything – these sandals are the best invention since Seinfeld.

Wearing the original Xero Shoes (InvisibleShoes) in Cambodia a few years ago.

Wearing the original Xero Shoes (InvisibleShoes) in Cambodia a few years ago.

It’s also really easy to skim through airport security with them – which is a huge plus for me. They feel super-comfortable, giving you an almost fully-barefoot feeling while still protecting your feet from modern hazards like broken glass etc.

I love how the toes spread naturally with them – reminds me of the time I spent with the rural barefoot Pounongs in the northeastern mountains of Cambodia. They had this super-strong-looking feet grip with toes spread apart from each other.

barefoot pounongs in cambodian jungles

Two young Pounongs I met outside the jungles of North Eastern Cambodia.

Here’s Steven introducing the original Xero Shoes (InvisibleShoes) Huaraches in NBC:

The Connect/Contact Upgrade to the Original Invisible Shoes

Xero Shoes FeelTrue Sole

And then Steven made a major upgrade to his then-tiny company and changed the sole of the original huaraches from Vibram to something completely new that they came up with specifically for the huaraches.

I immediately got myself a new pair and compared them both and the difference was noticeable. The new sole had more traction and had a much better grip than the original ones. That’s when InvisibleShoe turned into XeroShoes that you know today.

Those were the FeelTrue soles and Steven still uses them for his newest models ->

Xero Shoes still sell this great model in two versions, 6mm Contact and 4mm Connect. I had a bunch of people asking about the difference between them so I emailed Steven and here’s what he says:

People use both the Connect and Contact for everything from walking to running ultra-marathons. I know some ultra-runners who use the 4mm for running and the 6mm for walking around. And I know some people who do the exact opposite. So, it’s not a matter of one style for a particular use. Really, the question is simple: do you want the closest thing to a barefoot feel? If so, get the 4mm Connect. If you want a bit of extra protection, then get the 6mm Contact.

But as healthy, amazing and comfortable as they are – I ended up abandoning them for flip flops. The reason? every few weeks one of the knots would snap out of its hole due to wear and tear. At first I even fixed it each time by tying a new loop and melting it but I soon got sick of it. That’s why I am super excited now to hold my hands on the newest model – the XeroShoes Sensori Venture, a beautifully crafted huarache sandal that completely solves that.

Introducing Xero Shoes Sensori Venture

Xero Shoes Sensori Venture Review

If I had to describe the Sensori Venture in three words, that would be: PRACTICE BREEDS PERFECTION. It looks like Steven learned a lot from the last few years and fine-tuned every aspect of the already-great Xero Shoes of last year. The Sensori Venture huaraches are more comfortable, more visually-pleasing and most importantly: THE KNOTS ARE MUCH MORE DURABLE.

This is huge.

No more knots tearing apart in the middle of the street. No more worrying and wasting time and energy re-tying and melting those knots. The Sensori Venture uses a countersunk rubber toe post that’s extremely durable, much more than the previous lace knots that used to tear apart frequently. This thing alone made me get myself a pair and re-wear the XeroShoes as a primary travel footwear.

Xero Shoes Sensori Venture countersunk rubber toe post

The new countersunk rubber toe post. No more knots tearing apart!

As you can see, the same great FeelTrue material is used on the Sensori Venture shoes and that’s great. The Sensori Venture doesn’t come in two sole thicknesses like the previous XeroShoes (the 6mm contact and 4mm connect), but in one 5.5mm thickness sole.

I think that’s the better option for the vast majority of people anyway so that’s probably a great choice for what seems to be an attempt by Steven to create an awesome and durable pair of XeroShoes that just works outside the box. The 5.5mm sole provides a great balance between ‘barefoot feel’ and protection.

The new Sensori Venture Xero Shoes.

The new Sensori Venture Xero Shoes. Same great FeelTrue soles.

Previous Do-It-Yourself XeroShoes required you to watch some tying youtube videos – but the Sensori Venture sandals come pre-tied which is a great business move from Steven. Humans are lazy and not everyone has the time to watch a 10 minute video. We’re talking about double-corded laces here with special adjusters on each site to make them just right for you individually.

Another GREAT addition to the Sensori Venture is the achilles silicon strap. It’s awesome and keeps the strap from slipping while also offering some protection against redness and chafing to your achilles. I don’t like the heel cup though, I never had any issues with my heel slipping out of the shoe so it’s completely unnecessary for me.

Xero Shoes Sensori Venture's heel cup and strap.

Sensori Venture’s heel cup and strap.

The side support holes have been also revamped and moved up from the sole to prevent the laces from rubbing against the ground. I predict that will greatly improve the durability of those laces.

So overall, Xero Shoes really kept the great parts about their huaraches – the awesome sole, the design, the flexibility, even the price point – but fixed a few minor issues and a major one – the durability of the laces. That alone is worth the upgrade. If I had to buy another pair of Xero Shoes, there’s no doubt in my mind that would be the Sensori Venture. The rubber toe post is just priceless.

The new Xero Shoes Sensori Venture

My Verdict

If you’re looking for a pair of healthy minimalist barefoot shoes, look no further than XeroShoes. The new Sensori Venture is a huge improvement over previous models and are my chosen pair of ‘shoes’ for my travels. Send me love letters later. those huaraches are the most comfortable thing you’ll ever wear.

BONUS SIDE EFFECT: many curious people will stop you in the street to ask where you got those shoes, so not only will they make make your back and knees healthy – they’ll also strike conversations, win friends and get some ladiez for ya.

Buy any model at XeroShoes.com.

Riding horses with Xero Shoes

My horse riding journey in Serbia last year. Spot the Xero Shoes

4 Responses to “Xero Shoes Review: Huarache Barefoot Sandals of the Mexican Tarahumara”

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  1. Kara says:

    Whey lan (hello in pnong) I lived with the pnong people for 3 months and first started minimalist running on the beautiful hills surrounding Sen monorom. I just bought a pair of these shoes and look forward to trying them. Great review!

  2. Becca says:

    Thanks so much for writing this! I was eyeing a pair of the new Xero shoes (the Sensori Venture) on a discount shopping website and your blog convinced me to give them a try. I travel a lot, so I am always looking for shoes that pack small, weigh little, and are comfortable and healthy for lots of walking/hiking/etc. I can’t wait until they arrive, although I guess I’ll have to wait to wear them outside since it’s January and we have snow…. :)

  3. Marna Marie' Strauss says:

    Thank you so much for writing this page.

    I’m sick of listening to people’s opinion who’s not bought or tried a pair of Xeroshoes. I’ve suffered PF & aching feet all my life, living in insoles.

    I bought my Xeroshoes 3 weeks ago and haven’t taken them off…(OK, perhaps when I goto bed) :o) its a different ballgame, but it feels so different, so good.

    I am wanting to try a half marathon in them this weekend (walking) I’ve so far only done upto 7.5km per day in them. Any recommendations? Would you carry cushioned shoes if you were doing the race? “Just in case”?

    Would appreciate your help.

    PS: how did you find the knot under your feet? it killed me day #3 and #4, but now its much better, do you get caught up on the front bit of the shoe? Mine occasionally flaps over, I haven’t tripped up yet.

    Thanks!
    Marna Marie’

  4. Beth says:

    Have you seen that they are now selling the toe posts separately? I just bought 2 sets of the toe posts to go with my original connect soles, and almost got the silicone Achilles tubes too. However, I’m having difficulty figuring out how to tie the laces now that I have 2 end of the string to work with. Any tips about how the sensori laces are tied that might work with just one string per shoe?

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