In 2011, right before my first long trip abroad, I started to develop a special interest in footwear. It was then when I became aware of the horrible drawbacks of modern shoes. I wasn’t very surprised though, considering how foreign they are to the evolution of our bodies.
The human foot is the beautiful result of millions of years of walking, running, climbing and jumping almost entirely barefoot on the African savannah. Our feet are biomechanically designed for the harsh environment of Mother Nature. And Adidas or Nike ain’t gonna change that.
And so, right before my seven-month trip to South East Asia, I went on the search for the perfect pair of minimalist shoes, the best barefoot sandals out there. Something that’ll suit both the human body and the philosophy of my minimalist travel gear.
I wanted them to be lightweight enough so that they don’t encumber my movement. I wanted them to provide a healthy, natural grip. And I also wanted them to look great, and to be easy to slip on and off in the airports. And if I could also run with them, the better. Anyway, after some heavy research, I found the holy grail. They were called the Invisible Shoes Huaraches, and were later renamed to XeroShoes.
The moment I put them on, 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 of the Mexican Copper Canyon. Those folks run for a longer distance than what we call marathons on a regular basis, and practically barefoot. Practically, because their terrain is rocky, so they wear those thin sandals they call Huaraches, sandals that keep their movement natural and barefoot-like while still protecting them from their rocky terrain.
Here’s Steven introducing the original Xero Shoes (InvisibleShoes) Huaraches in NBC:
But Why Exactly is Barefoot Better Than Modern Shoes ?
The problem is this: Modern heeled shoes cause your body to land on its heels instead of its forefoot. When you land on your heels, the impact of your body-weight puts a lot of strain on your posterior chain, setting the stage for later health issues, especially lower-back and knee problems.
Our muscles, tendons and ligaments function at their best when confined to their evolutionary design, and that means barefoot. All throughout our history we humans have wandered Planet Earth without modern shoes, overcoming the obstacles of a harsh environment by perfecting every little nuance of our feet’s biomechanics. Dr. Silverman explains it visually:
The Xero Shoes Barefoot Sandals: My Thoughts
I started wearing the Xero Shoes in 2011, on my first trip to Asia:
Back then, I absolutely fell in love with them. I loved them so much that I took them with me to more than 40 countries. But wait, now it’s 2016, and they’re even better. WAY better. In fact, I just returned from a trip to the Danakil Dessert in Ethiopia, and guess what shoe I was wearing most of the time? That’s right, the Xero Shoes. More specifically, the Umara Z-Trail Xero Shoes.
The Umara Z-Trail, in my humble opinion, is the best version Xero Shoes has ever come up with. They protect your feet better than the original Xero Shoes, their straps are much more comfortable than the original lacing system, and they feel sturdier.
Long hiking, trekking, running, walking, basically anything you can think of, the Umara Xero Shoes are perfect for. They are the best invention since Seinfeld. They’re super-comfortable, giving you a barefoot feeling while still protecting you from modern hazards like broken glass and the like.
When you wear them, your toes naturally spread out the way they’re supposed to. This reminds me of the time I spent with the rural barefoot Pounongs in the northeastern mountains of Cambodia. They had that super-strong grip their feet held with the earth, with toes spread out apart from each other.
What About the Connect/Contact Do-It-Yourself Xero Shoes Kits?
The Connect/Contact kits came when Steven made a major upgrade to his then-tiny company and changed the sole of the original huaraches from Vibram to FeelTrue, something completely new that they came up with specifically for the huaraches.
Immediately, I got myself a new pair. 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. Steven still uses the FeelTrue soles for his newest models.
If you want a Do-It-Yourself kit, Xero Shoes still sell the Connect/Contact models. I had a bunch of people asking about the differences 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.
The only problem, at least for me, with the original Xero Shoes, including the Connect and the Contact, was that every few weeks one of the knots would snap out of its hole due to wear and tear. At the beginning, I was fixing it myself by tying a new loop, but I ended up getting sick of it. That’s when Steven introduced the XeroShoes Sensori Venture, beautiful huarache sandals that solved this issue.
Xero Shoes Sensori Venture Review (Model Discontinued, Scroll Down)
Update: This model is discontinued, I now use the Xero Shoes Umara Z-Trail, which are much better than every other model. And i’ve tried them all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update 2016: I now wear the Xero Shoes Umara Z-Trail exclusively. Skip the rest and get this one. It is truly amazing. They have all the benefits of the previous huarache Xero Shoes, but they protect your feet much better. They feature a 3-layer FeelLite sole: FeelTrue rubber for abrasion resistance and grip, TrailFoam midsole for force dispersion, and BareFoam upper layer for comfort. And they FLOAT. No more losing your shoes in the ocean.
Xero Shoes Huarache Sandals: My Verdict
If you’re looking for a pair of healthy minimalist barefoot shoes, look no further than XeroShoes. The new Umara Z-Trail are a huge improvement over previous models and are my chosen pair of ‘shoes’ for my travels. Send me love letters later. Those sandals 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.
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!
So awesome Kara,
enjoy the Amok
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…. :)
You’re going to enjoy them, Becca!
You don’t have to wait till summer, just get a pair of wool socks (though you’re likely to look like an old Russian engineer)
Marna Marie' Strauss
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.
My pleasure, Marna.
If your’e not used to barefoot running, you might wanna start slowly and gradually. There muscle load area distribution is different than cushioned heeled shoes. I personally didn’t have a single issue, but that’s probably because I’ve been running, doing Thai Boxing and playing soccer on the beach here barefoot for years.
As for the knot, it’s going to flatten the more you wear them and will be unnoticeable at some point. I did get flap-overs sometimes, I think it’s a matter of tying it well (there is a guide on XeroShoes website) or even trimming the front of the shoe if the size you ordered is a bit too big. It’s easy to do, even with a pair of scissors. I actually trimmed my old XeroShoes with scissors to fit my 18 years old sister cause she wanted the huaraches so bad.
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?
I don’t like the new ones. But I’ve never had a problem with the knot coming through. They look a bit shredded, currently, but intact. I’m wondering if the hole was too big, in yours…anyway, I have some new laces but I think I’ll just carry them with me and keep the old ones in until they fail but, judging by the condition, I don’t think it’s going to be very soon. As I said, the knot looks bad, but it’s nice and flat and intact. Now that I look at it with my glasses on, it isn’t that bad. It’s actually got something on it…which is, now, up under my thumbnail so I’m going to call it “tree sap” and casually go wash my hands because I don’t even want to think about what it might be, having just come from downtown. No…wait…it’s sugar wax. Thank God! Oh, and for any ladies out there, you can wax your legs and even your feet, with your shoes on! ROFL!
Would you recomend these shoes for amateur runners? Also where could I buy in israel?
They ship worldwide.
Marna Marie' Strauss
Thank you for your reply to my post Regev,
Happy to report back that I’ve now been in Xeroshoes/Vibrams (+toesocks in winter) since the beginning of March. I’ve completed 2 half marathons in Vibrams and 2 x 10km races – one in Xeros.
I haven’t been to see my chiropractor since February (I use to visit her at least every 4-5 weeks). I’ve solved my plantar fasciatis problem, hip flexor problems, neck/shoulder problems. Minimalism helped me walk more barefoot, correcting my gait, being more healthy.
I absolutely love my Xero’s. My biggest wish is for a proper winter solution without having wet or damp feet all day.
I’ve been involved in some seriously funny conversations with people not understanding barefoot/minimalism, no point in arguing.
I won’t run in my Xero’s as the knot come loose or I have to keep on retying my Xero’s – I started running my previous half marathon in Xero’s and had to stop every so often to re-tie my laces, and eventually my feet just gripped the shoes to help not stop retying – I ended up with severe blisters. Personally I haven’t gotten the knack of tying my Xero’s properly for running…maybe oneday.
The knot underfoot – was a massive problem…yes it flattens out with time but I’d love a slightly better design there as I absolutely love the shoe and its idea.
Have a nice day..
Deon du Plessis
Come around for a nice chocolate stout and I will teach you how to tie your Xero’s.
Marna Marie' Strauss
How are you doing?
That sounds like a nice idea. I’ve learned how to tie my Xero’s! hahahhaha
The new Umara Z-Trail comes with a completely revamped design, there’s no toe knot anymore. Also, Steven told me there’s a winter Xero Shoe in the making process, so stay tuned.
Not sure if everyone is familiar, but there is something called “t-shirt yarn”. Basically, you cut a t-shirt in a coil, one inch wide, then stretch it and you get a good, tough yarn-like string. Which works, as laces, BUT there is also “performance jersey” that they use for workout, hiking, climbing clothing, etc., and IT is nylon and lycra. Same knit, but nylon with lycra which gives you a really long piece, when the knit is stretched, but there is a whole OTHER stretch, from the lycra. And the performance knit (or the one I have) is 88% nylon and 12% lycra. Tough and has about a million uses, but the BEST use is as laces for the xeros. you cut a 1 inch wide strip, stretch it (to the extreme) to get the yarn and then lace your xeros by running it through and leaving no “extra” to fit over the top of your foot or around your ankle. Just flat from the toe to the first ankle hole, straight across from one ankle hole to the other and then you can either just tie it or put it on and tie it. You can adjust how snug it is and you have a LOT of leeway – everything from snug to tight, all of which STILL has a good stiff stretch to it. I don’t run, so mine are just snug, but they don’t flip-flop and are even MORE comfortable than with the regular laces.
Also, when I lace mine, I wrap the lace a couple of times around the other lace so that it comes out and around the ankle higher than just the bottom – i.e. at less of an angle.
Plus, with the lycra, the knots stay tied. I haven’t melted mine, but I assume that will work better, as well.
One note – I have not worn them wet, with the 88/12, nylon/lycra laces. So, definitely, as a flip-flop alternative and POSSIBLY as a running shoe.
i want to get a pair in australia but dont seem to able to find them….just new to running barefoot on beaches mainly but want to be able to run other places too and have soft feet
Just get them from their website, shipping price is really reasonable if I recall.
I have them and after a month one of the side loops that prevent the cord to hit the ground fell apart.
The company replaced them for free (no questions) with the Amuri Cloud which I love and I am using now during the last ten months but unfortunately one of the side loops is slightly damage and I don’t think is going to hold up much longer and, of course, they say I am not eligible for a refund (even partial) after that long.
Overall I think they are a great pair of sandals, fairly priced and the soles are showing just a nice forefoot wear after more than 800 km of running and something like 200 km of trekking but I must admit I am kind of annoyed by this side loop issue that will have me trash them way before their 5000 mile warranty
Brotha check out earth runners, I wore a pair every day through the jungle and along with looking good and way less dorky than these they have some amazing features including Cooper inserts to ground you to the negative charge of the earth.
Read your book, good shit haha.
Yeah I was traveling with the EarthRunners actually for a few months. While I highly doubt the “earth charges” claims and all, they are well-made and do look great. However, for more practical reasons, I prefer the Xero Shoes Umara Z-Trail, which I now use whenever I need a lightweight travel shoe.
Hmm interesting shoes. I run a shoe blog and I have never heard of this style. I may have to do a write up on them. Never have been a huge fan of barefoot running or anything but I may have to try a pair of these.
Hello Regev, thanks for this awesome info. Do you still use Xero sandals on your travels?
Absolutely. I still use the Xero shoes.
Marna Marie' Strauss
After 3 years I’ve just replaced my Xeroshoes with a new pair this morning. I ‘ve actually walked a whole in my left Xero. Still the old custom build xeros.. they are the best. (That is once you figure out how to set them up correctly).
Tried Xero shoes three times they always fell apart. Personally, I find Vibrams to be a 10X better product. I swear by them. Good Luck Regev!