A lot of people have been drawn to the appeal of ultralight, zero drop shoes for running, hiking and all sorts of adventuring. There are a few options that you might’ve seen on the market right now and perhaps you’ve even heard about the DIY tire sandals mentioned in Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run. These tire sandals, popular among the ultrarunners of the Copper Canyon, are made from a cut piece of rubber from an old tire and a lace to hold it on the runners’ feet. Many people who are attracted to the lightweight, rugged and barefoot-like qualities of tire sandals have tried making their own. However, while many people love a good DIY project, building tire sandals is a tough undertaking. Trust me, I tried.

Xero Shoes Z-Trail sport sandal - run walk hike camp boat outdoor barefoot

The biggest setback was the tire. Modern tires are reinforced with metal. Not only does this make the actual cutting of the rubber a task and a half, but I also ended up cutting my feet on sharp bits of metal that poked out from the rubber. I still wanted a lightweight and tough adventure sandal, but I definitely needed to find an upgrade from my attempt at making a tire sandal.

Recently, I came across Xero shoes and I had to give them a try after finding out that they were inspired by tire sandals. What I found: these are not only an improvement from tire sandals, but they’re an improvement from any of the other sport sandals I’ve come across so far. In fact, I’ve gotten a few of my Teva-loving and Chaco-wearing friends on board with them too.

Xero Shoes

First, I gave Xero’s popular Amuri Z-Trek a try. This shoe, which came out last year, is built with the intent of providing the ultimate connection between trail and foot. It’s lightweight and thin with a 5.5mm outsole, weighing in at only 6.5 oz each in a Men’s 9. Additionally, the z-patterned webbing is quick to adjust, it stays precise and is easy to slip into, which I really missed when I tried going back to sandals with laces or multiple velcro points.

The Z-Trek is incredibly flexible and packs down small.
The Z-Trek is incredibly flexible and packs down small.

Next, I tried out the just recently announced Z-Trail. New for 2016, the Z-Trail is an ultralight, trail-friendly sandal that prioritizes protection and comfort without sacrificing weight. Actually, it’s even lighter than the Z-Trek, but still has a thicker outsole for added protection. The Z-Trek is definitely more flexible, but the new Z-Trail is still soft enough for comfortable movement, while being rigid enough to protect from rocky terrain underfoot. It weighs only 5.4 oz in a Men’s 9, but Xero’s rubber and foam layering makes it fit for all sorts of trails.


When I ask myself whether to go with the Z-Trek or the Z-Trail, my answer really depends on what kind of terrain I’ll be on. For this reason, I regularly switch between the two. When I want to feel the ground under my feet, I’ll grab the Z-Trek. However, if I want to get the most out of a hike on rugged terrain, I’ll wear the Z-Trail.

Whichever you choose to go with, Xero Shoes will definitely be as close to bombproof as possible. Xero boasts that so far, “nobody has outworn the soles of their Xero Shoes.” As a testament, they offer a 5,000 mile warranty, which is big for me since I’ve been frustrated many times by wearing out a variety of trail runners in under 400 miles.

Don’t just take my word for it though. To see what other people are saying about Xero Shoes, check out their customer reviews here.

WANT a pair of the brand new Z-Trails? Click this link to sign up for a “V.I.P. notification” to find out the moment they go on sale. They’re releasing with a limited quantity so don’t miss out!

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Written by Ari Schneider

Outdoorsman, Journalist, Type 2 fun expert.

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