Last summer, I bought the latest edition of Xero Shoes (formerly Invisible Shoes), which are minimal sandals marketed for barefoot running. (The company calls them ‘huaraches,’ but I’m more of a traditionalist on that score.) I got them because I really liked my original-edition Xero Shoes (as seen in my review of them), but the new model appeared to address my few complaints about them. I use my new sandals almost daily for walking, and I’ve taken them for many hikes and trail runs on different terrains. In short: they’re even better than the originals, and they are my footwear of choice for most activities.
The originals had three drawbacks from my perspective. The most important problem was that they were so thin that I hurt my foot stepping on a nut, rock, or root along a trail. So, of the two new models – the thinner Connect and the thicker Contact – I chose the latter. While it’s less flexible and slightly masks the ground’s contours, the difference is minor (like thin vs. thick socks, perhaps) compared to the difference between Xero Shoes and any other footwear I’ve tried. Moreover, when I’ve run along forest trails and gravel paths, my foot has remained safe. So this is a great improvement.
The other issue with the originals was that they made a lot of noise, no matter how I adjusted the straps or my stride. The newer shoes seem much quieter when I walk, but they still often thwack when I run – and I have them tied tight and cut to fit. All such problems might be due to my long, super-flat feet, because I make a lot of noise in regular shoes, too.
Last and certainly least, I couldn’t order manly-looking laces for my old sandals, but now black is available. Suitable for formal occasions!
The new version has other changes that I welcome. One is that they’re contoured, with a slight heel cup. My feet never landed outside the sandal before, but I did fret about it. No more! Also it has pre-cut holes along the sides for lacing, so there’s one less thing to worry about screwing up. The new, more pronounced tread might work differently in some situations, but my old sandals always had great grip, and these seem no different. Neither tread has worn down at all, as far as I can tell. One last benefit: they’re sooooo convenient to pack. I travel a lot, and space for shoes can be a problem. The space needed for Xero Shoes is negligible.
The downside: The laces on my original sandals are still pristine, but the laces on my new pair are worn down where they pass through the eyelets on the side. And, in fact, one recently broke. So I recommend buying an extra set of laces when you order the sandals.
My final comment might be positive or negative, depending on your personality. I currently live in Indonesia, where sandals of all sorts are the most common footwear. Nonetheless, I receive frequent comments and questions about my Xero Shoes. In short: they will attract attention.
Disclaimer: If you visit Xero Shoes using one of the links from this blog and then order one of their products, I’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds. I’d like to think that this hasn’t affected my review: I truly bought the sandals, wore them extremely frequently, and promoted them on my blog and in conversations long before I had any financial stake.