In this review we look at the Xero Z-Rail EV hiking / trail running sandal. Hiking in sandals is done by thousands of people, but without a quality pair you could not only suffer blisters, other uncomfortable ailments, but you could also be putting yourself in serious risk. Low quality sandals often mean you will not have the necessary grip, comfort, or support.
Important Note About Minimalist Shoes
Minimalist footwear, and zero drop footwear has been hyped up a lot in recent years. The claims being that minimalist footwear, zero drop footwear, or both, can reduce injury risk and help improve pain in certain areas.
We want to highlight that the science here is mixed, and that many people report substantial benefits from switching footwear styles, but others also report increased injury risk. If you want to learn more about minimalist footwear, hiking in sandals, and zero drop technology, we have written a couple quick articles to cover this topic in more depth:
In addition, while we never recommend making any drastic changes to footwear usage. If users want to test minimalist footwear, xero drop shoes, or even hiking sandals, do so in increments. Do not go from no usage, to dozens of miles in a short time period.
We have tested these sandals over ~100 miles of summer hiking and trail running in the Wasatch Mountains. They were used on both bluebird days and in rain / hail storms allowing us to best understand the limitations of the sandal.
A little background on our testing: We are trail runners, fisherman, hikers, skiers, bikers, and we take our nutrition, our safety, our comfort, and athletic performance very seriously. Therefore, we make sure we test all the gear we recommend thoroughly.
Where To Purchase
Founded in Colorado in 2009 by husband (Steven) and wife (Lena), Xero has made a name for themselves as a top-of-the-line minimalist shoe company. Their goal is to create shoes that allow your foot to work as it was intended to. Xero has a wide variety of shoes and sandals from DIY all the way to dress shoes, allowing the consumer to use their products in intense mountain terrain all the way to the office.
About The Shoe
The Z-Trail EV sandal is specifically designed for trail running and hiking. The sandal includes Xeros trademarked FeelLiteTM sole which is further comprised of:
- BareFoamTM comfort layer allowing your foot to stick to the sandal without much sliding, and will provide you with a significant amount of grip both to the trail and your foot.
- TrailFoamTM provides the user with comfort and protection from the ground.
- FeelTrue® rubber grip pods keeping you from sliding around on the trail.
|Weight:||5.4 oz for men’s size 9|
|Warranty:||5,000 mile / 24 month|
|Materials:||Straps: recycled nylon webbing
Outsole: FeelTrue® mix of rubber and foam
|Stack Height:||10 mm|
Standard shipping fees apply.
Return & Warranty
Customers can return products within 45 days of their purchase when purchased directly from Xero and unsatisfied with purchase for any reason. If you are satisfied with your purchase there is a 5,000 mile warranty on the soles, and if the FeelTrue® sole wears down to less than 1mm thick at the ball or heel of the foot Xero will replace your shoe free of charge. There is then also a 24 month warranty for manufacturing defects. You can read more about the policy here. Other retailers may differ in policies.
For being a minimalist shoe, it is extremely comfortable when used at the proper distance for yourself. Make sure to watch your step though as if you step on a jagged rock you will feel it. However, if you already use a minimalist shoe then nothing will change. We have used this shoe on smooth single track, technical rocky ascents / descents, and roads / sidewalks with little to no discomfort.
Important note: when I first started using these sandals, I could only go for about 3-4 miles before soreness in the ball of my foot started to set in. Now after a month of consistent use I can now go 10+ miles with little to no soreness. With high arches I expected my arch to experience soreness, but to my surprise the ball of my foot is the only spot I have ever had any discomfort. I have personally not tried this, but numerous people have said wearing socks with them can help you increase the distance you can travel.
When used within a proper distance we give this shoe a 4.5/5 Rating. Overdoing it in these sandals (or any minimalistic shoe / sandal for that matter) can not only lead to discomfort but potential injury.
With sandals there are two categories to look at – sandal to ground and foot to sandal.
- Sandal to ground: the grip on this sandal is great. I have a lot of trust in them and love the feeling of bouncing from rock to rock on them. Even in wet conditions they hold their grip very well. The only time I have slipped on was during a hail storm I stepped on a wet root by mistake and lost my footing.
- Foot to sandal: I was very skeptical when starting to use these and have been pleasantly surprised. My foot sticks very well to the footbed and generally does not slide around. However, there are two caveats to be made 1) in wet conditions my foot started to move around a significant amount 2) if you make an off camber step your foot may start to slide off the sandal (not every time but has happened to me a few times).
So far, this sandal has held up very well and is showing no signs of wear. Even though we have only used it for ~100 miles the recent improvements to the design (heel cup, increased support for straps) have performed exactly as advertised.
Price & Value
Most sandals of this caliber are priced very close to one another. There are ones that are even more minimalistic which are slightly cheaper and ones with more material that cost slightly more. For this reason, we believe the Z-Trail EV is fairly priced amongst its competitors.
The other main sandal I have used is a Chaco and similar to the Chaco if you are uncomfortable with your feet getting dirty then this is not the shoe for you. Most of the time after an outing I have to wash off my feet because they are covered in dirt. However, if this doesn’t bother you (as it doesn’t bother me) then there is nothing to worry about.
This version of the Z-Trail EV includes a heel guard which performs exactly as advertised decreasing the amount of rocks / debris that get in the sandal and allowing you to put your feet up without banging your heel into the ground. As in any sandal some rocks / debris will get into the sandal, but I have found that it is easier to remove them in the Z-Trail EV. Most of the time I barely have to break stride – just pull your foot up and push down on the heel allowing it to flap back into your foot.
Move Naturally: one of Xero’s values and must be noted as they are going against the grain of other major shoe companies.
- Zero-drop: this is included in all Xero shoes / sandals and means that there is no drop from heel to toe which is included to some level in all other running shoes.
- No arch support: Xero shoes / sandals do not have any arch support.
Minimalist shoes COULD be for everyone, key word being could! If you are currently running in maximalist shoes with significant cushioning switching over to these and doing the same amount of mileage you are currently doing no matter the amount will open you up to a high likelihood of injury. Since the barefoot movement reignited with “Born To Run” there have been countless studies done that say just that. If your feet have been asleep your entire life do not expect to be able to wake them up on the spot. However, if you do want to make the switch make sure you start small and slow. When I started with these sandals I would actually bring my other trail shoes with me in case I needed to change.
Recommendation And Overall Thoughts
Overall, we want to recommend this shoe to everyone but unfortunately cannot, at least not right away. As mentioned above the minimalistic nature of the shoe could cause more damage than good if not transitioned to properly.
Rather you are a true minimalist or just making the switch we do recommend the sandal as it will perform exactly as advertised:
- Great comfort
- Great grip
- Great durability
If you are interested in other hiking sandals check out our article on the Best Hiking Sandals, and An Unbiased Guide to The Pros and Cons of Hiking In Sandals.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about