Xero Shoes Z Trail Barefoot Sandals Review

By Alin Ciocan | December 13, 2023

Xero Shoes Z Trail Sandals official photo

Feel the freedom of the trails with the featherlight Xero Shoes Z Trail. Weighing as little as 4.3 ounces, these minimalist hiking sandals hug your feet in cloudlike comfort while their grippy lug soles traverse trails with ease.

Made from vegan-friendly materials like recycled plastic bottles, the Z Trail makes comfort and sustainability a walk in the park. Adjustable and zero drop, they promote proper posture for miles of blissful adventuring. Ditch the heavy boots and experience hiking reborn in the liberating comfort of Xero Shoes’ Z Trail.

Reviewed at $74.99, price is usually under $80.00

Barefoot Comfort




Style / Design




Last Updated on April 23, 2024

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Xero Shoes Z Trail Sandals – An Useful Review

As an enthusiast of minimalist shoes and barefoot running, I embarked on a two-month journey testing the Xero Shoes Z Trail model. Renowned for its comfort and versatility, these sandals have been a hot topic among the barefoot community. My goal was to deeply assess their performance across mixed hiking and everyday use cases.

Key Takeaways: Xero Z-Trail a Minimalist Adventure Sandal

  • Surprisingly Grippy Tread: Ideal traction for trail running and light hiking
  • All-Day Comfort: Perfect for long hikes, ranking among the best sandals for walking
  • Durability: Holds up well for light trails with minimal wear over time
  • Featherlight Weight: Approximately 5 oz per sandal, a dream for ultralight fans

The Z Trail excels as a versatile adventure sandal, offering the cherished barefoot freedom of minimalist hiking sandals. It adeptly handles varied terrains, making it a standout in the range of sandals available today.

Introduction to the Xero Z-Trail: Embracing the Barefoot Experience 

As a longtime barefoot sandal fanatic, I know what a difference the right minimalist design makes in comfort and freedom. The quest for that perfect balance of ground feel, protection, and security across activities has led me to test countless brands over the decades.

Pros and Cons


Very lightweight and packable (as little as 4.3 oz per sandal)

Good traction and grip from lug pattern outsole

Vegan friendly and made from recycled materials

Comfortable and adjustable webbing straps

Promotes proper posture with zero drop design


Durability concerns, mixed reports on long term use

Lateral stability not as good as a more substantial sandal

Feet can slide forward, especially when wet

Can sometimes be difficult to put on/take off (compared to other models)

So when the Xero Shoes Z Trail started gaining traction within the barefoot community, touting features like comfort, grip, and lightweight portability, I knew an in-depth test run was in order.

Xero Z-Trail introduced by Steven Sashen

Could this relative newcomer actually compete with my long term favorites for hiking and everyday versatility? After two months of mixed use testing, I’m ready to breakdown exactly how the Z Trail stacks up for barefoot devotees.

Adjustable Straps – Dialed-In Comfort And Security

The make-or-break starting point for any sandal focused on comfort must be the strap system securing the foot. I’m thrilled to report the Z Trail checks off this box in impressive fashion.

Xero Shoes Z Trail STRAPS

Xero Shoes implements an adjustable tubular webbing design allowing your feet to really settle into a customized locked-in fit. The straps offer enough pliable give to enable full toe spread and flex you want from a true minimalist barefoot sandal. Yet they hold tension steadily to keep your feet stabilized across varied terrain.

One consistent highlight praised in reviews is how comfortably the straps conform right out of the box, with no painful break-in period.

Over my testing timeframe I wore them on hikes up to 8 miles in length and the soft webbed straps remained supremely comfortable without any rubbing or irritation. They accommodate both narrow and wider foot shapes well while allowing hassle-free micro-adjustments to fine tune fit.

Xero Shoes Z Trail on a hike

While not as plushly cushioned as hardcore hiker models, the clever strapping arrangement generates surprisingly comfortable tension that held up for all day light trail excursions in my experience.

For fans valuing a customized balance of security and barefoot freedom, the Z Trail’s strap design stands among the most dialed-in implementations that I’ve tested.

Surprising Grip Develops Trail Confidence

Now moving down to examine the sole design and traction quality, this proved to be another standout area for a sandal marketed towards barefoot appeal.

Xero Shoes Z Trail Tread, grippy
Z-Trail’s grip is top notch

Honestly most minimalist barefoot sandal options I’ve tested through the years failed pathetically when taking them hiking on anything beyond groomed park trails. The overly flexible smooth tread leaves them slipping wildly on surfaces offering marginal traction at best.

So I was stunned by how well the Z Trail’s grip held up during testing on dirt forest trails and uneven terrain compared to similar barefoot options.

z trail sole layers
Image Courtesy of Xero Shoes

The Z Trail implements a 11mm FeelTrue rubber sole reinforced with a layer of TrailFoam for a modicum of protection and compression. But what really grabbed my attention is the multidirectional chevron lug tread patterning covering the bottom, proving way grippier than expected.

Over roots, angled slopes, and even muddy patches only the most technical spots left me sliding. Multiple other reviews also highlight the unexpected traction gains for such a flexible minimalist profile .

Make no mistake – these don’t provide hardcore hiking boot traction levels for daily talus hopping and scrambling. However the Z Trail easily outperforms any comparable barefoot sandal solution I’ve used when it comes to capable hiking grip without fully sacrificing ground intimacy.

Xero Shoes Z Trail while crossing a stream

Even during multiple stream crossings the enhanced traction gave me enough stability and confidence on slippery algae-covered surfaces compared to most rivals.

The barefoot-like ground intimacy stays intact as the 11mm sole compresses easily letting textures and temperatures transmit underfoot. And I love how the zero drop platform promotes natural positioning – no awkward elevated heel or forced arch here.

Xero Shoes Z Trail Sandals sole grip
Z Trail Has Good Grip

While hardcore trail blazers demand maximum stability, the Z Trail develops admirable grip versatility for diehard barefooters wanting amplified traction without losing flexibility.

Durability – Striking The Usage Balance

When assessing any gear’s longevity my testing philosophy focuses on tailoring use case scenarios appropriately towards the product’s intended strengths and limitations.

Going in I knew not to expect tank-like durability from the Z Trail’s flexible sub-5 ounce construction compared to a rugged hiker. So I committed to mixing up hiking days with casual everyday usage rather than relentlessly pounding on harsh terrain daily.

Over 8 weeks of testing I encountered very minimal tread or strap abrasion wearing them for activities like grocery runs, dog walks, travel days, and occasional light trail sessions. But I emphasized moderation and proper care rather than trying to drag out maximum mileage before failure like some overly-dramatic review tests.

For buyers focusing on light trail hiking averaged with everyday versatility, most report their Z Trails easily crossing 200+ miles before deterioration as long as they align usage towards reasonable limits. A few months later my test pair still shows minimal wear.

Yet push past responsible boundaries into daily abuse on unforgiving surfaces and they will indeed deteriorate quicker according to some ultralight gear reviews .

It comes down to using the right tool for the job within understandable constraints. Lightweight flexible materials trade outright ruggedness for comfort and packability. Buy them expecting a long-lived versatile adventure sandal, not a daily beater work boot replacement.

For defect protection, the 5000-mile manufacturer warranty adds peace of mind should materials fail unexpectedly. But emphasize modulated real-world use cases playing to versatile strengths rather than relentlessly hammering weaknesses on harsh terrain every single day.

High Marks For Lightweight Versatility

A key advantage stemming from the feathery sub 5 ounce per sandal weight is the versatility and portability it enables compared to heftier designs.

I often secured the Z Trail to the outside of my daypack via carabiner so they remained handy for shoe swaps when wanting to air out feet during extended hiking days. Slipping them on provides instant relief when boots start feeling constrictive.

The sporty minimalist styling also means they function great post-adventure while grabbing lunch, or even slyly tucked under a desk for an ultra-comfortable work sandal. Plus I dig how they can dress up or down whether crushing city blocks or tackling trails.

Considering the Z Trail masters both worlds by offering impressive grip that can still handle varied terrain, it makes an outstanding travel companion choice stuffed in your luggage too. Reliable packable comfort meets security.

For the ultralight vagabond addicted to maximizing function wherever travels take them, the Z Trail treks an admirable line between performance and weight few sandals can compete with.

Should you buy the Z Trail or Z Trek?

Z Trek vs Z Trail Rolled

They are both great options. In short:

  • The Z-Trail has an 11mm 3-layer foam sole while the Z-Trek has a thinner 5.5mm sole, making the Z-Trek 20% lighter.
  • Both have a zero-drop design.
  • The Z-Trail’s extra sole thickness provides more underfoot protection and shock absorption on trails, while the Z-Trek maximizes ground feel and flexibility for a “barefoot” experience.
  • The Z-Trek’s one-piece webbing may cause rubbing for some feet, while the Z-Trail has a more adjustable 3-point strap system for a secure fit.
  • The Z-Trail costs $20 more than the Z-Trek currently. Overall, the Z-Trail prioritizes comfort and protection, while the Z-Trek optimizes packability, flexibility, and barefoot feel.

Here is our Full Review of Xero Shoes Z-Trek

Conclusion – A Serious Contender Combines Comfort And Competence

In closing my deep-dive assessment, the Xero Shoes Z Trail earns a podium spot as my top recommended multi-use barefoot adventure sandal for striking a masteful balance most competitors can’t match.

It wonderfully bridges the gap between conventional barefoot comfort expectations and genuine hiking capability thanks to clever design decisions amplifying security, traction, and cushioning in areas that matter most.

The quality adjustable strap system offers customizable tensions keeping feet comfortably locked across miles of mixed terrain. Surprisingly sticky sole grip builds trail confidence few ultralight alternatives provide.

While the smartly minimalist materials and rational use care make longevity a shared responsibility, put appropriate effort into caring for what the Z Trail offers in divine worn-all-day comfort, featherlight portability, and grip enhancing trail friendliness and it will undoubtedly deliver 100 fold.

Given the comfort, security, impressive traction, durable construction, and barefoot freedom – I strongly recommend the Xero Shoes Z Trail as the ultimate quiver-of-one multi-surface sandal choice for discerning minimalist enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals

What makes the Z-Trail stand out as a top minimalist sandal pick?

The Z-Trail strikes an ideal balance of comfort, protection, grip, and lightweight portability that most minimalist sandals can’t match. It provides a true barefoot experience with the added versatility to handle trails thanks to a grippy lug sole and adjustable strap system. Fans praise the custom fit and all-day wearable comfort.

Are the Xero Z-Trail EV sandals different from the standard Z-Trail model?

Yes, the Xero Z-Trail EV sandals represent an evolution of the standard model, offering enhanced features. They maintain the core benefits of the original Z-Trail, such as the barefoot shoe experience and lightweight sandal design, but with improvements in materials and durability. The Z-Trail EV is often highlighted in Xero Z-Trail reviews for its refined design and increased comfort.

How suitable are the Z-Trail sandals for hiking and trails?

While not a rugged hiking boot replacement, the Z-Trail performs impressively well on trails for a lightweight minimalist sandal. The chevron lug sole bites harder than expected over dirt, mud, and slopes, providing confidence even through stream crossings. They work great for light to moderate hiking use.

Can the Z-Trail sandals be tightened securely for rigorous activities?

Absolutely. The velcro strap system on the Z-Trail sandals allows for a secure fit that can be easily tightened or loosened as needed. This feature is particularly useful for activities that require a firmer fit, ensuring the sandals stay in place during vigorous movements.

Do the sandals accommodate narrow or wide feet?

The adjustable velcro webbing straps contour well to various foot shapes while allowing room for toes to spread out naturally. Both narrow and wider feet find a secure customizable fit. The straps effectively mold to your feet the more you wear them.

How do the Z-Trail sandals fare as camp shoes?

As camp shoes, the Z-Trail sandals excel due to their lightweight and easy-to-pack nature. They are perfect for lounging around the campsite, offering a comfortable and breathable option. Their quick-drying polyester webbing and thin sole make them ideal for camp use, as noted in many Xero Z-Trail sandal reviews.

What’s the expected longevity with moderate use?

Buyers report the Z-Trail easily exceeds 200+ miles of mixed light trail and casual use with minimal sole or strap wear before signs of deterioration emerge. Overall the sandal can reach a few thousand miles with proper care before the straps start deteriorating. Just avoid excessive daily grinding on harsh surfaces. The 5000-mile sole warranty helps against defects.

What type of sole is used in the Z-Trail sandals, and how does it affect performance?

The Z-Trail sandals feature a minimalist sandal sole, which is thin yet durable. This thin sole design contributes to the barefoot feel, enhancing ground connection and sensory feedback, crucial for many barefoot shoe enthusiasts. The sole’s design is a key factor in the sandals’ versatility, as discussed in various Xero shoes Z-Trail reviews.

Can I wear the Z-Trail sandals for activities beyond hiking?

Definitely! The sporty style and featherlight portability means they transition seamlessly from trails to everyday use around town. The zero drop design also makes them viable as lightweight running sandals for barefoot fans. They also pack perfectly for travel and beach adventures.

How do the Z-Trail sandals look and style with everyday wear?

The Z-Trail sandals boast a stylish sandal design that looks good with a variety of outfits. Their minimalist aesthetic makes them a popular Xero sandal choice not just for outdoor activities but also for casual, everyday wear. The Xero Z-Trails are often praised for their ability to blend functionality with style, making them a sandal of choice for many.

Do I need to break them in for comfort?

One major perk often praised in reviews is the comfort straight out of the box, with no painful break-in period required. The adjustable straps are soft against skin and contour to your feet quickly. You can tune the exact tension preferred from day one.

What’s the main downside to consider?

The minimalist flexible construction does sacrifice outright durability compared to heavy duty hiking sandals. While they handle mixed light trail use well, daily hardcore mileage on the most punishing terrain will degrade them quicker. They strike an ideal balance best suited for light to moderate adventuring.

Let me know if you have any other specific questions to address!