A couple weeks ago, Kim and I received two pairs of Z-Trail sandals from Xero Shoes. They asked us to provide an authentic review of the Z-Trail, so we tested them on short hikes around Tucson.
We also had the chance to use them on our backpacking trip in the North Cascades and wore them through the airport from Sky Harbor to SeaTac.
We found the Z-Trails to be exceptional for easy hiking, backpacking, and air travel. They are lightweight and compact (the sole is flexible so you can roll them up), and we loved wearing them at camp.
Tip: Not sure which lightweight backpacking gear to buy? We’ve done the “heavy lifting” for you. See our top picks.
I’ve never had the luxury of airing out my swollen, wet feet after a long day of backpacking in boots. It made a huge difference and I’m excited to continue taking Z-Trails on backpacking trips.
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For my first hike in Z-Trails, I went to the Green Mountain Trail on Mount Lemmon. This trail has some narrow steep sections, lots of rocks, and gravel. I found myself being extra careful and paying attention to each footstep because if I hadn’t, I would’ve slipped or stubbed a toe.
The Z-Trail outsole gives you just 10mm of protection from the ground, so you can feel sharp rocks when you step on them. This takes some getting used to.
I also noticed some heel rubbing on my right foot, but after loosening the straps, that went away. In general, I found a looser fit to be more comfortable in the Z-Trails.
In a pinch, you can wear Z-Trails on technical trails but I think they’re better suited for easy hiking. While the tread offers sufficient traction for it, you have to be vigilant or you’ll slip on slick or unreliable surfaces.
The best part about the Z-Trails is how lightweight they are for a functional sport sandal. Mine are a men’s size 10 and only weigh 11 oz. They take up very little space when packed, so they are a great option for backpacking and travel.
In the North Cascades, we hiked 55 miles with 15,000 feet elevation gain/loss. The weather was mostly good, but we got soaked during a rainstorm that lasted about 24 hours. Getting out of our stiff, soggy boots at the end of the day was a godsend.
I also hiked in my Z-Trails with my backpack on for 4 miles after a ghastly 5,000-foot descent. After that long downhill leg, my swollen feet just needed a change. The Z-Trails came in handy for this.
Coincidentally, three of our friends also brought Z-Trails on the trip, leaving just one person in the group without them. He was cursing our name throughout the trek, I can tell you that.
I can now call myself a Xero Shoes fan and I can’t wait to put their 5,000 mile warranty to the test.
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Xero Shoes Z-Trail$80
- Lightweight and functional for a sport sandal
- Great for giving your feet a break from boots on the trail
- Sufficient tread for hiking
- They take up very little space when packed
- You can feel sharp rocks when you step on them
- You have to be extra careful to not stub your toe