The Xero Z-trail EVs are minimalist hiking sandals with just enough protection under the foot to handle light hiking and trail running over varied terrain. These are lighter than any fully-adjustable hiking sandals we’ve seen, are ultra-comfortable straight out of the box, and make your feet feel light and free as you head down the trail.
✅ Zero drop
✅ Very comfortable
✅ Highly adjustable
❌ Minimal support
❌ Feet can slide forward, especially when wet
❌ Not the most durable
- Weight: 10.8 oz (0.675 lbs)
- Thickness: 11 mm
- Heel Drop: 0 mm
- Material: Foam, rubber, recycled polyester webbing
The Xero Z-Trail EV sandals are the lightest, fully adjustable minimalist hiking sandals available. With a mere 11-millimeter thick sole, they offer a surprising amount of foot protection when hiking over uneven terrain. These sandals are supportive enough for light hiking and trail running, but I wouldn’t recommend them for heavy backpacking trips or as your only footwear on a long-distance thru-hike, no matter what your base weight is.
They’re light enough to carry as camp shoes that you can throw on for river crossings and exploring around camp. These are a great option if you’re looking for an ultralight hiking sandal for shorter trips. If you’re looking for a do-everything long-distance hiking sandal, something with a slightly more substantial sole would probably work out better for you.
Performance Test Results
How We Tested
I tested the Xero Z-Trail EV sandals in Colorado and Utah during late summer and early fall. The weather was mostly warm, in the upper 70s most days, and colder overnight. I also experienced some rainy conditions during testing, where the temperature dropped into the 50s and 40s. I hiked with these sandals over dirt, sand, mud, rock, and gravel. I crossed rivers and creeks. I used them for rock scrambling as well. I also carried these sandals with me to use as camp shoes while backpacking
The Xero Z-Trail EV sandals are a true ultralight minimalist sandal. At 10.8 ounces, these are the lightest sandals available that you can still reasonably expect to hike in. They have an ultra-minimal 11-millimeter-thick sole, a ¾-inch polyester webbing strap that zig-zags across the top of the foot, a ladder lock buckle to tighten the main strap, a strip of velcro on the heel, and little else.
How light minimalist sandals should be depends on the intended use. But, these sandals certainly push the limits of being too minimal for certain kinds of hiking. There is nothing that could be considered extra weight on these sandals.
I could feel the rocks through the thin sole when wearing these with a backpack and walking over small rocks. The soles have minimal lugs that provide some traction, but these sandals aren’t designed to dig deep into slippery mud or sand. Instead, they rely on their lightweight, minimal design to stay on top of everything.
Most other minimalist hiking sandals weigh at least a pound. The Xero Z-Trail EVs weigh 6 ounces less than that. They are not the most supportive, nor do they have a particularly grippy rubber outsole when compared to some other minimalist sandals. There are also minimalist sandals with better underfoot protection.
However, since these are so light, they are the best sandals to use as camp shoes on a backpacking trip that you can still use to hike around camp. I wouldn’t recommend hiking for long days with a fully loaded backpack in these, but if you want to explore the area around your camp, these are great for that. They won’t weigh you down all that much when carrying them to camp, either.
These sandals are less expensive than many minimalist sandals, but they’re not the least expensive hiking sandals available. However, these are a great value when you compare them to other hiking sandals that perform on this level.
These have every feature you would want in a minimalist sandal for a reasonable price. They don’t feel cheap, but they’re closer in price to sandals that aren’t nearly as high-quality. These sandals also have a 5,000-mile sole warranty. This allows you to get a replacement pair for 60 percent off if you wear out the soles in less than 5,000 miles. This warranty increases the value of these sandals significantly and puts them squarely in the camp of other high-quality minimalist sandals that offer to re-sole their sandals.
Xero Sandals are often on sale, too. So, watch out for that. They’re always a great value, but when they’re on sale, they’re an especially good purchase.
I find these sandals very comfortable when worn all day. The Barefoam sole footbed feels like a softer, more durable version of that light foam found on dollar-store flip-flops. The tubular polyester webbing straps have no sharp edges to dig into your skin. I‘ve never experienced any blisters or chafing with these sandals. And, as with all Xero shoes, there is plenty of room in the toe area for your feet to spread out with these sandals.
The soles on these sandals are flexible enough that your foot can comfortably move in any direction. These are by far the least restrictive feeling sandals I've ever worn.
However, when hiking in these, you might find them to be less comfortable after a long day. I also found the soles to be too thin and flexible for more technical hiking. While some may prefer sandals that are this minimal for hiking, I found the 11 millimeters between mt feet and the rocks to be a little too thin for walking on rocky trails. By the end of a long day of hiking, these sandals were still very comfortable, but my feet were sore.
With most minimalist sandals, your feet will be sore by the end of a long day of hiking. This is especially true if you aren’t used to wearing minimalist shoes. It’s commonly repeated in the minimalist shoe world that once your feet are stronger they won’t get as sore after wearing minimalist shoes all day. But I’ve been wearing zero drop and minimalist shoes for nearly 5 years, and my feet still get sore after long days on technical terrain wearing minimalist sandals. This is true of Xero sandals and other minimalist hiking sandals.
Also, I found my feet slid forward and back along the Barefoam sole when hiking. The solution I discovered to this was tightening the top strap until it was almost too tight across my toes. Rather than deal with a too tight sandal, I simply learned to live with the slight sliding forward and back. This isn’t a terrible amount of sliding, especially when the sandals are dry. However, it is more than I’ve experienced with some other minimalist sandals.
Stability & Versatility: 7/10
These sandals feel astonishingly light. I find this level of minimalism feels more stable in some ways and less stable in others. These sandals will feel very different if you’re used to a very supportive shoe with arch support and a tight fit around the ankle.
Since these sandals are zero drop and only have a centimeter thick sole, your foot is very close to the ground. This creates a lot of stability, the same way you feel more stable when you’re barefoot. You can balance better when your entire foot is making contact with the ground, and you can feel the ground. However, these sandals will not feel more stable for everyone in all scenarios.
Zero drop sandals like these ultimately come down to personal preference. On harsh terrain, they won’t support your foot like a fully enclosed shoe or boot, but that’s not what they’re intended to do. These shoes are well-suited for hiking or running on smooth terrain. They can handle a small amount of technical terrain, but I think they do best on groomed dirt trails.
The soles on these sandals are also not very sticky rubber. They won’t feel as stable as a stickier rock shoe. I tried rock scrambling with these and found they aren’t a good choice for rock climbing, hiking on slick rock, or doing a lot of scrambling, especially in wet conditions. There are some minimalist sandals with a Vibram Megarip outsole; these will grip onto smooth rock and other slippery surfaces better.
They’re also great for water sports–paddling, canoeing, kayaking, and packrafting. They float, and only the straps seem to absorb water. Since they don’t absorb much water, they’re also quick to dry.
When they’re wet, your foot tends to slide around on the footbed when you walk, though. Since they dry quickly, this won’t be a problem for long, but it is a problem. Also, the less sticky rubber on the outsole doesn’t grip rock when wet. They’re definitely stable enough to cross rivers in them confidently, though.
Since these aren’t great in wet or technical conditions, they aren’t the most versatile sandals. But since they’re so minimalist and light, they’re pretty easy to throw in your pack to put on when you need to. In this sense, they are very versatile. Look at them as a camp shoe that works great for hiking, just not for long distances over technical, harsh terrain.
These sandals have a z-shaped strap system that tightens with a ladder lock buckle across the top of your foot. Another strap wraps around your heel and tightens or loosens with velcro. This adjustment system works well for most foot shapes since there is a lot of strap to work with.
Compared with other minimalist sandals, these are about as adjustable as the best of them. Some hiking sandals don’t have adjustability in the heel. I find that heel adjustability is key to dialing in a great fit.
These sandals only come in whole sizes, but they’re adjustable enough that this isn’t a fit issue. I generally wear size 9.5 shoes. I got a 10 in these sandals and could adjust them to fit my feet easily.
To adjust these for a secure fit, undo the velcro heel strap and slide your foot under the main z-strap. Then, pull the section of this top strap tight over your toes. The tighter you make this frontmost section of the strap, the less your foot will slide forward as you walk. After you get the front of the z-strap tight, pull the strap through the main buckle until it’s snug on your foot. Finally, secure the velcro around your heel.
These sandals are made of an ultra-soft foam for the footbed, a thin layer of denser rubber in the midsole, and an even denser rubber outsole and lug system. The straps are polyester tubular webbing made of recycled plastics.
The webbing crisscrosses the top of the foot and attaches to a heel strap system attached to the back of the footbed, just in front of the ankle bones. The heel strap is made of the same webbing as the rest of the sandal, but the pieces extending up from the footbed are thicker. There is also a heel cup along the back of the sandal, which helps hold your foot in place.
I love the feel of this footbed on my bare feet. It is soft and feels much more comfortable when you first slide these on than other minimalist sandals. I also found the tubular webbing on these sandals to be soft and comfortable right out of the box–no break-in period required.
These sandals are reasonably durable but probably won’t outlast some of the burlier hiking sandals out there. As previously mentioned, they come with a 5,000-mile sole warranty. So, if you wear out the soles, you can get another pair at 60 percent off. Many other minimalist sandals have a thicker sole that will last longer.
On older versions of these sandals, I’ve seen issues of the straps tearing from the sole on the outside of the forefoot when used heavily for lateral movements–think cutting back and forth while sprinting as you would in basketball or tennis. But for less side-to-side heavy movements, even the older version of these sandals held up very well.
The new versions of these sandals, as tested here, seem to have a burlier strap loop on the outside of the forefoot. I have yet to see any evidence anything is going to fail on this current pair.