Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals Review

Xero Shoes Z-Trail Hiking Sandals Review

Xero Shoes’ Z-Trail Sandal is a thin, light, flexible trail sandal for men and women, great for followers of the “barefoot”  and zero-drop shoe movements, and anyone who doesn’t want to carry extra weight but would like to bring camp shoes or river crossing footwear on their trip. They’re also great for water sports and even float! Some people even use them for hiking and backpacking, but I prefer wearing mids for hiking in New Hampshire’s mountains for extra protection against rocks and roots and the extra warmth they provide my toes and feet on cold days.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight:
    • Men’s: 11.2 oz
    • Women’s: 8.7 oz
  • Footwear Closure: Strap
  • Upper: Polyester Webbing
  • Toe Coverage: Open
  • Vegan: Yes

The Xero Z-Trail Sandals are made with several layers of foam and polyester webbing. The webbing is set up in a Z pattern allows adjusting the tension over your foot. The tubular webbing is comfortable with no sharp edges. Heel cups help keep your heels in place and prevent excessive pronation while providing side protection. There is a hook and loop closure that allows adjustment behind the heel. It’s all very simple to use and easily adjustable.

The webbing on the Z-Trail sandals can accommodate socks
The webbing on the Z-Trail sandals can accommodate socks

For me, these replace a pair of Tevas that weigh almost a pound.  Keep in mind that even though these are Xero Shoes’ thickest sandals, they are still thin (3/8″).  You will feel sticks and rocks through the soles.  So if you don’t like feeling the ground at all, these may not be for you. The bottom has a chevron tread pattern in grippy rubber which also has good abrasion resistance. The tread is pretty good and much better than the cheap Croc knock offs that I used to bring as camp shoes on backpacking trips.

While thin, three layers of foam help protect and cushion your feet
While thin, three layers of foam help protect and cushion your feet

As a water crossing shoe, they are light and easy to carry just in case you need them.  They easily stuff in a back or side mesh pocket on your pack, or you can hang them from a carabiner on the outside of your pack to dry.  Although they are thin, they are preferable to being barefoot, and they will stay on your feet much better than a slip-on like a flip flop or Croc.  I just use them as stream crossing and camp shoes, so I really can’t comment on the long term durability or comfort when wearing them to run or for extended periods.

Xero Shoes has several sandal models.  Some have either a toe holder or a toe loop while the Xero Z-Trail and Xero Z-Trek have webbing that crosses your whole foot. I like wearing socks with camp sandals because they help protect my feet from the environment a little bit.  One thing I really like about these Z-Trail sandals is that they can accommodate socks.

Raised edges help keep your heels in place and provide additional protection
Raised edges help keep your heels in place and provide additional protection

Sizing

The Z-Trail runs true to size, however, the sizing doesn’t match regular shoe sizes and you need to measure your feet to figure out the size you need. If you plan to wear these sandals with socks, you probably want to measure with the socks you intend to wear. You can also email [email protected] and they’ll send you templates that you can print out to see which size fits your foot best.

Z-Trail Sizing

Guarantee

Xero guarantees the soles of these sandals for 5000 miles, although it pays to read the fine print. If you do manage to wear down to 1mm thick at the heel or the ball of the foot (not an edge), they’ll replace them with the same product but give you a 60% discount. Er…um. In other words, you’ll pay manufacturer cost and shipping. They do however guarantee the sandals against manufacturer defects for 24 months from the date of purchase with proof of purchase.

Comparable Stream Crossing/Camp Sandals

Make / ModelMensWomensPrice
Xero Z-TrailYesYes$80
Xero Z-TrekYesYes$60
Bedrock Cairn 3D Adventure SandalsYesYes$110
Teva Hurricane XLT2 SandalsYesYes$70
Teva Terra Fi LiteYesYes$100
Chaco Z/1 SandalsYesYes$105
Keen Clearwater CNX SandalsYesYes$110
Merrell Choprock Shandal Water ShoesYesYes$110

Recommendation

If you are looking for a really lightweight, compact camp shoe that can double as a river crossing shoe, I can recommend the Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals. They pack flat in your backpack and they’re very lightweight. They dry quickly and can be worn with socks, making them a great sandal for stream crossings or in camp.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product

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About the author

Wanda Rice has been backpacking since the late 1980’s. She has climbed the New Hampshire 48, the New Hampshire 48 in winter, the New England 67 and is working on the New England Hundred Highest and the Four-Season 48. Wanda also teaches for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Mountain Leadership School, the AMC New Hampshire Chapter Spring and Winter Schools as well as the AMC NH Winter Hiking Series. She leads day and overnight trips for AMC NH year-round and loves mentoring new leaders. She is a gear junkie, a self-proclaimed Queen of Gear Hacks and loves sharing her tips and tricks with others. Wanda lives in southern NH and is looking forward to moving closer to the mountains in the next few years.

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12 comments

  1. I wanted to love these sandals and bought them for camp/creek shoes for my 2018 AT thru-hike. When everything is dry, they worked fine. However, as soon as they got wet, my foot would slide all around in the sandal regardless of how I adjusted the tension on the sandals. It got very frustrating that they became basically unusable on the trail whenever it was wet at all. I did enjoy hiking in them in dry times though.

  2. After giving one last shot at camp shoes, I tried these out. They were slippery, Ill fitting, uncomfortable, they fit well but somehow no matter what if I stood off camber, my big toe was out and on the ground. From now on if I need to move around camp, I do so barefoot with a headlamp carefully.

  3. I used ztrails as camp/crossing shoes in the Sierras last year also instead of tevas and also recommend them at least from my short term use. I did find them surprisingly comfortable on short easy hikes with socks. Less so without socks but I’m not a fan of hiking in sandals in general because I find they tend to gather grit under the feet and these are no different. I did find them reasonably secure for the river crossings I made with them, one of which was knee deep with rocks and quite rapid. The straps seem both strong and soft on the feet and to keep the sandals in place.
    One thing I found frustrating is the hook and loop closure that works around the heel strap and is the way that the Z strap is opened to insert your foot. For me this took a bit of getting used to. You can leave the heel strap set to length and pull it over heel but generally I found it will need tightening. Maybe I have petite heels but for me the heel strap has to be adjusted all the way to the loop section and this means the hooked pull end sticks out on the outside of the heel so it can catch on stuff and the hooks can gather fluff. A loop to tuck it in would help and you could add something like that but more generally it seem like the strap is too long and the hook and loop sections are not positioned on the strap in the best place. I have men’s 10 which puts about .5 inch in front of my big toe which is my longest toe. I generally wear a US 9.5 or 10 shoe depending. Possibly a men’s US 9 would fit me better. Personally I would prefer some other fastening system around the heel that doesn’t rely solely in hook and loop.

    • I switched the little black band from its place on top of my foot to the heal. This secures the heal band in place, and now getting in and out of the sandals is done by adjusting the top strap, from a much more natural position while sitting in my tent. My frustration with the Z-trails was significant reduced by this switching.

  4. agree with above. They’re a well built shoe, but they’re not that much lighter than the lightest Tiva’s.
    Also, it’s not an easy shoe to put on. If you don’t like to fuss with putting on you shoes at 3AM to go pee, it might not be the shoe for you.
    That’s where something like Croc’s shine…easy to slip on.

    • Once I had to relegate them to camp shoes, they were doubly frustrating due to how hard they were to put on for what I was using them for. Could have just had a super cheap/light pair of flip flops that I could slide on and go instead of sitting there fiddling with the strraps.

  5. Consider looking at the reviews of this product.
    Several delamination issues seem prevelant.

    What ever happened to the lightweight Hounds Croc-knock-offs?
    Comfy and cheap.

    • You can take this with a pinch of salt but REI said a month ago in answer to a question, that Xero have fixed the delamination issue and there had not been recent reports. On the REI site at least the reports were mostly from 9 months ago which is when and where I bought mine…so possibly after the fix or possibly not. They show no signs of delamination after a fairly good work out at that time and after being bounced around the shoe box since. Those reported delaminations where almost immediate probably indicating some uncured glue.

  6. Once I started counting ounces, camp shoes got tossed. I just wear my trail runners in camp even if they’re wet. I think the concept of camp shoes is, historically speaking, an LNT artifact, introduced to reduce campsite soil disturbance under the onslaught of hiking boots with vibram soles. It seems antiquated now that people aren’t wearing hiking boots as much. For stream crossings, I just wade with my trail runners on.

    • Well I don’t know about LNT reasons…never heard that and it sounds a bit loopy to me… but for people that do wear boots or hiking shoes, some alternative shoes are welcome in camp and at other breaks because it is nice to get stiff shoes off but still be able to walk around. While I can see the case for trail runners particularly for thru hikes and have worn them trail running I have not found them appropriate for my occasional backpacking which has involved crossing snow and rocky trails with very cold run off and starting with a heavy load. For thru hikes I would guess it is nice to have some alternative footwear in town and I can see Xeros fitting the bill.

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