For many of us, our favorite childhood memories include going barefoot. To this day, many of us enjoy the feeling the grass under our feet and the mud between our toes. Now, we are all grown up and need shoes now and again because our adventures have gotten much more intense. We are out here hiking, biking, swimming, forging streams, playing disc golf, climbing mountains, attending festivals -- you name it, we're doing it, and we're having a blast. But that you're probably tired of feeling like your feet are nothing more than sausage stuffed into shoes that feel strange all the time, right? There are shoes on the market now, like Xero Shoes, that are changing the game entirely. It's possible to protect your feet and feel like you are barefoot all at the same time.

Xero Shoes appeal to people who like to remain barefoot at all times. They aren't the only ones, though. They appeal to a lot of runners and hikers, as well, because they find they find they find that common injuries like plantar fasciitis and bunions decrease. We are born, after all, in our bare feet. The science shows that ideally, shoes should feel as though we are still barefoot. Is it possible? The good people at Xero Shoes sure think so.

​What Are Xero Shoes?

Black and white xero shoes

First, we are going to talk about why Xero Shoes are so different from the footwear most of us are familiar with. It all starts with the outsole, which is the thing between your foot and the ground. Most of the time, shoes have risers under the heels of our foot or contain other "support" systems under your arches or near the Achilles tendon above our heel. Those features, it turns out, are not as helpful as we first thought, at least not for everyone. So the people at Xero Shoes did it differently, and they changed the game with their patented FeelTrue® outsoles.

FeelTrue® outsoles come in several thicknesses, the DIY sandals come in 4 and 6 millimeters, for example. Both of those outsoles make you feel like you are still barefoot. The material is high-abrasion, and the shoes come with a 5,000-mile warranty. Additionally, they are contoured to your feet with a slight "toe-spring," as well as being super flexible, for a fit that makes you forget they are even there.

Barefoot Sandals

The company's flagship product is a kit that allows you to make your own sandals -- and runners and hikers are raving about it. In the bag, you get two outsoles, which are easy to trim down to your size, laces, and a hole puncher to attach the laces to the outsole. There are extensive directions online that show you how to tie the laces in a huarache style or any other that you choose. That's only the beginning, though. The company expanded, and now they carry all sorts of cool stuff.

If you feel like you might need a thicker sole than 4 or 6 millimeters, don't worry. After the success of its sandals, Xero Shoes created an entire line of really cool shoes for all sorts of needs. We will dig into the company's different offerings below.

Xero Shoes' Difference

We already talked about the 5,000-mile warranty that each line from Xero Shoes carries. On top of that, the shoes have a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. So, if you get your shoes and after a few months the seams are tearing, the company will replace them.

Minimalist shoes and the health of your feet

For decades, shoe companies have come out with "the latest and greatest" technology meant to improve our running/walking/hiking. Finally, people started asking if there could be a better way. Now, while the science hasn't quite caught up, and there are no studies to prove that minimalist shoes provide a health benefit, thousands of people are making the switch. For many of those people, after they switch, their sports injuries melt away. How? Why? Well, nobody is quite sure.

Here's the theory. In ordinary shoes, our feet don't strike the ground like they are supposed to. Overengineered shoes cause us to use heel strikes, which is not good for our feet at all. On top of that, with all that support in there, our feet never get the chance to build strength on their own. Stephan Sashan, the founder of Xero Shoes, pointed out that when you put a broken arm in a cast, it heals the bone, but the muscles atrophy and they get weaker -- not stronger. The same applies to our shoes. We encase our feet in shoes that are overengineered and take away their ability to gain strength on their own. Unless, of course, you get yourself a pair of minimalist or "barefoot" shoes.

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Comparison Table

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Black and yellow xero shoe

[amazon link=”B0171N97NY” title=”Vivobarefoot” /]

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First, we will compare Xero Shoes to another really popular minimalist brand, Vivobarefoot. Vivobarefoot offers a running/hiking shoe comparable to the Prio called the Primus. Now, we know that Xero Shoes have the TrueFeel® outsole. On the Prio, the outsole measures 5.5 millimeters. The Vivobarefoot Primus' outsole is three millimeters. Both shoes come with an additional insole, it's up to you whether you use it or not.

We highly recommend that you do use the extra insole in cold weather, mind you. We want to add that Vivo does have an additional offering with some of their shoes that Xero does not. If you spend a lot of time on the ice, Xero brand works well enough, but Vivo has shoes specifically designed for use on slick surfaces.

Uppers

Both the Primus and the Prio are vegan-friendly. The uppers on the Vivo Primus are made from recycled PET bottles and are reportedly very breathable. A few reviewers did report that their Primus shoes fit well with the wide toe box, sported by both brands. However, the fabric around the ankle was too tight for a few customers, even though the shoe fit otherwise. The Xero Prio also sports a breathable mesh upper that dries quickly. The majority of the complaints we found on Amazon about the Prio's fit were from customers that didn't read the instructions and forgot to order a half-size up.

Looks

Finally, we will talk about looks. The Vivo's Primus is an understated shoe and comes in a few muted colors. The design is largely one solid color with a small three-block design on the side. You can wear the Vivos for daily use with many different types of clothing. The Xeros Prio is also a beautiful shoe, but it's not quite as understated. The Prio's design is multi-colored with a cool strappy design that both looks good and holds your foot comfortably in the shoe. With the stripes on the sides, as well as the multi-colored pattern, the Prio shoes won't work quite as well with as many different types of outfits as the Primus shoes.

[amazon link=”B01N36ZKIF” title=”Merrell” /]

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Next, we are going to compare the Xero Shoes Women's Prio to the Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 3. First of all, please note that Merrell is not solely in the business of making minimalist shoes. The Merrell barefoot shoe collection is minimal compared to the other lines the company offers. Interestingly enough, the outsoles of the Vapor Glove 3's are made using the rubber from the next company we are using for this comparison -- Vibram.

The Vibram outsole on the pair of Vapor Gloves is 6.5 millimeters. Compare that to the TrueFeel® outsole at 5.5 millimeters, and you can see that the Merrell brand is a little thicker. The Merrell shoes come with a TrailProtect™ pad, which is probably much like the insole that comes with the Prio. 

Looks

It's too bad that the Merrell shoes have so many quality issues because they are an excellent looking pair of shoes. The designs on the Vapor Glove's are quite similar to the patterns on the Xero Shoes. They come in a multitude of colors, and you can get the Merrells in black and white. You could wear these shoes with the same type of clothing -- they are exactly comparable in that area.

[amazon link=”B010RA8AIG” title=”Vibram” /]

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Finally, we are going to compare the Xero Women's Prios to the Vibram Women's KSO Evo brand. First, let's talk for a moment about Vibram outsoles. These guys were the first brand to do minimalist shoes like these on a large scale.

Xero Shoes started out using Vibram rubber in its DIY kits. You can still purchase it from the company's website. So, suffice it to say that the Vibram company definitely knows where it's at when it comes to minimalist outsoles. However, there's something else you should recall. Remember how we talked about the toe spring and the improvements that Xero made to its rubber? That's important to note here. When they sat down with former design specialists from Nike and Reebok, the people at Xero Shoes took Vibram's idea and put their own spin on it.

Looks

The Vibram shoes are sort of different from what many people are used to. These shoes look less like shoes and more like toe socks. They have spots for each toe. There are thousands of people around the globe absolutely raving about these shoes, though. And they are super functional and hardcore. U.S. Special Forces even reportedly use them. However, for some of us, that toe thing is a big hill to climb. The Vibrams are also super-light; they only weight 4.9 ounces for a men's size nine. Remember, the Xero Shoes weigh 7.6 ounces.

Design

 Now, we already covered what the Vibrams look like, so let's talk about durability. We know that the Xero brand is durable, and they even have that guarantee. Insofar as the Vibram's durability, the shoes seem to hold up to well to regular use.

Keep in mind that the Vibrams are probably not suitable for everyday use unless, of course, you go adventuring for a living -- lucky duck! We gave the Vibram KSO Evo four stars to match the Vivobarefoot and Xero offerings.

So, there you have it. There are other shoes like the Xero shoes on the market. Some of them are even really comparable. An important thing to remember, though, is that at Xero Shoes, they took that Vibram outsole and everyone is in love with the results.

​Xero Shoes for Every Occasion

We already mentioned how Xero Shoes started with those cool DIY kits. Let's talk briefly about the other things the company offers. Xero Shoes also provides sandals you don't have to build yourself with differing outsole widths, depending on your needs. Additionally, Xero has hiking boots, running shoes, hiking shoes, and accessories -- like extra laces for those sandals. Most of the shoes come with an extra insole for those that want added protection from rocks or temperature. No matter your sport, there is a Xero Shoe for you.

Pros and Cons of Xero Shoes

Finally, let's talk about the true pros and cons of Xero Shoes.

Pros

  • That super-thin outsole
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Fast-drying
  • Lets your feet perform like you want them to

Cons

  • Cannot leave some Xero Shoes in the sun/heat -- voids warranty
  • For some people, spending this much is difficult when they haven't tried minimalist shoes before
  • Pay close attention to the instructions on how to properly size Xero Shoes

​Now Get Out There and Play

White and gray xero shoes

And there you have it, folks, everything you need to know about the Xero Shoes! Remember, we have hundreds of thousands of nerve endings in our feet. All those nerve endings are supposed to send constant feedback about our environment to our brains and help strengthen our feet. Instead of shoving your tootsies into another pair of shoes that cuts you off from Mother Earth -- heal your life and your feet by trying out a super-cool new pair of Xeros.

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