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Xero Z-Trail EV Review (Still a Good Sandal in 2023?)

After several days of testing these Xero Z-Trail sandals on the incredible Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand, I am now counting them among the most comfortable footwear produced by the brand.

Our Verdict

They are lightweight and felt like an extension of my feet when walking, allowing me to go faster without sacrificing comfort.

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals

The zero-drop design makes running easy and comfortable, no matter what terrain you’re on. Moreover, the adjustable lacing features ensure that your feet are always secure while still leaving room for flexibility and peace of mind.

While this minimalist sandal is definitely not intended for technical hiking, it proved performant during trail runs, and I would recommend it for more than city or beach walks.

In fact, it has everything you need in a running shoe – comfort, protection, responsiveness, and lightweight design – at an affordable price.

If you’re looking for an excellent pair of sandals, keep reading my Xero Z-Trail review to find out more about my experience with this model.

Product Features

  • Redesigned dual-chevron tread
  • Trail Foam™ midsoles
  • Bare Foam™ footbeds


  • Minimalist sandals that allow sensing the terrain beneath
  • Easy to obtain a tight fit due to the single strap design
  • All unnecessary materials were excluded to reduce fatigue during long walks
  • Shock-absorbant middle layer adds moderate comfort
  • Easy to put on and remove thanks to the Velcro closure


  • The sole may be too thin for very technical terrain
  • The open-toe design offers no protection against small rocks and debris

Things We Tested When We Reviewed Xero Z-Trail EV

no ankle support or protection for toes

1. Durability

Durability is always a concern when it comes to minimalist shoes, but the Z-Trail EV held up quite well during my testing. The outsole is made from a durable rubber compound that showed minimal wear even after multiple hikes and runs.

The tubular quick-dry webbing straps also proved to be resilient, maintaining their shape and function despite being exposed to water sports and river crossings.

The only potential weak point I noticed was the heel strap, which might show some wear over time, but overall, I was impressed by the wear resistance of these Xero shoes.

2. Traction


When testing the Z-Trail EV adventure sandal, one of the first things I noticed was the trail-ready traction.

The outsole of this minimalist sandal offers an impressive grip on varied terrains, thanks to its chevron lug pattern.

While walking on sharp rocks and wet surfaces, I found that the Xero Z-Trail sandals provided a much better grip than other hiking sandals or minimalist sandals I’ve tried.

However, in very wet conditions or slippery surfaces like wet rocks, the traction can be compromised slightly, but it still outperforms many other sandals in similar situations.

3. Comfort

In terms of comfort, the Xero shoes Z-Trail EV surpasses many other minimalist sandals and even some modern sports sandals or camp shoes. The thin midsole provides underfoot protection without sacrificing the ground feel that minimalist shoe enthusiasts love.

The slight heel cup contour to the foot’s shape, offering a surprisingly comfortable experience. These Xero sandals feature a lacing system that allows for a comfortable fit without causing hot spots or discomfort.

I did notice that when walking downhill, my foot tended to slide forward slightly, but tightening the strap helped alleviate this issue.

4. Breathability

As I tested this camp shoe for my Z Trail review, I found breathability to be one of its standout features. The minimalist sandal design allows for maximum airflow, keeping your feet cool and dry on hot days.

The open-air design of the Z Trail EV is ideal for those who prefer minimalist shoes and sandals that promote natural movement while reducing the risk of hot spots and discomfort.

The tubular quick-dry webbing also dries fast, making these sandals perfect for water sports and stream crossings.

5. Weight

making this sandal's strap tight

The Xero Z Trail EV is an impressively lightweight sandal, weighing in at only 5.4 ounces (size men’s 9).

This makes it one of the best lightest hiking sandals available, providing a barely-there feel that minimalist footwear enthusiasts will appreciate.

The lightweight nature of these sandals ensures minimal fatigue during long hikes or trail runs.

However, while the slim midsole provides a great feel of the ground beneath, it might not offer enough underfoot shielding for those used to more cushioned and supportive shoes.

6. Waterproofing

The Z Trail hiking sandals are designed for wet conditions and feature quick-drying materials like recycled water bottles for their straps.

While they don’t have the same level of waterproofing as modern sports sandals, from my experience, they dry quickly and provide excellent traction on wet rocks and slippery surfaces, making them a suitable option for hiking trips with stream crossings or water activities.

7. Support

these sandals have almost zero drop soles, perfect for barefoot hiking

When it comes to support, the Z Trail EV remains true to its minimalist roots.

The slim sole and lack of arch support promote natural movement and a barefoot feel, which may not be suitable for those seeking a more supportive shoe.

The heel strap and Z strap ensure a good fit, but the slight heel cup and minimal design might not provide enough protection for technical hiking or running downhill on uneven terrain.

8. Fit and Sizing

The Xero Shoes Z Trail EV features a customizable fit thanks to its adjustable laces and heel strap. The sandal is available in various sizes to accommodate a range of foot shapes, but the slim footbed and minimal design may not suit everyone.

Some users might experience their feet sliding forward during steep descents or need a tighter fit for more varied terrain, but none of these issues showed up as I tried the sandals.

How It Evolved?

closeup of this blue sandal's straps

The Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV takes the impressive foundation laid by its predecessor, the Xero Z-Trail, and elevates it further.

Building on the success of the original, the EV version introduces a TrailFoam layer in the midsole, enhancing cushioning and responsiveness for a more energized stride.

While the Z-Trail offered exceptional ground feedback and lightweight protection with its 10mm thick sole, the Z-Trail EV takes it up a notch, providing an even softer and more responsive feel due to its 11mm midsole.

Both models excel in durability and versatility while still remaining great barefoot shoes, but the EV version offers an enhanced level of comfort and bounce, making it a worthy upgrade.

How Does it Compare Against Similar Products?

Bedrock Cairn Adventure

Bedrock Sandals Cairn Adventure

The Xero Z-Trail sandals and Bedrock Cairn Adventure both offer a minimalist design and excellent traction, but there are some key differences between these two products.

The Xero shoes feature a lightweight, flexible FeelLite™ sole that provides an excellent surface feel.

This running sandal has BareFoam™ cushioning and offers a comfortable ride without compromising the barefoot feel.

On the other hand, the Cairn Adventure utilizes a Vibram® Megagrip outsole, known for its superior traction on various terrains. The Cairn also has an adjustable strap system for a more customizable fit.

While both sandals excel in their respective areas, the Z-Trail sandals may be more suitable for those seeking a lighter, more minimal sandal for trail running, while the $115 Cairn Adventure will appeal to those who prioritize traction and secure fit.

Teva Hurricane XLT2

Teva Hurricane XLT2 for women

The Z-Trail EV is designed for minimalist footwear enthusiasts, featuring a thin, flexible sole and lightweight construction.

It offers great ground feedback, making it ideal for those who prefer a more natural walking or running experience.

In contrast, the $75 Hurricane XLT2 focuses on providing stability, thanks to its thicker, more robust outsole and cushioned heel. The Teva also boasts a quick-drying webbing upper, which is beneficial for water-based activities.

Typically, the Z-Trail sandals are perfect for those seeking a minimalist option, but the Teva Hurricane XLT2 is better suited for users looking for additional protection and water-ready features.

Keen Newport H2

keen newport h2

The Xero Z-Trail EV and Keen Newport H2 cater to different preferences when it comes to trail sandals.

The Z-Trail EV is a minimalist sandal with a lightweight, flexible sole that allows for natural foot movement and an excellent ground feel.

Its three-layer construction, including the BareFoam™ cushioning, ensures comfort without sacrificing its minimalist design.

In contrast, the more expensive Newport H2 ($125) is also a more rugged option, featuring a thick rubber outsole and a protective toe cap for increased protection on rocky terrain.

Additionally, the Newport H2 has a closed-toe design and quick-drying, breathable uppers, making it an excellent choice for water activities.

Where Xero Z-Trail EV Performs Better?

easy hiking trail
These sandals perform very well on easy-to-moderate hiking trails

The Xero Z-Trail EV sandals shine in a variety of terrains and conditions, making them a solid choice if you are seeking versatility and comfort.

These sandals excel on moderate trails, where their lightweight design and flexible sole provide exceptional ground feel and agility.

With their secure yet comfy strap system, you’ll enjoy a snug fit that keeps your feet in place even on rough terrain.

Ideal for water-based activities such as stream crossings or beach outings, the Z-Trail EV’s quick-drying materials prevent chafing and discomfort. Their grippy and durable sole offers reliable traction on wet rocks, ensuring you can move confidently through slippery conditions.

In warmer climates, these trail sandals provide excellent breathability, keeping your feet cool and reducing the risk of blisters. The Z-Trail EV’s minimalistic design also makes it easy to pack, making it the perfect sandal for travelers looking to save space in their backpacks.

Where Xero Z-Trail EV Falls Short in Performance?

rocky hiking trail
These sandals cannot be used on rocky or difficult trails

While the Xero Z-Trail EV sandals have their advantages, they do exhibit a few shortcomings in certain performance aspects.

One significant drawback is the limited support and cushioning for extended hikes or challenging trails.

The minimalist design, although great for lightweight pursuits, might not deliver sufficient underfoot shielding for those seeking added support.

When navigating rugged or rocky terrain, the thin sole can leave your feet feeling exposed, potentially affecting your confidence and stability on the trail.

Additionally, the strap system, while soft and secure, may not provide the same level of overall support as more robust hiking footwear.

Furthermore, although the Z-Trail EV sandals are designed for wet environments, their traction on slick surfaces like mud or moss-covered stones isn’t as dependable as some other options in the market.

This limitation can be a concern for those who frequently encounter more challenging conditions.

Do We Recommend It?

Xero Z-Trail EV

With a highly supportive footbed and sole, these minimalist sandals provided the security and comfort I needed for more challenging footholds while at the same time making me feel as if I was walking in my bare feet.

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals

What particularly stood out to me about the Z-Trail EV sandals is their extreme durability and high levels of breathability. Also, they don’t shy away from mud and puddles, and I noticed that vegan-friendly materials seem to fight off water, dirt, and debris very effectively.

I wouldn’t necessarily use them for long-distance running or trailblazing more heavy terrains – surfaces like gravel are better navigated with some running shoes with thick soles – but they are some of the best sandals for walks and regular hiking situations.

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What Is the Difference Between Z Trail and Z Trail EV?

The difference between the Z Trail and Z Trail EV lies in the midsole. The Z Trail EV has a TrailFoam™ layer that enhances cushioning and responsiveness compared to the standard Z Trail.

How Thick Is Xero Z Trail Sole?

The sole of the Xero Z Trail is approximately 10mm thick. This thickness strikes a balance between providing ground feedback and protection, ensuring a comfortable and connected feel during outdoor activities.

Are the Xero Z-Trail EV Sandals Durable and Long-Lasting?

Yes, the Xero Z-Trail EV sandals are known for their durability and long-lasting performance. They are designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor adventures, featuring high-quality materials and construction that can handle various terrains and regular use over time.

Christina Utz

Christina Utz

Christina Utz is a professional writer, mountain addict, and hiking enthusiast. She successfully finished a rock climbing class and a wilderness survival course, and by the age of 24, she hiked more than 1800 miles and finished over 260 different trails! Her expertise in hiking and outdoors helped numerous people to fulfill their adventurous spirit!

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