Shoe Review: Xero Shoes TerraFlex
TerraFlex or TerraFlop?
Well, I guess it depends on what your use will be. I’ve been running in the Xero Shoes TerraFlex for roughly six months now and it is impressive. The TerraFlex is a minimalist shoe that I’ve used for trail running and backpacking. Therefore, I will review the TerraFlex as a trail running shoe and a backpacking shoe.
The Terrific TerraFlex
As a trail running shoe, the TerraFlex is a durable, flexible racer that has a beautiful foot-shaped design. There is plenty of room in this shoe, but the upper design allows it to be cinched down for my narrow-footed friends. The TerraFlex also has a zero drop platform, which every shoe should have. However, if your foot is especially narrow consider ordering the women’s TerraFlex. The upper dries relatively quickly, but at the same time runs a little warmer than my Altra Lone Peaks. Surprisingly, the TerraFlex doesn’t make your feet look like duck feet, just cylinder feet.
Whatever rubber compound Xero Shoes uses is especially durable as well. My TerraFlex have seen six months of regular use on packed dirt trails, roads, and one backpacking trip and are holding up well. Especially since the TerraFlex is my main running shoe.
Where the TerraFlex Shines
As someone who is relatively new to a minimalist shoe, I’m still surprised about how comfortable the TerraFlex can be. Short training runs are rewarded with a fast-feeling shoe, and longer runs lead to increased foot strength due to the innate flexibility of the shoe. More flexibility means more foot movement and more foot movement means a stronger foot with time. However, the time it takes to build sufficient foot strength is dependent on the user. On my first runs I avoided rocks and roots like the plague. Stepping on such obstacles was painful. Six months later I can cruise over them no problem because my feet just don’t experience the same pain.
Unfortunately, the Xero Shoes TerraFlex is not my go-to shoe for all trails. Simply put, the grip is atrocious. The lugs on the bottom are sufficient for loose dirt, grass, and gravel. However, anything remotely wet or smooth like tree roots and rocks turn the TerraFlex into ice skates. The hardness of the rubber compound Xero Shoes uses just doesn’t allow it to be sticky. Sure, the rubber is durable and will probably outlast the upper of the shoe, but I just can’t wear these shoes if there’s any significant amount of rocks on trail.
If Xero Shoes added some stickier lugs on the toe and heel area I wouldn’t have an issue at all. Sure, the flexibility of the shoe allows my feet to conform to whatever obstacle I tread, and that feeling of stability is nice. Sheer downhill angles on rock are still a major issue because stability doesn’t matter if you’re sliding like I was.
I was honestly considering the TerraFlex as my thru-hiking shoe for my 2019 Appalachian Trail attempt, but after my last backpacking trip in North Georgia that idea quickly vanished. At this point in time I had been wearing the TerraFlex for three months and was starting to not experience a tired foot after trail runs. Even with a total pack weight of 23 pounds I experienced some major foot fatigue that left me limping. Frankly, this was most likely user error as I should have strengthened my feet more to carry that extra weight.
Where the TerraFlex Slides
In terms of foot protection, there is none. You will feel every rock and root underfoot, but that’s also the point. The rubber used will ensure that the rocks and roots never poke through the outsole into your foot though. Ultimately, I don’t trust the grip, which is why I shan’t be using the TerraFlex on my 2019 attempt.
Is the Xero Shoes TerraFlex the shoe for you? As a beginner’s minimalist trail runner it is fantastic and is a great training shoe for longtime trail runners too. The ability to strengthen your feet for extended runs or hikes is the TerraFlex’s shining achievement, which is what I use it for. However, I warn you to not put weight on your back and expect the shoe to be comfortable for an extended backpacking trip. It will not be, but you will reap the reward of a stronger foot assuming you don’t blow a tendon. However, if you are an experienced minimalist style runner/hiker/backpacker and have strong feet you will enjoy this shoe. Those seeking an entry minimal style backpacking shoe would enjoy offerings from Altra and Inov-8 instead.
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