Gear Review: Xero Shoes Mesa Trail

I first learned about Xero shoes from an ad in a popular hiking magazine. It was a sandal, rolled up into a small circle, loosely held between a thumb and index finger. The words “lightweight and packable” jumped off the page. I couldn’t wait to get my feet in a pair. Goodbye heavy Chacos, hello minimalism.

Fast forward a few years and here I am with five different pairs of Xero shoes, including one of the newest releases, the Mesa Trail.

Xero Shoes Mesa Trail At-a-Glance

MSRP: $119.99
Weight: 12.8 ounces/pair (women’s 7)
Intended purpose: trail running
Heel-to-toe drop: 0 mm
Stack height: 8 mm; 5 mm rubber outsole, 3 mm foam midsole

Xero Shoe Mesa Trail on a wooden bridge

Circumstances of Review

I received these shoes in mid-May while British Columbia was still in phase 1 of the pandemic emergency plan. This meant all my walking had to be super close to home. Around the same time, I learned that the handful of trail races I’d registered for were also canceled. I’m not afraid to admit that my motivation went down the toilet.

Since then our province has cautiously begun to open and I’ve been able to get out on a few day hikes and the odd trail run. Unfortunately, all this means I have not tested these shoes to the degree that I normally would have.

I’ve been wearing minimalist and zero-drop shoes for the better part of two years now, as well as building up foot strength, flexibility, and stability through a variety of exercises. My body has adapted to natural movement and is comfortable with increased feedback from my feet.

Features

 

  • Breathable mesh upper and moisture wicking lining helps keep your feet cool and dry.
  • More durable construction.
  • 3 mm protective “TrailFoam” midsole layer and 5 mm abrasion-resistant “FeelTrue” rubber outsole, with 3.5 mm dual-chevron lugs for traction and sure-footedness.
  • Wide toe box lets toes spread, splay, relax, and function naturally.
  • Flexible enough to let your feet bend, move, and flex.
  • Vegan-friendly materials.
  • 5,000-mile sole warranty.

Fit

Xero Mesa Trail shoes balanced on a rock in a lake

The Mesa Trail is wider than a conventional running shoe with a toe box that more accurately mimics the shape of your feet. There are huarache-inspired adjustable instep and midfoot straps that create a more secure and comfortable fit.

I was honestly amazed at how perfectly the Mesa Trail fit my feet. I’ve struggled with the fit and sizing of nearly every other Xero shoe I’ve ordered, and I usually have to exchange* them at least once.

*free exchanges for all US orders.

Xero Shoes has made a visible effort to streamline the fit of their product line, but it’s worth noting that they recommend choosing ½ size larger for the Mesa Trail.

Positives

Trail running in the Mesa Trail is an absolute dream. My feet feel lighter than air with nothing holding me down. The sole is thin enough to get incredible feedback from the ground but also solid enough that I don’t feel every pebble or twig. The 3.5 mm lugs on the sole are well-spaced and offer extra traction through a variety of conditions.

Xero Shoes is one of the few companies that really understands how to design a minimalist shoe for women. The wide toe box lets my foot return to its more natural shape after too many years in tight-toed pumps. The ankle is narrower than the man’s version and at a just-right height to keep my foot securely in place. I especially appreciate the personalization in fit that can be achieved with the adjustable instep and mid-foot straps.

Another pro about Xero Shoes is that they have a 5,000-mile sole warranty. They essentially guarantee that your shoes will last way beyond the replacement recommendations of most other performance shoe companies. There’s also lots of room in the Mesa Trail for a more padded or therapeutic insole.

Drawbacks

The Mesa Trail is a truly minimalist shoe with no cushy foam padding or arch support. Be cautious if this is your first foray into minimalist shoes and start slowly. Give yourself time to get used to using your muscles naturally, to relaxing, and to your gait changing. You can expect some achiness in the arches, ankles, soles, calves, etc. You’ll also be putting your brain to work as you’ll be receiving a ton more feedback from your feet. I was both physically and mentally exhausted after my first long day-hike in the Mesa Trail.

Conclusion

A line up of 5 different styles of Xero Shoes

The Mesa Trail shoe is an absolute dream to my feet, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to move into a minimalist shoe. It’s one of the most recent additions to the Xero Shoes line-up and the design has benefited from everything the company has learned from feedback to their previous models. It lands squarely between a running shoe and a hiker with breathable yet strong enough uppers and just enough protection and traction on the sole.

Shop the Mesa Trail Here

Comparable Shoes

Altra Women’s Vanish XC
MSRP: $80
Weight: 11 oz
Stack Height: 15 mm

Merrell Women’s Bare Access XTR
MSRP: $100
Weight: 12 oz
Stack Height: 17 mm

Vibram Women’s FiveFingers V-Trail 2.0
MSRP: $120
Weight: 10 oz
Stack Height: 3.7 mm

This item was donated for purpose of review

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Comments 1

  • Avatar
    Neill Briggs : Aug 4th

    I too saw Xero shoes in a Youtube add. Since you have experience on section hiking the PCT, do you think Xero shoes would be a possible consideration for thru hiking? There are a number of Xero models with varying amount of cushion. Just wondering how they would do hiking day after day. Of course shoes with fit, support, comfort are the most personal piece of kit.

    Reply

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