Gear Review: Xero Shoes Xcursion
Xero Shoes have been around for nearly a decade, but the past few years have seen the brand really take off in terms of visibility. Started by sprinter Steven Sashen and his wife, Lena Phoenix, a hiker, the company grew out of the barefoot-running craze ignited by Christopher McDougall’s 2011 bestseller Born to Run.
Sashen, who began sprinting again at age 45 after 30 years away from the sport, decided to make his own huarache-style sandals for running. Members of his barefoot-running club in Boulder, Colorado, urged him to turn it into a business, and Xero Shoes was born. Having sold tens of thousands of pairs of its minimalist sandals, the company in recent years has begun to expand into everything from casual wear to hiking shoes. The waterproof, ankle-high Xcursion is the company’s latest iteration of a lightweight hiking shoe with a minimalist sole.
The Xcursion is an unusual hybrid, intended to give hikers a sense of connection to the ground beneath their feet even as it protects the foot from getting wet, scratched, or cold. The shoe is a sort of mirror image to Chaco sandals. Chacos are open and unprotected on top, but feature a thick, heavy sole, where the Xcursion features a thin, light sole and considerable protection on top.
Xero Shoes Xcursion At-a-Glance
Weight: 22 ounces/pair (men’s size 9)
Intended purpose: Hiking
Heel-to-toe drop: 0 mm
Gusseted tongue and sealed waterproof inner liner: The shoe’s main line of defense against moisture.
Water-repellent membrane lines outer mesh: Additional protection against moisture.
Protective toe cap: Reinforced material to protect from wear and rock-stubbing.
Lightweight construction: A men’s size 9 weighs just 11 ounces per shoe, or 1 pound, 6 ounces per pair.
Wide toe box: All Xero shoes feature a wide toe box a la Altra, in the company’s efforts to prevent restrictions from interfering with the foot’s natural, barefoot shape and conformation.
Zero-drop heel: Following the logic of the barefoot philosophy, Xero Shoes believes that a zero-drop construction–the heel is level with the toe, instead of being elevated–encourages “proper posture” and helps with foot positioning, discouraging overstriding and the problems that can come with it.
High-traction, flexible FeelTrue® rubber sole: The thin sole features dual-chevron tread and is backed by the company’s remarkable 5,000-mile guarantee.
Fit: By the company’s own admission, fit may vary between its various models. This reviewer found that the Xcursion matched sizing for Xero Shoes’ Z-Trail minimalist sandal and most Altra models.
Durability: The reviewer hiked about 60 miles in the Xcursion on the following terrain: foothills hiking with some easy scrambling in the Colorado Rockies; in light snow (about four inches) on rolling dirt trail; dirt tread on undulating trail in Black Hills, South Dakota; in swampy land in the lowcountry of South Carolina; on the beach. That’s not a lot of miles, but the shoe appeared to be in good shape after that level of use.
Comfort: Putting on the Xcursion can make for a curious sensation. Why? Because, essentially, this is Xero Shoes’ sandal, with a flat, thin sole that allows you to feel the terrain beneath your feet, with lightweight uppers attached. This reviewer, who has hiked hundreds of miles in Xero Shoes’ minimalist Z-Trail sandals, felt oddly constrained when first trying the Xcursion. Many of the virtues of sandal-hiking are, by necessity, were lost the minute the sandal becomes a shoe. So it took a few miles before that disconnect began to fade. For those used to hiking in sub-ankle-height shoes, as is the reviewer, feeling that pressure can take getting used to. But overall, the shoes are comfortable, the material is flexible and does not weigh down the foot, and the reviewer experienced no issues with hot spots or blisters.
Waterproofing: No “waterproof” system, whether in a jacket, shoe, or other piece of gear, is entirely waterproof. It’s simply not possible, and that’s the case with the Xcursion. The shoe’s features are intended to keep moisture out, but that means they also tend to keep moisture–whether from sweat, drippings from wet foliage, stream-fording, rain running down your legs–in. This reviewer found that the shoes withstood light rain, a layer of light snow, and walking in dewy grass. But when submerged over the toes, water found its way around the gusseted tongue. Verdict: The Xcursion offers some protection from moisture, but like virtually any shoe or boot, hikers should not count on it to keep their feet completely dry in all conditions.
Traction: The Xcursion features the same “dual-chevron” lugs as Xero’s TerraFlex. The sole is flexible and impressively grippy.
The Xcursion is light and sturdy. While not truly waterproof, it certainly keeps feet dry in many conditions. The thin, zero-drop sole is admirably grippy and allows your feet to really feel the terrain. Theoretically, zero-drop shoes with a “barefoot” or minimal sole should help develop a more natural gait. Tough but comfortable uppers that provide ankle support.
Xero Shoes’ philosophy is barefoot all the way, so if you don’t like feeling the trail beneath your feet—every pebble and twig—the Xcursion is probably not for you. The downside of water-resistant materials is a distinct lack of breathability, and in warm conditions, your feet will be wet from sweat, regardless of whether it’s raining.
Those who enjoy backpacking in sandals often say they feel a sense of genuine liberation for their feet. And many who have hiked in minimalist sandals like those made by Xero Shoes love the fact that they can really feel the trail beneath their feet, even as they are protected from stickers, sharp stones, and the like. Xero’s Xcursion is an attempt to maintain some of the freedom of sandals or barefoot walking while providing protection, and it’s successful, as far as it goes. The shoe did take a bit of getting used to for this sandal-hiker. I felt simultaneously enclosed/restricted and curiously “unprotected,” even though I routinely hike in thin-soled sandals. So, in the end, I prefer sandals (I wear, and love, Xero’s Z-Trail). That said, only the hardiest hiker is willing expose her toes to, say, an ice storm in the Appalachians or a long march up a snowfield in the Sierra Nevada, so for hikers who truly love a minimalist, feel-the-trail sole, the Xcursion is a great option for tough-weather conditions. The shoe also combines a “barefoot” feel with protection for feet, toes and ankles in tough, rocky or gritty terrain.
This item was donated for purpose of review.
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