Xero Shoes Naboso Trail Sport Sandal Review
Hiking in sandals isn’t for everybody, and hiking in minimalist sandals is surely for fewer still.
But if you’ve learned to appreciate hiking in thin-soled sandals in the right situation, Xero Shoes makes several models that are both durable and comfortable. I’ve now hiked at least 300 miles wearing their Z Trail hiking sandals, and it’s become part of my standard gear for use on trail or in camp.
I’ve held off on reviewing the Xero Shoes Naboso Trail Sport Sandal for many months. I’ve been somewhat leery about how it would work for backpacking after wearing it for more casual use. My hesitation revolved around the sandal’s main selling point: the footbed is made of trademarked Naboso 1.5 “small-nerve proprioceptive material.” That’s a nice way of saying it’s studded with tiny nubs.
But the one thing I don’t like about the Z Trail is that the footbed gets very slippery when wet or muddy. When I headed up to the Appalachian Trail to make up 38 miles I missed on my 2016 thru-hike due to Lyme disease, I thought I’d try the Naboso instead and see if the nubs solved that problem.
Xero Shoes Naboso Trail Sport Sandal At-a-Glance
Style: Minimalist trail sandal with stimulating footbed
Weight: 5.4 ounces per sandal (men’s size 9)
Xero Shoes Naboso Features
FeelTrue® rubber sole: Provides good grip and abrasion resistance.
TrailFoam™ mid-layer: Provides some force absorption.
Naboso 1.5 footbed: Patented technology to stimulate nerves in foot.
Ultra-flexible: Makes for easy packing and transport.
Easy-to-adjust Z-shape straps with Velcro heel strap: Same design as Z Trail. Makes taking the sandals on and off quick and easy.
Tubular strap webbing: Soft and flexible, prevents blistering and chafing.
Sandals come in full sizes only, but can be cut to fit any size foot. Xero provides a downloadable foot pattern on its website for sizing. Straps are relatively easy to adjust and accommodate a wide range of foot shapes, including my short, wide, high-arched feet.
To date, this reviewer has used the Naboso as casual hiking/walking shoes on mostly flat trails, pavement, and the beach for over a year. They show no significant signs of wear. For this review, I wore them for about 20 rough and rocky miles of the AT in Pennsylvania. This definitely took a toll in the form of slight shredding at the toe. Xero offers an astonishing 5,000-mile sole guarantee through which you can replace shoes or sandals at 40 percent MSRP.
Wearers will want to ease into the Naboso, simply because most feet aren’t used to this level of stimulation. When first wearing the sandal, it’s not uncommon for your soles to feel just a little bit sore. It’s as if you’ve been walking on very small pebbles all day (which, in a sense, you have: rubber pebbles). This textured footbed grips the foot much better than the smooth Z Trail if you get it wet or muddy.
On the other hand, 10 miles with a 20-pound pack left me with sore feet despite all my previous conditioning in the Nabosos. At one point amid an extended rocky stretch, I simply took them off and put on my Altras for the rest of the day.
Like the Z Trail, the Naboso has an excellent, grippy sole. I’m always surprised by how stable I feel, even walking up rain-slicked rocks.
The Naboso is light, tough, and airy. It’s just what I’m looking for in a hiking sandal. A men’s size nine weighs just 5.4 ounces per sandal. With its flexibility, it’s easy to pack or stash. The sandal is highly adjustable and can accommodate many different feet. I like the look, and especially appreciate the Z-shaped tan I get when wearing them a lot. I can’t wear many sandal brands popular with long-distance hikers, simply because they don’t fit. That’s never a problem with Xero sandals. They’re also surprisingly comfy, and the tubular webbing has never given me a blister or even a hot spot.
If you don’t like the idea of really feeling the trail beneath your feet, Xero sandals aren’t for you. And while it’s conceivable that you could accustom your feet to walking all day on the Naboso nubs with weight on your back, my brief experience with the sandal on rough trail convinced me that it’s not the best option for long-distance adventures. It works as a camp shoe or for part-time wear, but my feet were definitely complaining after five or six miles on Pennsylvania rocks. It also only comes in black.
Xero Shoes Naboso Overall
I love wearing the Xero Shoes Naboso for walking, hiking on easy trails, and even running. They fit incredibly well, they’re comfortable, and they’re light as a feather. As advertised, they do have a pleasantly stimulating effect on my feet when I wear them for an hour or two.
That said, you definitely have to ease into them. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to wear them for eight hours through the rugged White Mountains with a heavy pack. Unless you’re someone who’s willing to take on the project of toughening up your feet for extended, tough wear, I’d say consider them an excellent camp shoe and even alternative to trade out with shoes during the day.
Weight: 5.4 oz. per sandal (men’s size 9)
Weight: 8 oz. per sandal (men’s size 9)
Weight: 10 oz. per sandal (men’s size 9)
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