As you saw in our Snippet, Xero Shoes has come up with a new design of huaraches, the Amuri Z-Trek. Stowe and I went on a canoe/camping/hiking trip last weekend, and I got a good chance to put the huaraches and ZEM gear’s Oxygen 2 to the test. We started by finding a good place to unload our canoe and explore a beautiful mountain lake that borders the Foothills Trail in South Carolina. There are 7 waterfalls around the lake and we hoped to see a good deal of them. We had no plan of where we were going to camp or hike, but we had an 80 degree day, a good map, and a steady canoe.
I started off wearing the Oxygen 2’s. They were perfect for what we were doing. They slip on and off with no closure, just a snug neoprene upper that allows the water to easily flow in and out as well as dry quickly. The snug fit around the foot prevents sand/rocks/dirt from easily getting into the shoe. The outsole of the shoes are non-marking, featuring the ActiveGRIIP outsole with Green-Grip recycled rubber pods and were great to keep traction on the bottom of the canoe, rocks, and offered slight protection walking through the woods to find a good camping spot.
The drawback of the Oxygen 2 is the way the outsole attaches to the upper. Instead of having the outsole come slightly up around the side of the shoe, the upper goes slightly underneath the shoe to meet with the outsole. On the inside of the shoe, it is sewn under the insole. This causes there to be half of a centimeter more room for your foot to move around than there is surface area of the insole. What does that cause? It causes your heal to end up further back in the shoe and the insole starting almost halfway up your heel. I spent some time at the beach recently and was excited to test them out on my morning run. It did not take long for the edge of the insole to start rubbing my foot. I was also surprised by the amount of debris that was able to enter around my ankles despite their snug fit and “4-way stretch.” Though it is by no means a highly developed construction to the shoe, the Oxygen 2 is perfect for what we were doing on the lake and I hope to use them again on our canoe and kayak adventures and also this summer out on the Hobie. These would also be a great camp shoe for backpackers, weighing only 3.2 oz. We explored the shores and found some waterfalls and a cute little island with enough flat space to set up our tent. Someone liked camping on it so much that there was stacked firewood! Plus side of a tiny island: We didn’t have to hang a bear bag!
The next morning we canoed back to our car and did a quick 6 miles hike to a beautiful waterfall that overlooked the lake. On that hike I wore the new Amuri Z-Trek by Xero Shoes. The Z-Treks mainly differ from the Cloud’s by their strap pattern. The Cloud’s have string that attach it to your feet and the Amuri have webbing in a fashion similar to the well-known Chacos. The Z-Trek felt closer to my foot compared to the Amuri Cloud. They felt great and natural while trail running.
We did some serious hiking to get to the top of the waterfall and the Z-Treks held up!
The main issues: At first I was wondering why my heel kept on going over the edge of the heel-cup. It was very annoying and I thought that it was a design flaw. I studied the shoe to see why it was doing this, and I realized that the ball of my foot should be higher up on the shoe because the webbing wasn’t holding my foot where it was supposed to be, and, therefore, my foot would become crooked in the sandal. I found out this is a sizing issue. Another problem I had, which could very likely be because of the size, but the strap across my ankle was very long so I had to tuck them in or else I stepped on them occasionally. This was 100% my fault for somehow failing to follow their pretty idiot-proof sizing system. I didn’t look at their sizing guide because I assumed that I would need to wear the same size as their Amuri Cloud, but they are different shoes and hold your foot in different ways and as Steven Sashen, the brains behind the operation of Xero Shoes, put it to me:
Huarache style sandals are sized based on fitting around the position of the toe post and how it relates to your foot... so you may end up with your foot positioned further forward vs. fitting based on the size of your foot, regardless of the position of the webbing between your 1st & 2nd toes, where you can slide your heel all the way to the back of the sandal.
The heel cup on the Z-Trek is a bit more "dished out" than the Cloud/Venture, giving it about 2-3mm of extra room depending on the shape of your heel. That is, for some it makes no difference, for others it gives them up to 1/2 a size more space. This is why we suggest that if you're "between sizes" you go for the smaller size.
I am happy that I was the guinea pig for all of you readers so you can get the right size, because these sandals are quickly becoming my go-to shoe. I have many outdoor friends who, half way through the summer, start to brag about their “Chaco tan line;” I hope to be repping the Z-Trek tan line this year with pride. Surprisingly, the** Oxygen 2 by ZEMgear** with its “rugged” looking, 4-5mm outsole had more ground feel than Xero’s newest huaraches with a 5.5mm outsole. For the most part, I really enjoyed the Z-Treks and the multiple ways to take them off, how easy they are to adjust, and how they feel more secure to my foot than the traditional huaraches. It is everything I loved about my Chacos but with a barefoot feel and great for running. (I sadly retired my Chacos several years ago because the support became unbearable and I had yet to find a good minimalist replacement I was pleased with). While this girl can only tolerate pulling so many rocks and sticks out from under her foot, I am enthusiastic about bringing this 5 ounce sandal on my next adventure to use as a camp shoe or backup hiking shoe.
**All in all, it was a perfect adventure-packed weekend, which wouldn’t have been possible without the right footwear, and I couldn’t be happier about the shoes I picked to test that weekend. **