Xero Amuri Z-Trek Sport Sandals Review

I reached an epiphany a while back when I realized how badly my feet had been weakened by wearing the kinds of shoes I wore and by walking the way I did (very fast and with a great deal of heel strike).

The first thing I did was to fight the instinct to pretty much always wear shoes, even when I’m inside. Within only a few days my feet (and especially my toes) felt better, stronger and more flexible.

The next thing I did was to look for a shoe that would allow as much of this feeling as possible when I’m outside on hard surfaces. It didn’t take long for me to find Xero. Whether this is because the Xero brand is so popular or whether it’s because shoes minimalist shoes like theirs are so unpopular I cannot say.

My eye went directly to their new Z-Trek Sport Sandal. My thought was that the Xero could take over from my Birkenstocks which pretty much represent the opposite philosophy when it comes to designing shoes that are good for the feet. In fact, the Birkenstock website goes so far as to advise people suffering from Plantar Fasciitis (like me) to avoid walking barefoot.

Contradictory advice is seldom helpful…

The Xero shoe philosophy is simple. A shoe should protect the bottom of the foot from unkind surfaces while allowing it to flex and function as in as close to a barefoot way as possible. To accomplish this Xero uses a 5mm thick rubber sole that feels a little like a Michelin. The Sport sandals are not especially light and it’s mostly the density of the rubber that’s used that accounts for their mass.

ZeroThe webbing used for the straps is very high quality and smooth feeling on the skin. I find that the webbing used by some other sandal companies (Teva) to be quite harsh feeling. A video on the Xero website advises adjusting the straps somewhat loose and that’s what I did. I’m getting a little bit of lateral foot movement but looser feels better than tighter with my Xeros so far.

Before they arrived, I was a little concerned that the Xeros might look a little too goofy but they actually look just fine up close and personal. I am compelled that Xero uses something like a heel cup. It causes a slight amount of pressure at the back inside of my heel but my guess is they elected to use it to promote just a smidge of stability in the heel area.

Walking in the Xeros is indeed pretty much like walking barefoot. Still, the rubber sole is excellent when it comes to insulation from radiant heat, like the heat that rises from a San Fernando Valley parking lot when it’s 100 degrees. More than anything, I find the Xeros to be instructive, just like walking barefoot.

Both barefoot walking and walking in the Xeros teach us how to walk in a way that minimizes heel strike and that’s a very good thing. The Xeros make me wonder where the practice of raising the heel of a shoe came from? Was it for the sake of the stylishness of the shoe or the vanity of the wearer? I still own some shoes with a bit of padding and a bit of heel lift but I am convinced that my feet will be healthier the more time I spend in the Xeros.

Talk about money well spent…

I have to admit that I love small companies like Xero. They saw a need for a product, refined it as well as they could, and brought it to the market.

I am very glad they did.

Xero Amuri Z-Trek Sport Sandals Review

Treating and preventing plantar fasciitis

For those who have never dealt with it, let me assure you that plantar fasciitis is a very annoying malady. I’ve had it twice, once about a decade ago and again over the last few weeks. When you have it, you just want it to go away. There’s nothing like foot (and back) pain when it comes to making pretty much your entire life difficult. It’s the kind of discomfort that’s perfectly suited to taking the fun out of even the most enjoyable activities.

The first time I had it, I was gleefully ignorant about questions regarding the causes of plantar fasciitis. Now, the questions about cause and prevention are very keen to me. The most simplistic explanations tend to point to improper (unsupportive) shoes and the need for proper arch support and maybe even orthotics. The more thought-provoking information contends that plantar fasciitis is actually caused by the weakening of the foot and that this weakening is caused by overly supportive shoes and the excess heel striking they encourage.

As an aside, I should say that my current battle with plantar fasciitis came after playing golf with minimalist golf shoes. Still, I’ve now come to see those shoes as less of the cause of my discomfort and more the things that pushed the progressive weakening of my feet into the fore. Two of the more interesting contentions from what I’ll call the unconventional plantar fasciitis information sources are these:

1) That arch supports don’t actually support the foot’s arch, they only serve to limit circulation to the area and weaken it. The logical foundation for this argument is the fact that structural arches do not derive their support from their centers but rather from the end, which would be the ball and heel of the foot.

2) That a lack of flexibility in the toes (particularly the big toe) contributes to plantar fasciitis. It’s said that the big toe should have 80 degrees of extension. This allows the toe to extend when the foot strides forward. But, when this kind of full extension is impossible (mine extends less than 50 degrees) it causes an excessive load to the root of the plantar arch and causes the foot to twist during the stride.

Putting these two contentions together brought me to the belief that my feet had suffered a cumulative injury. I could sense this before I had the informational ammunition to support the opinion. My feet just always felt squished into shoes and I had lost the ability to walk barefoot without feeling like I was putting my feet at risk.

It’s easy to conclude that regaining the strength and flexibility of my feet, toes and ankles are a priority. So far, I have done as much barefoot walking as possible, even at work and especially once I’m at home. I am also doing twice or three times daily massage of the rear of my foot using balls of various hardness (from golf balls to tennis balls).

I’ve also sought to walk more lightly and with less heel strike. That’s a big challenge because I tend to walk fast and I spend most of my time on very hard and frequently slick surfaces. It’s a all very much a work in progress but I am optimistic.

By the way, I have found both of these sites to be invaluable:

A physical therapy website with a great treatment guide for plantar pain sufferers.

An excellent video explaining the role of big toe flexibility in plantar pain.

Treating and preventing plantar fasciitis