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.
The 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.