Review: Xero Shoes Takes On The Mainstream With The Amuri Z-Trek

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

AmuriZTrek
Since appearing on the show Shark Tank 2 years ago, Xero Shoes have been working hard to bring their unique sandals to a larger, more mainstream audience. They came out running, with the launch of not one, but 2 new huarache-style sandals – the Amuri Venture and Amuri Cloud. These represented a major departure from their original, simple designs, and were heartily embraced by the mainstream and barefoot running communities.

Now in 2015, on the back of increasing success, the pressure has been on to come up with more new and innovative designs, and this they have done with their latest offering, the Amuri Z-Trek Sport Sandal.

Overview

Unlike all of their previous models, the Z-T2015-08-22 14.23.05rek has a more mainstream-recognisable, postless sandal style. This departure from the huarache style is a big surprise, and has opened up the market to include those of us who don’t like the rubbing and chafing often caused by sandals that split the toes.

Not ones to simply copy existing footwear, Xero Shoes have done some significant tinkering with the Z-Trek, that sets it apart from other, similar sandals.

2015-08-22 14.22.56The first difference is the near weightlessness of the Z-Trek. Unlike the thick slab of rubber featuring in most postless sandals, the Z-Trek has a sole that is just 5.5mm thick. Going this thin is something that most manufacturers have avoided as it has the tendency to increase ‘sandal slap’, and make the shoes clumsy to wear.

This is where the second feature of the Z-Trek comes into play. One look at the strapping system and it’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into it. In practice, the clever use of fixed and adjustable straps significantly reduces slapping, and helps maintain the sandal’s shape when running or walking.

2015-08-22 14.23.28-1Unlike with their huarache style sandals, the Z-Trek has a custom shaped sole, which allows the straps to be threaded in without contacting the ground. This makes for a nice, clean interface between the straps and the sole, which reduces wear and is aesthetically pleasing.

There are 2 straps that form the upper of the sandal, which are permanently stitched to the sole. A sturdy plastic buckle and Velcro heel strap, however, allow for a surprisingly large ability to tighten and adjust them so that they fit just right.

Though the adjustment of the straps can take a little bit of time initially, once they have been correctly fitted, the sandals are extremely easy to take on and off, by either pushing down the heel strap, or using the quick release feature of the main buckle.

Performance

2015-08-22 14.22.37In terms of performance, the Amuri Z-Trek fits roughly in between the Venture and Cloud. They are rugged enough for trail work, but comfy enough for day-to-day walking.

On the trails, the Z-Treks fare quite well. The chevron grip system allows for solid foot placement when running on flats and uphill, and the reverse pattern on the heel does a surprisingly good job of helping stability on the downhills.

The heel cup has a slight tendency to collect a small amount of debris on the trail, which can require the odd shake or a quick finger scrape to clear out. At first I questioned whether it was needed or not, but it does seem to add to the structural integrity of the sole, and I suspect that this was why it was added.

As with the other Xero Shoes sandals, a lot of the performance and comfort gains of the shoes are gleaned when correctly adjusting the straps. This can take a few goes, and some adjustments are needed when conditions change, especially in the wet. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do, and once done, the solid strapping system doesn’t slip and loosen, even when running.

Conclusion

The Amuri Z-Trek is a very strong effort for a first attempt at a postless sandal. There has been a lot of thought put into the design and appearance of the sandals, and they seem to have a good chance of getting picked up by more mainstream shoppers.

I look forward to seeing how these sandals evolve over time, as there is still a little wiggle-room in terms of ease of adjustment, and possibly with initial fitting. I’d really love to see more Xero Shoes in the shops where these hurdles could be easily overcome by retail staff.

Advertisements

Review: Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud vs Amuri Venture

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

XeroShoesLogoMinimal shoes have come a long way since the publication of the now famous (or infamous) book Born to Run. They are now available in most mainstream shoe stores, and come in a huge variety of shapes, styles, weights and designs.

Despite the huge selection of shoes available, there are precious few that combine function, style, and a low price tag. With their new line of premium huarache-style sandals, Xero Shoes are aiming for the trifecta.

Xero Shoes was one of the first companies to capitalise on the barefoot/minimalist running boom, and their experience in this niche industry has been put to good use. Their first shoes were very simple huarache sandals that could be assembled at home. The latest offerings come ready-assembled and include several new features that vastly improve their looks and performance.

Cloud vs Venture

The first of the new sandals, now called the Amuri Venture (formerly the Sensori Venture), in many ways resembles the original shoes. It is made of durable FeelTrue rubber soles and nylon cords, however, they now also sport a nicely shaped heel cup, a flexible toe post, a well designed lacing system, and improved anchoring on the sides.

The second is the Amuri Cloud, a new offering from Xero Shoes. It is essentially the same shoe as the Venture, with the exception that the sole is scooped out and a 3mm BareFoam pad has been inserted. This small amount of cushioning is intended to provide added comfort, while keeping the sole thin and light.

Before discussing how the shoes performed, let’s take a look at some of the features that make the new Xero Shoes sandals unique.

Features

Venture1The Amuri Cloud and Venture have many features in common:

1. New Lacing System
2. Toe Post
3. Ankle Mounting Points
4. Silicone Heel Pad
5. A variety of colours

 

Apart from this, the two models differ in several key ways:

Amuri Cloud:Cloud2
1. Uses a 3mm BareFoam insert, inset into the 6mm FeelTrue rubber soles
– Improved Comfort
– Reduces Weight
– Increased Flexibility

Venture:Venture2
1. 5mm FeelTrue sole
2. Better ground transmission
3. Available in camouflage

Performance

As you can see, both shoes sport very similar specs, however performance-wise, the small differences make these sandals feel like totally different animals.

Amuri Cloud:

The first thing I noticed when slipping on my Amuri Clouds was that for the first time ever, I was wearing sandals that felt comfortable! Believe me, this came as a real shock, as I wear sandals nearly every day, and hadn’t realised I was in any way uncomfortable before.

Cloud3

The layer of BareFoam on the forefoot section of the shoes may be thin, but it really is all you need to take the edges off gravel and give you the sensation of walking on a cloud (see what I did there?).

I found that prolonged walking in the Clouds was very comfortable, and not a problem at all. I did experience a bit of rubbing initially on the polyurethane toe post, however after a day or two, I completely stopped noticing it.

Normally in sandals, my feet do tend to get a bit tired after several hours. With the Clouds, however, this was not a problem, and I’ve spent many hours in them without the slightest soreness on my soles.

Running in the Amuri Clouds, while still a pleasant experience, was for me less enjoyable than I had hoped. One thing I love about running in sandals is that the (usually) hard rubber underfoot transmits sensations from the ground fairly effectively.

Adding the foam layer dulls this sensation a bit, which I’ve found a bit off-putting. I had assumed that with less rubber underfoot, that the groundfeel would be more pronounced, but the BareFoam does a surprisingly good job of smoothing out the ride. For experienced barefooters, this may not be ideal, but for those transitioning, or looking for a more comfortable experience, this is a real plus.

I also found that with the thinner rubber underfoot, there was a slightly higher tendency for flapping. I needed to make sure that I tightened my lacing a bit before running to minimise this. With slightly tighter lacing, it was no longer a problem.

On this point, I have to commend the Xero Shoes team for putting together a clever lacing system. It’s very easy to tweak and fine-tune, and switching from walking to running modes on the Clouds is fairly trivial.

Amuri Venture:

Venture3Trying on the Ventures after wearing the Clouds for a couple weeks felt like strapping a pair of planks to my feet. The rubber feels so much harder. This is definitely not a bad thing, however, as the thicker, harder feeling rubber give the sandals a much more solid feel.

I found the Ventures to be a big improvement over the older-style Connect series. The new lacing systems, as mentioned above, is excellent and well thought-out.

I use a slip-on/slip-off tying method for my Connect sandals, which causes my heel to be a little more free-moving than with traditional huarache tying. The addition of a heel scoop to the Ventures allows for a slip-on tying method without the heel movement. A big improvement in my books.

Walking in the Ventures is fine, with the sandals staying comfortably on my feet. They are nice and thin, which allows for good ground feel, but when walking, I found that the Clouds were far superior.

Where the Ventures come into their own is with running. I strapped these on, and just wanted to keep running and running. They have a brilliant combination of thin, yet rigid rubber, which is somehow still flexible enough to allow excellent foot movement. The lacing system is solid and flexible at the same time, allowing me to tweak the fit slightly to sit right on my uneven feet.

On top of all this, they of course have all the features tha make running in sandals so much fun: they’re lightweight, airy, and inexpensive.

I normally do my sandal running in Luna Sandals, and may still do so for rougher trials, but for everyday running and light, local trails, I think it will be hard to find a sandal that will beat the Venture.

Conclusions

When the Amuri Cloud was first released, I was shown a preview where Steven Sashen, the company’s founder, said that they were to be a comfortable ‘everyday’ sandal, where the Venture would remain a solid trail sandal.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m quite happy wearing my  Clouds pretty much everywhere, and have no qualms taking them for the odd run. At the same time, when I know I’m going to head out the door and hit the trails, I’ve been looking first to my Ventures lately.

VennAll in all, I think that the new line of sandals on offer from Xero Shoes are a huge improvement over the original DIY kits (which are still awesome IMHO), and bring the company a huge step towards the mainstream. I look forward to the day that I see a pair in stores here in Australia!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Xero Shoes and Stepping Out Footwear for providing sandals for review. Please show your support by purchasing a pair for yourself at xeroshoes.com!