Written By Barefoot Dawsy
Minimal 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.
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.
The 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:
1. Uses a 3mm BareFoam insert, inset into the 6mm FeelTrue rubber soles
– Improved Comfort
– Reduces Weight
– Increased Flexibility
1. 5mm FeelTrue sole
2. Better ground transmission
3. Available in camouflage
As you can see, both shoes sport very similar specs, however performance-wise, the small differences make these sandals feel like totally different animals.
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.
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.
Trying 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.
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.
All 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!