Xero Prio Review for Forefoot Running

The Xero Shoes Prio is a radiant example of a minimalist shoe that turns real gains into lasting progress in mobility and postural health, helping you adopt more-well to high mileage, high intensity running and other workouts, giving you a realistic shot at moving your best with minimal injury-risk. This is because the essential structural features of the Prio add up to a complete functional package-deal for the feet that’ll help positively reinforce proper postural alignment, improve your joint mechanics and softens your interaction with ground by providing a better overall sense of the terrain beneath your feet. This is also why the Xero Prio has multiple therapeutic uses based on these effects.

The Prio is the first performance shoe from Xero Shoes that’s built on the same thin, flexible platform as the Hana and Lena –which are for everyday casual use– but the Prio, being an athletic-specific shoe, is slightly wider overall, especially at the front, offering a new degree of openness for the foot to expand and the toes to splay-out and extend more fully. But perhaps the most impressive asset of the Prio is the shoes are a sheer magic combination of heavy-duty durability and barefoot-feel, making the Prio a weapon that can be used to go after high mileage on the hardest of surfaces while always delivering a fresh infusion of ground-feedback. This is how the Prio can do the most good at helping you find sure-footing and maintain an effective, secure forefoot strike with more stable handling when running over technical surfaces.

Without further ado, let’s look more at the aesthetic and functional specifics of the Prios and how these shoes take the lead in weaponizing your stride!

Xero Prio Review for Forefoot Running

Upper

The Prios soft-shell upper is made of 100% vegan-friendly, high-quality, lightweight mesh and bio-friendly polymers that delivers a soft, comfortable, irritation-free wrap to the foot, especially when worn without socks. Despite being super light and airy, the upper has truck-like durability without adding a lot of weight to the shoe or compromising flexibility, enabling the shoe to seamless adapt to precise foot movements while ensuring an unconstrained, weightless fit.

Speaking of an unconstrained fit, your feet will immensely benefit from the width of the Prios upper whereby the shoes wide, square, flexible toe-box fully meets the functional needs of the feet by aiding in proper toe spreading which consistently enhances and is necessary for securing well-balanced footfalls. But a wide toe-box, like in the Xero Prio, is more than just good for balance stability. Toe spreading is also a compliment response during the touchdown and stance phase of running that helps roll-back the flow of hefty impact loads from rippling out from the foot, up the lower leg.

Evidently, toe-splay helps keep plantar (foot) impact pressures within a safe range by acting as a vent that dissipates impact over a larger surface area of the foot so that there’s no high pressure points localized to any one spot on the foot. This effectively helps relieve strain off the smaller bones in the foot, thereby reducing the risk of a metatarsal stress fracture. This is also why it’s important to emphasize the need for fuller toe-splay during running and the Prios anatomically-configured upper is what’s needed to keep your toes engaging actively in laying down more protection, especially for faster, high mileage efforts.

You’ll also appreciate the lacing system which is huarache-inspired, meaning the laces have a functional role to play in not only improving the overall feel and fit of the shoe without any pressure points, but the lacing arrangement which includes adjustable side-straps along the sidewalls of the shoe, are intended to better engage the toes by creating more space in the front of the shoe so the toes can spread, flex, bend and relax even more! The side-straps also gives the overall structure of the upper more strength and creates an excellent seal with an extra hold around the ankle and heel, while keeping the foot centered in the shoe from foot strike to toe-off.

Last but not least, those very same straps are reflective, so you can be better seen when the sun goes down!

Sole

Backed by a 5,000 mile warranty, the Xero Shoes Prios 5-mm outsole is a thin slab of sensory-richness that offers unsurpassed ground-feedback critical to stimulating the reflexive control circuits that results in better running form as well as healthy functioning feet! We are quickly learning that one way to get sustainable improvements in foot functional strength and running form is with ground-feedback at the feet, and the Prio is on par with delivering real results in those areas.


Like the upper, the Xero Prios sole has a sturdy build comprised of high-quality materials, yet is surprisingly light, soft and incredibly fluid in flexibility throughout, allowing the shoe to fully adapt to precise foot movements, especially during intense, high-agility workouts. The sole is actually so comfortable it feels moccasin-like, but light as if you’re wearing a little less than a sock! Another favorable functional aspect of the sole is its completely flat which acts as a triggering mechanism that helps guide the placement of your forefoot strike which is proved to be a better, less impactful way to connect with the ground when running.

Despite the soles thinness and softness, the sole receives high-marks for providing just enough protection from gravel and rocks, giving a smooth-sensation of the underfoot on a range of hard, gnarly surfaces.


The sole also features a chevron-patterned tread that doesn’t wear down as fast as most tread normally does in other minimalist shoes and provides excellent traction when running fast or slow, up and down hills in dry and wet conditions.  

Aside from being fully flexible and dependably durable, the sole is zero drop, thereby giving you a more optimal sensory experience by getting your feet closer to the ground for the benefit of sturdier balance and engaging a more effective forefoot running stride, helping you perform more lively and safely on the roads and trails.

If you desire a little more underfoot softness on harsher grounds, the Prio also comes with an optional 2-mm insole that provides additional protection from sharp stones, acorns and roots while still putting little between you and the ground.

What’s the Prio Good for?

The Xero Prio is a great choice for fast or slow training sessions and high or low mileage runs (5km to ultra-marathons) on hard surfaces and dusty or hard-packed semi to very technical trails in wet and dry conditions.

The Prio is also a terrific choice for trails with steep climbs and descents as well as running and walking up and down steep streets. The shoes also provides moderate traction on heavy snow-packed grounds. But the fun doesn’t end there! The Prio is also fitting for barbell lifting and overall heavy lifting, calisthenics, stair climbing, basketball and cross-fit.

Because the shoes are completely free of structural constraints, the feet are much freer to engage at a high level which is a triggering mechanism that rapidly stimulates the foot’s muscles thereby provoking big responses in increased muscle tone and activation throughout the foot-ankle complex. This is why just standing for long periods of time or walking in the Prio becomes an automatic conditioning exercise for the lower legs. The net effect is remarkable improvements in your ability to cope and adapt to challenging paces, heavy miles and punishing routes.

I’d also like to point out that the Prio is recommended for runners on a budget because the price isn’t too shabby (~$89)!

How Do the Prio Compare to Other Minimalist Shoes?

Some weartesters reported that the Xero Shoes Prio has a similar fit and feel as the Lems Primal 2, except the Prio is more flexible at the heel and is easier to avoid heel striking during running because the curvature of the back of the Prio helps keep your forefoot strike more on target. Another big advantage of the Prios over the Lems is the Prios comes with a 5,000 miles outsole durability warranty whereas Lems is good for 300 miles.

The Prio was also reported as more roomy than most Merrell minimalist shoes and provides similar immediate ground-feedback as most Vibram FiveFingers.

Final Thoughts…

If improvements in your forefoot running form aren’t happening fast enough, and you’re not a fan of barefooting, the Xero Prio is a very good, first choice alternative that can provide similar self-reinforcing feedback at the feet that will give you a good baseline to make major improvements in your overall kinetic flow.

Bottom line, the Prio can help you do a lot more than you currently are and works great where its meant to! Im so happy that Xero Shoes have come on the scene with a series of strongly durable minimalist shoes and like their sandals, their minimalist shoes have received nothing but universal appraise.

If you want to get your paws on a pair of the Xero Shoes Prio, you can do so here!

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you’ll love my reviews on other minimalist shoes well-suited for forefoot running here as well as my YouTube channel here, where I talk at lengths about the health and performance benefits of not only minimalist running, but barefoot running!

If you’d like, you can also support Run Forefoot and help keep it going strong, in full-force, by making a generous donation in any amount of your choosing: https://www.paypal.me/RunForefoot

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!