Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running

Built with similar architecture as the Z Trek, the Xero Shoes Z Trail is a more cushier version that’s just as sports-oriented and really, the Z Trail has no faults and despite its extra plushy, cushioned underfoot, the Z Trail is fantastically light, weighing in at around 5.4 ounces.

Most importantly, I cant overstate enough about how the Xero Shoes Z Trail is incredibly functional in its design! Its zero-drop, thin yet wide platform is intended to help you take quicker steps with a shorter stride coupled with prompting a softer forefoot strike landing pattern during running, all of which are stride patterns strongly linked to reduced risk of impact-related injuries and makes all the difference in helping you run better and safer!

Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running
Conceived as a form-correcting, foot-strengthening aid with a small amount of cushioning, the Xero Shoes Z Trail barefoot sandals are completely dedicated to renewing your foots functional role in producing results that matter for stronger balance control and protective mechanics proved to be effective for therapeutic gains!

When it comes to the amazingness of the Xero Shoes Z Trails, the positive reviews don’t stop! For one, the sandal is so light that it feels like you’re wearing a little less than a sock, but more than that, the framework of the sandal allows a runner to run with a barefoot-like stride and is a proven change- maker in helping guide the direction of your forefoot strike to where it needs to be to ensure low-impact running.

Xero Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running

I must underscore that the Z Trail has the thickest outsole (10 mm) out of all the barefoot sandals from Xero Shoes. With that said, the Z Trail is a perfect choice for minimalist runners used to running with a thicker cushioned underfoot. The Z Trail is still 0-drop (completely flat/leveled) and sits low to the ground, the sole is just loaded with more cushioning than most barefoot-like sandals and delivers a smooth, soft sensation underfoot, but still feels perky and lightweight and still manages to supply enough sensory support for corrective action on your running stride!

Let me define more of the specifics as to what gives the Xero Shoes Z Trail its greatness!

Upper (Straps)

One of the most popular and admirable highlights of the Xero Shoes Z Trail is the easy flex, adjustable Z-pattern Velcro straps with plastic buckles that confidently secures a foot-hugging fit that adapts to precise movements of the foot, and like the outsole, are built to last!

Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running

When it comes to comfort, the strapping system definitely gets a stamp of approval! The straps and buckles feel incredibly soft and smooth against your skin and gives a light, fast feel that also helps keep your feet flexing, expanding and engaging, getting the feet to participate more fully in the way that they should, which is necessary and important for foot strength progress to grow and be sustained.

Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running

Another appreciated asset of the Z Trail’s strapping system is that there’s no bothersome toe-post, rather the Z-pattern straps offers more fitting dynamics and a better feel as well as a seamlessly adaptable fit across the width of the forefoot. The straps are also sufficiently flexible to enable the toes to spread naturally and are easily adjustable for a customizable fit regardless of foot shape!


Without feeling clunky, the Xero Shoes Z Trail’s outsole offers more cushioning and protection than most barefoot-like sandals, but still supplies enough ground-feedback to help keep your forefoot strike stride inline, within a safe range.

To improve the ride on really rough roads, the outsole is constructed with lightweight foam and soft rubber that adds up to lasting comfort for high mileage running on asphalt, hard-packed dirt trails and crushed gravel paths. The outsole really does help you roll over the roads like a tank!

Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running
Minimalist runners wanting a bit more cushiness to their ride will be overly pleased with the Xero Shoes Z Trail! Amazingly, despite its added underfoot protective plush, the outsole has an incredibly lightweight barely-there-feel, yet is structurally substantive enough to provide exceptional underfoot protection against sharp rocks, roots and acorns.

As I mentioned earlier, the Z Trail sits on a 10-mm platform that’s made of carbon rubber which is also abrasion-resistant, offering good protection against sharp objects and is surprisingly light and has full throttle flexibility throughout despite the layers of protection built into it.

Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running
At 10-mm thick, the outsole still gives a low to the ground-feel that gets your feet moving quickly and the plush padding makes it premium for high mileage efforts! The sandal has a soft, cushy underfoot feel, but doesn’t feel mushy, nor excessive, that not only delivers a springy, clunk-free and responsive ride, but is packed with a surprisingly amount of durability without compromised flexibility.

Its also been well-reported that despite the extra cushioning, wear-testers were surprised by how natural the underfoot felt and that the sole is thin enough to help keep you constantly dialed into your forefoot strike during running.

Xero Shoes Z Trail Review for Forefoot Running
In addition to providing robust protection with an ultra cozy underfoot interior that’s perfect for the long haul, the Z Trails outsole supplies good traction without a lot of unnecessary structure, delivering a well-balanced, secure ride on a variety of surfaces.

The outsole is equipped with an array of multi-directional tread, without adding extra weight to the sandal, that supplies good latching power on wet pavement and rocks as well as on dry and smooth, rugged surfaces.

Last but not least, the outsole is also a wide platform intended to engage foot expansion and toe spreading at higher level for the benefit of making your feet and balance stronger, helping you lock in better foot step stability during running.

What’s the Xero Shoes Z Trail Good for?

The Xero Shoes Z Trail is best suited for minimalist runners who want a smoothing of the road. Because of its underfoot thickness, hardcore barefooters may consider the Z Trail a moderate minimalist shoe, but there are plenty of minimalist runners who prefer a softer, pillowy ride in which the Z Trail will provide the soft ride you seek.

Don’t get me wrong, the Z Trail is still one of the lowest to the ground types of footwear around, the sandals are just the perfect choice for runners who prefer not to feel every aspect of the ground, and instead want an effective layer of cushioning that takes the sting out of running any distance on harsh, beat up, cracked roads, even in the rain!

Aside from road running, the Z Trail is a great choice for long runs and power hiking on soft trails, dirt surfaces, the track and on other forms of smooth terrain. The Z Trail is also wonderful for walking long distances on packed earth, sand, semi-technical terrain as well as crossing streams, weight lifting, yoga, and causal, everyday wear!

Bottom line, the Z Trail has what it takes structurally to stand up to long distances without compromised functionally! Its zero-drop, flexible, low and light profile provides gait-correcting ground-feedback, leveraging the foot to a better forefoot strike during running  in ways that traditional running shoes could never do. 

Interested in learning more and getting your paws on a pair of the Xero Shoes Z Trail? You can do so here: Shop Z-Trail Sandals at Xero Shoes.

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you’ll love my other reviews of Xero Shoes for forefoot running.

If you prefer non-sandal minimalist footwear for running, here are my best recommendations on zero-drop minimalist running shoes that are perfect for helping you manage an effective forefoot strike and for developing stronger feet, long-term.

If you’d like, you can also support Run Forefoot and help keep it going in full force by making a 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!