If you want a barefoot running shoe for running at any pace, fast or slow, on the roads, trails or treadmill, the Xero Shoes Zelen is definitely the pick because it was not only built with speed in mind, the shoe’s structure is also entirely dedicated to a wider foot-shape! In fact, the Zelen is so wide, the CorrectToes can be worn in them!
Running isn’t the only activity the Zelen is superb for! Its also perfect for a range of activities like hiking/climbing on dry boulders and rocky surfaces, golf, disc golf, weight lifting or for just being on your feet all day.
The key differences between the Zelen and other Xero Shoes is that the Zelen is wider, thinner and lighter. The Zelen is so light that it actually makes you feel weightless, and is actually lighter and more comfortable than the Prio!
The Zelen is fairly evenly matched with being barefoot in that, like all Xero Shoes, the Zelen is completely free of any kind of stiff structure and offers a fluid architecture that moves perfectly with every aspect of your foot. This enables your foot to work independently which promotes widespread functional engagement and enhanced circulation throughout the foot.
The 5mm thin sole is equipped with deepened flex V-shaped grooves to create a smoother ride and performs best on dry concrete and trails, the treadmill and rubber floors, and essentially has only one speed = fast!
The Zelen’s sole is also highly flexible, completely flat (zero drop) and embodies all the qualities desired by many barefoot runners in that in terms of ground-feel, nowhere does the sole fail because you can feel! The sole provides such good ground-feel clarity that you can feel pebbles, but is still armed with the right amount of protection to take the ouch out of larger stones, acorns and roots.
In fact, out of all the Xero running shoes, the underfoot-feel of the Zelen comes the closest to barefoot, helping you continuously engage a proper forefoot strike landing when you running. The Zelen also comes with a removable insole for if you want an even closer connection with the ground.
The upper is made with lightweight, flexible flyknit overlays to reduce the overall weight and collaborates perfectly with a wider-than-normal foot shape. The upper is also incredibly breathable, letting your feet stay cool in extremely hot temperatures.
Most important, the upper is highly flexible and wide, making the shoe optimally functional because the toes can enjoy lots of room for spreading, bending, flexing and extending. This is the key to keeping the feet functionally strong and can also reshape a narrow foot to a wider foot which in turn increases surface area to aid in stronger balance and safer impact absorption across the foot.
The upper also features tension straps made from earth-friendly recycled materials and are easily adjustable to anchor the shoe snug throughout the foot. The straps also add more durability to the upper without sacrificing flexibility and weight.
The lightness and thinness of the Zelen gives a premium level of barefoot-feel while at the same time the brands signature durability applies to the shoe in the sole is backed by a 5,000 mile warranty.
The Zelen is a fresh-looking barefoot shoe that performs best in hot, dry conditions and is full of versatility that goes beyond running. Better yet, the Zelen has a design that works for everyone because it built to specifically compliment the anatomy of the natural shape of the human foot, thereby encouraging a healthier foot shape and function. Lastly, this no- compromise-shoe was built to do the job right for running by putting the natural stride to work while strengthening the muscles in the foot!
If you’re interested in the Zelen, you can get them here!
If you’ve enjoyed this barefoot shoe review, you’ll love my reviews on other barefoot shoes here!
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.
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