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.
Unlike all of their previous models, the Z-Trek 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.
The 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.
Unlike 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.
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 sandal, 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.
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.