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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Xero TerraFlex Trail Shoes > Test Report by Coy Ray StarnesXero TerraFlex
Review by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: May 6, 2018
Field Report: July 27, 2018
Long Term Report: September 24, 2018
side view of the Xero TerraFlex
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing, and kayaking. I enjoy hiking with family and friends but also hike solo occasionally. Most of my hiking has been in the Southeastern US. I hike throughout the year but actually enjoy late fall or early spring the most with some winter hiking mixed in. I don't like the hot and humid weather of summer unless I can escape to the mountains where it is cooler. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability to a degree. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food and water.
Initial Report: May 6, 2018
The Xero TerraFlex is described as a high performance, true minimalist trail running and hiking shoe. Like most trail runners it is a low top shoe. As with all Xero Shoes it is a zero-drop shoe, or as they call it Xero-drop shoe. This basically means the heel is not elevated like most shoe designs. The theory being that when barefoot your heel is not elevated and this puts your body in more natural state and allows for proper posture, balance and agility.
The TerraFlex is not waterproof and has lots of mesh-like material in the uppers for high breathability and quick drying. The rest of the upper also uses man-made material but is a solid greenish brown type material. The toe bumper area is made of a similar material but is black. The sole is made of 5.5 mm FeelTrue rubber but has an embedded 3 mm Barefoam insole for more comfort and protection. I don't know if this means the sole is thinner under the main part of the foot or just really thick around the outside edges. I'm guessing the latter. The shoe sole is warranted for 5000 miles (8050 km). There is a 2 mm removable insole. The shoe is designed to be worn with or without sock. The sole also has a fairly aggressive tread with raised Vs that are widely spaced, almost like a soccer cleat but not quite that aggressive. The ones in front face forward (pointy end of the V) and should help get a good bite in loose soil or going uphill, while the ones in back face the opposite direction which should aid in traction, especially going downhill by keeping the shoe from sliding forward. This photo should explain it better than I can.
The shoe is designed to allow for plenty of toe movement yet at the same time utilizing the reflective heel and instep straps to help lock in those areas of the foot. It is also a pretty flexible shoe which allows the foot to move freely and mold to any terrain encountered. The laces are pretty big but due to my high arches are barely long enough. I have this problem with many shoes and often omit lacing the shoe all the way to the top. I’ll have to see how I address this after wearing these shoes a few times. The laces pass through five eyelets. The first, third and fifth are normal pass through design but the second and fourth are actually connected to the reflective instep and heel straps. Here are the laces and the shoe from a top view.
top view of the Xero TerraFlex
First of all, I’m a shoe junkie, despite claiming to be a part-time barefooter. What this really means is I have a closet full of shoes that would put many ladies to shame... I have all types of hiking boots and a fairly large collection of minimalist shoes that utilize the zero-drop philosophy. I have been looking at the Xero Shoes and sandals for a few years but with so many shoes in my collection I never got around to getting a pair. That said, these shoes certainly look like a well-constructed pair of shoes and perfect for my summer hiking endeavors. I particularly like that these shoes appear to be very tough yet remain reasonably lightweight.
Trying them on
When I looked at the website it said these shoes run a little small and to order a half size up if in doubt as to what size to get. I normally wear a US 11.5 in some shoes and 12 in others so I decided to give the 12 a shot since the next size available was a 13. They do offer half sizes all the way up to size 12, but like most other companies, after that only offer whole sizes. Turns out they fit very well. I normally wear wide shoes but the Xero Shoes are designed to offer plenty of toe wiggle room. My toes have just enough room but probably not as much as a more normal width foot would.
Walking around in them feels great! I wore them in the house for an hour before venturing outside in case I needed to exchange them. For the record, I was wearing socks and plan to most of the time. When I want to skip socks, I’ll wear sandals. Anyways, I don’t anticipate any fit issues but will try them on some long hikes over steep terrain soon to see how the toe area and heel fit fare. These two areas are where I typically encounter pain if my shoes don’t fit well or are not working properly. This concludes my Initial Report. Please stay tuned for my Field Report which should follow approximately two months from now.
Field Report: July 27, 2018
crossing the creek in the Xero TerraFlex
Test Locations and Conditions
I have worn the Xero TerraFlex on five overnight trips and numerous day hikes. All but one of my trips were on local trails near my home in northeast Alabama and the other was at Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia. The weather started out mostly mild, but also stormy and with some heavy rain, typical Alabama springtime weather. The last couple of trips were downright hot and muggy. My first 2 overnight hikes were 4 miles (6 km) total each. The first overnighter was on May 7th. The high was 75 F (24 C) and the low was 60 F (16 C). The second overnighter was May 11th. The high was 80 F 27 C) and the low was 66 F (19 C). My third overnighter was on May 29th. The remnants of Hurricane Alberto were moving through north Alabama and I waited for a break in the storms to head out. I hiked about a mile (1.6 km) before stopping to set up camp. With more storms on the way I got in my hammock and watched the next wave dump a lot of rain and blow my tarp. It continued to rain off and on during the night. The high was 77 F (25 C) and the low was 71 F (22 C). My forth overnighter was June 7 on a trail near my home. I hiked approximately 6 miles (10 km). The high was 84 F (29 C) and the low was 64 F (18 C) with no rain. My last overnighter was July 9 at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northwestern Georgia. The high was 90 F (32 C) and the low was 67 F (19 C). It did not rain but was extremely humid. I hiked approximately 5 miles (8 km).
Field Test Results
I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way. I love these shoes. Here is just one example of how they performed. I have a long day hike I like to do that is about 5 miles (8 km) long. However, when the creek I have to cross is up, I have to either take my shoes off or get them wet. Well there’s one more option but I prefer not to alter my route. When I’m wearing waterproof mids I usually just take them off because the water will go over the top and then they are slow to dry. Enter the Xero TerraFlex. Due to the lightweight, almost mesh like constriction, I just walk across like nobody’s business. Of course this means I’m now hiking in wet shoes, but I found that if I wore light wool socks it really didn’t feel much different than hiking in dry shoes. I did this on three different occasions and never developed any blisters or even the slightest foot discomfort. They would feel almost dry an hour later, about the time I would have to cross the creek again coming back. It’s a slightly shorter hike back to my house than the trail up the other side so they wouldn’t get as dry feeling but I would normally set them out on my deck to finish drying. If I hiked early enough in the day they would complete dry in a few hours of afternoon sun. If late I would put them over an air conditioner set to fan only and dry them really fast.
just hanging out on the first overnighter (notice how clean they still look)
drying the Xero TerraFlex with AC (fan mode only)
The shoes have been very comfortable to wear. I could stand a half size larger but my toes never felt like they were being uncomfortable squeezed. I would occasionally feel a small rock or root in the trail but most of the time they went unnoticed. They really do flex in relation to the shape of the terrain, allowing my feet to hug the ground as I walked over uneven surfaces. This was especially noticeable on the hard rocky creek bed, whether I was in or out of the water.
The traction of the soles is fantastic. I was a little skeptical that the few v-shaped lugs would work on slick ground but I have to say, they are as sure footed as any of my boots with much more aggressive soles. I do use trekking poles so that helped but I use them with other shoes or even when hiking barefooted. When I was day hiking I usually wore a small day pack with water, a snack, my rain jacket and a few other odds and ends. Another plus was that even though the trails have been muddy on several of my hikes the tread patterns does not clog up with mud. What little that would stick to the inside of the V has been easily removed with a hard knock on my porch steps after they have dried a few hours. But seriously, there hasn’t really been enough that this was necessary, I’m just in the habit of doing it with my other shoes.
I never managed a long backpacking trip so my pack weight was always pretty low, around 20 lb (9 kg) for an overnighter. However, I still tackled some pretty steep terrain wearing the TerraFlex shoes. Again, using trekking poles helped but I found the traction more than adequate and it was easy to keep my balance while ladened with my pack. Once in camp I usually went barefooted so I would hang the shoes over my hammock ridgeline. I used a different hammock that didn’t have the interior ridgeline a couple of times and just placed them on the ground beside my hammock. If I had one complaint it would be that I have to tie the shoes. I know that sounds lazy but I’m not very flexible and slightly overweight. However, slip on shoes would not be up to the hiking conditions I encounter so it is just part of the game.
Summary so far
I don’t feel like I’ve bragged on the shoes enough but this will have to do for now. These are my favorite zero drop shoes to date. I have considerable experience with several makes and styles, from "toe" shoes to much thicker but still zero drop trail runners and several in between. The toe shoes are just too hard to get on and the thick soled shoes don’t give me good ground feedback. The TerraFlex just perform and feel good on my feet.
Long Term Report: September 24, 2018
a rare dry creek crossing
Test Locations and Conditions
Since my Field Report the weather turned hot and somewhat dryer but it has still been a wetter than normal summer. As a result my hiking was limited to early morning or late afternoon exercise hikes with the exception of one overnighter on September 1, 2018. This would be the hike to The Walls of Jericho in northeastern Alabama. On this trip the high was around 85 F (29 C) and it was very humid. There was a lot of thunder during the afternoon but the worst stayed away, with only a few light showers and a welcomed cooling breeze as a result. The elevation on the trip was between 700 and 1700 ft (213 and 518 m). I ended up hiking a little over 7 miles (11 km) the first day and about 4 miles (6 km) the second for a total of 11 miles (18 km).
Long Term Test Results
I have continued to be impressed with the comfort of the Xero TerraFlex shoes. In all my hiking I never experience any rubbing or toe pinch and certainly no blisters. This is quite remarkable when taking into account that most of my trail miles were on steep terrain and often on solid rock or hard roots. Here are a couple of photos of typical trail conditions.
typical rocks on trail to Walls of Jericho
plenty of roots as well (along with more rocks)
I have to update the traction and quick drying ability of the TerraFlex slightly. As I mentioned, on my last overnighter I experienced several light showers while hiking back to the Walls of Jericho. It had been dry for a few weeks prior so the trail was a little dusty. Apparently the brief showers were not enough to wash the dust off the rocks and they became very slick. I do think the flexible sole of the TerraFlex improved my foot grip on uneven surfaces but on flat rocks it was almost like skating on ice. I was very glad I had my trekking poles with me. My feet also felt a little tired after the first days hiking but surprisingly, felt great the next morning, and the hike up the mountain did not make them feel tired. I, on the other hand, was plum tuckered out.
The other thing I noticed was that after swimming (yes, with the shoes on) at the Walls of Jericho they were slower to dry than on hikes back at home. I think the humidity and lack of sunshine were major factors but regardless, they refused to dry. I hiked for about a mile (2 km) after swimming in them and then around camp a few hours before turning in for the night. I noticed they were still quite damp when I took them off for the night and they were not a lot dryer the next morning. However, the wool socks I hung on my hammock ridgeline were also damp, so obviously, drying conditions were poor. I had on a clean pair of socks for sleeping and chose to just keep them on for the hike out. It took me from 9 AM till noon to hike out (mostly uphill) but I rested frequently. My shoes were dry by the time I reached my truck. When I got home an hour later I took them off and noticed they had more odor than on any of my other hikes so I washed them in a bucket of warm water and a little dish detergent. After a good rinse I swung them back and forth to get most of the water in the heel area and squeezed all the water I could from the shoes. I then set them on the deck in full sun and they dried in about 4 hours.
One last observation from the Walls of Jericho trip. I had never hiked this far or had to gain as much elevation during my other overnighter or day hikes. Anyways, this was the first time my calves got a little sore after a trip. I’m pretty sure that on the long hike back up the side of the mountain I was stretching my calves more than normal with every step and the low heel of the TerraFlex only exacerbated this. Anyways, they felt a little sore after resting at home a few hours and the following day (Monday). By Tuesday my calves were back to normal.
The Xero TerraFlex are just about perfect for me. I am a part-tme bare-footer so my feet are pretty strong and decently tough but I can’t walk on sharp rocks without some protection for the soles of my feet. I’ve hiked and even backpacked a few miles barefooted but I was much slower than when shoe clad. However, when wearing my thick soled trail runners I always missed the sensation of going barefooted. With the TerraFlex I feel almost barefoot without having to worry much about what I was walking over and my hiking speed is the same as when wearing regular shoes. I also like the way the shoes stayed relatively free of any debris. I would prefer to hike in sandals in hot weather but found they slowed me down because I had to spend so much time removing small stick or pebbles from under my feet.
This concludes my reporting on the Xero TerraFlex shoes. My thanks to Xero Shoes and BckpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity!
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