XERO TERRAFLEX TRAIL SHOES
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
September 09, 2018
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
126 lb (57.20 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) while still using a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Feel the World, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.xeroshoes.com
MSRP: $99.99 US
Listed Weight: 8.2 oz (232 g) for Size 7
Measured Weight (each shoe): 9.2 oz (261 g) for Size 9
Sizes Available: 5 - 11 in 1/2 size increments
Size Tested: Women's 9
Colors Available: Forest, Black
Color Tested: Forest
Made in China
The Xero TerraFlex Trail Shoe is designed for trail running and hiking. It has a minimalist design inspired by a barefoot approach. It is made from 100% man-made materials. Being a hiker or trail runner, the TerraFlex has a more rugged sole to provide traction and full coverage for protection. The design is flexible and lightweight.
The heel is non-elevated or zero-drop meaning that the sole is flat with the heel not being higher than the toe. The toe box is wide to allow the toes to spread out and have room. The outer front toe has a durable bumper. The mesh upper is breathable and quick-drying.
There is a thin insole that is removable but the shoe is designed so that the shoes can be worn with or without the insole. The shoe is also designed to be worn with or without socks.
There are two unique straps of webbing that can each be tightened independently via the shoelaces. One is at the instep and one further forward at the side of the shoe. These allow strategic tightening without tightening the toe area. There is a loop of webbing at the top of the rear of the shoe for pulling the shoe on. All of the webbing is reflective. The shoelaces are round and woven with kind of a large diameter.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My initial impression was that the shoes were very much as I'd expected based on the website. They are lightweight but still substantial enough to imagine wearing them on the trail. The design is attractive and the color and mesh make for a stylish shoe.
Based on the website recommendation to add 1/2 size to my normal shoe size, I ordered a size 9 instead of my normal size 8-1/2. Upon trying them on, I found this to be great advice as the shoes fit just right. There is plenty of room for my toes.
I happened to be wearing some Injinji (toe socks) running socks when I tried the TerraFlex on, so it felt nice to be able to spread my toes out inside the shoe. Walking around in them I can feel some cushion but not a lot. They seem comfortable. The look is kind of wide, flat, square and low to the ground.
I tried them out on a short 2.5 mi (4 km) trail that is mostly packed dirt with some rocks. The TerraFlex were great! There was enough cushion for comfort and enough protection that walking on the rocky sections didn't bother my feet. I wasn't carrying a pack and the trail was short and pretty smooth but I was amazed how comfortable my feet were.
In fact, I find myself wanting to wear these shoes all of the time. They feel like slippers. I'm anxious to get them out on the trail more to see just how they perform.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
There is a 5,000 mile (8,050 km) warranty on the sole. This sounds fabulous but I'm not sure what good it does when no shoe lasts that long!
Washing instructions are to clean by hand washing in warm water with mild soap. They should be air-dried. Putting them in the washing machine or dryer is not recommended.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Field Testing Period I wore the shoes on one three-day backpacking trip, one three-day boat camping trip, nine day hikes, one trail run and for multiple rounds of disc golf. I also wore them around the house, yard and town. I would estimate that I wore them for a total of 60 mi (97 km)
Desolation Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 days; 18.6 mi (30 km); 6,560 to 8,020 ft (2,000 to 2,444 m); 55 to 80 F (13 to 27 C); pack weight of 21 lb (9.5 kg); varied trail conditions from dirt, scree, rock to some off-trail scrambling
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 days; 6,327 ft (1,928 m) elevation; 52 to 82 F (11 to 28 C); mostly sunny with afternoon breezes
Rubicon Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 4 mi (6 km); 6,327 to 6,500 (1,928 to 1,981 m); 57 F (15 C); dirt and rocky trail
Cronan Ranch West Rim in Auburn Recreation Area, California: 4 mi (6 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 84 F (29 C); dirt to rocky trail
Monroe Ridge, Sierra Nevada Foothills, California: 4.2 mi (6.8 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m); 70 F (21 C); pine forest to rocky soil
Six hikes on Gerle Loop in the Auburn Recreation Area, California: 2.5 mi to 3.5 mi (4 to 5.6 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 65 to 85 F (18 to 29 C) ; mostly dirt trail with some rocks
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The comfort continues to be my favorite feature of these shoes. They are extremely comfortable and I find myself wearing them around the house, in the yard and just anywhere because of the great feel. I mostly wear them with socks but have at times worn them without socks if I'm not walking too much or too far. I like the feel of socks better than without not just in these shoes but in any shoes. I find insoles to be a little abrasive as compared to soft socks.
Although I was concerned with the minimalist design of these shoes allowing my feet to feel every rock on the trail, I didn't have a problem with them. The outsole is substantial enough that I didn't get any bruises on the soles of my feet. I probably stepped a little more carefully while wearing these shoes than I would with a heavier boot but I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of foot protection.
I'm a veteran runner using zero-drop shoes so I didn't have the period of my feet and particularly my calves having to get used to the increased workout. When I first ran in zero-drop running shoes, my calves were extremely sore. I can definitely feel the extra work that my feet and ankles need to do in these shoes especially on uneven rocky sections. Without a stiff sole to take some of the load and act as a lever, my feet and ankles had to take the load. I was surprised that my feet weren't noticeably tired or sore at the end of the day. After doing so well in these 'hiking' shoes, I decided to wear them as my sole footwear on a three-day backpacking trip.
The low-cut height allowed for some small rocks and debris to get inside especially on the trail run so I wore them with gaiters on the backpacking trip. That worked well to keep things from getting in. However, the mesh ventilated shoe allowed fine dirt to come in. On the backpacking trip there were many sections of fine dirt that had been pulverized by horse hooves. At the end of each day, dirt had come in through the mesh and made my feet filthy. This is normal to me for any shoe that is well-ventilated and not waterproof so I've no complaint with it.
I found myself always wanting to slip the shoes on and off without untying the laces. I was usually able to slip them off but to slip them back on felt as if I would damage the shoe. So I ended up changing out the laces for some elastic laces that I usually use with running shoes. They allow me to slip the shoes on and off without untying and also provide consistent pressure along my foot. I don't have anything negative to say about the supplied shoelaces. They are durable, stay tied and are even very attractive but for me the elastic laces work even better.
I wore the shoes multiple times while fishing and trying to negotiate tricky footing. The soles have always provided good grip even on wet rocks. At one point while landing a fish, I managed to step right into the lake so one foot was wet. I was wearing socks and had wished that I'd taken off my socks and maybe taken out the insole too before this mishap since I didn't have any other shoes with me. However, it was a warm day and before I knew it my shoe was dry!
The durability of the shoes has been just fine so far with them still looking good despite lots of trail and other use.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Long-Term Test Period, I wore the Xero TerraFlex Trail Shoes during one forty-day backpacking trip and for two day hikes.
Pacific Crest Trail from Etna Summit, California to Cascade Locks, Oregon: 40 nights; 550 mi (886 km); 170 to 7,676 ft (52 to 2,340 m) elevation with most between 5,000 and 6,000 ft (1,524 to 1,829 m); 39 to 95 F (4 to 35 C)
Cronan West Ravine, Sierra Nevada, California: 4.0 mi (6.4 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m) elevation; 82 to 91 F (28 to 33 C); sunny conditions
Monroe Ridge, Sierra Nevada, California: 5.2 mi (8.4 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m); 91 to 96 F (33 to 36 C); sunny conditions
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
With a long backpacking trip planned and hot weather expected, I wore the TerraFlex on two day hikes back-to-back on a very hot day. My feet were tired and my heel was hurting at about 7 miles. Heel pain ended up being the start of plantar fasciitis. This is not the fault of the shoes but rather my overzealousness in wearing them for too long of a long hike before my feet were really used to such a minimalist shoe. While I have worn zero-drop shoes for years, I have worn more cushion for comfort with my aging feet. I then added an arch support with a heel cushion to the TerraFlex for the short term.
|drying in the sun
My foot was still hurting at the start of our forty-day backpacking trip but it healed as time went on. The Xero TerraFlex Trail Shoes were a welcome addition to my pack for this extended backpacking trip. While they were double the weight of what I usually carry as camp shoes, the added utility of the TerraFlex bailed me out when my hiking shoes began to fail.
About 200 mi (322 km) into the hike, I noticed that my primary hiking shoes were starting to fail. My feet felt exhausted (more than they should) and I could see the midsole being permanently deformed. TerraFlex to the rescue! I had to wait another 100 mi (161 km) to have new boots shipped to me so I used the TerraFlex insole to help add cushion to my failing shoes. On shorter days when my pack wasn't too heavy, I also wore the TerraFlex as my backpacking shoes. They performed great!
I wore the TerraFlex for swimming and water crossings. The protection and grip were both very good and made me feel confident even in water where I wasn't able to see the bottom. If I remembered, I would remove the insole prior to getting into the water so that the shoes would dry out a little quicker. At first I put my wet shoes atop my pack with the pack lid buckled over to secure the shoes. However, this didn't allow the shoes to dry quickly enough and I started to grow some nasty funk on the second day. I was able to dry the shoes in the hot mid-day sun which also killed whatever bacteria were growing in them. Once dry, I never was able to smell anything foul again. After that I started to hang the shoes on carabiners off of the back of my pack. This allowed them to dry quickly before anything stinky started to grow.
|drying on my pack
I also wore them in camp every night. I usually wear pretty comfortable hiking shoes so I'm not someone who is anxious to change shoes but with the comfort of the TerraFlex I was always happy to get those hiking shoes off and slip into these. We often stealth camp which means that our sites aren't always very smooth or clean so it was great to have the foot protection of the TerraFlex when tromping around downed trees and forest debris. Many times I would feel a stick or rock jab into my foot but I was always protected and happy that I wasn't wearing some flimsy camp shoes.
The durability has been outstanding. The soles look new and the uppers are completely intact. There are a few scuffs but no tears, delamination or failure of any kind. They've gotten pretty filthy over the course of testing but they seem to clean up completely after a swim.
The Xero TerraFlex Trail Shoes are minimalist, lightweight shoes with a zero heel drop designed for hiking and trail running.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.
Great sole grip
Zero drop heel
Not as great:
Less foot protection than a boot but still amazing
Prefer elastic laces
Prefer more cushion
This concludes my Long-Term Test Report and this test series. Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Feel the World, Inc. for the opportunity to test out these unique hikers.
Read more reviews of Xero Shoes gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith