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Do Xero Shoes Provide a Better Barefoot Feel than Vibram FiveFingers?

by Kat » on Jan 16, 2013 9

As the ultimate FiveFingers fans, we are always looking for the next big trend in minimalist running. Recently, we discussed the optimal terrain for Vibram wearers compared with what works best for going fully barefoot, but we didn’t mention any “in between” options.

About Xero Shoes

Xero Shoes, Previously known as Invisible Shoes, might just be the middle ground between FiveFinger running and barefoot running you’ve been curious about. Founders Steven Sashan and wife Lena wanted an option for running, walking, or just being active that gave them utter freedom and a barefoot feel while still being allowed in to restaurants! Thus, in 2009 Xero Shoes was born.

Like Vibrams, Xero Shoes stimulate the nerves in the feet and strengthen the muscles by offering just a thin barrier between foot and earth. They were modeled off of the traditional Huaraches worn by the Tarahumara (known as “The Running People”) in Mexico. This high-tech reinvention can be purchased in several different colors and the custom outsoles come in either a 4 mm or 6 mm width. And they’re light! Men’s weigh in at 3.4 ounces – so they are even lighter than a pair of FiveFingers.

Xero Shoes are supposedly as good for walkers, hikers, and CrossFit athletes as they are for ultra-marathoners. According to the company, these shoes are for everyone.

How Do Xero Shoes Compare to Vibram FiveFingers?

Some runners with very long second or middle toes find that the FiveFinger models don’t always fit their quirky feet comfortably. This is certainly not an issue with Xero shoes, as the sandals are custom-made for each buyer.

One of the biggest complaints about FiveFingers is the smell. Sweaty, stinky feet often make these shoes reek, despite numerous washings. Xero Shoes have no fabric so they won’t ever stink.

Serious FiveFinger junkies often find that after extended use, the seams split where the cloth meets the sole. Again, this isn’t an issue with Xero Shoes because there is nothing that can rip away.

One drawback of the Xero Shoes? They are much more weather restrictive than FiveFingers. While Vibrams don’t offer complete protection from snow/sleet/ice, they will certainly keep toes warmer than nothing at all. The Vibram soles also prevent slipping on slick surfaces.

As FiveFinger fans know, you can get some funny looks when you wear minimalist shoes. Wearing sandals while running is certainly going to attract some stares!


Overall, Xero Shoes offer all the benefits of natural barefoot movement, while providing a paper-thin layer of protection. Xero shoes are guaranteed to last 5,000 miles while traditional running shoes (not Vibrams but other, non-minimalist brands) lose their support after 300-500 miles.

True FiveFingers fans are likely not going to trade in their Vibrams for Xero Shoes overnight, but it could be worth a trial run. They offer a different running experience and cost between $40 and $50 a pair.

What do you think about these minimalist running sandals? Would you try it out?

Submitted Comments

  1. David says:

    I would consider trying, but would reserve judgment on the between-the-toes strap. Can’t see wearing these in cold weather whereas Vibram FF’s do keep the feet warm enough. Could definitely see walking in these, however.

  2. Christy says:

    I wonder what added benefit these have to other sorts of mass produced, less expensive, flip flops. The additional engineering/design cost is obvious in Vibrams, but I’m skeptical that these minimalist shoes are to minimal to warrant the price tag.

  3. Sarah says:

    I want to try them – very cool!!!!

  4. bill says:

    I have been wearing Xero Shoes exclusively for over two years now and love mine. I run 80-100 miles a week, and can’t seem to wear out a pair. What I would disagree with is that they are more weather restrictive than Vibrams. I run year round in mine very comfortably. In cold weather I wear a pair of Toesox, and they keep my feet toasty warm. Also, I find the soles very grippy when wet. That paired with the synthetic lace, (doesn’t change shape when wet), makes them great for both wet and dry applications. If you want the very best in a barefoot experience, while still having some protection on your feet, Xero Shoes are the real deal.

  5. Lee Firman says:

    They are fantastic! Learn to lace them right so you they don’t come loose, and they are a real treat to run in!

    I agree with Bill too – Not as weather-limiting as one might think.

    In comparison to Lunas and the VivoBarefoot Achilles, I think I prefer the Xero Shoes.

    In comparison to FiveFingers, they are completely different. VFF’s will be quicker every time, but Xero’s have their place and are a joy to train in!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I’m with David! I would have to reserve judgement until I determined how the strap between the toes felt. Seems like it would be easy to blister. Do think that they look nicer that a regular minimalist shoe though. I also like the price tag.

  7. Kat says:

    Thanks for this feedback Bill! I’m just curious, have you tried FiveFingers? Do you find that the Xero Shoes are as “grippy” on slick surfaces?

    Glad to hear you’re such a huge fan of the sandals!

  8. Gebs says:

    I just got my two xero pairs (i got 4 and 6 mm thickness) and I have the feeling that their sole is LESS sensitive than my beloved VFF KSO pair.

    the 6mm sole weights A LOT and it is massive. I think I’m going to resell them. Probably the 4mm are too thick for my taste as well.

    Vff are the way to go to feel what’s under your feet while staying protected. So bad.

  9. Gary says:

    I made the switch from VFF’s to Luna Sandals and really happy with the change. For winter and rain I still need a shoe for that.

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