As you might have read, I did a previous review of the new Xero Z-Trail running sandals, that was early April 2016 after I received the sandals and did few short runs on road with them. Since then, I’ve been running longer with them covering about 100 kilometres on the road and on the trails (Gasing, KDCF, Kemensah).
On the road
One of the reasons I was interested in the Z-Trail apart from running on trails, was to run on the road as well because of the cushioning. Honestly, I don’t need the cushioning up until 35-45km on an ultra marathon on the road but if you go hard (i.e. faster than usual) or the road is not nice, some more cushioning is welcome ! I used the Z-Trail on Route 68 Challenge 2016 for the second part (km 45 to km 70). I also used them at BDB Langkawi Climb and Run (30km) and The Great Relay KL, where I ran the last 3 loops wearing them (the first 4 loops were with the Z-Trek). It was a speed/fast tempo type of run, hence after 15km I switched to the Z-Trail.
I had some minor issues at chaffing on the heel sides (where the stitches of the sandal are) and at the front where essentially the strap was in contact with the hair of my big toe… remove the hair and no issue. However the chaffing on the heel side remains a bit and I have to protect that area (socks or tape). If you wear socks the issue is not there obviously.
I found the Z-Trail to be more noisy than the Z-Trek (it might be a “me” thing, based on how I land). The tying of the sandal is great and much better than the Z-Trek, there is better grip on the middle strap so that it does not slide back into a loose position. That’s my biggest negative point on the Z-Trek in fact and the Z-Trail corrects this well.
One drawback I found on the Z-Trail was that when you sweat a lot on the feet, the sandal becomes slippery and your foot tend to move more.
On the trails
I wore the Z-Trail for few trail runs in Bukit Gasing (10km and 15km) and in Kemensah (30km). From a dry trail to a wet trail, with high steep downhill and uphill, the sandal was great. I like the grip I was getting. Both times, I wore socks following my long run at BDB Langkawi Climb and Run where I had noticed the sandal was getting slippery when you sweat. The socks were a great addition: they allowed my foot to be stable in the sandal, even if it was wet. And believe me I did wet them especially in Kemensah with rivers crossing ! IN addition to this, with the socks I had no chaffing whatsoever !
After about 100km, I have to say I love the sandals: exactly what I was looking for both for trails and comfortable road runs. The soles is reasonably good, in the sense that it has 2 different materials: one hard like the Z-Trek, which is pretty much indestructible and one softer probably for better grip on the trails or to make the sandal lighter. That last part (red on the sandals photos) is the one wearing down the fastest (in fairness I think it’s because of the mostly road mileage I did – about 50km – ).
At about 100km, half road and half trails, the sandals look like this:
As you can see, the threading in red worn out a little bit. Below a closer view:
The main issue
Now my main problem is that on my last run in KDCF on June 5, after 2 kilometres right after exiting a small stream crossing, the right sandal inside strap just broke down… I had to continue the trail run barefoot for another 14km. Now this is a serious problem: the sandal is only 100km “old” and it broke just like that. When I fit the sandal, you can have a look at the sides straps and I could not see any defects. My conclusion is that it just broke during the run. That was after a long downhill very steep.My foot was pushed forward and sideway a lot which probably created tension in the strap… but it should hold !
It was a training run, imagine this is THE race you have been training… nightmare, catastrophic moment. In short huge disappointment… This is a pair of slippers that cost 79 USD for god sake ! OK I got mine discounted during the launch and it cost me 64 USD for the sandals and 22 USD of shipping… I raised the issue with Xero, let’s see what I hear from them. In the meantime, I would suggest that you hold off any purchase. Hopefully this is just a first series defect. Well if I’m on race day with these sandals, I would definitely bring my Z-Trek as spare in my pack… you never know. I’d rather finish in Z-Trek minimalist with less grip than being DNF on an ultra trail because I’m barefoot. Doubt, that’s the worse.
Update on June 7, 2016: After emailing on June 6 Xero to complain about the broken strap after only 100km, they are saying there can be manufacturing defects and it seems to be one. As such they are sending me a new pair of slippers to replace the broken one. Let’s see how these perform… but there will always be the doubt, so I might need to carry my Z-Trek just in case…