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Over the last several years, a lot of information has come out about the benefits of being barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes. Whether you desire to walk or run barefoot or not, there are times when it is necessary to wear shoes. The running and ultralight backpacking community have made terms like minimalist shoes, wide toe box, and zero drop common everyday language when looking to purchase a new pair of shoes. The company Xero Shoes has become a player in the minimalist shoe arena with their line of adventure shoes, everyday shoes, and sandals.
The Xero TerraFlex is a zero drop “barefoot style” running shoe. This shoe is a beefier version of the popular Xero Prio shoe and has been more specifically designed for trail running and any other trail related activity such as backpacking and hiking. The shoe comes in multiple colors and for men and women. Although I don’t wear only zero drop and minimalist shoes, I have been wearing minimalist shoes in varying degrees for about three years. Below are some thoughts specifically on the TerraFlex and transitioning to minimalist shoes in general.
Straight from the Xero Shoes website, the TerraFlex shoe includes the following features:
I have found the shoe to be quite comfortable and I wear them even when not on the trail. The zero drop (same height in the heel of the shoe as the toe) takes some getting used to. If you have never worn zero drop shoes before, you will want to make this transition slowly, in my opinion. If you Google running in minimalist shoes you will certainly find stories discussing injuries and problems blamed on wearing minimalist shoes. Likewise, if you spend some time reading the informaiton you will discover that most injuries and problems are a result of trying to do too much too quickly. Respect the process.
The shoe is designed with plenty of room in the toe box and front of the shoe to allow the toes plenty of room to spread out. The protective cap on the end helps to protect the toes if you catch a rock or root with the end of your foot. The toe box allows plenty of room for the foot to expand on long runs or hikes.
One of the biggest differences between the TerraFlex and its predecessor, the Prio, is the aggressive tread and lugs on the bottom of the shoe. While the lugs don’t give the same feeling of being connected to the ground as the Prio, it adds the additional grip and control in mud, sand, and loose rock that was lacking. Even still, the TerraFlex still has plenty of flexibility to allow the same barefoot feeling while having the protection of the shoe on the trail. Even though the TerraFlex has the extra 2 mm insole to help protect against rocks and pointy objects, make no mistake, you will feel some of the rocks. This shoe is not the same as other zero drop running shoes that has more cushioning. I wear those shoes as well and there is a time and place for both. As for feeling rocks and roots through the sole of the shoe, I would say that some of this is not a bad thing. You will definitely feel more connected to the surface. Also, sometimes when you feel a sharp rock it seems worse in the moment than it actually is because we have grown so accustomed to not feeling anything with our feet. Once the initial shock of the sharp rock feeling passes I then realize it did not hurt as bad as I initially thought.
I have been wearing Xero shoes for about three years. I have worn their Z-Trail sandal, Z-Trek sandal, the Hana, and now the TerraFlex. As mentioned before, be smart with your transition to minimalist shoes and take your time. I use these shoes for everyday wear, trail running, hiking, and backpacking. Willie the Trail Dog approves of the places they have taken us so far. If you have questions about gear, running, or adventure and are looking for a fun and knowledgeable group, be sure to check out TeamBU from Becoming Ultra.
A couple of other observations about this shoe are the sizing and shoe strings.
One of my biggest complaints about Xero shoes is the sizing seems to vary so much from one style of shoe to the next. The website provides sizing charts and tips and you should pay close attention to this information. Most of their shoes run small and the TerraFlex is no exception. I had to go up a half size.
It might seem trivial, but I have heard and read in many places the dislike of the shoe strings on these shoes. They are really thick and make keeping the shoes tied a challenge unless you double tie the knot or use some other trick. But, because the string is so thick it looks ridiculous if you double tie the string. Come on Xero, please do something about the shoe strings.