A friend approached me recently and mentioned her son was struggling with flat arches. She was looking for shoe recommendations and had heard Xero Shoes might be the counterintuitive solution.
Many people reach for maximalist shoes when hoping to address foot issues, but there’s a good chance the answer is to allow feet and legs to do the work — strengthening what is weak instead of protecting the feet in cast-like shoes. She picked up a pair of Mesa Trails and I’ll be curious to see if her son’s feet start improving.
Having seen what Vibram Five Fingers did for my arches and lower legs in the past, I’ve been meaning to bust the Covid, post-40-year-old doldrums with a training block aimed at destroying atrophy. Xero Shoes generously sent over a pair of zero drop shoes: the Xero Shoes HFS (mens and womens) for me to test.
Do the Xero HFS Have Features Like the Best Barefoot Shoes?
Good minimalist barefoot shoes don’t require much:
- a zero drop heel-to-toe height differential
- generous forefoot width
- flexible and lightweight materials
- a sensible lacing system
- lateral support (possibly)
The landslide of highly cushioned shoes on the store shelves have made minimalist shoes challenging to find without some looking!
The Xero HFS do check most of the minimalist shoe boxes I care about. They are comfortable right out of the box and let the foot do the work with just enough cushion to take the edge off solid ground.
I’d classify these as trainers, gym shoes and maybe road shoes. They are especially good for mobility and strength training. I’ve been doing the suddenly popular Knees Over Toes Guy training and reach for the HFS every workout.
HFS Shoe Details
HFS Uppers and Lacing
The HFS uppers are great with one possible gotcha.
Materials are lightweight, breathable and stylish. The mesh upper has two colors (on my colorway, there is a blue-green layer under the light gray) which creates a subtle and handsome effect. There is also a light exoskeleton on both sides of the foot to add a little support.
Generous toe guards wrap the toe area without looking goofy and providing enough protection for indoor and road use.
Not only do the laces have a stylish pin-line color, they also work very well and are light/compressible (unlike the Mesa Trail laces which resemble a hiking or work boot lace). The lacing system also has huarache style pull tabs which help snug up the shoe around the foot.
The only gotcha may be side to side movement. While I do think these shoes are fantastic for gym training and even some road use, I’m not sure they are a great choice for quick lateral moves with high force. Basketball for example. There is a little too much side-to-side play, partially thanks to the wider toebox, and this will make the shoe feel a little sloppy through those motions possibly leading to the outside forefoot blowing out or the athlete getting injured. A
gain, not sure on this but you may want to be cautious if your workout requires stop and go lateral movement under high force/speed. For straight on, these are solid.
I’m doing my workouts in the HFS, but will be cautious to use them on the court for games.
HFS Insole and Stitching
I was pleased to see the HFS is a barefoot shoe which does provide a removable insole. The insole is minimal, but does help provide enough cushioning to take the edge off some surfaces and shocks. The insoles are punctured with little holes (presumably to save weight and offer ventilation) similar to how a backpacker might drill holes in a toothbrush!
The shoe is designed for the insoles to be removed if more ground feel is desired and the stitching is mindful of this. I’ve been happy with the insoles and haven’t felt the need to remove them.
HFS Sole and Traction
Xero Shoes come with a 5,000 mile guarantee on their soles! So far, the sole is holding up fine and the traction is Spiderman-like on flat surfaces. I’ll accidentally squeak the sole in the house sometimes because the traction grabs so well.
Grip is more than sufficient on appropriate surfaces. When doing ring rows in the garage, the HFS sticks to the shiny floor easily while other shoes will slide.
Wearing the Xero Shoes HFS is simply fun. Besides working out on the treadmill, in a home gym setting, and at the park basketball court — I’ve also been wearing the shoes around casually most days. They are comfortable, look good, and I feel great knowing my feet and legs are able to use their full mechanics.
Who Should Buy the Xero Shoes HFS
The HFS is worth trying if you:
- read Born to Run and are curious about zero drop shoes
- enjoy Vibram FiveFingers
- are following the Kneesovertoesguy ATG training plans
- want to experiment with strengthening your arches
- want to incorporate some barefoot style running into your road running