The Xero Prio is a lightweight Huarache-inspired barefoot shoe with amazing flexibility, road feel and everyday comfort.

The Xero Prio running shoes are designed to strike a balance between barefoot feel, foot protection and performance. This is achieved through the combination of a flexible, hardwearing sole for natural foot movement, a wide toebox that allows toes to spread and a breathable upper.

Xero Prio

Pros:

Wide, toe-spreading fit

Natural road feel and flexibility

Grippy, durable outsole

Cons:

Feet can take a battering

Adaptation time required

Price: £79.95 / USD$89.99

Born to run?

The Prio was inspired by the Huarache sandals worn by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico – made famous by Christopher McDougall’s New York Times bestseller Born To Run. It’s the Colorado-based brand’s do-everything shoe – created for any activity from gym workouts to road and trail running.

The FeelTrue sole is just 5.5mm thick. With none of the foam of traditional running shoes, there’s just the rubber outsole with an optional 2mm insole here for a tiny increase in plushness. This gives incredible flexibility and ground feel to help you feel connected to whatever surface you’re running on. It’s wide too, meaning the toes aren’t confined like when wearing so many regular running shoe brands.

Xero Prio Barefoot Running Shoes
The simplicity of the Xero Prio shoes helps you adopt a natural foot strike. (Photo: Triathlon Vibe)

The upper of the Prio is a mix of synthetic leather and mesh (they’re vegan too). Taking its connection to running sandals a step further, the shoe also features adjustable straps that allow extra fit adjustment to ensure a secure slip-free heel and custom instep volume. The straps are also reflective for better visibility in low light conditions.

Pared-back comfort

The Xero Prio is certainly one the most comfortable pairs of shoes shoe we’ve ever slipped on. The extra width, modicum of padding, ability to cinch down the fit and lack of a chunky heel means they do a great job of allowing your feet to move naturally. Thanks to all this, they’ve quickly become our go-to shoes for daily wear.

We took a conservative approach in transitioning to the ultra-low profile, zero-drop Prios for running, spending a few months undertaking gradually increasing run-walk intervals to ease in the calves and Achilles tendons.

Despite already running on the mid-forefoot in other shoes, Xero’s barefoot design became more and more natural and comfortable as testing wore on, cadence naturally picking up, foot striking becoming lighter. The weight of the shoes certainly helps – our size 44 Prios came in at 279g – but it’s more the lack of foot-guiding tech, thick midsole or aggressive heel-toe drop that makes them feel so good, whether at Ironman or sprint pace. We didn’t miss the snappy rigidity of many running shoes – despite the flexibility, responsiveness is great.

Feeling the ground

Being so low profile, the road feel is exceptional – you can really feel your feet adapting to the slight variations in the road surface, toes spreading and stabilising. The problems – at least for us – came when hitting the trails.

While fine gravel tracks posed no issue and there’s a ton of grip from Xero’s FeelTrue rubber even in the wet, any stones or rocks littering the path really caused a sting when the shoes – and feet – deform over them. This meant off-road runs became a bit of a rock-dodging game and while that might be in the spirit of barefoot running, we’re still not quite used to it.

With plenty of grip and a wide footbed, the Prios are super comfy on most off-road surfaces until you hit a rouge stone in your path! (Photo: Triathlon Vibe)

There’s also no getting around the sense that your feet are taking a bit of a pounding. Regardless of the evidence out there that impact forces are lessened when wearing minimal shoes, switching back to something with a little more give was a relief on longer runs.

Versatile and durable

On the other hand, we found the Prios really excelled in interval sessions where foot speed is key. They were also great for getting used to running off the bike without the cumbersome first few minutes that usually accompany wearing more substantial trainers. Even when working hard, the upper’s mesh panels avoided any overheating. They’ve also remained our first choice for all other activities like gym sessions as well as all-day walking comfort – once you’ve experienced something so natural and comfy, it’s hard to go back to regular shoes.

In terms of durability, our Prios have covered 200-plus miles with virtually no signs of wear, not that you’d expect anything less with Xero’s 5,000-mile sole warranty. Add in the fact that they’re far less expensive than some of the competition and the value really stacks up. All this makes the Prios hard to ignore if you’re thinking of trying barefoot running.

Overall Verdict

A versatile and robust training and racing shoe that requires adaptation but delivers a natural stride for those who want to feel as connected as possible to running.

These shoes were purchased by Triathlon Vibe for review

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