My search for the perfect footwear continues with Xero Shoes’s HFS minimalist running shoes and Alpine minimalist winter boots.
Why Minimalist Running Shoes and Boots?
As I’ve explained in previous KineSophy articles (e.g. this review), I prefer flat, thin-soled shoes with ample toe room. Such minimalist shoes allow my feet to behave like feet—flexing, bending, gripping and bouncing, instead of like lower limbs encased in cement. Minimalist running shoes also facilitate forefoot striking, which allows for lower impact and greater efficiency while running.
I’ve cycled through several brands of minimalist running shoes, including Vivobarefoot, Vibram and Inov-8. All of them meet my shoe criteria, and all have their pros and cons. But I’ve held on to an old clunky pair of winter boots for years. Most winters, I avoided wearing them as much as possible because they truly felt like bricks on my feet. But last winter, I invested in a pair of Xero Shoes Alpine minimalist winter boots.
Here’s how my Xero running shoes and boots measure up to my shoe criteria.
Xero Shoes HFS
To start, the Xero Shoes HFS offers plenty of toe room. With my big toes pressed against the inside edges of my HFS shoes, I can actively spread my toes and just get my little toes to touch the outside edges of the shoes. This roominess is comparable to other brands of minimalist shoes and means there is no need to worry about my toes getting crushed. And while some wider-toed footwear can look a bit like clown shoes, my HFS shoes have a gentle forefoot curve that makes them outwardly indistinguishable from conventional running shoes.
Most minimalist running shoes and sneakers are minimalist all the way through. In addition to flat, thin soles, most brands feature lightweight—often mesh—uppers and sparse collars and lining. This design choice is understandable. The less material you have on your foot, the more it feels like you are truly barefoot.
But Xero combines the best of both worlds. My HFS shoes are lightweight and have thin, flexible soles. But it also feels like my feet are sitting in clouds. The upper, tongue and lining of the HFS provide more padding than most barefoot shoes without compromising the movement of my foot and ankle. Instead of merely fulfilling the function of keeping my feet safe from rocks, glass and other debris, my HFS shoes offer whole-foot comfort.
If you want to feel like there is nothing between your foot and the outside world, you can remove the 3.5 mm insole for more of a barefoot feel. Still, for those who want a more minimalist experience, Xero Shoes may not be the right choice. But if you are looking for an extra layer of comfort, give the Xero HFS minimalist running shoes a try.
Xero Shoes Alpine Boots
This barefoot-style comfort is replicated in Xero’s minimalist winter boots. But most importantly, the Alpines are light and warm. Probably warmer than any boot I’ve worn in my life, which is saying a lot for a boot that is supposed to have as little material as possible.
Alpine boots are fully waterproof and have a polyester fleece lining. Where I once avoided wearing heavy winter boots as much as possible, I eagerly put on my Alpine boots this past winter if I knew I would be outside for an extended period of time. Even on the coldest Chicago days, my feet were always the warmest parts of my body.
The rubber sole has tread to provide traction in icy conditions, which is important in the winter but also makes my Alpine boots feel a little thicker than my HFS shoes. But the sole is still flexible and far thinner than the clunky soles of most winter boots. Similar to the HFS, Alpines also have a two-millimeter-thick heat-reflective insole that can be removed for more of a barefoot feel.
The Final Verdict
With two new comfortable, minimalist pairs of footwear ready for long runs and blizzards, I’m confident in saying I plan to get a lot of wear out of my Xero shoes. While I still enjoy the slightly more barefoot feel of other minimalist shoe brands, I also love the combination of comfort, lightness and flexibility offered by Xero.
Visit xeroshoes.com to check out these minimalist running shoes and winter boots as well as the rest of Xero Shoes’s footwear.