Xero Shoes – Are They The Best Shoe For Training in 2023?

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Normally, I don’t write about what shoes I train in. It’s not my area of expertise. There’s no way I could buy all the training shoes out there, try them each for six months, and then report back.

If you want an extensive collection of shoe reviews, the guy that runs the As Many Reviews As Possible YouTube channel has that in spades.

What I do try to do, however, is share things with you that have drastically impacted my life. And that’s why I’m writing this article about Xero shoes.

Why I’m Writing About Shoes

In late fall of 2022, I was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise and Morton’s neuroma in my right foot. I’ll keep the description short. It feels like someone is stabbing me in the foot with a rusty kitchen knife every time I took a step.

I typically put in 8-10 miles a day or more between the dog park, disc golf, and hiking.

This injury is a huge problem. Especially since the doc said, it could take up to two years to heal!!! 

What caused this problem? Shoes with a narrow toebox. It turns out that walking that much every day in shoes that don’t fit right will cause an injury over time. Who knew?🤦🏼

The first thing my doctor recommended was new shoes and some special inserts. Specifically, he recommended minimalist shoes by a company called “Xero.”

four pairs of xero shoes
My current, well worn assortment of Xero shoes.

I now own four pairs of Xero shoes, with another three on my wish list! The first pair I bought was to train in. I needed a new pair of gym shoes anyway.

To understand why I love these shoes, let’s look at what I’ve been training in up until now.

It All Started With Converse All-Stars

If you were to walk into any powerlifting gym in the country right now, the odds are that most people would be wearing Converse All-Stars, aka “Chucks.” link

Powerlifter deadlifting in chuck's
It’s not uncommon to see experienced lifters wearing Chuck Taylors

Every trainer I’ve ever worked with, from Dr. John Rusin to the guys over at Mind Pump, all wear this time-tested and loved shoe.

And I’m no different. I wore Chucks for a bit. I didn’t love them, but I followed the lead of the trainers I worked with.

If you are on a budget, Chucks are a great option. Just try them on first. Personally, I found them uncomfortable. The material was scratchy, the top cut into my foot, and they were too narrow.

But again, many people love them for training, and you might too.

My biggest reservation about recommending them now is the narrow toebox. A wide toebox benefits training and helps avoid injuries like those I’m dealing with right now. (source)

Next Step: CrossFit Shoes

When I decided not to buy another pair of Chucks, I looked instead at CrossFit shoes—specifically the Reebok Nanos and the Nike Metcons.

Orange Reebok Nanos
Can’t believe I found this pic. These are my original orange Nanos. Loved those shoes!!!

CrossFit shoes are designed to be a single shoe that works for everything from weight training to cardio. Because Nikes have never fit me properly (I wish they did, they make some awesome shoes!), I went with Reebok Nanos.

Nanos were my next three pairs of shoes. Clearly, I liked them. But there was also a problem.

The first pair lasted me almost four years. The second lasted two. The third wore out in less than a year.

And with that, I was done with Nanos.

It’s too bad, too. Nanos are a great choice if you are looking for a CrossFit/Cross Training shoe. They just don’t last as long as they used to.

Last Stop: Xero Shoes

I’m sure there are a bunch of great brands of minimalist/barefoot shoes, but since my doc recommended Xero by name, that’s what I bought. And I’m happy I did.

I started with a pair of Prio’s, their training shoe. I’ve since bought three more pairs of Xero shoes, but since they aren’t training shoes, we’ll stick to the Prio.

The Prio by Xero has the thinnest sole I’ve ever owned on a shoe. They also have one of the most durable soles of any training shoes I’ve owned. 

xero shoes Prio
I’ve trained in these Xero shoes daily for almost a year.

They come with a “5,000 mile guarantee”. They aren’t joking. The soles of my Prio’s have barely started to wear, even with heavy daily use. I can’t say that about my last pair of Nanos.

These are also the lightest and most flexible shoes I’ve ever worn. It is like walking around barefoot. The connection I feel with the ground on heavy squats and deadlifts is better than any shoe I’ve owned before this.

Add to all that great looks, traction, and overall comfort, and you have a shoe that checks all the boxes you’d want in a training shoe!

What To Look For in a Great Pair of Training Shoes

So what exactly are those boxes you want to be checked in your training shoes? Other than looking great, there are a few functional things you want to make sure your shoes have.

Zero Drop

Training shoes should be flat, unlike almost all running and athletic shoes, whose heel is higher off the ground than the toe.

The height of the heel and toe should be equal.

This type of shoe allows you to walk naturally as if you were barefoot. In fact, zero-drop shoes are often called “barefoot shoes.” This also means they disperse the weight on your foot evenly.

How your weight is distributed helps your connection with the ground when training. You’ll often hear trainers give the cue of “gripping the ground with your feet” while squatting and deadlifting. These shoes make that much easier.

xero shoes prio
Notice the sole is the exact same thickness from toe to heel.

This type of shoe will make your feet stronger. Stronger feet mean more stability. More stability means fewer injuries. And since many ankle, knee, and hip injuries are caused by foot instability, this turns out to be pretty important!

A Wide Toebox

Cramming your feet in a narrow shoe is known to cause quite a few foot injuries. Giving your feet space to spread out every time your foot hits the ground does the opposite. (source)

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A nice, wide toebox on the Xero Shoes Prio

With a wide toebox, your toes can spread out as they are intended to. This gives you a wider and more stable base when lifting or running. It also allows all of the muscles in your foot to be used as intended and, as a result, strengthened.

The wide toebox makes this type of shoe extremely comfortable. Nothing is bound up. My feet even sweat less!

Designed For Multiple Activities

I know people who own three different pairs of squat shoes, several pairs of deadlifting shoes, and four to five pairs of running shoes.

Sorry if that’s you, but that’s crazy!

I can do all of that with just one pair of shoes. You can, too, if you buy a shoe designed for that purpose!

Lifting in running shoes with a big heel rise is a bad idea. That design is robbing you of power and opening you up to injury. Running in squat shoes is an equally terrible idea. I’m not even sure that’s possible!

But you can easily do both in Chucks, Nanos, and Xero shoes.

Durable Construction

My first glorious pair of orange Nanos were built like a tank. Four years of use, and I only replaced them because I got tired of wearing bright orange shoes.

Even though I’ve owned my Xero Prio training shoes for just under a year, they look brand new. And I’m not easy on my shoes.

What did the Nanos in was pushing and pulling my sled outside every day. The concrete ate up the bottoms of those shoes. Not so with the Xeros.

bottom of Reebok Nanos worn down
The sole of my Reebok Nano’s after a little less than a year.
xero shoes prio sole
The sole of my Xero Prio’s after a little less than a year.

The only real wear on them is where the heel of the sole meets the shoe’s body on my right shoe. And that’s my fault.

I don’t like to untie my shoes when taking them off. I hold the heel of one shoe with the toe of the other and pry the shoe off my foot. The problem is that the Xero shoes fit so well that they don’t like to come off that way.

Instead of untying them as I should have, I kept using the same method until I peeled away the edge of the sole. Easily fixed with a bit of glue and easily avoided by untying my shoes to take them off like an adult.

Customer Service

I wanted to update this article and share a recent experience I had with Xero.

The waterproof hiking boots I bought from them wore through in a couple of spots and stopped being waterproof in less than a year of wearing them. I wrote to Xero to let them know (I wasn’t asking for anything, just letting them know so they could improve their shoes).

The next day I had an email with full instructions on getting a replacement pair under warranty. Within 10 minutes, my replacement pair was in process.

No questions asked, no pushback. Here’s how they responded:

Screenshot 2023 08 22 at 10.28.09 AM

I’ve never had that kind of service from a shoe company. Who warranties shoes for 2 years!!!??? Well, it turns out that Xero does. Just one more reason I recommend them to everyone.

The Verdict

Are Xero shoes the only minimalist training shoe that has all four of those qualities? Nope. But they work exceptionally well for me.

As I said upfront, I’m not a shoe expert. I don’t normally write about these things on this website.

But I do love these shoes. And I get a ton of emails asking about training shoes.

So, if you were thinking of asking about the best shoes to train in in your garage or basement gym, my vote is for a new pair of Xeros. I think you’ll love them.

FAQ

I heard it’s dangerous to switch to minimalist shoes as it can cause injury to people used to wearing “normal” shoes. Is that true?

While it’s not dangerous, it can cause pain initially if you don’t follow directions. When switching from traditional style shoes to barefoot shoes, you’ll be asking your feet to use muscles you haven’t used in years.

Just like any new stimulus, you’ll be in pain if you overdo it.

So, don’t overdo it! Start by wearing your new shoes for about an hour a day. When that’s going well, go for two hours. You’ll be able to wear them full-time in just a couple of weeks. And they’ll be more comfortable than you could expect!

The great thing about starting with training shoes is that your training session is the perfect amount of time to wear them at first.

Don’t these shoes have that hideous compartment for each toe?

Thank God, no!!! You’re thinking of the Vibram 5 Fingers, another minimalist/barefoot brand. While those shoes are of excellent quality and offer everything you’d want in a minimalist training shoe, they are, as you point out, hideous.

The joke in the fitness industry is that they are birth control you wear on your feet.

Xero shoes are much nicer looking than that!

Don’t you need a thick sole to protect your foot?

If you are doing trail running, yes. And Xero makes trail running shoes designed for that purpose.

But in your gym, you don’t need a thick sole during resistance training. You want the opposite. The thicker the sole, the less you can feel the ground with your feet.

It’s hard to describe it in writing, but you’ll appreciate the difference once you feel it. If you want to simulate what they are like, go into your gym and squat or deadlift with running shoes on and then do the same in bare feet.

You tell me which feels better and more controlled!

Xero Shoes - Are They The Best Shoes For Training in 2024?
xero shoes

I was skeptical of Xero shoes before I tried them. But on my docs recommendation I tried them. After years of Nanos, is Xero my new training shoe?

Product Brand: Xero

Editor's Rating:
4.5

Pros

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Wide toe box
  • Great fit

Cons

  • Can't try them on first
  • A little expensive
Photo of author

AUTHOR

Tim Steward has been training at home since he got his first weight set from Sears in junior high. Over 30 years later, Tim has helped thousands of people build home and garage gyms that they love and use regularly. He also holds a CPT certification with the ISSA and is an NCCPT nationally accredited trainer. When Tim is not training or writing about home gyms, you can find him at the dog park with his two Australian cattle dogs, Anny and Beans.

6 thoughts on “Xero Shoes – Are They The Best Shoe For Training in 2023?”

  1. Our entire family wears Xero shoes! They last a long time and our kids love them. The kids would rather be barefoot all the time, but when they need to wear shoes, this is a close second!

    Reply
  2. You have to eases into wearing these. If you go straight from highly cushioned running shoes to these, your feet and ankles are going to hurt. I started by wearing them around the house for an hour or two and expanded from there. Once you get used to them, they’ll be the only shoes you want to wear.

    Reply

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