Xero Shoes Genesis review: Strip back to basic and embrace the root of barefoot

Xero Shoes was the first barefoot shoe company that I came across when I was researching for some compact alternatives to fit into my backpack for travelling. I was going to Cyprus for a lovely sunbathing holiday and wanted to bring a pair of sandals with me that won’t take up much space in my bag. So as every homo sapiens nowadays do, I asked google about some minimalist sandals and that’s when the spiral started.

Xero Shoes is a barefoot shoe company founded by a couple in America, Steven and Lena in 2009. After experiencing multiple injuries from running, they came across the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and started DIY their own Huarache shoes. Initially for themselves and some members of their running club, but soon took off into a business with a fan base across the globe.

Genesis

Genesis is their Huaraches shoes. One of the most minimalist shoes you can find on the market, literally a paper-thin sole and a long string that strap the foot in. In barefoot shoes, this is possibly the barest of them all. Xero Shoes called their Huarache “Genesis” because it is their founding product and I found it fitting for myself as it introduces me to the world of barefoot. £39.95… although might not be the cheapest for a pair of sandals, given their unique position in the market, you will find it difficult to get another quality pair in this price range.

Appearance

I really like its minimalistic rustic look. Just a paper-thin sole and the black cord version I picked makes it look like I am merely having some decorative straps on my foot and not wearing shoes at all. It comes in 4 different colour cords so it goes well with most colourful summer outfit, keeping you cool and free.

Compact and flexible

It kind of goes without saying, majority of the barefoot shoes are flexible. That’s the whole point of them, to mould to your feet rather than the other way round. And the Genesis are so flexible and minimal that they can roll up into a tiny ball that fits into the palm of your hand. It is one of the main selling points to me that I always have a pair of sandal ready for the beach without taking much too much space in my bag.

Amazing ground feel

They called their thin sole FeelTrue® rubber outsole. Comes in 5mm, might not be one of the thinnest of sole out there as you sometimes see company boasting about 3-4mm sole. But from my experience, it feels much thinner than 5mm between you and the element. Although thin, they are extremely durable and have saved my feet from so many sharps on the road. If you are an experienced barefoot junkie, you would appreciate that ground feel of these.

But also because of that, it might not necessarily be the first pair of barefoot shoes I would recommend to everyone out there looking to try barefoot. It takes some times to re-adjust from “normal shoes” to barefoot. So don’t be like me that the first time wearing one is on holiday walking long distance. There are different brands of barefoot shoe companies that are slightly more protective that can ease you into the barefoot world.

Adjustable strap

Improving upon the Huaraches, the Genesis strap has an adjustable system that makes the sandal hug your feet better. By tightening or loosening the heel straps, you can adjust the whole shoes to fit your desire comfort thanks to the looping mechanism on the side rather than having multiple straps like the traditional sandals. With the strap having some elasticity to it, after finding your perfect fit, you can slip on and off them very easily. In reality, I found adjusting to having the perfect fit is a bit more faffy than it initially seems. A small adjustment to one tag at the back actually makes quite a significant change to the whole shoe tension. Ideally, you want to have a good tension so the shoes don’t turn into a stupid flapping swim fin scoping up every little thing on the floor, but at the same time, you don’t want it to be too tight digging into your toe webs. From time to time, I still need to re-adjust it just because I don’t feel I get it quite right.

Verdict

Xero Shoes’ Genesis is deeply inspired by Ramárui’s Huaraches shoes. I love its compactness and minimalistic design that strips it all back to the most basic of shoes – the sole ( 😉 ) purpose is to protect your feet from penetrating injuries by rocks and debris. Their FeelTrue® sole, although protective, gives you a truly remarkable ground feel that all barefoot enthusiasts cherish. It is very comfortable once you are used to wearing barefoot shoes, but you might want to ease yourself into the barefoot world before doing any serious running and walking in these!

Barefoot is the new cushion: Why I ditched the big chunky shoes

Travelling around Europe was on my To-do list when I first come to the UK about 10 years ago. However, with study always taking priority (I have Chinese parents, surprise!) and the lack of funds, I have only been to 2 European cities before finishing university. So when I finally got a job and saved up some money, I started planning a getaway for a breather. Not wanting to pay that extra to check in my luggage, I wanted to pack light, I needed to pack light. That’s when I first come across barefoot shoes.

“High tech shoes, low tech feet” – Ido Portal

Devolution

With millions of years of natural selection, human’s feet have evolved with one undivided focus – to walk and run. With 26 bones and more than 100 muscles, our foot and ankle are engineered to propel us forward and act as part of the complex but efficient shock absorption system. However, once we have satisfied with our survival needs, societies decided daintier feet are more desirable. So the East had the Chinese foot-binding practice while the West have high heels and pointed leather shoes, we are all sacrificing our survival advantage in the name of “beauty”. Then we over-engineer our shoes to have more cushioning without realising we already have the best tailor-made shock absorption system for our body.

What are barefoot shoes?

Unlike other trainers or formal shoes, barefoot shoes embrace your feet in their most natural form. The wide toe box, zero drops and the incredibly flexible and indeed extremely thin sole are designed to provide protection against sharp stones or debris without compromising ground feel. All these encourage your feet to do exactly what they were designed to do. 

Benefits

1.    Compact

That was the main reason I was drawn to barefoot shoes in the first place. I need something that I can throw in my bag without taking up much space. Compared to traditional trainers, barefoot shoes have extremely flexible sole thanks to their thinness. They can be rolled up small or pack flat into any small corner of your bag.

2.    Improve posture

Zero drops meaning the front of your shoe is at the same level at the heel. With heel elevation, the human body naturally trying to compensate for the tilt by anteriorly tilting your pelvis and arching your back. Incorrect posture in a long run gives you a stupid amount of aches and pains, most commonly chronic back pain, knee and hip pain. With zero drops, your body doesn’t need to work as hard to keep you upright, less incentive to hold yourself in an awkward position. Subsequently, allowing an even load across all joints to avoid excessive wear and tear at one particular point.

3.    Balance and joint stability 

The thin sole allows “ground feel” and exercises the foot muscles. Our feet have a huge amount of nerve endings not unlike our hands. The ability to connect with the ground, give us stronger joint proprioception (sense of self-movement and position) and greater control of our own body. While on uneven ground, our feet will have to work harder to morph into different shapes to allow us to remain upright, it strengthens those small muscles in our feet and provides much better stability, hence the longevity of our joints. This argument is like you don’t wear gloves while performing intricate and complex tasks with your hands because of the loss of “touch” and dexterity, we shouldn’t deprive our feet the same if we expect them to constantly doing minute adjustments for balance.

4.    Hallux Valgus

Hallux – Big toe. Valgus – Pointing away from the midline. Hallux Valgus is a bunion, I just like to sound clever once in a while. It is a deformity of the big toe bending and cramping towards the 2nd toe. One of the causes is wearing tight-fitting shoes, essentially squeezing the toe into an unnatural position. The joint can then get inflamed and sore. Having a wide toe box, can help with relieving some of the pressure and reduce the risk of it getting irritated.

Downsides

1.    Takes time to get used to

For a long time, our feet have gotten used to wearing these tight-fitting, big cushioning shoes. Just like anything, you lose it if you don’t use it. It will take some time to build up those small muscles in the foot again. In my experience, your feet get tired and sore quickly at the start, but as you build up, you will find yourself able to sustain being on your feet for longer and easier than before.

2.    Less choice

Barefoot shoes are gaining a bit of traction in recent years as people become more aware of the theory behind the benefits they offer. There are indeed more companies popping up these days with more fashionable choices. But in a large scheme of things, there are still only a small pool to choose from and the “duck-feet” like wide toe box is not exactly commonly associated with the word “classy”.

Verdict

Initially, I just wanted a pair of shoes that can fit into my backpack without taking up too much space without thinking too much about it. People claim barefoot shoes provide plenty of health benefits such as better posture, better joints and less chronic pain. Although I wouldn’t bet all my money on them as the magic solution for your shitty backs or dodgy knees, I certainly enjoy the freedom, the flexibility and the minimalistic design these shoes have. Anecdotally, I do notice some improvement in my balance and sustain longer on my feet albeit that could solely be placebo/bias. Many barefoot shoes come with a trial period with a money-back guarantee, you have little to lose to try one on. 😉