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Xero Shoes Mesa Trail trail running shoe review

The Xero Shoes Mesa Trail trail running shoe is a barefoot beauty that allows you to truly feel the trail you’re running on

Xero Shoes Mesa Trail
(Image: © Getty)

Our Verdict

This Mesa Trail is a smartly designed modern take on barefoot-style running. If you’re keen on minimalist shoes and feeling the ground beneath your feet, you’ll love the comfort and agility of this shoe.

For

  • Superior traction
  • Featherweight design
  • Exceptional feel for the trail

Against

  • Minimal protection
  • Only for experienced barefoot-style runners

First thoughts

Xero Shoes Mesa Trail are the latest from a brand that doesn't show any signs of slowing. Although the zenith of the barefoot running movement seemed to have come and gone nearly a decade ago, Xero Shoes has continued to evolve the category of minimally designed shoes for the dedicated core of enthusiasts.

The hyper-agile Mesa Trail is the most footloose and fancy free shoe for trail running it has ever made. It has a low-to-the-ground construction that is essentially a 5mm flexible rubber outsole, an interior 3mm foam layer and a 2mm insole that’s cushy, breathable and removable. 

The Mesa Trail is exquisitely comfortable for such a sparsely cushioned shoe, but the interior feel is bolstered by a thin breathable, moisture-wicking lining.

This shoe provides exceptional feel for the trail, which, depending on your experience with barefoot shoes and the surface you’re running on, could be a good thing or a bit of a challenge.

The outsole is made from durable rubber with 3.5mm lugs that serves up great traction and a tad bit more protection, while the reinforced toe bumper provides security against stubbed toes. 

On the trails

We tested the Mesa Trail shoes on a variety of smooth and technical trails all around Boulder, including the namesake trail that runs under the iconic Flatirons rock faces that give the city its identity. I also ran up and down Mt Sanitas and Bear Peak, two of the highest summits on the western horizon line, while wearing these shoes.

Xero Shoes builds all of its shoes on the principles of natural running, allow the ability for a runner’s feet to uninhibitedly interact with the ground. The Mesa Trail has been designed for light, fast and agile running on a variety of trail surfaces, from smooth dirt to technical, rocky routes. It offers a good blend of comfort, cushion, agility and protection to create a modern barefoot running experience.

All of the materials used in the Mesa Trail are lightweight, but, more importantly, they’re super functional elements that work in concert to develop an optimal interaction with the ground.

The midsole-outsole chassis is decidedly thin but it still overs sufficient or “just enough” protection from rocks, roots, gravel and other obstacles on the trail. The stretchy, mesh upper is comfortable and very breathable, yet sturdy enough to keep the foot from sloppy movements on the trail. The laces are integrated into midfoot overlay straps over the saddle that snug down each foot without hindering natural flex and movement patterns.

Keep in mind that running in minimally designed shoes takes some know-how and experience, and if you take most pairs of barefoot shoes out for the first time, you’re bound to endure some awkward landings and get some “stingers” from pointed rocks and roots. But the design and materials of the Mesa Trail smooth out the ride and allow a runner to focus on the intimate interaction between their feet and the trail.