My fascination with history knows no bounds and I hope you don’t think me eccentric when I say that the history of sandals grabbed my attention as I was about to audition a pair of Umara Z-Trail Ultralight Sports Sandals.

This type of footwear has been around for at least 10,000 years, and sandals are thought by anthropologists (like me) to have been invented during the Neolithic Age. How did my colleagues prove this? They studied distinct barefoot patterns that simply disappeared over time and were replaced by tree bark sections leaving near-identical impressions in the soil.

Radiocarbon dating at archaeological sites confirm that 10,000-year history, and I’ve personally investigated sites that track the evolution of sandals made of both natural and man-made materials.

I’ve also found mentions of this classic foot covering in both the Old (“How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter!”; Song of Songs 7:1) and New Testaments: “I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Take neither purse nor pack, nor sandals,” (Luke 10:1-16). My curiousity satisfied, I headed for a local shopping mall to test a pair of Umara Z-Trail Ultralight Sports Sandals.

Why did I try on other sandals before Umara Z-Trails?

I know what you’re thinking: why waste time trying on other contemporary sandals when my objective was learning the good, the bad and the ugly about Umara Z-Trail Ultralight Sports Sandals? My answer is that I felt a responsibility to see what the competition was all about.

I won’t go into brand names here, but I can definitely say that nothing I tried on was comparable. These sturdy sandals are flexible, versatile, comfortable and lightweight. I couldn’t imagine wearing those other sandals on terrain I travel more often than not. I’d be forced to substitute my hiking boots.

The Z-Trail Ultralight manufacturer, Xero Shoes, claims that these kicks are designed to go everywhere and do anything, so I did what any red-blooded sandal tester would do: I hit the trail to see if these claims are real or just so much hyperbole.

Quelle surprise! I walked woodlands, strode over gravel, crossed streams, tried a bit of jogging and ran 5km in them, just to see if I could survive a short marathon experience without winding up with bruised toes, rubbed soles and achy feet.

Despite putting these sandals to daunting tests on diverse terrain, they performed better than expected, living up to Xero’s claim that they’re 76-percent lighter and thinner than the competitor’s sandals I tried on. I was impressed.

Believe me, I tried to abuse them, but no matter what I subjected my Umara Z-Trails to, they took to the road like automobile tires, treating my feet to a surprisingly comfortable experience.

Runner’s Boon

  • What a fabulous alternative to hiking boots! The grip and traction are tenacious, so I felt safe and sure-footed.
  • They slide on and off in an instant, yet the straps grip my feet like Pythons.
  • I got them soaked while on my test walk, yet they dried faster than my thin t-shirt.
  • My feet enjoyed feeling the cool air and natural stride, thanks to the zero-drop heel.
  • That sturdy rubber sole is this sandal’s secret weapon: I think it could survive 10,000 years, too.
  • Z-Trails come with a 5,000-mile warranty from Xero Shoes. You read that correctly.
  • Unlike flimsy sandals, these roll up so efficiently, I can stick them in my shorts pocket.

Runner’s Bane

  • Because these sandals are contra-mainstream, fit can be problematic if a wearer doesn’t try them on first.
  • To be honest, I ran into a few traction issues when the terrain I traversed got wet or muddy.
  • Price is disconcerting.
  • While the webbing straps hold up nicely, a mate’s blew out one mile into its maiden voyage on the trail.
  • The retail clerk asked if I had a high instep, saying that he’s had returns based on this factor alone.
  • Do you have sensitive soles? The foot bed fabric could rub if this happens to be a persistent issue for you.
  • Be advised that has issued this warning: “Expect to spend about 2 to 3 years making the transition” to this brand of footwear in general. If you’re impatient, read this warning twice!
  • Conclusion

    Let me begin by saying that despite the price—which is more than I usually spend—the Umara Z-Trail Ultralight Sports Sandal is in a league of its own, so I can understand why the manufacturer is charging more for them than a less advanced type of sandal. In my humble opinion, these dream sandals boldly go–to quote my favourite Star Trek slogan–”where no man has gone before!”

    Fortunately, I don’t suffer physiological impediments that would make wearing these sandals difficult, so I feel confident that I’ll be walking all 5,000 of the miles I’ve been promised by Xero and in sublime comfort. I intend to go where no man has gone before wearing these; that includes rugged terrain, bodies of water and anywhere else my wandering soul has the urge to travel.

    I love the history that comes with this shoe; it makes me feel as though I am part of the continuum of life when I wear my Umara Z’s, because unlike other modern-day sandals, these are no mere fashion statements. As a matter of fact, when I put them on, I can’t help but wonder whether I’m literally walking in the footsteps of early man. That’s what happens when you investigate the past as often as I do!

    When it comes to shoe fashion, are you all about the look, all about performance, all about the brand or must each of these criteria be met before you are willing to hand over your cash or plastic?

    The Xero Shoes Z-Trail Ultralight Sports Sandals is available online at The Fitness Grocer for S$119 and the official XERO Shoes online store.

Chia Kangjin

Kangjin loves running and with a bike between his legs, he believes that while life can push you down, you’ll always come back up like a pedal.

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