For those who’ve read the book, Born to Run, the barefoot running boom was a well-known movement that took off around 2010. At the time, Vibram Five Fingers adorned the feet of those looking to find out what the minimalist methods would bring to their running speed and strength. Today, shoe companies like Xero have continued down the minimalist footwear path by creating models of running shoes that provide a thin, flexible sole, allowing the feet to be protected while maintaining a connection to the surface underneath.
Xero’s latest trail shoe, the Mesa Trail II is an update to the original Mesa Trail, with a lighter, FeelTrue® sole. Built for speed, the Mesa Trail II is noticeably lighter at 7.6 oz (men) and 6.2 oz (women), and low to the ground. During our testing, this minimalist shoe felt fast on smooth, single-track trails and traversed rocky and more technical sections with ease, given the hidden 3mm TrailFoam layer for added comfort. The breathable, engineered mesh that constructs the upper prevented overheating on our runs, but also meant our feet got too cold in winter conditions. However, the chevron-shaped 3.5mm lugs performed well on packed snow, gripping the surface for a quick response. Updates to this model also include a thinner, more protective toe cap, along with durable sidewall welding.
Xero’s lacing system is modeled after Huarache sandals worn by the Tarahumara, an Indigenous tribe living in Mexico’s Copper Canyon and featured in Born to Run. The lacing allows a tensioning system that helps the midfoot feel secure while working with the sidewall welding to keep the foot stable. Our testers felt that they were able to tighten the shoes securely enough to feel confident on steeper, faster descents.
With an 8mm stack height which includes the 2.5mm FeelTrue® sole, the shoe allows for a more natural connection with the running surface and surprisingly, moderately technical trails didn’t seem to bother our tester’s feet while traversing rolling hills or running up longer climbs. We did find that our testers with narrow feet experienced a light slapping in the forefoot while descending on flatter, hard surfaces due to the lighter weight of the shoe and wider toe box, even with a 3.5mm insole that provides additional padding.
The Mesa Trail II is a minimalist shoe that includes design features to stabilize the foot and keep a good surface connection with trail due to an aggressive lug pattern. While minimalist shoes are on the opposite end of the cushioned performance styles, many will find this model to be a fast, lightweight option for runners who prefer a little more protection but would still prefer to be “barefoot” on the trail.
- Weight: 7.6 oz men’s / 6.2 oz women’s
- Stack Height (heel/toe, in mm): 8/8
- Heel-Toe Drop (mm): 0
- Upper: Engineered mesh
- Midsole: TrailFoam®
- Outsole: FeelTrue® sole with 3mm lugs
- Three color options for men or women
- MSRP: $119.99