KEEN Newport & Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV

It’s that wonderful time of year—time to start breaking out the hiking sandals. Or, perhaps it’s time to start shopping for a new pair of hiking sandals. I added a new pair of sandals to my lineup this year, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail EVs. The big question for me was “can they stand up to the GOATs?” For me, the GOATs (greatest of all time) are the KEEN Newport H2s.

If you’re considering either of these hiking sandals, here’s some information to help you decide what’ll work best for you.

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KEEN Newport H2 Hiking Sandals

Image courtesy of KEEN

KEEN lovingly calls its Newports the “World’s Ugliest Sandal.” For decades, hikers have turned to the Newports for hitting the trails, getting wet on the trails, and just about any outdoor adventure you can think of. I’ve had two pairs of KEEN Newport H2 hiking sandals, and I believe I will always own a pair.

The Newport hiking sandals (especially the H2 version) are designed to get wet, so if there’s a stream, river, ocean, lake, or puddle, fear not. There’s a nice wide toe box (plus a toe guard), a handy bungee lacing system, lightweight cushioning and arch support, and a quick-drying upper.

I find these sandals grip miraculously well. They’ve kept me upright on all kinds of terrain, including on river rocks covered in algae. They’re relatively expensive, but they’re also just about perfect. I have no complaints, which is why I think they’re the GOATs and the hiking sandals to beat in any showdown. Also, they’re not that ugly.

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Hiking Sandals

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV hiking sandals
Image courtesy of Xero Shoes

Xero Shoes’ best-selling Z-Trail EVs are barefoot hiking sandals, so they’re going to offer a different experience than wearing a hiking sandal with a thicker sole and a toe guard. There’s no toe guard on these sandals, but they’re also extremely light (just 4.3 ounces for a women’s size 7), and there are only a few points of contact on your foot, which reduces your chance of blisters.

For being a sandal designed to emulate being barefoot, the Z-Trail EVs do a fantastic job of protecting your feet from all the things that would make actually hiking barefoot truly terrible. I’ve worn these over sharp rocks and not felt any sharpness, just pressure. The EVs accomplish this thanks to an 11mm FeelLite sole and a middle layer of TrailFoam. They really do the most with the least amount of material.

In fact, one of Xero Shoes’ calling cards is its environmental responsibility. Z-Trail EVs require 70% less material than other sports sandals, and the quick-dry webbing is actually nylon from recycled water bottles.

I like wearing these sporty, comfortable sandals outside of hiking, too!

Hiking Sandal Showdown: The Verdict

Since the Newports and the Z-Trail EVs have vastly different feels on purpose, I can’t possibly recommend one fully over the other. It’s going to depend on your personal preference and hiking style. If you’re a minimalist and/or a zero-drop sort of person, go with the Xero Shoes Z-Trail EVs. If you want something a little more robust and plan to be in water, you can’t go wrong with the GOATs, the KEEN Newport H2s.

Check out our full guides to the best water hiking shoes and the best hiking shoes.

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