Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been almost four years to the day since I last reviewed a minimalist shoe. Well, it’s not that hard to believe considering I more or less stopped running and live in a climate that allows flip-flops to be worn 365 days per year. Anyway, Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes recently reached out to me about reviewing their new closed-toe shoe – the Hana. Since I’ve been looking to upgrade my wardrobe and the last of my Merrell Trail Gloves kicked the bucket, I figured what the Hell.
A little back story – I’ve known Steven for years. I reviewed a pair of their huaraches back when they still went by “Invisible Shoes.” As the title indicates, they were simple, cheap, and effective. That exact pair actually saved my ass in the 2010 Burning River 100 miler in Ohio. I had planned on running the race barefoot (my second attempt at a barefoot hundo.) To force the issue, I didn’t bring any shoes with me. Yada, yada, yada, by mile 34 or so, my feet were hamburger thanks to the damn bridle trails. By a stroke of luck, I had one pair of Injinji toe socks and my pair of Invisible Shoe huaraches in one of my gear bags because I was too lazy to really clean it out.
So I used them.
I’ll be damned if I didn’t finish the race. This is me with my pacer Jesse Scott when I still looked quasi-happy:
Anyway, on to the review.
As I mentioned, the Hana is Xero Shoes’ first closed-toe shoe after years of producing ever-more advanced huarache sandals. I was excited because I know Steven knows his shit. Unlike traditional shoe companies who produce minimalist shoes, Xero Shoes starts with the perfect frame of reference – barefoot. This particular model is designed as a casual shoe, but could be used for running or other physical activities.
The sole is a 5.5mm ultra-durable rubber sole with about a 2mm thick liner. The upper is made from canvas with polyester laces. The design of the laces and webbing (see the pics) can be used to customize the fit to a degree tat’s not typically possible, which is pretty cool. The shoe, like any good minimalist shoe, is ultra-flexible, very light (around 8-9 ounces), has a zero drop heel, and has excellent ground feel.
The best part of this shoe, without a doubt, is the fit. Xero Shoes utilized a last (the thingy used to shape the shoe) that perfectly fits my foot. This is a huge deal. I’ve tested and reviewed pretty much every minimalist shoe that was developed from 2008 to 2012. The only two shoes that utilized a last this good were the Merrell Barefoot line and the original Lems casual shoes. My test pair is a size 11.5, which is about one size smaller than most other shoes I’ve tried.
The biggest flaw in the shoe is a weird personal issue – it’s not designed to be used without socks. I really hate socks, so naturally I tried using them without socks for the first round of testing. And they tore my feet up a bit. Since these are casual shoes, it’s less of an issue. However, I’m hoping they add a sockless liner for their soon-to-be-released running shoe.
Even though the shoes were designed for casual wear, I couldn’t resist the urge to put them through the paces. I did some road running, technical trail running, weightlifting, doing agility drills on turf, and doing a little boxing. With socks, the shoes performed almost as well in all of these endeavors as my beloved Trail Gloves. They allowed for toe splay (toes spreading out within the shoe) while still keeping my heel secured. This is important because it prevents hot spots and blisters. This also provides excellent lateral stability for cutting movements.
It should go without saying, but this shoe is a minimalist shoe. If you’re accustomed to “traditional” shoes, these may require some time to adjust your gait and strengthen all the bones, tendon, ligaments, and muscles of your lower kinetic chain. Need more info on that process? Dig around on this blog. 😉
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from these shoes given they’re Xero Shoes’ first attempt at a closed-toe shoe, but I came away impressed. Steven and crew are on the right track with the Hana and I’m excited to see where they go from here. Since most of the big players scaled back their minimalist shoe offerings, there aren’t as many choices available today as there was just a few years ago. Smaller, more responsive companies (like Xero Shoes) are perfect for picking up this slack.
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