The last boot review seemed like it was well-received, and I think is a good foray for us watch guys (and gals) to think about other parts of our ensemble, you know, what you wear, day in, day out. As I mentioned in previous menswear reviews, watches are really functional jewelry, and as such, are rightfully considered as accessories (as well as being functional tools). So, that’s why I’m going to continue bringing you some other options that might be falling in the same sort of category. Though, footwear is more of a necessity than a watch. Today, we’ve got another barefoot-style boot under the review desk, the Xero DayLite Hiker.
As with the Vivobarefoot boots we last reviewed, the Xero DayLite Hiker go with the barefoot aesthetic, generally seen as having rather thin soles to them. And, I can confirm, you really do feel the terrain under your foot, whether it be paved or unpaved. These sorts of shoes also (generally) have a wider toe box on them, allowing your toes to spread out a bit more as you walk and your foot flexes, which is supposed to allow the more natural feel. The soles, I think, is what people are going to focus on, however.
Why? Well, because we’re used to having thicker, sometimes quite spongy and springy, soles. And then over those, we generally have more cushioning in the form of the insole. Barefoot-style shoes eschew all of that, so people, rightfully so, are concerned that their feet are going to hurt in these styles. In my experience, that is not the case. You may end up adjusting your walking a touch (no more driving your heel into the ground with each step), but otherwise, they are rather comfortable – again, that’s my experience.
With some of those generalities out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the Xero DayLite Hiker. These really do have the look and feel of a more traditional, meshy, hiking boot. This is primarily due to the profile, with the boot coming up to mid-ankle (as opposed to the high-rise sneaker style of the Vivobarefoot). This still allows you to draw the laces tightly for some good ankle support, while not necessarily impinging, or having the collar of the boot, binding up on your calves.
I do want to call out something with regards to the lace tightening. On the Xero DayLite Hiker, you don’t want to pull them snug just willy-nilly, or just up at the top. Take a closer look, and you’ll see some canvas webbing in a v-shape on each side of the boot. These act very much like the straps on a pair of sandals (not surprising, as Xero sells quite a few options in sandals). What this means with the Xero DayLite Hiker is that you can tighten the laces in just a few spots across your foot, and really have a quite supportive fit. In other words, you can get this boot snugged to your foot without it feeling like you’ve got to crank all the laces down super tight.
And that fits with the whole idea of the Xero DayLite Hiker boots helping you to get a barefoot-like feel. If the laces are super tight and digging in, you’re going to be conscious of the boots on your feet. Here, the laces can be a tad looser, allowing flexibility and comfort. The brand also recommends sizing up in these boots, so they’re likely a bit roomier than you’re used too (on top of the wider toe box design). In short, there’s a lot of comfort to be had in these boots, even with those thinner soles.
Oh, and speaking of the soles – the Xero DayLite Hiker actually carry a 5000-mile guarantee. These boots are in intended to last for a good long bit. Which is good, as some folks can be leery of all-synthetic boots (yup, these are vegan friendly). I personally really liked the ballistic mesh, as it allowed breathability (but wasn’t overly breezy). It also is supposed to offer a modicum of water resistance, but I was not ever caught in the rain with them, so I can’t speak as to that. When I was wearing these around, I was using a more cushioned hiking sock from Darn Tough Vermont most of the time, and it was quite comfortable (and the extra room in the boot was accommodating to the sock). I have tried it out with other, thinner socks (again, from Darn Tough Vermont – I just like their stuff) and the boot was still a good option.
Sure, you might need to adjust the laces a bit (particularly at the huarache points) as you adjust to different socks (or even go barefoot in the boot if you wanted, with or without the insole), but that’s a fairly small price to pay. Oh, and with those laces, while most of the lacing points are loops of canvas, up at the very top, you’ve got metal eyelets that they go through (not speed hooks). Aside from being a styling point, I think they give you a bit more confidence for pulling things snug at the top for the ankle support.
As you’ve no doubt noticed in this review, I’ve been comparing the Xero DayLite Hiker against the pair of boots from Vivobarefoot that we last looked at. This is primarily because these are the only two pairs of barefoot-style boots (so far, we should have some more in the works) that I’ve looked at, and it makes sense. And while the prior pair may have a more aggressive tread pattern to them, I think the Xero DayLite Hiker cut a more traditional hiking-boot look. So, in many ways, it comes down to what it is you’re looking for in a boot.
And, if price point is a concern, I will give the nod to the Xero DayLite Hiker, which comes in at a reasonable $110 (and is available in three colors, as well as other options in the women’s style, which is primarily a narrower profile). So, really, you need to think about the style of the boot you’re going for. While I’m still not 100% sure I would hit the week-long backpacking trails in the Xero DayLite Hiker (that’s what warmup hikes are for, to test that out), I think these are a great option for warm weather day hiking, as well as just general outdoors and camping shoes. They’re light, they’re comfortable, they’re breathable. All things you would want for any outdoors shoe when the warm weather hits. As for me, I do like the Xero DayLite Hiker, and can definitely see kicking back by the campfire with these on after a day of wandering in the woods. xeroshoes.com
- Brand & Model: Xero DayLite Hiker
- Price: $110
- Who’s it for? Barefoot-style aficionado or not, you just want a good, light, and breathable boot to be in the outdoors with
- Would I wear it? Indeed I would, and have been
- What I would change: If the loops on the back were bigger, it would be much easier to hook a finger in for pulling the boots on
- The best thing about it: I was surprised by how much I liked how the huarache straps worked for adjusting the fit of the boot
- Watch it pairs best with: The Raven Venture – get your granola crumblin, and head out on the trailway!
Design Features from Xero
- Natural FIT – Wide, anatomically correct toe boxes let your toes spread and relax, plus a non-elevated, “zero-drop” heel for proper posture.
- Natural MOTION – Your feet are supposed to bend and flex and move. The DayLite Hiker is super flexible to let them do that. The low-to-the-ground design is perfect for balance and agility.
- Natural FEEL – Your feet are supposed to FEEL the world. Our patented FeelTrue® soles give you just-right protection while also giving you the ground feedback that your brain and body want.
- Light Weight – You don’t want your footwear to weigh you down
- 5,000 mile sole warranty
Tech Specs from Xero
- Great protection with a highly water resistant ballistic mesh upper with Tough Tech toe bumper
- LIGHT — Only 10.2 ounces (each) for a Men’s Size 9
- Huarache-inspired heel strap to hold your foot securely
- Adjustable instep straps for perfect tension
- Dual-chevron tread for great grip
- Thin and flexible 6mm FeelTrue® sole
- Removable sockliner (insole) if you want a “more barefoot” feeling
- Vegan-friendly materials