Xero Shoes Zelen – Review

Xero Shoes Zelen – running shoes that are designed with durability in mind. Breathable fabric made from recycled and biodegradable materials, a soft outsole, a roomy toebox and the shoe’s exceptional lightness are just some of the features that describe this latest Xero Shoes model.

Spring 2022 was full of surprises at Xero Shoes. In addition to refreshed existing models and the launch of a number of new sneakers and shoes, there were also changes in women’s sizes, which are now available up to size 42.5 (US 12).

Zelen is one of the new models from Xero Shoes collection. These breathable sneakers are made from recycled and biodegradable materials and have one of the softest Xero Shoes soles ever.

Disclaimer: I was given this pair of shoes as a gift to review, but all opinions expressed here are my own. I am also affiliated with Xero shoes, which means that I may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase from the official Xero Shoes site via the link on my page.

1. General

  • Brand: Xero Shoes
  • Model: Zelen
  • Colour: cloud/porcelain blue
  • Tested on: woman, medium-wide feet, 26.3 cm long and 10 cm wide, low instep, skinny ankles with narrow heel, fin-shaped foot (see my how to measure guide and foot type) – wearing size 42 (women’s model)

| USA, Made in China | Women, Men | Vegan | Shipped Worldwide |

2. Material characteristics

2.1 Upper

Xero Shoes Zelen are made from 100% vegan materials. The upper is constructed from a mesh fabric made from recycled rPET materials. Due to the perforation, the knitted material has good breathability, making it suitable for wearing in the warmer part of the year.

The Zelen model comes in 3 colours for men and 2 colours for women. This beautiful spring colour in the photo, a combination of turquoise blue, dark blue and grey, is called cloud/porcelain blue and is available in the women’s models.

The distinctive Xero Shoes straps in dark blue that run along the sides of the shoe not only have a decorative function, but also allow better fixation of the shoe in the midfoot.

The padded collar provides extra softness around the ankles and a pull loop ensure easy on-off.

2.2 Lining

The soft lining inside, which runs along the back part of the shoe, is made of biodegradable materials. The insole is removable.

2.3 Sole

The sole is made of 5 mm thick biodegradable FeelTrue® rubber, the total stack height with insole is 7.5 mm. The tread on the sole, inspired by the pattern of the tyres, has shallow lugs, making the shoes suitable for walking and running on urban surfaces (road, pavement, etc.).

I was surprised by the softness of the sole of the Zelen model, which is extremely soft and flexible compared to other Xero Shoes shoes I tried. I can twist it in all directions without any problem.

Due to its thickness, there is still a feeling of minimal cushioning when walking, but the sole is soft and squishy, so it still responds very well to the ground.

See also the video for a close-up.

3. Sizing information

3.1 Length

The shoes are available in both men’s and women’s sizes, with the men’s sizes being wider than the women’s. Women’s sizes are available in sizes 35-42.5 (US5-US12) and men’s sizes in sizes 39.5-48 (US6.5-US15).

When I’m choosing the right size for me, I prefer to rely on the internal shoe lengths given, which are not available from Xero Shoes. For the Zelen model, I therefore chose my usual size 42, which has an internal length of 28 cm measured with a Plus12. The Zelen is slightly longer due to the extremely thin material (e.g. the Kelso model in size 42 has an internal length of 27,5 cm).

With my 26.3 cm foot length, I could have chosen a size 41.5 for the Zelen as I have enough space in front of my toes in size 42 (17 mm), but I decided to stick with the chosen size because of the available width. The bigger size fits me perfectly and I have enough space in the shoe even with socks.

In case your feet are narrow or medium wide, I recommend choosing a half size smaller than the one I took. If your feet are even wider, go for the men’s models.

See post How much space do we need in shoes if you want to know more about that.

3.2. Toebox shape & width

The toebox shape of Xero Shoes is best suited to feet with a milder slope towards the pinky toe, such as foot shape 2, 4 and 5. They can also be worn by people with the longest big toe with a stronger slope (1), but this may leave more space in front of the smaller toes, which may be distracting for some. Squarer foot shapes (3 and 6) will need more space in front of the toes to allow room for the smaller toes.

More about different foot types you can read in my post What is my Foot Type?

The women’s model is best suited for narrower and medium wide feet, but you can gain some extra millimetres in width by choosing a bigger size. The shoes also have a lot of space above the toes, so this area feels extremely generous and roomy for me.

The width is perfect for my 10 cm wide foot, but bear in mind that I also chose a little more space in front of my toes. I didn’t go for a smaller size because the width would be on the limit for me.

I would also like to remind you that your foot should not hang over the sole (with such a soft model, this can happen quickly). If the shoes are too narrow and you notice that not all your toes are resting on the sole, try men’s models or size up.

3.3. Fit around the instep, heel and ankle

The women’s Zelen models are best suited to narrow and average ankle widths, and lower and average instep heights. In case you need more volume, try the men’s models.

4. Comfort

The nice soft lining around the ankle and heel area makes the shoes extremely relaxing to wear, and the breathability of the material means you won’t get too hot in the shoe. The soft sole adds a little cushioning, but it’s perfect if you prefer a minimal cushioning on hard artificial surfaces.

5. How and when to wear them?

Xero Shoes Zelen are designed as running shoes, so they will be perfect for those who like to include running in their recreation. Of course, they’re also great for days when you like to reach for more casual clothes and shoes. They can also be great for kids who are already wearing adult sizes.

My Zelen sneakers have received quite a few compliments on their appearance, even from those who don’t wear barefoot shoes.

6. Price & where to buy

Xero Shoes can be purchased on the official EU or US website. The price for the Zelen model is 150€ ($129,99 on the US website). In case you order them from the EU, the shoes are shipped from an EU warehouse, so there is no tax or customs duty to pay on top of this price.

7. Shipping info

Xero Shoes ships worldwide and shipping costs vary depending on the country of shipment. If you are ordering from Europe, I recommend using their official EU website.

Also, returns are extremely easy. Just register your return via their website and choose a pick-up date. The package is collected by carrier at your home.

8. To sum up

The Xero Shoes Zelen definitely exceeded my expectations. I love their lightness, breathability, the softness of the sole (one of the softest Xero soles!) and the colour combinations. The fact that they are available in two different widths makes them easier to adapt to different foot widths. They are even better and more beautiful in person than in the photos and they a wonderful sneakers. Not just for running, but for all days when you want to wear a sporty shoe.

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