Home » Xero Shoes Zelen Review | Best Eco-Friendly Barefoot Running Shoe?

Xero Shoes Zelen Review | Best Eco-Friendly Barefoot Running Shoe?

The Xero Shoes Zelen is the latest barefoot running shoe from Xero Shoes. This model is marketed as an eco-friendly barefoot running shoe due to its construction and the materials used in this model. As a fan of the Xero Shoes HFS barefoot running shoe, I was super excited to test out the Xero Shoes Zelen.

I’ve really enjoyed the Xero Shoes Zelen for my hybrid training sessions where I blend lifting with a little bit of running. Personally, I love tackling heavy lower body sessions and sprints in barefoot shoes.

Thus far, the Xero Shoes Zelen has been stellar for accommodating these workouts. However, there are a couple of cons to note about this shoe which I’ll discuss below.

In this Xero Shoes Zelen review, I’m going to discuss a variety of topics to help you decide if this barefoot shoe is a good pick for the context of your training needs and wants.

 

On the market for new barefoot shoes? Check out my best barefoot shoe round-up. I have picks in here for lifting, CrossFit, and much more!

Who Should Invest In the Xero Shoes Zelen?

The Xero Shoes Zelen is a good barefoot shoe for shorter and mid-range runs. This model also works well for lifting and hybrid training, so it’s fairly dynamic with its construction and performance.

What separates the Xero Shoes Zelen from other Xero Shoes running shoes is that it’s made with responsibly sourced materials. The knit upper is constructed with rPET recycled materials and the sock liner and sole are both biodegradable.

That being said, if you’re interested in a more sustainable barefoot shoe for running and lifting, then I think the Xero Shoes Zelen is a good model to look into. This model also works well for daily wear in warmer months which adds to this shoe’s dynamic functionality.

Xero Shoes Zelen

$129.99

Xero Shoes Zelen
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Short and Mid-Range Runs
  • Outdoor Training
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Environmental-Conscious Shoppers

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Colder Months

 

Xero Shoes Zelen Pros

Over the course of my testing, training, and reviewing, I’ve found that there are multiple pros to like about the Xero Shoes Zelen.

  1. Good Hybrid Training Barefoot Shoe
  2. High Level of Breathability and Good Durability
  3. Built With Sustainable and Biodegradable Materials

The first aspect to like about the Xero Shoes Zelen is that they’re a pretty great barefoot shoe for tackling hybrid training workouts and hybrid styles of training. If you’re someone that loves to lift, run, sprint, and train like an athlete and you want a barefoot shoe, then the Zelen is a good option to explore.

Me Training In the Xero Shoes Zelen Barefoot Shoes

This model has a removable insole with finished internal construction which is awesome for giving you a little variety in this shoe’s fit and feel. For example, I like to leave the insole in when running and sprinting to provide myself a little bit of extra cushion, then I’ll take it out for my lifting sessions to get maximal ground contact.

I also like the sole on this shoe and the tire-like tread pattern they have. This shoe’s sole grips well when tackling runs on the road and at the track. If you’re a hybrid-focused athlete and you train in warm climates, then I really think you’ll enjoy the Zelen and how they support your training.

Xero Shoes Zelen Sole Construction

Another aspect to like about the Xero Shoes Zelen is that they have a high level of breathability. The knit upper constructed with rPET recycled materials breathes well and if you’re someone that likes training with minimalist socks or sockless, then I think you’ll enjoy how cool these shoes keep your feet.

The durability of this shoe also seems to be really solid. The toe box has an additional layer for preventing breakdown due to friction or abrasions and the additional midfoot cage is a nice tough for providing an extra layer of midfoot support and security. The sole also feels durable and well-put-together in this shoe.

Xero Shoes Zelen Durability Review

The final aspect to like about the Zelen and I think this is one of the bigger pros of this shoe is that it’s made with recycled materials and that’s this shoe’s whole draw as being an eco-friendly barefoot shoe for running and training.

The knit upper is made with rPET recycled materials and the sole and sock liner in this model are both biodegradable. If you’re someone who’s super interested in the materials used in your footwear, then this can be a big perk to this shoe despite it having a slightly higher price point.

Xero Shoes Zelen Flexibility

Xero Shoes Zelen Cons

The Xero Shoes Zelen is overall a strong performing hybrid barefoot shoe, however, there are a couple of cons to note about this model.

  1. Not the Best for Cooler Months and Wet Conditions
  2. Better Appearance, But Still Not Great

The first potential drawback to the Xero Shoes Zelen is that this model is not going to be your best for training in colder months or tackling runs outside if it’s damp. The mesh is highly breathable which is great for training sessions in warm weather, however, this can be a drawback in the cooler months.

Xero Shoes Zelen Upper Construction

This shoe is going to lack overall foot warmth if you’re training in frigid conditions. Another point to note about this model is that the knit upper absorbs water pretty easily so they’re not going to be your best for tackling runs in damper climates or on wet grass. I’d suggest limiting wearing your Zelen for primarily dry training settings.

The last drawback with the Xero Shoes Zelen is purely cosmetic and it revolves around this model’s appearance. I think the Xero Shoes Zelen is actually one of the better-looking running and training shoes from Xero Shoes, however, the appearance of this model is still not the best.

Xero Shoes Zelen Review

For example, the Xero Shoes Zelen is not the best-looking shoe for casual and daily wear. If you’re on the market for a barefoot hybrid training shoe that you can also wear with multiple outfits on a daily basis, then you may want to explore other barefoot shoes that accommodate this ask a little better.

Granted, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you may very well love the appearance of the Zelen which would nullify this drawback.

Performance

To discuss the performance of the Xero Shoes Zelen, I’m going to break this section into a few different parts to help you assess if the Zelen is a good model for your training needs.

Xero Shoes Zelen Performance Review

Xero Shoes Zelen for Lifting and Working Out

In the context of lifting, I really enjoy the Xero Shoes Zelen. The sole tread is not offputting by any means when deadlifting or tackling lower body workouts and it grips different surfaces well.

Whether you’re deadlifting on a wooden platform or tackling lunges on turf or a rubber gym floors traction should not be a problem.

Me working out in the Xero Shoes Zelen

The toe box in this model provides ample width to promote toe splay, so I really enjoy how this shoe performed for my lower body sessions. The TrueFeel sole also provides a nice level of maneuverability for foot articulation when doing unilateral leg work and active foot exercises.

One of the subtle features of this model that I didn’t notice until I was in a busy hot commercial gym was how cool these shoes kept my feet when training. I’ve spoken on breathability already in this review, but I wanted to reiterate that you do notice it in this model when lifting especially in warmer gyms.

Me lifting in and testing the Xero Shoes Zelen

Xero Shoes Zelen for HIIT Training, Plyometrics, and Versatile Training

For HIIT workouts, plyometrics, and versatile training the Xero Shoes Zelen is a strong performer, especially if you like having a more minimalist-fitting shoe. I’m a big fan of shoes that almost feel like socks when tackling some of my more athletic-style training and the Zelen ticks that box really well.

I like the traction you get on this model and the high level of breathability is also a nice perk of this shoe. The midfoot cage also helps feels this shoe feel secure so when jumping and sprinting I didn’t have issues with this model sliding and moving.

Me jump roping in the Xero Shoes Zelen

The removable insole is also a nice pro for giving you a little variety in regard to how much cushion you want for this shoe. The 3mm sock liner gives just enough “cushion” in this shoe if you’re brand new to this style of training and want a little more support to acclimate.

Xero Shoes Zelen for Running, Walking, and Daily Wear

I think if you’re wanting to use the Zelen for short, mid-range, and even some longer runs here and there, then you’ll enjoy this shoe’s performance. Its construction feeds best into short and mid-range runs which is where I use this model most.

Me running in the Xero Shoes Zelen

I personally really enjoy the Zelen for sprint work and for tackling 1-2 mile recovery runs. The sole and breathable upper in this shoe feed well into longer runs, too, if that’s how you plan to train and run in this model. Either way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in how the Zelen performs for running.

For walking and daily wear, the Zelen works pretty well, however, there is a caveat to this shoe for daily wear. I’m not the biggest fan of this shoe’s appearance for more casual wear where I’m rocking pants, but if I’m running errands or walking the dogs, then I do enjoy this model for its slip-on-like feel.

Me wearing and trying on the Xero Shoes Zelen

Xero Shoes Zelen Vs Xero Shoes HFS

The Xero Shoes Zelen and Xero Shoes HFS are what I would call rivals to one another when it comes to comparing Xero Shoes running and hybrid training shoes. If you’re on the fence between these two models, I’m going to cover a few similarities and key differences between these shoes.

When it comes to similarities, the Xero Shoes Zelen and HFS are both constructed with Xero Shoes’ 5mm FeelTrue sole and they both feature removable insoles which sit atop finished internal construction and they have breathable uppers.

Xero Shoes Zelen Vs Xero Shoes HFS

Both shoes also have huarache-inspired upper constructions to promote security. These are the biggest similarities between these two models. The differences come in when it comes to the design of the Zelen’s upper and the sourcing of this shoe’s materials.

The Xero Shoes Zelen features a knit upper made with rPET recycled materials and this shoe has a biodegradable sole and sock liner. In the Xero Shoes HFS, the upper is constructed with a breathable mesh.

Another subtle difference is that the Zelen has a bit more breathability throughout its upper and it has an external midfoot cage to promote security when training.

Xero Shoes Zelen Versus Xero Shoes HFS

In regard to performance, both of these shoes feel very similar and I think both will work for most runner and hybrid athletes. I do think the Zelen is a better warm-weather barefoot shoe whereas the HFS can work in slightly colder settings.

If you want a model that has more responsibly sourced materials that work well in a variety of training settings, then go for the Xero Shoes Zelen. For anyone wanting to save a little money that isn’t necessarily so concerned with their shoe’s materials and how they’re sources, then the HFS is a good call. 

Xero Shoes HFS

$109.99

Xero Shoes HFS
4.6
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.4

Best For

  • Heavy Training
  • Lower Body Sessions
  • Shorter/Mid-Range Runs
  • Agility Workouts

Falls Short

  • For Heel Strike Driven Running
  • For Maximal Cost-Efficiency

 

Xero Shoes Zelen Sizing

For the Xero Shoes Zelen, you should be safe going true-to-size. On their site, Xero Shoes also mentions that this model fits fairly true to size for most runners and active individuals.

The length of this shoe fits true and the toe box and midfoot both have ample width to accommodate a variety of foot anatomies.

Xero Shoes Zelen sizing and fit

If you have additional Xero Shoes Zelen sizing and fit questions or how their sizing stacks up to other Xero Shoes, drop a comment below and I can help you out accordingly.

Price Breakdown

For the Xero Shoes Zelen, you can expect to pay $129.99 USD. Personally, I think the price point for this shoe is worth it if you’re looking for a more sustainable running and hybrid training barefoot shoe.

If this price point strikes you as high, then you can check out the Xero Shoes HFS and Speed Force which both feature lower price points and work well for running and hybrid training.

Xero Shoes Zelen

$129.99

Xero Shoes Zelen
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Short and Mid-Range Runs
  • Outdoor Training
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Environmental-Conscious Shoppers

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Colder Months

 

Construction Details

If you’re interested in the details of the Xero Shoes Zelen construction, I’ve provided some of the biggest callouts that influence performance and durability for this model below.

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes (with finished internal construction)
  • Biodegradable Sock Liner
  • Knit Upper Made With rPET Materials
  • 5mm FeelTrue Sole
  • Rubber Sole Made With Biodegradable Rubber
  • External Heel Tab
  • Tire-Like Traction Pattern

If you have additional construction questions about the Xero Shoes Zelen, drop a comment below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Are the Xero Shoes Zelen true to size?

A:
The Xero Shoes Zelen run true to size for most. The length of this shoe fits true and it has a wider forefoot and midfoot to accommodate different foot anatomies.

Q:
Can you lift in the Xero Shoes Zelen?

A:
Yes. The Xero Shoes Zelen is a good hybrid barefoot shoe. This shoe's sole and upper construction both work well for running and lifting.

Takeaway Thoughts

If you’re looking into new barefoot shoes for running that can also work well for lifting and hybrid training, then the Xero Shoes Zelen is a good shoe to explore.

Additionally, this model is constructed with sustainable materials so if you have an interest in the material sources used in your shoes then this is an added plus.

The two drawbacks to this model are that they’re not the most cost-efficient barefoot running shoe and they do fall a bit short in colder months.

If you have additional questions on the Xero Shoes Zelen, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly).

That Fit Friend is a site that is supported by myself (Jake Boly) and its readers. If you purchase products through affiliates links on this site, then I may receive a small commission on the sale. These commissions help keep the lights on here at That Fit Friend so I can continue to create content and they help me purchase new models to review!

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Jake Boly

I've been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I've trained hundreds of clients, written thousands of articles, reviewed over 100+ pairs of training shoes, and have produced a large list of training videos. I live and breathe fitness and training gear, and I think it's important that reviewers walk the walk with the gear they're testing. As for my educational background, I have my Masters in Sports Science, Bachelors in Exercise Science, and have my CSCS.

3 thoughts on “Xero Shoes Zelen Review | Best Eco-Friendly Barefoot Running Shoe?”

  1. How would you compare these to the 360? I am looking for a shoe that I can take out on streets and horse trails (think sand, dirt, and lots of dust). I am worried as some reviewers mentioned that the HFS is so breathable that a lot of dirt gets inside the shoe. I want something I can wear all day then go out for a 2-3 mile jog/run. Eventually I might start some other agility and HIIT training with light weights (dumbbells at home) thrown in. So not looking for something for heavy deadlifts but first cardio, then casual wear, and finally general HIIT/Crossfit eventually. I am leaning towards Prio, 360 or now these look good.

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