Summer is all about water for me. It’s hot and humid here in Tennessee and it’s just not that much fun to be outside otherwise. And, of course, if we can’t go completely barefoot, we need some great barefoot shoes to take us through our adventures.
Xero Shoes introduced the Aqua X Sport in Spring of 2021 and I was instantly intrigued to see if it would be a good option when you need a little more toe protection but still great breathability and water tolerance.
Disclaimer: I bought these myself but I am a Xero Affiliate and a Xero Hero, so if you use any of my links to make a purchase it will cost you nothing extra but a portion of your purchase goes to support the blog.
You can see my previous reviews for Prios and Alpine here on the blog, or check out all reviews in the Reviews section here or at the top of the blog.
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- Model: Aqua X Sport – Men’s model tested
- Upper: Fabric mesh with a non-absorbent tongue
- Insole: Fabric and foam
- Outsole: 5.5mm FeelTrue® sole and 3.5mm dual chevron lugs (same as the Mesa Trail)
- Closure: Elastic locking laces
- Sizes: Men’s 6.5-15 (US) and Women’s 5-11 (US)
- Available in Black and Surf (neon blue) in Men’s and Sparrow (black and purple) and Surf for Women’s
I’ve not done my normal outfit pictures here because that would be fake. You’re not getting these to match an outfit. You’re getting these Xero Shoes for an environment, whether it’s kayaking, beach, river tubing, whatever – these shoes have a purpose and you’re going to wear whatever you need to wear in that environment. And if I’m doing any of that, I’m not trying to post for a pic. I’m probably wrangling kids. Or in the water. It’s hot, y’all!
However, they look great! You can go colorful or, like I did, get the all-black look. These will go with anything beautifully.
Except… you can tell from the look that they just weren’t designed for high volume feet. I’ll talk about the fit below, but the look is can be a bit odd from the side on high-volume feet like mine.
But the styling of the shoes themselves is great! I have no complaints.
That is, until we get to fit. And it’s not a huge one, because I don’t actually feel it, but there’s a visible taper at the big toe and that BUGS ME! I really want that to never be a thing in any brand, Xero Shoes included. Your big toes, ideally, would actually not even just be straight but actually angle a bit inward toward your midline, which is the opposite of tapers like this. That ingrained fashion styling for a pointed shoe is so central to our culture that touches like this make it into our beloved barefoot shoes again and again and I wish they wouldn’t.
Off the soapbox because I really don’t feel it at all. But I greatly dislike what this small bit of taper alludes to in our society: bad alignment, bad balance, fashion over health, and so much more.
Now, beyond that, they’re medium in width, and this is on the men’s side, mind you. My feet are 11 cm wide and they don’t even hit 10.5 cm in width. I feel this on the joint of my big toe with the insole in, or not when I take it out (more about that below).
The fit high volume feet easily, but they aren’t designed for it, as noted above. They’re going to feel and look optimal on a medium-everywhere foot. If you’re narrow-footed, man or woman, check out the women’s.
Xero Shoes shares the same sizing chart for all their shoes:
But the lengths of the shoes inside can vary (aren’t you glad for reviews like this?). I use a Plus 12 device to measure all shoes, as does the EU retailer Freizehn that carries Xero Shoes (but not this shoe). I highly recommend checking them for this important detail.
I can help you here by telling you that the inside of my Men’s 10.5s is pretty close to 28 cm. The upper is really flexible and soft, so I can eek out a couple more mms but I’m not confident that’s accurate. This is 1/2 a cm shorter than what’s listed as the JP size/length listed on the sizing chart. This is not uncommon in shoes because usually lengths are based on a component of the shoe, maybe the length of the midsole fabric, or insole itself, for instance, but that doesn’t necessarily match the available space, which is how we relate to the shoe. Keep this difference in mind especially if, like me, your shape does not match the shape of Xero Shoes, where there is a fairly steep slope at the outer toes. A shorter length than expected could impact your outer toes quickly.
When in doubt on these, you may want to consider going up 1/2 a size like I did. I’m normally a 10 men’s in closed-toed shoes and I guessed at going higher, and I’m glad I did. I got my normal internal length and a touch more width, which is good to have against any potential taper at the big toe.
If you’re unsure how to measure your feet, check out this post, and if you want to know why we need space in our shoes, check out this one.
How do they feel?
You’d think, looking at them, that they’d feel stiff or uncomfortable but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The mesh is very soft and doesn’t hurt your feet at all. Even the toe cap, which looks like hard plastic, is actually soft and flexible. They are really, truly, comfortable shoes with no breaking in.
The sole is knobby and grippy, but fully flexible for twisting, backwards bending, and, of course, the roll we love. I folded them when I first got them:
But now look at them go:
For me, I’d like them to be a touch wider. But, happily, even without the insole they are comfortable to wear. That doesn’t technically gain you width to remove it, however, volume is a complicated beast and by removing the insole you do get more wiggle room because the upper has a little more space to flex. The sole doesn’t get wider, but the shoe feels wider.
Cleaning and Care
Being water shoes, expect these Xero Shoes to get wet and dirty, but don’t treat them roughly with a machine wash or dry. Warm water and a bit of soap will freshen up your Aqua X Sport if they really get muddy, but generally just remove the insole and let them air dry away from direct heat sources.
Purchasing, Shipping, and Returns
Xero Shoes Aqua X Sport can be purchased directly from Xero Shoes and on retailers such as Amazon (men’s and women’s) The Amazon prices are $5 more but generally include free shipping and returns. From Xero Shoes, they are $119.99 new and can be shipped worldwide to 94 different countries. There are also some retailers that stock them on other continents, so if you’re international it pays to check around.
You can return or exchange them but check their site policies at the bottom of any page for conditions and processes. Additionally, if you ever have a manufacturing issue Xero Shoes will take care of you pretty painlessly. I had to use this process when I was first getting into barefoot shoes and they were very friendly and helpful. Calling is usually faster than emailing, FYI (sorry, fellow introverts).
While I’m a huge sandals fan in summer and will be reviewing Xero Shoes Z-Treks as well, sometimes you want a little more protection or a different look. These slot nicely into that zone of having a nice edge for toe protection and a sneaker-like appeal, but with breathability that you can’t get when you’re closed in completely. They’re not as wide as I’d like, but without the insole, they are perfectly comfortable and I like the black styling. They’re good summer barefoot shoes, full stop. Enjoy!
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