CEM's Minimal Sandals: A Breakdown

With so many minimal sandal options how do you decide what will fit your life best?

We're breaking down our sandals by activity, letting you know the differences between similar models, and giving you a sense of how barefoot different models feel when you wear them


By Activity

For when you have a specific activity in mind and want to narrow down the options! We find that many of our customers make their sandals work double and triple duty in activities they weren't designed for, but end up working perfectly for, so this is just a jumping off point. It's always up to you to determine your comfort and safety using your Cool East Market footwear wherever you go.


For Casual Use

dad and kid at the park
Nomad Sandals in Camel

Nomadic State of Mind Rope Sandals have a casual fit that is looser than you might want for agility based activities, but with their attractive, durable design they're perfect for strolls or trips to the beach. They also convert to a slide-on for post injury recovery or just to run out to check the mailbox.


Z Trail EV sandal

Xero Z-Trail EV for Women and Men are great for casual use around the city and country. They have forgiving and comfy trail foam to help you adjust to minimal footwear gently or to facilitate natural movement in unnatural environments. It's ok to have a tiny bit of cushioning when you are walking on pavement for hours! We mainly stock the heathered black colourway but they come in cute colour options, too.


For Dressier Occasions

 lovely table set for a dinner date on a rocky shore

 Earth Runners sandal

Earth Runners Circadian Lifestyle are a great gender neutral option for a sandal that you can dress up more than our sportier looking options. Perfect with a sundress or khakis, their earth tone strap colour options are simple in a timeless way, more style than fashion.

 Jessie sandal in Cashmere

The Jessie is Xero's sandal that comes exclusively in women's sizing, though some men wear them too. They offer a barely there look that is reminiscent of strappy heels (without the heel and the squished toes) when paired with a dressy outfit.

 Nomad Rope sandals

Nomadic State of Mind Rope Sandals mentioned above as well are a great go-to for summer patios, barbeques and casual-chic events. They can skew towards a Classical era Greco-Roman vibe or a tropical getaway style depending on the styling! Check them out here.


For Agility

 jaguar in a tree


ztrek in blackZTrail EV in Earth

Xero's Z-Trail EV and their Z-Trek sandals both have the Z style strap system, which holds your foot in the sandal securely when you are moving laterally. This makes them a great choice for agility-based activities. The main difference between them is the soles: the Z-Trail EV has a comfy foam sole, whereas the Z-Trek has a thin almost-barefoot feeling sole. The Z-Trail EV also has a lugged tread, so that will help you get a great grip on natural surfaces.

 Earth Runners

Earth Runners Circadian Lifestyle sandals use the strap system that comes from the Rarámuri Indigenous People, this style of sandal is popularly known as Huarache in the minimal shoes and barefoot community. (Earth Runners donates 1% of all sales to True Messages, a non-profit focused on honoring the running heritage that remains so important to the Rarámuri culture.) With your Earth Runners sandals, you get proprioceptive cues from the straps in all directions about the way you move. It can take a few days to get used to, but they are amazing for levelling up your gait and increasing your body and movement habit awareness!


For Hiking

 hiking path covered in tree roots

ZTrail EV in Earth 

Z-Trail EV from Xero is designed for hiking. With their comfy trail foam soles and secure Z style strap system, you get the best of both worlds in comfort and movement. The lugged treads help you dig in for stability on natural terrain. 

 Colorado shandal

Xero's Colorado is a shoe-sandal hybrid: it has a closed toe design to protect your little piggies but with strappy sides and heel area you can stay cool and feel the breeze. They have a thinner sole than the Z-Trail EV that has more flexibility and movement to it, too. Great for those who want to feel the ground and move on it as if barefoot but with a little protection, too.


For Barefoot Running

 silhouetted runner on a beach at sunset

 ztrek in black

Z-Trek sandals have a thin yet firm sole. For experienced barefoot runners who don't enjoy a thong sandal, these are the best choice!

 Cloud in Hawaiian Surf

Cloud sandals from Xero are the most flexible and thin-soled sandals we offer. You get maximum groundfeel and maximum movement options, since they will bend and flex in any direction. For experienced barefoot runners with strong and mobile feet.

 genesis sandal in black

Xero's Genesis sandals are very similar to the Cloud sandals: they have the same lacing and the soles measure about the same thickness. The difference is how flexible the soles are: The Genesis is made from a firmer material, so they bend and flex less than the Cloud. Perfect for experienced barefoot runners who are still working on mobility in different directions in the foot.


DIY Kit soles in various sizes, fanned out

Xero also offers two DIY Sandal Kits in 4mm and 6mm sole options. These are very similar to the Cloud and Genesis respectively: the 4mm option is more floppy and the 6mm option is a bit more firm of sole. However, you can design the straps in any configuration you want! Thong style or Z style or anything else you can imagine!


For Water

 river party with cliff jumping

 ZTrail EV in Earth

The Z-Trail EV floats! It is also made of materials that don't hold onto water, like the recycled plastic strap system. Whether you like to jump in puddles or go paddle boarding, these are perfect for your summer aquatic adventures.

 Colorado shandal

Xero's Colorado closed-toe sandals are also made of materials that air dry flash fast, and they can easily double as a water shoe for rocky shores.

 Earth Runners

Earth Runners Circadian Lifestyle sandals only have a millimeter thick layer of canvas footbed material that can get wet, and they dry in a snap! The straps barely hold on to water at all, and the rubbery sole has a pretty good grip in wet conditions.


Similar Models Compared

Wondering what the differences are between similar models? We'll clear it up for you!


Z-Trail EV vs Z-Trek

ZTrail EV in Earthztrek in black

The Z style sandals from Xero are wonderful for those who dislike feeling a strap or toe-post between the toes. Whereas the Z-Trail EV has a soft and comfortable sole with a lugged grip, the Z-Trek has a thin yet firm sole that feels more barefoot and has a milder tread. This means if you have never worn minimal shoes, or if you spend a lot of time on pavement, or if you are looking to tackle more technical terrain we'd recommend the Z-Trail EV to you to start off with. If you are more experienced with minimal shoes or going barefoot and looking to feel the world as much as possible, you'd be looking at the Z-Trek.


Genesis vs Cloud

genesis sandal in blackCloud in Hawaiian Surf

These two models are very similar in design and feel, with the main difference being that the Cloud feels floppier and facilitates movement in all directions, whereas the Genesis has a sole that keeps its shape a little more (you can still bend it but it doesn't bend by itself). They are both great options for getting a very barefoot feeling experience, but the Cloud will feel even more barefoot than the Genesis. We only recommend these very thin-soled sandals to folks who have lots of experience in minimal shoes and barefoot time, or at the very least to those who spend most of their wear time on natural surfaces like grass and sand that are more forgiving.


4mm vs 6mm DIY Sandal Kits

DIY Kit soles in various sizes, fanned out

Similar to the Cloud vs the Genesis, the 4mm and 6mm Sandal Kits from Xero are almost the same except for how the soles behave. The 4mm thick sole option is more floppy and facilitates movement in all directions for those who have strong and mobile feet that are used to spending time barefoot or in the most minimal of shoes. The 6mm thick sole option offers a firmer sole that is still quite thin, for those who still want a little bit of structure to their sandal while getting a very close to barefoot experience. You can design the strap system just the way you like in the DIY Sandal Kits!



Our Sandals At A Glance


Sometimes the differences between various sandals is quite nuanced and can come down to personal preference, but here's a chart based on our own experiences and opinions (to be taken with a grain of salt) that you may find helpful. Take a look at our collection of minimal sandals at Cool East Market here.



Experiential Sole Thickness

(based on both the measurement and the material's texture, 5 is the thickest)


(how much do you feel the ground through the sole, 5 is the most groundfeel)

Sole Mobility

(how much movement in all directions is the sole capable of, 5 is the most mobile)

Nomadic State of Mind Rope Sandals 5 1 1

Z-Trail EV

4 2 2
Earth Runners Circadian Lifestyle 4 4 4
Colorado 3 3 3
Z-Trek 2 4 3
Genesis 2 4 3
Cloud 1 5 5
Jessie 3 3 3

DIY Kit 4mm

2 5 5

DIY Kit 6mm

3 3 3