Exodus XO Heroes Sandals Review
About a year ago I reviewed the Exodus XO minimalist sandal from Exodus Sandals. In that review, I noted that, "One thing I'd like to experience with the Exodus is a foamier Vibram sole—perhaps something like the Luna Leadville. Why? Well, mostly for a little bit more of a plush ride for all-day wear."
Ryan, the founder of Exodus, must have had a similar idea because earlier this summer, he crafted another XO for me to test and review on BirthdayShoes. With an exclusive first-review, may I present the Exodus XO Heroes!
The pair I'll be reviewing today feature a grippy, 10mm Vibram Newflex sole that is lightweight, transmits a great deal of groundfeel, and provides just enough "cush" for all-day wear. What more, the XO Heroes I'm reviewing were outfitted with a deerskin footbed!
How'd the fare? Want to know more? Well, you're going to have to read on!
The Exodus XO Heroes
If you're not already familiar with Exodus, allow me to paraphrase from my review of the XO Originals . The Exodus XO design looks more like a conventional pair of sandals than your typical minimalist sandal. This is due to the webbing/straps following a unique path that locks down the big toe and is overtly not like a pair of huaraches, which are the minimalist sandal style du jour. Jarvis recently reviewed an updated pair of Unshoes Pah Tempe sandals and those are really the only other "barefoot sandals" that aren't overtly huaraches-derived in design.
What am I talking about? The pictures tell the best story. However, putting it to words as best I can you'll find that all Exodus Sandals use a narrow-webbing that wraps the foot starting with a big toe via a thong that loops over the big toe to the outside of the sole only to loop back over the instep and back through the sole. Here it crosses back over to the ankle, around the heel, and then back to the top of your instep where one of three ladder tension lock buckles ends the dance of webbing.
All XOs have Vibram rubber outsoles and you can outfit any pair with a deerskin footbed for an additional fee.
The Exodus XO Heroes Sole
The XO Heroes have a 10mm Vibram Newflex sole. As you can see in the photo above, the sole has some tread to it. It's defining characteristic is really that the sole is lightweight and has a plush give to it. My aging Leadvilles have the same 10mm Newflex sole and as that sole has broken in (and down), it's wrapped more and more around and into my foot—as you can see in this photo and this photo, demonstrating how the soles curve up on the sides and convex the sole outward. This is a welcome aspect of the XO Heroes as somehow this tiny bit of cushion plus the molding of the soles to my feet make them feel more connected to my feet.
As for ground feel, you still get plenty enough for my taste. Compared to the recently reviewed Luna Premium Monos which are similarly thick but have a denser Vibram rubber outsole, the XO Heroes pass on more groundfeel. Meanwhile, the XO Originals I originally reviewed pass on more ground feel due to being both dense and thin-soled, but if I had to choose between the Originals and the Heroes, I'll pick the Heroes in a heartbeat.
I guess the 10mm Newflex just hits my sweetspot for comfort, light-weighted-ness, and ground feel.
I've never had a pair of sandals with a deerskin leather footbed before, so this option on my XO Heroes is a first. The deerskin is an interesting leather. I love the tan color of it and it's at a thickness that is highly flexible and doesn't detract from the flexibility of the outsole. Indeed, married to the Newflex, when you step in the XO Heroes, it's like you're stepping into a sandal that just slightly wraps up and around your foot.
Like a little foot hug.
What has struck me most about the deerskin is how supple and grippy it is. Like the Luna Mono Premiums, which have a buffalo leather footbed with the smooth side of the leather touching the bottoms of your feet, the deerskin hide used for the footbed of the XO Heroes is also smooth side up. I'm curious what the XO Heroes would feel like with suede-side facing my feet, too, as the deerskin is almost too tacky at times, which is nice for added traction in some applications but sometimes I wish the deerskin would "let go" of my foot a little more.
Similar to the XO Originals, it's hard to fault the looks of the XO Heroes. I warm to the strappy swoops of the XO design as it gives the sandals a look that is in step with many common outdoors-ready sandals (like Chacos).
Additionally, with the leather footbed, the XO Heroes make these sandals look even more finished.
Like other minimalist sandals where the straps loop through the soles, the XO Heroes have the potential to wear through the straps faster as they can be more likely to touch the ground. "Potential" is an important word here because I've yet to observe any real wear issues on my XO Originals from a year back or my XO Heroes, today, which due to the curvature of the soles tend to keep the webbing elevated just enough off the ground to prevent much wear. You can see that well in this side profile photo:
Here are some "after" shots of the XO Heroes—showing how they are today, as I review them, a good 2+ months since I started wearing them a few days a week.
Given the XO design has three ladder tensioners and four loops through the sole, they are somewhat complicated to dial-in the fit—at least in theory. I say "in theory" because in practice, I've worn the XOs somewhat "loose" only to tighten them up and find they still fit very similarly.
One thing to note is that you can slide up and down the tensioners around the ankles as well as on the top of your instep and this will affect the fit. However, the tensioners will inevitably adjust themselves back in good time. The last tensioner certainly keeps the webbing from loosening in total, but if you pull the ankle tensioners upward, they'll eventually settle back towards the sole.
My primary use for the XO Heroes has been as everyday, all-day-long sandals this summer. I wore them exclusively on a weeklong vacation in July and never had an urge to take them off. I've worn them all day long to work and stood in them for extended periods of time. The multiple points of attachment, the lightweight straps, and the lightweight and flexible sole all come together to make these sandals feel like an extension of your foot.
I'm completely sold on the XO strap design and while the XO Originals are great, as well, and certainly transmit more ground feel, they also make for a little bit of a harsher ride, too, and if I had to choose between my Heroes and my Originals, I'd go with the Exodus XO Heroes.
As for the bevvy of other minimalist sandals in my closet, to date, the ones I most enjoy wearing are the XO Heroes and my broken-in pair of Luna Leadvilles. And between the two of those, I'd pick the XO Heroes.*
The Exodus XO Hereos start at $76 and if you want deerskin, you have to fork over an additional $25. While the deerskin isn't a "must have," I like it on my pair as it's a nice rounding out of the XO Heroes look—makes them look more complete. On the flipside, I've grown used to the foot-on-rubber feel of my old Luna Leadvilles that have the same Vibram Newflex, and I can't fault that feel, either. And for that matter, you don't get that deerskin-sticking when there's no deerskin to stick to!
If you pick up a pair or have XO Originals, curious to hear your thoughts!
* I also have a pair of Unshoes Pah Tempes in the slim-strapped, cork footbed version. Not to be confused with the versions Jarvis recently reviewed. While I like the design, the cork footbed makes the sole overstiff for me, and I've had some tripping issues as a result (I need some toe spring, of all things, it seems — this could just be user error in how I walk).