From humble beginnings as a simple rubber-and-laces DIY huaraches company some eight years ago, Xero Shoes has evolved into a full-fledged shoe company. Adding to their recent line, Xero Shoes has introduced the Xero Shoes Coalton, their most premium shoe yet. Xero Shoes provided me with a pair of Coaltons to put to the test and review and today, I’ll be doing just that.

Overview

Here is what Xero Shoes has to say about the Coalton:
Looking for that feeling of freedom and natural comfort in a shoe that’s more upscale than our other sandals and shoes? Then you’ll love the Coalton. Like all our Xero Shoes, Coalton is built with our foot-first design and natural movement philosophy.
Weight — 12 oz (mens size 9) Total Stack Height — 6mm FeelTru rubber + 2mm insole (removable) = roughly 8mm total stack height Barefoot scale — Fairly stiff and inflexible sole. Great for new hikers, but minimalist lovers will want more groundfeel. Ideal Uses — Kicking around, leisure, and hiking Pros
  • Some of the best materials used by Xero Shoes to date
  • Wide opening
  • Sole is a proven commodity
  • Good traction
Cons
  • Stiff, inflexible sole
  • Leather laces require a break in period
  • High cowl is a bit uncomfortable
Price — $139.99 at time of review You can take a spin around the Coalton via these photos:

Sole

Xero Shoes continues to get a lot of mileage out of their 6mm trek sole. Xero Shoes’ soles have an excellent 5,000-mile warranty. In addition, Xero Shoes has a 12-month manufacturing warranty for the other materials in the shoe. This sole debuted this sole in Amuri Venture line years ago and it has been a hit for the company. When it launched, the FeelTrue sole was 5.5mm, but has been updated to different thicknesses for a variety of purposes. Like the Prio and the Daylight Hiker, the Coalton features three flexibility grooves cut into the soul for enhanced flexibility that even their sandals lack at times. These grooves help make the sole flexible in terms of lateral movements. However, the longitudinal flexibility is not nearly as good when twisting the boot from the sides. I believe an additional flex groove, forming a cross in the middle of the shoe would provide a good improvement in future iterations of the boot.
 The Coalton is not very flexible compared to many other minimalist shoes
The Coalton is not very flexible compared to many other minimalist shoes
Unlike the Daylight Hiker, which was was pretty flexible, the sole in the Coalton is incredibly stiff. Of course, the shoe will flex at the typical point around your toes, but it does not ball up to any degree, which is incredibly strange at first blush as the Daylight Hiker and Coalton have the same thickness. On closer comparisons, it becomes clear that the Coalton has an entirely different sole structure. The sole in the Coalton is more substantial than the Dayligt Hiker and is made of multiple layers. Importantly, the combination of two layers of materials makes the sole very stiff compared to other Xero Shoes that seem similar. My guess is that Xero Shoes went for a more traditional look with the Coalton, consisting of the rubber outer layer and a firm inner layer. Historically speaking, this would be useful for resoling, where you can replace the sole rubber material at a cobbler as it wears from use—and some minimalist boots allow for this—but in this application, it seems to be just for looks and leads to a much more “normal” boot experience. As someone who runs marathons in huaraches and has not worn a traditional boot in years, this was a bit of a shock, coming from a company that was born from huaraches like Xero Shoes. 

The Softstar Hawthorn also features a dual layer for resoling purposes, but that shoe (reviewed in 2015) is far more flexible than the Coalton. In fact, the Coalton is among the most inflexible of minimalist boots that I have tested, second only to the Vivobarefoot Porto. In my opinion, boots like the Coalton and Porto are not really in the minimalist category of shoes; I would equate them as traditional boots with thinner than usual, zero drop soles. As such, I would not see your average Vibram-wearing, running sandal jaunting, Born to Run touting minimalist lover enjoying the Coalton. However, the transitioning running, the new runner, and the curious would definitely get a lot more enjoyment out of the Coalton. As was the case with the Daylight Hiker and all other shoes that use this sole, traction is good and predictable. Chevron claws cover the entire bottom of the shoe in a 70/30 pattern, with the majority of arrows pointing upwards for traction going uphill and the remaining arrows on the heel pointing downwards for descents. The chevron claws are sized right for this purpose: deep enough to dig into dirt, mud, and rocks, but not too deep as to prevent a smooth walking cycle. However, since the shoe is a bit more substantial that your typical minimalist boot, Xero Shoes probably could have made the lugs larger to cater towards a more traditional audience. In my testing, the rubber provides a good amount of traction, but I did notice some slipping from time to time. In my opinion, Vibram Gumlite inspires a bit more confidence for tricky circumstances. In cross testing with the Vivobarefoot Gobi, Lems Boulder, and Feelmax Kuuva 4, the Coalton from XeroShoes had better traction in most circumstances, including snow, ice, rocks, and trees. For a leisure-focused boot, it is an excellent choice for traction.

Fit and Materials

Xero Shoes went for leather this time around and the Coalton’s excellent stitching and leather construction makes it one of the most handsome, yet incognito, Xero Shoes to date. The look of the Coalton is certainly upscale, especially compared to there more Spartan huaraches and busy shoe designs. The leather is appreciated, but there are more supple and softer leather uppers on the market. The leather will break in over time and will conform to your feet over time, becoming more comfortable. Having once attempted to review the Amuri Cloud, only to find that my feet were too wide for them, I am very happy with the fit of the latest enclosed shoes from Xero Shoes. The Prio, Daylight Hiker and Coalton have a decidedly more open and forgiving toebox than previous models and my feet are in relative comfort in the Coaltons. However, the stiffness of the sole does detract a bit from the overall comfort as I am very aware of the sole with every step. The v-straps featured in the Prio and Hiker make a return in the Coalton. These straps are tougher and better designed than the somewhat fragile-looking v-straps straps found in the Prio, and are very similar to the Hiker’s v-straps. However, they are a bit scaled back; there are fewer straps and they have less of a stabilizing effect than the other models. Partially this is because the leisure nature of the Coalton, but also because of the stiffness of the sole. Over time, the leather uppers will break in and the v-straps will have more use, if you need them, but out of the box they are less effective than in other models.
 The V-Straps from other closed-toe Xeroshoes makes a return, but with more limited use
The V-Straps from other closed-toe Xeroshoes makes a return, but with more limited use
Like the Daylight Hiker, the Coalton has a wide heel section, so depending on how your foot is shaped, you might have an excellent fit or it can feel like your heel is rattling around in the shoe. For me, it was an adequate fit, but I wish that there was something there to balance out the volume and the fit, like the soft heel counters used in Softstar Shoes. Speaking of break in. The leather laces are pretty rigid out of the box and also require a break in period. They are made of a much thicker and higher quality leather than the thin leather laces that you find in Vivobarefoot’s shoes, but because of how stiff they are, I found myself needing to retie my shoes quite a bit before the laces broke down a bit and gave way to much greater flexibility. Speaking of flexing, one thing that I noticed that the uppers bunch up a bit and can sharply press on my toes if I do a complete bend with the shoe. Again, this will soften up over time, but it did keep me from wanting to attempt a full range of movement with the shoe during the first week of testing. The opening of the Coalton is wider than its siblings and getting your foot in and out is a breeze; no need for a heel tab, which would probably distract from the more button-down look of the shoe.

Future Improvements

My primary change for future iterations of the Coalton would be to ditch the sole design and use the same sole as the Daylight Hiker, if not ditch the 6mm sole entirely for the 5.5mm sole in the Prio. They are simply too stiff and rigid to be called a true minimalist shoe. Obviously, this is a new market and Xero Shoes are going for a specific customer base, but if I were to update the designs for my tastes, which would aim towards a much more minimalist and flexible shoe, I would redo the entire sole.
 The entire Xeroshoes closed-toe family
The entire Xeroshoes closed-toe family

Summary

Overall, the Coalton, like its brothers, is an excellent gateway and transitional product. It marks a welcomed step in Xero Shoes’ lineup to move towards a true leisure shoe for new minimalist walkers. The sole is quite a bit stiffer and complicated than most die hard runners would like, but it is an excellent choice for emerging minimalist enthusiasts looking to move to more minimal shoes all the time, even when just going for a stroll. You can pick up a pair of Coalton’s at XeroShoes.com.