First, take a spin around the Daylight Hiker via these photos:
Here’s what Xero Shoes says about the Daylight Hiker:
Most hikes don’t need a big, heavy, technical hiking boot. And most hiking boots don’t let your foot bend, move, flex and feel the world… until the DayLite Hiker.
Perfect for day hikes and casual wear, the DayLite Hiker is built with our foot-first design and natural movement philosophy.
Weight | 11.36 oz (mens size 10)
Total Stack Height | 6mm FeelTru rubber + 2mm insole (removable) = roughly 8mm total stack height
Barefoot scale | A surprisingly flexible boot (with the insole removed). Good dexterity for off road adventures. One notch above the similarly-designed Prio in terms of stack height.
Wilderness adventures, camping, hiking, and tree climbing
V-straps provide an excellent fit
Enhanced durability over the Prio
Sole is not as grippy as some other rubber compounds
The Daylight Hiker uses a familiar sole in the Xero Shoes lineup. This time around, the sole is 6mm, rather than the 5.5mm, sole found in the Venture and Coud huaraches or the Prio running shoe. This was a bit of an odd choice as I always found Xero Shoes’ rubber to be a bit on the denser side and their 5.5mm sole was pretty well suited for hiking environments.
The sole itself is very flexible for a boot and feels somewhat heavy for its thickness. By comparison, Lems 9mm sole used in their excellent Boulder Boot actually feels less substantial than the 6mm FeelTrue rubber found in the Daylight Hiker.
Like other Xero Shoes products, this sole has a 5,000-mile warranty. If you ever wear down the sole to 1mm at the heel or ball of the sole, they will replace the product at 60% MSRP, plus shipping.
Xero Shoes also provides a 12-month manufacturing warranty for the other materials in the shoe.
I would have preferred a full 100% replacement, but they are very confident in their designs, so your mileage will vary.
Traction is quite good with this sole. The bottom is covered chevron arrows that are oriented forward in the top 70% of the sole for uphill grip, while the bottom 30% of the sole features downward facing arrows for descents.
The chevron claws are sized right: deep enough to dig into dirt, mud, and rocks, but not too deep as to prevent a smooth walking cycle.
In my testing, the rubber and its chevron claws provide a good amount of traction, but I did notice some slipping from time to time. In my opinion, Vibram Gumlite is a bit better for rocks and inspires a bit more confidence. However, in cross testing with the Lems Boulder Boot and Feelmax Kuuva 4, the Daylight Hiker had better traction when clamoring around wet rocks and moss-covered trees in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Like the Prio, the Daylight Hiker features three flexibility grooves cut into the soul for enhanced flexibility that even their sandals lack at times. This helps make this a very flexible sandal in terms of lateral movements, but the longitudinal flexibility was 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.
Fit and Materials
Xero Shoes has demonstrated a number of improvements over the Prio shoe with their Daylight Hiker in terms of materials. Overall, the Hiker has tougher and more durable-feeling nylons and fabrics and better reinforcement points.
You can expect this boot to be much more durable than the Prio and it can handle quite a bit of tough terrain and environments. The v-straps on the sides Hiker are good for those who want to lock down their shoe on either side. These straps are tougher and better designed than the somewhat fragile-looking v-straps straps found in the Prio.
The uppers are surprisingly breathable for a boot and I did not overheat too often when hiking around New England, even for an entire day. The laces are also of very high quality and have a satisfying squish to them; excellent for tying down tightly.
Stitching seems to be of higher quality and the overall feel of the boot is just better in the hand and on the foot over its little brother. However, this does come at a cost, the boot feels pretty heavy and is not as flexible as some other boots in the minimalist category.
The density of the sole and the reinforcing materials add a noticeable amount of weight. At 11.36 oz for just one boot, the Daylight Hiker is heavier than Lems Boulder boot by 3oz, despite the Boulder having a thicker sole. Even last year’s Feelmax Kuuva 3 weighs an ounce less and has the benefit of being waterproof.
The heel counter, which does not really need to be there is actually pretty stiff and can make for a difficult fit for some folks of certain heel shapes. This is actually a bit misleading as the “sandal” base with the FeelTrue sole makes it seem like the tougher bits of the shoe stop below the heel, but there is a very tough heel counter built into the back of the shoe, which takes away from the minimalist intent of the boot. Also, the lack of a proper heel pull tab makes putting the boot on and taking it off a bit difficult, due to the rather small mouth opening of the boot. Over time, this should become easier, but out of the box, these sections of the boot are very rigid.
It seems that Xero Shoes reinforced various areas of the Hiker to make it a bit of a tank in the Xero Shoes lineup to match up with the expectations of more casual hikers. This makes the Daylight Hiker more of a traditional shoe than any other product that Xero Shoes has come up with thus far. This may turn off experienced barefoot runners, but this boot can be a good gateway shoe for many folks looking to try their first minimalist product.
Lastly, the lace section of the boot is quite stiff and the vertical volume of the boot is not that great; depending on your foot shape, you may experience pinching right above your toes when you flex and walk—I did.
It may seem like I am giving the boot a lot of knocks, but I think that it succeeds as a gateway product or a transitional product. I am sure that many folks that are interested in trying out a more flexible boot will be in awe of how much they can splay and move their toes, but if the die hard minimalists will likely shy away from this particular boot.
Really, I imagine an experienced minimalist hiker would pick the Amuri Z-Trek or Venture sandal over this for all of their rocky adventures.
Considering the purpose of this boot, I would suggest improvements that greatly enhance the usability of the boot for its core audience, which I would classify as transitional shoppers.
A true heel tab would help with getting the boot on and off and a larger, more flexible mouth would also benefit most foot shapes.
I would also suggest an additional flex groove down the length of the boot, removing the heel counter and the use of the 5.5mm sole, but these are changes that are more in line with true minimalist intentions and these customers may not be the ones this boot is advertised for.
The Daylight Hiker is a good choice for those looking to get their hands on a boot that is more flexible than traditional hiking boots with a zero drop sole and excellent fit options. This boot makes a number of improvements over the Prio in terms of materials and should be a big hit for a new generation of transitioning hikers.
This is not a boot for those with tough feet and experience with minimalist shoes, which is fine and understandable. We will always have our sandals for that purpose, while this Daylight Hiker is likely to change the minds of many and coax more than a few people to a new world of thinner, more flexible, and better footwear.
If you are new to hiking and are looking to get some minimalist benefits, while retaining a familiar form factor, the Daylight Hiker is worth looking into! You can find it at XeroShoes.com.