Xero Shoes entered 2020 with a slew of brand-new models for every day, casual wear. In expanding their lineup, they achieved their best leisure design to date!
Xero Shoes sent me a pair of their new Denver boot to test and review. What I found—and you’ll read on to learn—is that the Denver is a great chukka for all seasons and has a number of novel features to differentiate it from boots in the minimalist everyday category.
Click through to see my thoughts on the Xero Shoes Denver winter boot!
Here’s what Xero Shoes has to say about the Denver:
When there’s a chill in the air, you’ll love the comfort, style, and natural, barefoot feel of the Denver.
This stylish ankle-high minimalist boot packs in 3 cold-weather foes: Water-repellant canvas, Cozy flannel lining, A heat-reflecting warming insole.
And at only 12 ounces each for a men’s 9, you might stroll your way through the entire winter and forget you even have them on.
Plus, the Denver is vegan-friendly; there are no animal products used in the Denver.
Take a look at the shoes in this photo gallery (Photos by Wen Xiao and Ji Xiao):
Like many models from Xero Shoes, the Denver boot uses the popular FeelTrue 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.
The Xero Shoes website does not list the thickness of this particular FeelTrue sole, but I guess it is likely the same sole used in the Prio (5.5mm) or the Daylight Hiker (6mm).
Like the Prio and Daylight Hiker, the Denver’s features flex grooves cut into the sole for enhanced movement in around the toes and ball of the foot. These grooves help make the sole flexible in terms of lateral movements, but not lengthwise, such as with twisting motions. 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 FreeTrue sole has chevron lugs that aid in traction both uphill and downhill. 1/3 of the sole has downhill lugs on the heel and the remaining 2/3 of the sole have forward-facing lugs for clawing up inclines. These lugs have small dimples for a little additional traction and these are usually the first parts of the sole to show wear. However, Xero Shoes has a very generous 5,000 mile warranty on their shoes. The rubber choice with the Feeltrue sole is quite dense and very durable.
Overall, the Denver is very comparable to the Prio in terms of flexibility. It is not nearly as rigid as their more substantial Coalton boot. This makes for a very simple and enjoyable winter boot. It is the opposite of clunky and quite lightweight so you can wear them all day and not get any foot fatigue.
The Feeltrue sole is an excellent sole for a variety of activities. It is smooth enough for walking around and running but also provides enough traction for snow and dirt. There is a reason why Xero Shoes uses it for almost all of their models due to the durability of the rubber compound and the versatility of the lug design. After a few years though, I am hoping that Xero Shoes updates the FeelTrue design for some additional flexibility with future models.
The Denver is a pretty nondescript boot. It is a lifestyle chukka and is not meant to stand up in any particular way. It is handsome without catching too much attention and simple without being boring. All and all, I believe it to be the most attractive boot from Xero Shoes yet. While previous models had some quirky design elements, the Denver is attractive from all angles and blends in well with anything you wear for your winter needs.
Of course, the eye-catching Xero Shoes “Z-shaped” adjustment straps on the sides of the boot are still present, but they blend in well with the shape of the boot and add just enough of an interesting element to the design to stand up every-so-slightly and most keen eyes would be able to recognize it as a Xero Shoes shoe from a distance. This side strap does not really alter the fit of the boot as much as some of the lower-profile shoes in their line up, but it is a strong design element that I am glad they incorporate into all their models in some way.
Another benefit is that the boot just looks flexible. There is an air of mobility to its design and shape that is very appreciated, especially when compared to clunky winter boots. I have heard from one admirer that it’s a bit of a “ninja boot” and I like that description quite a lot. It is minimalist without being too “barefoot”. The toe cap at the front breaks up the lines just enough to make the boot look more substantial than it actually is. This is something that more minimalist shoes should do to prevent themselves from looking too wide (or “clownlike”). Certain design elements break up the silhouette of the shoe and provide a more streamlined-looking platform, but they can still be wide on the inside.
Fit and Materials
The Denver has a good balance of fit and shape. The sizing is true-to-size and you can check your size on Xero Shoes website if you are unsure of your measurements.
The Denver is a shade lighter than the daylight hiker and that shedding that weight is appreciated. At 11 oz for a mens size 10, the Denver is middle of the pack in terms of weight for minimalist chukka boots, but the soft flannel interior and overall fit makes the boot feel even lighter.
For my wide feet, the toebox is adequate and there is plenty of vertical space as well. This is a component to comfort that some minimalist shoes can miss out on. Of course, it is important to have a wide toebox for your feet to splay, but this should also be paired with a tall box as well. Having a wide toebox with a cramped interior can put unnecessary pressure on the tops of your toes and I appreciate that Xero Shoes gave the Denver plenty of vertical height inside the boot.
The insole for the Denver features a reflective aluminum lining baked into the top layer of the insole. The bottom of the insole has small cells to trap in heat as well. This insole is removable and adds roughly 1.5mm to the stack height within the shoe. If you need more interior space, you can remove the insole and if you need a tighter fit, you can leave it in.
This insole provides heat in two ways: by lifting your foot away from the ground every so slightly and with the aforementioned aluminum lining. This lining is similar to other heat reflective materials you may see in camping equipment or emergency blankets. Anecdotally, I can feel a difference during a 7 degree cold snap in New England. Wearing thin, no-show, socks, I did not get cold feet. When I swapped out the insole—something I always do—I noticed a marked difference in how cold my feet were. The combination of a little extra material and the aluminum lining did a fair job, but do not expect complete protection from the elements; nothing can quite replace a naturally-warm body and a thick pair of socks, but a difference certainly can be felt with the cold-weather insole.
I would have liked it if the heat reflective properties were baked into the shoe itself. This way, you do not have to sacrifice the heat-reflecting insole if you need more interior space. If you have especially large or thick feet, you may not be able to wear the Denver with the insole and therefore lose out on some of the cold-weather features of the shoe. The solution would be to go up a ½ size.
The Denver features excellent braided shoelaces with metal aglets! This is one of the few times I have seen metal end-bits on minimalist shoe and it is a welcome touch.
The uppers are made of a water-resistant canvas and there are some faux leather sections around the toe, heel, and lacing structure. Curiously, the black version of the Denver has pebbled faux leather, while the brown version is matte.
The pull tab is made from nylon and should last a long time. I am glad to report that they did not try to use faux leather or the same canvas material as the uppers. The pull tab of any shoe has to be able to handle a little bit of wear and tear and making it out of something like faux leather or breathable canvas, materials which are made to either look nice or allow for some airflow, is not appropriate to the purpose of the pull tab. This is something all shoemakers should consider; the choice of materials for the job.
Many casual shoes might use the same material as the rest of the shoe in order to look nice or have aesthetic cohesion, but function should always be prioritized over form for features with a purple. This is not just limited to pull tabs. Laces, uppers, soles, toecaps, comfort bits, etc. should utilize materials and designs that are appropriate for the function of each feature and I am glad the Xero Shoes has made strides in this regard.
The Denver is my favorite shoe from Xero Shoes to date. In previous reviews I have suggested design updates to maximize the usability and enjoyment of their shoes for a wider variety of users and the Denver is a culmination of the iterative design process. It is a shoe that can be enjoyed by a wide audience and worn on many types of feet.
In future model updates to the Denver and other shoes like it, I would like to see Xero Shoes have more colorways available for consumers, consider using real leather for a premium-level shoe, and design a winter boot with the heat-reflective materials baked right into the shoe for maximum use. Currently, the cold-weather benefits of the shoe are best with the usage of the heat-reflective insole. If you have feet that are too thick, a taller arch, or simply prefer to be as close to the ground as possible, you may not be able to enjoy the most from the Denver as you are likely to toss out the insole to create a larger space inside the shoe or maximize flexibility.
I would also like Xero Shoes to look beyond water resistant and come up with some waterproof boot designs for those of us who live in tougher winter climates. A warm boot can only get you so far if it is not also pretty proficient at keeping water out.