Xero Shoes Amuri Venture

Published by RunningPoint on Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 08:24 EDT

I have been a long time fan, supporter, and promoter of Xero Shoes (originally Invisible Shoes). My first pair of truly minimal shoes was the 4mm Vibram Cherry DIY kit, which I still run in on occasion, and the 4mm Connect & 6mm Contact have become my “go to” road (4mm) and trail (6mm) shoe. I have logged easily 95% of all my running mileage (literally thousands of miles) wearing a Xero Shoes product over the last 4 years, taking breaks from them only to test and review other products. Why go on and on and on about the past? Because you, the reader, need to understand that I know this product, I LOVE this product, I live this product. When there is a fundamental shift in design of such a simple, effective product, it is a big deal to those of us who have a history of not only using the product, but also reviewing and promoting it. Now with that out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff.

As always, Steven Sashen (owner of Xero Shoes), was a dream to work with. I simply contacted him, explained that life had taken a front seat to blogging for the past year, and that we were looking for subject matter to relaunch the site with. He graciously supplied me with a pair of Amuri (then known as Sensori) Ventures to put through the paces. I went to the website, downloaded and printed out the absolutely brilliant sizing chart, and ordered. Shipping was extraordinary, arriving by USPS Priority Mail within 3 days of contact. I have to commend Xero on the lack of packaging as I have never been a supporter of “minimal” shoes needing to arrive in cardboard boxes. I chose this lifestyle to simplify things, not be trendy with the latest big name shoe and all the trash and environmental harm that goes along with supporting a large company and I'm glad to see that as Xero grows, their packaging has not.

I received the Ventures in the fall, so I have had plenty of time to put them to the test through warm weather, and the coldest winter in years. My initial impression of them when I pulled them out of the envelope was simply “wow”.

So here's what's “wow” about the Ventures (compared to the 4mm Connect & 6mm Contact):

  • The Ventures come pre-laced, ready to wear (with minor adjustments)

  • The Feel-True footbed has been revamped

  • Xero added a silicon toe post and heel strap cover for comfort

  • Xero added a heel cup

In the past, every Xero product required some time and work to make them wearable, but with the Ventures, I just put them on my feet, dialed in the tension on the heel strap, and took off out the door to run. This is a truly awesome feeling. First check in the awesome column.

The footbed feels incredible, as expected with any Xero product. Even though it is a bit thicker (5.5 mm) than I like for running on asphalt, Xero has worked with the formulation of the material and it transmits more ground feel. This concept is hard to impart to a new minimal runner or a new to huaraches runner. The 4mm Connects feel almost like being barefoot, but with a thin barrier to protect your foot. Seriously, I can feel the texture change between old asphalt and new asphalt. In the 4mm Connects, if you step on things it hurts just like being barefoot. The 6mm Contacts are only 2mm thicker, but they provide a greatly reduced sensory experience. I use them to run rocky, rooty, muddy single track mountain trail and fire/logging roads because the pointy things just don't hurt. You still feel them, but the feedback is comfortable in lieu of painful and allows for a great trail experience. The Amuri Ventures fall exactly in between. They transmit enough feel on asphalt that they are a joy to run in, but also provide enough protection on trails that I don't trash my feet by bruising them on all the things that make trail running fun. Check #2 in the awesome column.

The toe post and heel strap are extremely comfortable. I am accustomed to running in my 4mm Connects using the ultra minimal tying style that only has one single pass of lacing around the whole shoe, so the toe post felt almost luxuriant in comparison. One thing I noticed right away, was that the toe post had some natural “give” to it, meaning that it is stretchy not static. This is one of those little picky things that will only affect 2-3% of the people who wear these sandals, but I do not like the extra give. I like the old style of lacing because it is static, but that's jut me. The toe post is far and away an improvement for the general masses who will purchase the Ventures. Check #3 in the awesome column, check #1 in the personal “meh” column.

Now to address the heel cup. Xero has decided to add a heel cup to the Ventures for extra comfort and added protection. When I first tried them on, I found it to be a nice feature (especially for those new to running sandals) that helped seat your foot in the correct position and allow for easy, accurate adjustment to the heel straps. As I walked around to test the adjustment, the heel cup was barely noticeable even though it is made of solid rubber and adds a bit of tail weight. As I set off for my first run, I really began to notice that I could feel the extra weight. There was a slight flapping sensation at first, but within 100 yards it was no longer noticeable. I found over increased mileage that the same thing would happen at the beginning of each run, I would get the flapping sensation and then it would disappear and become a non-factor. I also found that the extra heel weight seemed to pull the heel strap down with it as I ran. I actually ran completely out of the sandals more than once and it took a bunch of experimenting to figure out the balance between heel tension and sliding the “Y” connection on the top of the foot up and down until the ankle hole was just right. Once I figured out the combination, I never had another issue. On the plus side, I did find that while trail running the heel cup added monumental protection to the area where the foot transitions from the sole and rolls up into the heel. This has been a spot that I have split open many times on trail runs due to scraping that area on a sharp rock. Check #4 in the awesome column, check #1 in the personal “I HATE THIS” column (I will expand on this).

So now we come to the point where I have to wrap it up and give my final opinion on the Xero Shoes Amuri Ventures. I feel the need to explain myself for just a minute here. I have done many reviews and I have always been completely impartial. I have been blessed enough to receive products that have all been both stellar and mostly compatible with my body and my running style. I have pointed out minor flaws here and there, but overall the good points have far outweighed the bad. The Ventures have created a personal conundrum. To be completely blunt, the Ventures are huge step forward in design that will reach a much broader market and they will make many, many people happy. The quality is top notch, the ground feel is excellent, the ease of use is off the charts, but as they exist out of the box they just don't make ME happy. With this said, I wholeheartedly recommend the Ventures to everyone who reads this article. Confusing? Not really. The Ventures are a great starting point for people new to Xeros or running sandals and a really cool addition to current Xero owners who are interested in more comfort or more flexibility.

Still confused that I can recommend a shoe that admit I don't like in out of the box condition? Well here's the beauty of Xero Shoes: they are super easy to customize and after a couple hundred miles of “just to be sure” running, I chopped the hell out of my pair. I won't go into too much detail, but here is the evolution (actually devolution) of my Ventures from brilliant new product for the masses to one wicked pair of huaraches that make me smile.

My Modifications:

  • After the first run, I trimmed the toes to match the length and shape of my foot using my older Xeros as a template.

  • After a couple hundred miles, I decided the heel cup had to go. I again used my older Xeros as a template and found that the Venture heel cup was pretty much literally tacked onto the end of the Connect/Contact footbed. I lined up the toe posts and the ankle loops and traced the outline of the Connects on the bottom of the ventures and used a stout pair of scissors to remove the heel cup in two steps. First, I cut a big chunk off the top and then I made a second cut to get the shape I wanted. I then went back and smoothed and beveled the edges with the scissors to make everything look nice.

  • After cutting off the heel cup, I ran for a while before I decided that the bulky lacing had to go. I had seen a video showing how to disassemble the Venture lacing without breaking anything so I pulled them apart and reused the green string without modification to tie a pseudo version of the ultra minimal lacing style adapted to the new toe post & footbed.

So here's my final product which I have deemed a “Hybrid Venture”. It combines the best design aspects of the new and improved Amuri Venture and the simplicity of the Connect/Contact line and I LOVE them.



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