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I’m going to give you a full XeroShoes DayLite Hiker review after over 110 miles in them at Philmont Scout Ranch.
Disclosure: While I am an affiliate of XeroShoes and will earn a small commission if you click on the links in this post, I bought the DayLite Hikers, myself and my opinions remain my own.
Philmont Scout Ranch
My XeroShoes DayLite Hiker review starts at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico.
Philmont Scout Ranch is considered by many to be the pinnacle outdoor adventure of a scout’s career. With over 140,000 acres in the New Mexico Rockies, Philmont sets scouts out in the wilderness for 12 days of backpacking among some of the most challenging and varied terrain you can find in the US.
Scouts pick their “trek” which determines the miles hiked. Our scouts picked a “shorter” trek of 54 miles. My Garmin Fenix 5X Plus showed we officially backpacked 53 miles, but we walked over 110 miles in the 12 days at Philmont. For all 110+ miles, I wore my XeroShoes DayLite Hikers.
In addition to walking around with your own body weight on your boots, you also carry a backpack around for at least half those 110+ miles.
I used the Osprey Atmos AG 65L (also very happy with that pack). My base weight (weight of the pack and contents, not including food and water and in the case of Philmont, crew gear) was 24 pounds. Philmont recommends that your base weight fall between 20 and 25 pounds. Right in the recommended window.
With food, water, and the minimal crew gear I had to carry, I estimate my full pack weight to be around 38-40 pounds. That’s a lot of extra weight on your feet and boots.
However, my XeroShoes boots added very little weight to this proposition. Coming in at just 10.2 ounces for each boot, you avoid foot and leg fatigue from lifting heavy boots up and placing them down thousands of times, per day. As the old saying goes, “A pound on your feet is like 5 on your back.”
XeroShoes DayLite Hiker Review
I must admit, I was hesitant to wear my DayLite Hikers for the Philmont trek. Philmont recommends “thick, sturdy” soled boots. The DayLite Hiker is definitely NOT thick-soled. The soles come in at just 6 millimeters. In fact, it’s a minimalist boot (that’s why I love them) and I hadn’t done any hiking in them that would test their “sturdiness.”
I have a pair of Keen Voyageur hiking boots that I wore to Northern Tier, last year. They worked admirably at Northern Tier, even though they were wet from day one of that trek. In fact, they were still in good enough shape to take with me to Philmont.
I stressed about the decision about which boots to wear right up until we got on the bus to head to the backcountry. One of the other dads sort of made the decision for me. You see, I mentioned that I’ve never had ankle pain from the DayLite Hikers (I have an old ankle injury that typically causes pain on long walks). I have had pain from the Keens. He said, “Well, that settles it, then. Wear the XeroShoes.”
I couldn’t be happier that I did wear the XeroShoes Hikers. No blisters. No ankle pain. Almost as comfortable as when I hike in sandals. I can’t say enough positive things about these boots.
The only slight issue I had with the boots was that the sole started to come apart from the boot on day six.
I was worried the sole would come completely off before the end of the hike, but they only separated a little bit and never got worse the rest of the trip. I believe our 5.5 mile hike in pouring rain caused the separation — also, the boots were about 18 months old at the time of the hike. I’m sure a little Shoe Goo will fix them, right up.
In fact, I wore the boots on the hike up Baldy Mountain. The 12,441′ climax of our backpacking trip. This hike is not for the faint of heart. The last 700′ of elevation gain goes through a near vertical scree field that could have torn my boots up.
A scree field is a section of the trail that’s not really a trail. It’s basically a giant pile of rock about 6 inches thick that you attempt to walk over. These are NOT nice, rounded river rock. They’re jagged, sharp rock shards that can be as big as a football.
They not only survived, they surpassed my expectations! I was able to keep up with the scouts both up and down the mountain without any foot or shoes issues. The sole remained intact after this major test of the boots and throughout the rest of the trek.
DayLite Hikers Construction
The DayLite Hikers have a wide toe box that gives your feet and toes a lot of flexibility. Combined with the very thin soles, you experience excellent ground feel from the boots. I’m convinced this saved me from a twisted ankle, several times on the way down from Mt. Baldy.
The thin, minimalist sole allows your foot to flex. Your foot moves naturally along the ground. You feel more attached to your environment. I find they give me a more intimate connection with nature.
Traditional Hiking Boot Construction
Traditional hiking boots cause your entire foot and ankle to be in a sort of “cast.” This reduces ground feel and flexibility and some feel this can lead to more injuries. Due to the flexibility and ground feel of my DayLite Hikers, I sensed an off-camber step very early and could correct it before it became an injury.
In addition to “casting” the foot, traditional boots can cause issues with plantar fasciitis, due to the rigid soles stretching the plantar fascia with every step. The “clunky” style of most modern boots results in poor foot mechanics, which can lead to an aggravated Achilles tendon.
The minimalist DayLite Hiker boots help my proprioception. The dictionary defines proprioception as the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. Since XeroShoes allows my feet to flex as I walk, the nerves in my soles give me more feedback, helping my balance.
Additionally, all XeroShoes have a zero drop sole. This means there’s no raised heel to catch on rocks. Newer hiking boots also have a zero drop sole, but some of the older, traditional-style boots have a raised heel that could cause falls and injuries in the backcountry. The minimalist, zero-drop soles on the DayLite Hikers also eliminate the issues with the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, mentioned above.
XeroShoes DayLite Hiker Review: Sizing
As mentioned on the XeroShoes website, DayLite Hikers run small. Be sure to heed their advice! My DayLite Hikers come in a full size larger than my Keen hiking boots. Most recommend getting all hiking boots a half size bigger than your standard size to allow for swelling on the trail and I follow that advice.
I typically wear a size 10 shoe. My Keen’s are 10.5. My DayLite Hikers are 11.5 and they were the perfect size for the Philmont trek.
Minimalist Shoe Adjustment Period
Minimalist shoes require an adjustment period. The other dads on the Philmont trek asked, several times, if the rocks were bothering my feet, since my soles were so thin.
I’ve worn minimalist shoes, exclusively for years. Going near barefoot strengthens your feet, widens your toes, and provides a more stable foundation for walking. This takes a bit of an adjustment, though.
Don’t jump right out onto the trail with new DayLite Hikers after wearing traditional hiking boots for your entire life. Just as you would break in new hiking boots before hitting the trail, you need to adjust to and “break in” your foot to minimalist shoes.
For me, minimalist shoes are the norm. My feet are strong and the rocks at Philmont provided feedback, not pain. This may not be the case for you, if you don’t give your feet time to adjust to the 6 millimeter sole.
XeroShoes DayLite Hiker Review: Traction
The XeroShoes DayLite Hikers have very little traction. Most traditional boots have lugs that provide additional traction on slick surfaces. DayLite Hikers do not have any lugs. The soles are almost smooth.
That said, I have yet to have a traction issue with my Hikers. Even coming down the scree field on Mt. Baldy, I slid about the same as my fellow hikers (which can be a LOT in a scree field), but never felt out of control due to a lack of traction.
Even on slick granite surfaces, the DayLite Hikers hung on to the rock, just fine. No issue.
Also, the new version of the DayLite Hikers (the DayLite EV) includes a more rugged sole with small lugs that should eliminate this issue, entirely.
Ancient Mexican sandals called huaraches inspired the DayLite Hikers design. This means the boot comes with “lacing” that surround your mid-foot and heel. As you tighten the laces on your boots, the additional lacing tightens around your mid-foot and heel to provide more support and stability to your foot in the boot.
XeroShoes DayLite Hikers On Sale!
XeroShoes recently update the DayLite Hikers (they’re now called DayLite Hikers EV). With this update, they’re clearing out old DayLite Hiker inventory for about HALF of what I paid for mine. See the updates to the DayLite Hikers, below.
- More grip with a lugged chevron tread
- Durable, abrasion resistant upper mesh
- Increased durability with Tough Tech toe bumper
- Wet/Dry friendly side “foxing”
- Easy on/off lacing hooks
The major change, for me, comes down to the additional traction. Otherwise, it’s mostly cosmetic and I’d be happy to pay about half for the old style versus the new.
If you want to see if they have your size in the old style, click this link, go to Shopping and then, Clearance. You’ll find the old DayLite Hikers in the list.
XeroShoes TerraFlex Hiking Shoes
I will be returning to Philmont, with my daughter, next year. I’ve already decided that I’m going with XeroShoes, again. Typically, I hike in sandals (the XeroShoes Z-Trails — can you tell I love XeroShoes?) or barefoot, but Philmont doesn’t allow sandals or barefeet. I want to get as close to barefoot, as possible. With that in mind, I plan to use the XeroShoes TerraFlex hiking shoes, next year.
The TerrFlex eliminates the “boot” aspect of my hiking footwear choice, while adding lugs to the sole for better traction. The construction hits the sweet spot between my DayLite Hikers and my XeroShoes Prios (which I wear almost every day). A slightly “treadier” sole while still providing a very lightweight option with a flexible shoe and wide toe box should provide the perfect option for my trek, next year
I already have a pair on the way to the house to get them broken in and ready for Philmont, again.
DayLite Hiker Conclusions
- Super comfortable
- No blisters
- No ankle pain from old injury
- Very little foot and leg fatigue
- Durable enough for 110+ miles of rugged backcountry hiking and rain
- Wide toe box to give your feet and toes plenty of flexibility
- Slight durability issue with sole — nothing that ruined the hike or boot performance
- They’re not sandals or barefoot — just a personal preference