Monday, October 17, 2011

Zem 360 Barefoot Runners Series review

I have been waiting anxiously to try these for a long time now.  Zem says these are designed for barefoot runners.
They are feather lite weighing in at 2.5 ounces and I really like the Japanese tabi style and I love the colors.
They are priced at $59.99 which seems reasonable to me for a pair of shoes.  I would pay twice that for a good fit though.

Zems are a fabulous concept and I don't like to write only about the unfavorable aspects of a shoe but unfortunately that's all I have here.  Again, these are a great concept but these shoes are not shaped like a foot and the flaws interfere with the movement of the foot.

They fit well in the ankle as well as all across the foot.  This aspect was done well.  No slipping or sliding of the shoe around the ankle area and it was a soft fit and yet it wasn't too tight it just stayed in place.
The fabric is stretchy and moves with the foot across the top as well as the opening at the ankle. 

 The fabric at the achilles just above the heel seat however rubbed the back of my ankle uncomfortably.  There was too much extra fabric at the seam and it was just bunched up instead of a smooth seam on the inside.

   The area where the sole and fabric meet on the inside of the foot at the arch rubs my arch even just walking.
The shoe sole is so narrow that when my arch collapses in the gait cycle my foot would spread outside the sole and rub with each step on the area where the sole and upper meet at the arch.  When I google search for images of Tabi style boots and shoes I see a wide foot shape instead of the shape the sole of the Zems make so I don't think it has to do with the style only the poor implementation of this style.

My big toe rubbed against the end of the shoe and yet there was much room between the rest of my toes and the end of the shoe that would make them far too big if I were to go up a full size.   It wasn't just that my toe rubbed but the fabric that was folded over from the stitching was bunched up at the end of the big toe.    This is the same issues that I found with the extra bunched up fabric at the seam at the back of the heel cup.

The sole material seemed grippy as well as nice and flat however even though I have long skinny narrow feet they were still too narrow.  The fabric accommodated my foot however where the fabric met the sole was disappointing.  You can see in the photo above where this area is.

I think Zem would do well to hire Josh Sutcliffe to do some design work.  He so cleverly came up with the slogan "Less Shoe, More You" and being an artist as well as successful barefoot runner I think it would be a wise to hire his expertise.


giraffy said...

Interesting review - a friend of mine runs in these exclusively, and loves them. Shoes are so a YMMV thing :)

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to the theory that a shoe (regardless of type) should let the foot do what it wants to do. Thanks for the review, I probably wouldn't consider these in the future based on your comments.

Unknown said...

giraffy, it is interesting how each person prefers different shoes. I really was wanting to love these.

misszippy said...

They are cute...but doesn't sound perfect. I like your idea of having Josh design!

Unknown said...

I suppose I wouldn't mind trying a larger size if it could be a hassle free endeavor.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

From that first photo, I was rooting for these to be a thumbs up. Bummer that they weren't because they look awesome.

Durty Feets said...

I'm bummed about the review. I was looking forward to these as a real and reasonably inexpensive minimal option. Sort of like a runamoc for less $$.
I can't buy runamocs lest my wife crucify me for spending more money on non-shoes.

Oh well, good review!
Cheers, Brad (durtyfeets)

Junk Miler said...

Ha! Thanks for the plug. If I were on the design team, however, I'd be all "Ooh! Wings! Let's put wings on the side! And streamers! And glitter! And googly eyes! Hey, I've got some fuzzy pipe cleaners. Surely we could use those for something..."

Because I'm very artsy-crafty.

Junk Miler said...

I think I just thought of your next art project for the spawn.

Jamie said...

Very interesting concept! Don't know if I would pay 59.99 for how thin they are. What's the point if they don't give any padding? If you are going to run barefoot, run barefoot. Or use a running glove, vibrams, etc if you want padding. Not to be harsh with the comments, I just don't get them. I love the Japanese toe design however!

Unknown said...

Jamie, The thing about minimal shoes is that the shoe should allow for natural foot movement and at the same time protecting the foot from the terrain. having a thin sole lets you feel the terrain so you are able to maintain a barefoot form.

It's not as simple as just going barefoot or not. Here in Iowa in the nasty winter I need some kind of shoe but I certainly don't want padding and cushioning. The padding and cushioning keep my feet from moving the way they were designed to move so I want thin.

The Zems are great in that they are lite and thin the problem however is in the design and shape.

Barefoot Roses said...

I bought a pair of Zems last year. I couldn't even handle walking in them and that was before my feet became REALLY wide. I can't imagine I'd like these either.

Douglas said...

I have to agree with giraffy. I love running in these and would definately recommend them to anyone who is looking for a truly barefoot shoe!

Unknown said...

Did you have the same fabric at the end of the big toe as mine do on the inside?
What about the seam at the arch. Anything you do special Doug to keep from blistering?

Douglas said...

When I first put them on they were quite snug but then again that's what I want in a shoe that is meant to simulate being barefoot. Yes, I felt the seam on the inside but after I started running it quickly went away and didnt feel it at all. I have been running in mine for some time now and they will definately need to be broken in but I literally feel barefoot in them. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

I have also fell in love with them. I had the older Zem Booties that I ran in till the soles looked like swiss cheese. I actually went the single toe route with the 360 and when I first put them on I thought I would hate them. I could feel the arch rubber and the upper felt warm, and the toe box was soooo big it felt like having clown shoes on. But after running in them I have to say they are awesome. I have 3 pair of Vibrams, one Merrell Trail Glove, one zero-dropped Zoot, and hurraches and the 360s are my favorite. Not a single hot spot, blister, or issue after many runs. The old Booties would give me bad blisters when wet from the internal seam, but none in these.

Alan Ligarski said...

Thanks for taking the time to review the 360's. It's hard to find reviews. I got a pair 2 months ago and haven't found any of the problems you've mentioned. So far I've only used them on the treadmill since I'm still transitioning to something more barefoot. I run outdoors in Altras but find they are too stiff and cushy. The zems are everything I could have hoped for and fit my feet exceptionally well. No rubbing or any discomfort. I can't imagine anything feeling closer to barefoot. Everyones feet are different so I guess I got lucky. Sorry you didn't like yours.

Unknown said...

I have been running in zem360s for a year now. My first impression was very simar to yours. After a week of using these shoes my opinion was the complete opposite. They need to be broken in. Once the high requency bands mold to the shape of your foot, you will no.longer feel the hot spots on the insides of your arch or toes. I have a normal to slightly wide foot and i initially thought the zem soles to be too narrow but they are now perfect. They are the closest thing to running barefoot. As for the split toe, I challenge vibram proponents to tell me how much mobility they can display on their individual toes. I can move my big toe independent of my other toes, but that's as far as it goes. My four smaller toes tend to move in unison suggesting the split toe design to be more ergonomically arcurate. Give these shoes a chance, they cost a fraction of what the big brand bohemoths costs!

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