Wednesday, 11 August 2010

ZemGear shoes - an update

I have been running in ZemGear shoes for almost three weeks now and I have clocked up five hours running in them on a range of surfaces, from tarmac to grass to gravel.

I love running in them on all surfaces, except gravel, which hurts and forces me to slow to a walk.  The lightness of these shoes makes them a joy to sprint and climb hills in.  And they are great for packing in a rucksack to travel in, compared to my regular size 12 trainers.

The only issue for me is durability.  I have aleady worm small holes in the soles and the seams have split (you can see it alongside the black stripe, the stitching alongside the silver stripes appears to be stronger).

Holes in the sole
I'm not surprised though - these shoes aren't designed for running.  To be fair to Zem, these shoes are intended for beach wear!  And according to Go Barefooting "A runner with a clean form will find that these shoes will last quite a long time.  By clean form I mean that you pick your foot up and put it down without any dragging of your foot".  I am inclined to agree with that as I've heard the scuffing sound of my foot dragging slightly against the pavement while road running.

I do get asked a lot why I'm running in a pair of socks and its fun explaining that no, I'm not destroying my knees / hips / ankles and I'm happily running injury free.  Another common conversation is how I can possibly run in something so tenuous when they have had their gait analysed in a sports shop and been told they overpronate or have fallen arches or flat feet... and have had to shell out good money for expensive running shoes with lots of cushioning, and orthotics to boot.  And the sad thing is, even with all that technology, they are still suffering from injuries or pain while running.  Part of the appeal of the Zem shoes is the simplicity of them.  I continue to feel my feet becoming stronger and literally see the muscles along the arches developing.

I have seen a couple of rumours online that Zem are working on a running-specific version of their beach shoes.  Bring it on!  Apart from the durability, I can't fault the Round Toe Lows that I'm running in.


  1. Excellent write up. I was thinking about trying the split toe for canal running with my dog. It looks like they are not really meant for running.

  2. Also anxiously awaiting the 360s!!!!!!

  3. I am looking forward to trying the 360s too - my current pair of Zems have hardly any sole left after a lot of running in them and will soon be retired.

  4. Great review. After reading this and a few others I decided to buy a pair of my own. I've been running in my Zems for a couple weeks since the Army banned the five toe shoes. They are holding up very well, no signs of wear yet. Rocks do hurt in these more than my other shoes, but I've become accustomed to sensing the rock before I put my full weight on it and shifting my foot to avoid it. I didn't like the lack of support behind the heel, and I still don't although I have gotten used to it. It's not really a problem, I just am used to the saddle behind my heel holding in place. It's more a matter of perception than anything else. I keep feeling like my foot is sliding but when I focus on it I realize it isn't, and I haven't gotten any blisters, it just feels strange. The only other real complaint is the sizing. The XS-XL sizing just isn't as precise as the normal shoe sizes. Still it was a great buy.

  5. Re: Army banning 5-finger shoes.
    Why would they?