Back in July I reviewed a pair of minimal shoes from a company called ZEM. Since then that review has had about 1500 views! Since that post I have had great interactions with ZEM both as a product I use and as a company. So I figured with that much interest in these “shoes” I would give you guys a follow up to let you see how they are doing and throw in some more of my thoughts.
My initial post showed my Ninja Low ZEMs, now called Split Toe Low and I personally still like to call them Ninja because it sounds cool. At that time my ZEMs had about fifty miles or so on them, and today they have somewhere in the ball park of three hundred miles. I have to admit that I did not expect them to last that long. They are a very light and simple piece of footwear so I expected them to have a great feel but not necessarily have the best durability. Even the people at ZEM were curious about how they would hold up as a running shoe for me. I have to say that for them to show their first real sign of wear nearly three hundred miles later is more than I expected, and I am very impressed.
The soles held up really well, and that was the area that I had some real concerns about. As you can see there are only two little spots that are showing wear at the tips of the toes, and those spots only showed up recently. I have started upping the mileage in the ZEMs, and that is when I started seeing the spots develop. I had kept them in use for my shorter runs of five miles or less but am now using them for everything all the way up to ten miles so far. I assume the wear started from two things. The first is that I am training for a marathon in January, and I have begun using walk breaks in my training. I am guessing that the starting and stopping as well as the walking are causing some friction on the soles and thus the wear. Before the walk breaks were added in, these shoes looked the same as they did after my first run. The other potential problem is that I am probably getting a little lazy with my form in the latter parts of my longer runs, which is probably causing more friction on the sole than in my shorter runs, where my form stays very clean and strict.
I have heard from a lot of people since I first wrote about the ZEMs, and friction is the biggest enemy of this product. I believe these shoes will hold up very well under all kinds of situations as long as you don’t drag and scuff your feet when you walk, run, jog, skip, or anything else you might do in them. On smooth indoor surfaces this is not a problem, but out on pavement and concrete it becomes an easy way to shorten the life of your ZEMs.
The biggest concern I had about these shoes, as did most of you, was the way the upper attaches to the sole. It wraps under, and the edges of the upper make contact with the ground. I have been extremely impressed with how durable the upper has proven to be. I had my first tear in them happen last week on a six-mile run. Again, the culprit was walking on pavement. Using the walk breaks had me landing on the heel, and that is where they tore. I will continue to use my walk breaks as the person I’m running the marathon with uses them, and I need to train to that style, but I will make sure my walking form is cleaner in the future to avoid ripping through my new pairs.
The upper still looks and feels great. The high frequency tech bands have not stretched out or lost their tension at all. They still fit like they did when they were new. The collar is still snug, and the lycra upper shows little to no wear. As you can see, the yellow bands have faded slightly, but I don’t think that is a quality issue so much as the treatment I’ve given them and the nature of the color yellow in general when it comes to apparel.
The initial blister issue I had on the first run is a distant memory that never reappeared. I’ve run in wet conditions and had no problems with blisters after that first run, which tells me it was just an adjustment period for my feet and these shoes. The upper does hold water a little more than I would like, and they take a while to dry out, but it does not seem to cause any problems. They still never feel heavy even when wet and the fabric staying wet does not seem to increase blister risk so I have no complaints.
Overall I still love the ZEMs and recommend them daily as a great addition to your minimal footwear collection. I am extremely excited about the way they have performed, and I am very much looking forward to putting them through the paces in the Goofy Challenge at Disney World in January.