Monthly Archives: February 2011

Minimalist Shoe(s) Review

Desclaimer – Nothing was given to me for a review.  I did not do any research.  This is my experience

…Like sands through the hourglass, these are the shoes of my life…

I’m a barefoot/VFF runner but once the snow hit and temps dropped below freezing I felt like my Sprint VFFs weren’t warm enough to do the job.  I opted to run in my “old” Adidas runners; although, not very old as they hardly had a hundred miles on them when I went bare.  Why conventional? Because, what is more beautiful than running outdoors on a snowy day?  Regardless, I thought I had corrected my stride enough through barefooting to be able to run in shoes without a lot of damage.  Ha. What a brilliant idea that was.  But, never mind, that is another Confessions post.  I have also been wearing my Adidas for casual wear.

It wasn’t long before I gave up outdoor running for the winter.  I was better off on the treadmill than in pain.  I promised myself that I would outfit myself with a better minimalist shoe for next winter.  It wasn’t too long afterward that I decided that I really needed to ditch the Adidas altogether and buy a more conventional looking minimalist shoe for casual wear.

So started the hunt.

Enter Nike Free

My cousin has a pair.  She loves them.  She’s never run barefoot.

I tried them on.  I liked the look and how they reminded me of Vans. They are nice and wide across the front.  I admit that I have never run in Nikes because my feet are wide like dude size wide.  Nike has always been too narrow.  I was surprised that Nike Free felt good width wise.  I really like the bendability of the sole.  It’s kind of scary comparing a conventional running shoe to the Free.  Conventional soles have the flexibility of a plate of steel. 

On the downside, I was also surprised by the extreme arch support which was not what I wanted in my minimalist shoe.  While it didn’t feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t jive with my philosophy on going bare or minimum.  I might go back later to buy them for conventional casual wear but I’m going to investigate other options first.

Enter Zem Gear

Top view showing High-Frequency Tech-Bands Note: Crazy knee high sock obsession

When I put on the Adidas to run this winter, I also put on a pair of some crazy knee socks I have.  It sort of started an obsession with knee socks which isn’t very convenient for a bare footer. So, I wanted a minimalist shoe that I could wear socks with or, at least, have the option to wear socks with.   

When I saw how little the Zems cost on the internet, I figured I couldn’t lose in trying them out.  Yeah, I thought wrong.  I haven’t sent them back yet but that’s because I hate going to the post office so I’m hoping to break them into fitting.

Side view

As I mentioned above, I’ve got wide feet. I’ve got a decent arch to go with it.  I don’t recommend Zems for wide feet. Considering that these shoes are unisex, it seems weird that they’d be so narrow.  So, first, the “High-Frequency Tech-Bands” that are supposed to provide support to your feet were so tight on me that I felt like I had a boa constrictor wrapped around each foot.  Or, even worse, they felt like my old too narrow black dress boots.  My feet are about the same width in the arch area as in the toe box then you add in the height of the foot in the arch area.  The result is that the elastic bands slide forward to a part of my foot where they don’t have to stretch as much.  It’s like wearing a pair of cotton shorts with an elastic waist band.  It starts at your belly button but soon the waistband is sitting right at the bottom of your ribs, the narrowest part of your waist.  Anyway, that causes the seam in back to slide under your heal.  It’s not comfortable. 

I never tried running in them because I can’t stand to go 5 steps in them.  I tried them without socks.  The tightness of them was slightly better but they still slid forward.  And, I’m not real crazy with how they look as is shown in the side view. 

I surveyed another Zem wearer.  She said she tried running in them without socks and the insole cut her foot pretty badly and she couldn’t run for a week. Zem Gear told her to use sport tape with the shoes.  She agreed that her shoes seem pretty tight too.  She said another person she knows is wearing them to run on the roads but after a month the soles are completely torn up.  Admittedly, the package does not claim to be good for running.

It does claim “NO MORE BLISTERS OR SLIDING AROUND IN SOCKS”.  Technically, it is true. Cuts are not blisters.

Size Small for Men’s 7-8 and Woman’s 8.5 – 9.5

Sole view - Take a good look at the seam around the bottom

Width measured from inside of the rolled over seam.  See picture.

Width of sole at widest point in the toe box ~ 3.25 inches, my foot ~3.5 inches

Width in arch 2 inches, my foot ~3 inches

Width in heel 2 inches, my foot ~2.5 inches

Conclusion – I’m still on the hunt for a warmer minimalist shoe that I can wear socks with.  Or, I might just wait till next winter and buy the VFFs with better coverage.

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Filed under Barefoot, running, Vibram Five Fingers