Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walk Like a Ninja for $30

In the wake of Vibram Five Fingers' (dare I say) popularity, there have been plenty of companies eager to jump on the minimalist footwear bandwagon. Big players like Nike and Mizuno were quick to get in the game, and just about everyone nowadays seems to have there own minimalist running shoe. But what's really nice to see are smaller companies giving it a go.

A Sneaky Design
Zem is a company based out of Miami, Florida that is crafting shoes primarily for indoor use (yoga, pilates). Their shoes are lightweight and give the user lots of flexibility, which is important when your bending yourself into a pretzel. What I like most about them are the looks. They are almost a cross between Adidas Sambas (a classic from my soccer days), and a ninja shoe (called "Tabi"). Most other shoes I have seen with the big toe split out look horribly awkward. Take a look at this website for proof. Yet, somehow the Zem's manage to look a little more "normal." Perhaps it's the neon colored stripes that decorate the side of the shoe, which offer a good distraction from the strange camel toe. Even with these playful colors, I would order the black with black stripes, because I don't want my feet to look like light up billboards. Don't get me wrong it's a clever marketing technique; it's just not my style. The Zem's are pretty slick, but I already have a pair of minimalist running shoes. Do I really need another pair?

Do You Really Need Another Pair of "Barefoot" Shoes?
My Bikilas cost $100 (20 less than my Saucony's - which I can't stand to wear), and I have worn them an insane amount more than any other running sneaker I've ever owned. They remind me of running barefoot as a kid; how I can tread softly and gracefully. They were definitely worth the money. In comparison, the Zem's are only $30, which is an interesting price point. As a small company, it's a good idea to differentiate themselves from Vibram, because competing head to head with them would be a challenge.

All in all, they look cool and the price is great, but I don't think I have a use for them. I do pilates occasionally, and I haven't done yoga since Fall. I would really only need them for running, and I have a great pair for that exact purpose. Zem's blog claims they have a running shoe, but I was unable to find it in their store. Even if I could find it, I would be concerned. How great can a running shoe be for $30? We are so conditioned to see running shoes anywhere from $80 and up how can Zem manage to seem credible at a $30 price point? They only way I see that they could compete for credibility in the running industry is to raise the price a little. But then they have to make sure they add value to the shoe, so customers don't feel ripped off. It's a delicate issue. Bottom line: they look like sweet ninja shoes, but I just don't have a use for them yet. If you do yoga or pilates consistently then you might want to check them out, but I have concerns about the durability and quality of a $30 running shoe.

One more thing, apologies if this comes of as harsh, but I hate when shoe companies don't provide enough angles of the product. How do they expect people to buy a shoe when the only see it from one side! Get a clue from Zappos. They have been doing it right for years, and now they just added videos to most of their shoes. Genius.

For further research on Zem's shoes look at: