This month we were so honored to have not one, but TWO reviews but ‘Casual Runner’ Mike Rigelsky. His first review was of the ZEMgear U Cross, which he raved about. The second pair Mike tried was the ZEM 360 XT’s … a popular style for many reasons on zemgear.com. He tried the ninja style, but the ZEM 360 XT’s also come in a round toe box.

Here’s what Mike had to say:

This is the second style of barefoot minimalist style running shoes from ZEM that I am reviewing. You can check out my review of the ZEM U Cross, which will give you some more of my thoughts on this company and their other products. But, to refresh our readers, I am a minimalist runner who, while looking to try out some new barefoot shoes, came upon the awesome and inventive new styles that ZEM creates and offers to the Casual Running and Casual Adventurer communities.  Of course I had to give their shoes a try!

The biggest difference between ZEM’s 360XT and U Cross models is that, whereas the U Cross looks like a more traditional running shoe in the toe box, the 360XT has a split toe design.  While it is not a fingered design or construction, there are two separate toe boxes instead of a single large one. I have used shoes with both the traditional toe box and finger designs, but never the split toe box. Remember what I said before about giving new products a try even if you may be initially skeptical? Well, to my pleasant surprise, I learned that there was no adjustment to this new design, and it worked perfectly fine for me.

Where? When?

You use these shoes just like you would any other running shoe, which means they are suitable for most running surfaces. I know Casual Runners who use this type of show exclusively, regardless of the distance. I love these for shorter runs (say 5k to 10k and anything in that zone), but tend towards a more traditional running shoe for longer distances. I think these are ideal shoes for most weather conditions, and they kept my feet surprising comfortable even in cooler and colder temperatures. Please note that I have not yet tried them out in sub-freezing temperatures where there is ice or snow on the ground, but I have worn them in sub-freezing temperatures in dry conditions and they performed very well.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly?

Again, I recommend you go back and check out my review of the ZEM U Cross for more information on ZEM as a company and on barefoot running in general, so that will allow me to move onto my impressions of this shoe itself.

I am an unreserved fan of this shoe. It looks and feels great. I ran more than 100 training miles with this shoe in a variety of temperatures and weather conditions, including wet and dry runs. I also took this shoe on runs on asphalt, concrete, crushed gravel, and trail surfaces, and it performed equally well under all of these various conditions.

 

What sets the 360XT apart, however, is that it glows! Seriously, this shoe glows in the dark! Our readers know that I am serious about Casual Runners making themselves more visible at night, and these shoes certainly will help in your efforts to make you more visible on your nighttime runs. The design looks cool in the light, but they are even more appealing in the dark.

I cannot explain why, but even though the U Cross fit me well, the 360XT seemed to fit the shape of my foot even better. I have weird wide feet and both of these shoe designs contoured nicely to my feet, but the 360XT had a little extra…something to it, and they just fit me better. (Remember, we always say, every Casual Runner needs to find what products work best for him and her, and sometimes it is an issue of maximum optimization among very good products, any of which would work well for you). They felt like a second skin on my feet, which is high praise indeed.  Like the U Cross, I wore the 360XT without any socks and did not experience any rubbing or irritation whatsoever (though, if you like, you could can rub a little Body Glide, TriSlide, Rocket Pure, or any other lubricant of your choice).

Simply put, ZEM is now 2 for 2 in creating shoes that I loved running in, and I am hooked. I am impressed with both their styles (looks) and designs (function). The shoes performed great for me

and ZEM won me over with their quality. It is great to discover a new up and coming company, and then actually love their products.  When you are in the market for some new running shoes, I would definitely suggest giving ZEM a look, and maybe even take them out for a run.