Review: ZEM Booties

by Abbie on October 28, 2010

I was recently given the opportunity to review a pair of Zem booties for Barefoot Running, and received the split toe model and the rounded toe model in the mail.


ZEM booties were created by ZEM Gear and originally designed as “sand socks” to protect bare feet.


As soon as I tried them on, I immediately liked the split-toe lo model better than the rounded toe lo model. Separating the big toe allowed the bootie to fit my foot better, although it still doesn’t quite conform to my foot as much as I would like. You may be able to see in the picture that there is a considerable amount of space between the inner edge and my big toe.

split-toe lo on the left and round toe lo on the right

The bootie is a Neoprene-type material on the top with a plastic bottom similar to what you might find on some house slippers. The bottom does not conform to your foot, but does gives a thin layer of even protection between your foot and the ground. The top closes around your lower ankle, which keeps dirt and small pebbles out of your booties, which I like.


The pair I reviewed had a very simple design – solid black with six stripes. This could be a big draw to those who dislike the individual toes you find with the Vibrams.

They look very much like socks, which I actually liked.


In a short run, the Zem booties were okay. I’m not a huge fan of the flat bottom, but it did have enough give that I was able to get some feedback from the ground. The bottom can also be a bit slippery at first, but after getting out a couple times it gets somewhat “worn it.”

The booties are easy to clean and are easy to transport since they can be flattened without losing any shape.

They would be a good option for someone who might want to do part of a run barefoot and then put on a minimalist shoe if necessary. These booties might not fit into a fanny pack style pack, but would be able to go into a backpack or Camelback without adding much weight at all.


The ZEM booties were not originally designed for running, so there is some tweaking that needs to be done as far as the design and fit goes. Overall, they are not a bad choice for a minimalist “shoe,” and are a good value for the price ($30).

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara November 16, 2010 at 12:00 am

Hi Abbie,

I tried Zems recently, the cost made them attractive. It did take a while to get used to the seams and while I got a great big blister in no time. But I think that with a little time, they might work well in the winter. Have you tried them again? I’d like to know what people think of them after a few runs.

BoulderRunner November 29, 2010 at 12:57 am

I got the split toe low cuts and liked the way they feel around the house and in the office. And love them as an alternative to the five fingers when walking around and not looking to attract attention.

The thin bottom gave ample feedback and protection on the test run I did. I also liked how the neoprene expanded with my foot as I landed and I never felt restricted. As you mentioned they are not designed as a running shoe per say, but they do promote them as an overall athletic footwear. I am curious to find out how they might perform on a hill or in hot weather.

Because of the generic sizing, mine were sized a little bigger than my foot and felt like they were slipping off the heel as I ran. I slightly snugger fit, and they might just be my next alternative to the five fingers.

Thanks for the review!

Abbie November 29, 2010 at 2:49 am

Thanks for adding your experience with them!

josh July 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I came across this article after having seen ZEM’s site and wonder: would these make well for casual everyday shoes? Would they be as strong enough for pavement, urban conditions and the like? I really like Merrel’s barefoot line (slim, unobtrusive and very close to the foot, etc) and wonder if ZEM would also make for a similar “shoe”.
Thank you for your attention,

Able Brown March 9, 2012 at 1:38 am

This things felt great. I walked in them, ran in them, played basketball in them and skated in them for a couple of weeks. They didn’t smell like an old banana and they were easy to wash. But after a 6 hour hike up Volcan Maderas in Nicaragua, they developed a hole in the stitching in the toe, which was a bummer, because they felt so great to hike in. Maybe they will do better in the future, and I hope they will, but these were only as good as a pair of thick logger socks.

rosa delarusse December 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Hello everyone! how are you!

I tried out zemdears – they were very helpful in Customer Service :) -and I purchased a pair of travelers – I get around a lot like when I went to…nvm you wouldn’t want to hear me blather on. lol ;)

Anyway, they felt wonderful besides the pain of..the transit period they say?

they were okay until they tore for some reason by the instep…and I’m not much of a runner so that couldn’t be it hehe ;)

And they were absolutely on par although their hours are a little short for Customer Service.

I received another pair and was rather surprised to find that they were the running version. I called them and they apologized for the mix-up and requested I send back the pair for what I originally needed.

I waited for 6 weeks until they I received the new pair..but they sent a size too small.
We sent back and forth packages over and over. I read that other people had the same problems with them.

it was getting rather costly to send packages back and forth…I was very disappointed and decided not to continue using their product.

I wouldn’t want anyone else to meet misfortune. So please spare yourself thr stress and save your coins for when you need them. :)

Delarusse, Rosa ;)

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