ZEM GEAR 360 XT Round Toe Review
I recently reviewed the ZEM U Cross (Ninja/Split-toe). Today, I'll be tackling their 360 XT Round Toe—that is, it doesn't have the tabi-style split between the big toe and other toes. The Zem 360 XT is a trainer shoe for minimalist enthusiasts and all-around running shoe for experienced minimalist runners. A feather light shoe at a mere 3.6 ounces (.2 ounces less than the Vibram KSO EVO), the 360 XT is great for recreational running, workouts at the gym, and even light trail use. With no lacing system to speak of, the 360 XT stays on your foot with a comfortable stretch mesh upper and some painted-on material for extra structure.
For fitness use, track, and road running, the 360 XT is a great choice for those looking for a comfortable slip-on shoe.
Read on for my full review!
What ZEMgear says about the 360 XT Round Toe (“360 XT” for the remainder of the review):
The 360 XT features the new Shock Absorbing PORON Performance Cushioning insole for light-weight running & training and true natural motion. Reflective EVO 1 tech-bands enhance night-safety and deliver superb lateral stability. Feather-light 2.6 oz design.Since you are not training 24-7... experience the comfort of this wonderfully flexible pattern when you are resting, too!
Weight — 3.6 oz (size 9 US/41 Euro)
Total Stack Height — Roughly 6mm (caliper-measured)
Barefoot Scale — Sole has good flexibility. Excellent for barefoot enthusiasts for running and all runners for training and fitness.
- Comfortable upper
- Slip-on design is great for the gym
- Not quite as flexible as a comparably weighted KSO EVO or the similarly-designed EL-X
- Ground feel is not as good as a KSO EVO or EL-X due to a stiffer sole material.
Here are some photos of the 360 XT:
The sole of the 360 XT is comprised of two non-marking materials: an EVA-like “Lite Phylon” and a more durable rubber “Gecko Grip”. The EVA material is used for flexibility and lightness, while the Gecko Grip rubber is what makes contact with the ground.
Because they are non-marking, you can feel free to wear your ninja shoes to yoga or salsa class!
Much like the Soft Star Moc3, the denser rubber material is only used on the typical points of contact right along the ball of the foot. In this case, along the edge to the heel and at two points in the toe-region, which harkens back to some of ZEM’s split toe designs.
Unlike many other shoe-makers, which just use the same material throughout the sole, this mixed-material sole is more flexible and lighter than if ZEM used rubber throughout the design of the shoe. However, even with this thoughtful design, the 360 XT is still not quite as the Vibram KSO EVO, which is just a hair heavier and the Vibram EL-X, which is a similarly positioned “slip-on fitness trainer”. While the 360 XT is indeed very flexible, it just is not quite in the same league as the MAX-FEEL category shoes from Vibram, which allow for a downward toeflex.
However, the 360 XT’s does have other merits!
The rubber lugs in the 360 XT are actually a great deal grippier than the KSO EVO and EL-X, despite not covering the entire shoe with treading and the denser rubber should be a bit more durable than the softer rubber used in the KSO EVO.
The 360 XT could easily double as a light trail shoe for experienced minimalist runners thanks to its durable and grippy rubber sole.
The Lite Phylon EVA material on the sole is not as durable as the rubber Gecko-Grip, but the EVA is only used around the areas of the shoe where you are least likely to land, so—relatively speaking—they wear less over tie than the ball of the foot, heel, and toes. Aside from the Moc3, this is also similar to the EVA foam arch in the Bikila LS, contributing to a lighter shoe while not sacrificing much in terms of grip or protection.
Compared to two other slip-on shoes in my collection, the El-X and MOC3, the 360 XT is the more versatile of the three and does not quite stand out as much as the five-toed EL-X or the elf-like MOC3.
Experienced minimalist runners can easily take any of these babies out for a road run or light trails, but the 360 XT does allow for some tougher stuff.
While the EL-X is marketed as primarily a fitness shoe and the Moc 3 as a road runner, the 360 XT could do a little bit more, but all three shoes are probably not recommended for intense activities like tougher trail running, parkour, or fast-cutting motions due to their slip-on designs.
Fit and Materials
The upper of the 360 XT is comprised of a stretchy neoprene-like material and painted on “foxing bands” around the ankle and top of the foot to hug the shoe to your foot a bit better than the stretchy stuff alone.
This is a common fitting option for the lighter shoes in ZEM’s lineup and is somewhat similar to the EL-X from Vibram. The difference between the two shoes being that the 360 XT is more comfortable and versatile, while the El-X is more breathable and flexible.
The 360 XT provides a great fit to my wide feet when barefoot. If you need a tighter fit, you can always put on some sport socks to apply a little more pressure to your feet.
Putting on the 360 XT and taking it off is a snap. There is a handy pull-tab, which helps you put the shoe on, if you need it, but I never really used it in my testing.
For general gym use or running in a straight line at a moderate pace (for me, up to 7.5 MPH), the shoes are great! Very comfortable and with a good amount of ground feel that is slightly less sensitive than the KSO EVO, but more sensitive than any Bikila shoe, the 360 XT is great for non-intense activities. When you have to run really fast, the heel feels a little uneasy, much like with the Vibram EL-X.
If there was an extra way to secure the shoe to the back of the heel, this would greatly enhance the versatility of the shoe, but this my not be feasible for a slip-on. Perhaps a foxing band around the back of the achilles would be possible in a future shoe? In any case, for jogging and indoor activities, the 360 XT is great!
As long as you know that you cannot sprint in them, you can appreciate the lightness of the shoe, the flexibility of the sole, and the comfort of the upper.
The shoes are not completely flat and have a slight toe spring. This does not affect the use of the shoe as a minimalist shoe as it is very light and zero-drop.
In terms of looks the 360 XT is somewhat eye-catching with its colorful foxing bands and ninja-looks. It does not quite garner the same attention as a part of Vibrams or huaraches, but when you wear them, people notice that they are not “normal” shoes and they may not appreciate them the same way that you will.
It’s their loss, really.
As I state earlier, the rubber used in the 360 XT is a bit denser than what Vibram uses for their MAX FEEL line of shoes and is ultimately more durable overall. After running about 75 miles in the 360 XT, they have suffered minimal wear and held up better than my Bikila LS, EL-X, and KSO EVOs after similar mileage.
The uppers are still very comfortable and have not shown any signs of tearing, ripping, or ungluing, even after going through a number of rain storms.
(I would not recommend running with the 360 XT in the rain due to the fact that they are not water resistant in any way and will get squishy after about half a mile)
The EVA material in the sole has held up well. It’s not nearly as durable as the EVA used in the Bikila EVO, but that material mixes the EVA and Vibram rubber together so that the foam can actually have contact with the ground.
The EVA in the 360 XT is specifically positioned in “safe” non-striking areas to reduce weight and while they may stain and wrinkle a bit over time, they will hold and wear evenly with the rest of the rubber parts of the shoe.
The 360 XT from ZEM is a great fitness for all runners and a great road and light trail shoe for die-hard minimalists. It features a wonderfully comfortable upper and a little more versatility than a typical slip on shoe.
If you are planning on lifting, doing some yoga, running around on a treadmill or elliptical and maybe some moderately-paced road running, these shoes are great!
ZEM was one of the earlier minimalist adopters and I am pleased to see that they continue to update their lineup with more refined designs—the 360 XT is an excellent example of their thoughtful materials, lightweight, and versatility. If you're interested in testing them out, you can find them on Zem's website here!
A huge thanks to ZEM for sending me the 360 XT for review! I enjoyed their U-CROSS Split Toe in a previous review and are looking forward to enjoying more of their shoes in the future!