Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Minimilist Shoes for Work: Zem O2 vs Minimil

Zem O2 vs Minimil by CaptainShen
Zem O2 vs Minimil, a photo by CaptainShen on Flickr.

Ding, ding! That was a boxer's bell. You got that, right? As you may know, I have had quite a time finding minimalist shoes that are "Slip-Resistant" to wear at work. Today I finally am able to speak with the authority of someone who has purchased two pairs of slip-resistant shoes and worn them to work. Actually, I don't know that this gains me much authority. But here it is:

ZEMgear Oxygen 2 VS Belleville Mini-Mil

First and foremost, a huge shoutout to the folks at ZEMgear. I never saw an actual name, but the ZEMgear support team blew me away with their attention to inquiry #553191. Not only did they address my question with knowledgeable responses, they weren't afraid to tell me that something 'might not work' for my particular situation. They didn't try to make a hard-sale, they didn't try to trick me, they were just honest, prompt, and complete. They kept up communication and even emailed me a few days later to see if I'd found one, how I liked it, etc. What a follow-up. I mean, they were really brilliant to work with. These little shoes do not come cheaply, though, so I waited a little bit and-- to my surprise-- saw them pop up on my secret addiction Fab.com, with whom I had a small amount of credit for something, and grabbed them there. It took a long time for them to come in.

Minimil: 5mm Drop

Belleville Mini-Mil
In the meantime, I had purchased my Belleville Minimils online, for more than double the price of the Zemgears. I expected them to perform well and be tough-- definitely boots-- as Belleville knows what they're doing with military gear. When I received them, however, I had quite a shock. It has been a very long time since I had to break-in a pair of shoes. And boy oh boy, was this a break-in. I mean, these shoes have a deep, painful, stiff heel cup. They have all kinds of ankle-support. They are sturdy and rugged-- I don't think I'll have (another, cough cough) mesquite thorn enter the arena of my foot while wearing these guys. But HOLY BLISTERS, Batman, this was a painful break-in. I referred to my favorite military-man, who told me to soak them in hot water and wear them while they're wet. I did this twice. I hiked in them, walked in them, wore them around the house. It was a long and painful journey. At the point they're in now, they're alright-- but still not very flexible. They look great and I feel safe in them, but I need you to know: This is not an easy transition for someone used to minimalist shoes. Be prepared. Also, they're a little tight-- I wear a size 38 Fivefinger and I'd probably have been better one size up.

ZEMgear Oxygen 2

These guys took forever-and-a-half to come in, probably due to my buying them on Fab.com (meaning that the company ships to Fab after a certain period and then Fab sends them to me). I finally got them today and wore them for the first time tonight. First impressions: WOW!! Awesome! Great! I felt totally aligned and honestly, quite energized. Simultaneously, I observed: These probably won't last me very long. As you can see in the photo below, the fabric on the edges doesn't actually touch the ground, but only by a scarce millimeter or two. If you're walking on anything with less clearance than linoleum, this could be problematic. For example, simply walking up concrete stairs with grit on them for grip, I worried for my shoes. These feel great. They are snug and comfortable, neoprene, and feel like Fivefingers without the toes (I do truly wish I could've gotten the tabi 'Ninja Style' shoe as well, for my own daily wear, but that wouldn't be legal for a work-shoe. Sad day). They're comfortable and super-light. I love them very much and felt like dancing all day. I mean, I may or may not have skipped everywhere I needed to go at work. Quickly, with zest, fervor, and a happy back. Be aware, though: These will indeed soak up the moisture the moment you mop the floor or drop an ice-cube on your foot (yeah, that happens). They felt like water-shoes on the drive home but I didn't care. I feel like hugging them. After all, they feel like secure little foot-hugs. Did I mention they made me prance? I got a lot of double-takes, so they're not subtle shoes (though I thought they would be) and many people asking about them. Lots of people thought they were "cool," lots of people thought they were "sooo cute!" I even had an enthusiastic "Shut UP!" (I hope that was the New Orleans style of "Shut up" that really means "with all due respect, chum, this is unbelievably neat.")

Please ignore the swollen scarred ankle. It ignores you.
Final Notes
All in all, I'd say that I am actually quite pleased to own both of these, even if it put me out quite a bit of money. My vote is both. I know I'm not supposed to do that, blah blah, and its not like I owe anything to either of these companies. I am pleased that they both had something available and helped me figure out if these shoes would work. I feel able to work better and within the guidelines of my workplace. I vote the ZEMgear O2 for daily wear, ease, cost, and minimalism. I vote the Minimil for durability and protection. They both have very sure niches: If you work in a wet or dangerous enviroment, go with the Minimil. If you have a softer job that can handle a light shoe, go with the ZEMgear. I'd say its my favorite, but I fear the day when I wear it out. Fortunately, my job rides the line between the two so that both have their benefits-- but both definitely have their quirks. I'd be happy to work with some company somewhere to develop the perfect work-shoe. Until then, mi amigos, enjoy the images of my dirty floor and silly little foot. Keep on truckin... and let me know if you need to know more! Certainly if you'd like to send some shoes my way............ mwahahaha. 


deusinvictus said...

good notes on the minimil. I've thought about getting a pair for the rare occasion I need a more rugged pair of minimalist shoes

Shaleah said...

I wore mine all night tonight with a thin pair of injini socks. I think they're pretty well broken in now! And they look wicked cool. :)

Anonymous said...

I am an electrical technician and my job requires workboats. Likewise I have been hunting endlessly for a minimalist workboot with a flexible sole. Have you tried the kuuva 2?


Shaleah said...

Electrical Technician,

No, I haven't yet tried them! They didn't show up in my search when I was looking. Let me do a little research!

Unknown said...

Heya- so I work as a bartender, so you think that the Zem O2 would be a good option for walking on wet/grease floors? The thought of wearing anything but my VFF is killing me and my feet (and legs, ankles, etc) Thoughts?

Shaleah said...

Unfortunately, wet quirk environments aren't optical for the Zemgear. Even walking on dewy grass be annoying. I would go with a more 'sneaker' like pair of shoes, like some black Vivo barefoots! Those have become my everyday shoe. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Ok so which shoe is slip resistant or non slip? I'm a server and walking into the kitchen can be dangerous and a slip resistant/non slip is what I have to jave.... Any recomendations on a all black minimalist shoe that would fit the Bill? Thanks