In addition to having many general fitness applications, ZEM’s Terra performs quite well as an all-conditions running shoe. The Terra is pure minimalism: there’s nothing transitional and very little protective about it. This is great news if you’re an experienced minimalist, but should be used cautiously by beginners.
A 5.5-oz minimalist fitness shoe with Tabi-style split-toe last, composed of a stretch Lycra upper and durable rubber outsole.
Weight At 5.5 oz, it’s tough to get much lighter than the Terra while maintaining durability. ZEM footwear is generally lighter across the board than Vibram models, and even lighter than many huarache-style sandals currently on the market.
Fit and Comfort The Terra only comes in whole sizes, and runs slightly long in the toe box, but not enough to necessitate a smaller size. The stretch Lycra stays fairly snug around most of the foot with the help of tension bands, but there is mild slipping in the heel area, especially in muddy conditions. Without any lacing or strap system, there’s no way to adjust the fit through the midfoot.
Comfort of the upper and insole against bare skin is very nice; the Terras were tested sockless for most runs, sometimes in the 2-3 hour duration range, without any hotspots or blisters.
Flexibility Both the upper and outsole are completely flexible in all directions, with no restrictions of movement.
Ground Feel Outsole thickness is a mere 4mm, with a thin fabric insole layer separating your foot from the platform. This is one of the lowest stack heights available – and combined with high flexibility, enables you to feel every little rock in the trail.
Traction ZEM’s Green Grip outsole is more than sufficient for asphalt, and maintained traction well in most off-road conditions including steep gravel fire roads and rocky terrain. Traction did not feel compromised in wet conditions on road or trail.
Interestingly, the Terra isn’t ZEM’s dedicated running model—that would be the 360—but the outsole on the Terra is actually more appropriate for all-conditions running than the “official” running model which is primarily designed for road use.
Durability The Terra marks a major improvement in the durability of ZEM’s previous offerings, which were more sock-like but fell apart with high-demand use. The Terra outsole shows minimal signs of wear after 100 miles, and upper construction hasn’t been compromised by frequent trail use.