When I first encountered the ZEMgear Terra last year, I was intrigued. They seemed like the perfect shoe for a child. Quick and easy to slip on, super flexible, wide toe box, zero heel–toe drop, and affordable.
My son could be the poster child for ZEMgear. ZEM, meaning Zone of Endless Motion, seems to be his daily motto. While inside, we are often gently reminding him to slow down. Outside is a different story - full speed ahead. The ZEM Terras have kept up with his endless motion and have given him a new excitement for adventure. There is something about wearing ninja shoes that makes spying, rolling, jumping, climbing, and imagining all sorts of adventure more fun.
When he first put on the Terra, he exclaimed, “Mom! These are the coolest shoes ever!” And while the coolness of a shoe is no reason to keep them, it certainly helps, especially when showing the shoes to his siblings. While inspecting the shoes with other children, he proudly says, “Check this out; I can roll them into a ball!”
The Terras have become his favorite shoes. They are easy to put on (a must for a boy eager to get outside and get down to business), they look cool, they are comfortable, and they can be worn in the water. There is no rubbing, pressure, pushing, poking, or any other inconvenience that bothers his foot. In his words: “they are like socks; only they are not socks.”
The specs, from my point of view, are perfect for a child: there is zero heel-toe rise, the toe box is wide, and the shoe is the most flexible we own. The colors are vibrant, and the slip on style is perfect for young children.
I am always concerned with a slip-on shoe because my children have narrow feet. Depending on the design, a slip-on can slip around on the foot and cause blisters. The sole of the Terra wraps up the back of the foot, cradling the heel, and helping to prevent sliding on the foot. The upper is also so stretchy that it fits more like a sock than a shoe, leaving very little room for slipping.
Sizing can be difficult when ordering shoes online. ZEMgear has an easy to use size chart on their website to make ordering the right size stress-free. I found them to run very true to size.
There is a loop attached the back of the shoe, allowing them to be easily clipped to a backpack. There are individual toe guards to protect the foot from abrasion, and the sole is perfectly suited for exploring the outdoors.
The Terra is the lightest kids shoe in our house. This means maximum energy can be devoted to all manner of adventures like leaping over tall buildings, scaling lava mountains, sword fighting with knights, or hunting dinosaurs.
The price, $39.99, makes the ZEMgear Terra one of the most affordable minimalist options for children.
The Terra has lived up to my expectations. With a name that means land or earth, I had very high expectations. True to their name, these shoes have provided protection for my son’s feet while not excessively limiting his connection with the ground. He can feel stones, sticks, and changes in terrain. And while the shoes provide the opportunity to feel the earth, they do not crumble under the rigor of day hikes or a trips to the beach.
There are a few small puncture holes in the uppers where a stick has grabbed at the material while hiking. The holes are too small to photograph and have not frayed or increased in size. The only other issue we have experienced is some separation of the soles from the uppers where the forefoot bends. This has only occurred on one shoe and is probably due to all the water use. I imagine that the glue in that area has become weaker over time, and playing in the water probably does not help the durability of the glue. For my son, wearing his Terras into the water is not an option but a necessity. He likes the freedom of wearing his shoes where ever he wants to take them.
With any shoe that gets wet (whether with sweat or water), dry time is always an issue. I was not expecting the Terras to dry so quickly. I can hang them outside for a couple of hours, and they are good-to-go again. They do stink terribly when they get wet (as most shoes do), so we often put a healthy dose of baking soda in them after long day. I would like to see ZEMgear make a similar shoe with a mesh upper. I think this may cut down on the smell and also allow the shoes to breathe a little better in the summer time.
The ZEMgear Terra is a solid, very minimal, affordable product which is what I love. It has the style, comfort, and vibrant colors that kids love. The combination makes this shoe a perfect fit.