Monday, November 19, 2007

Zoot Shoes Part 3 - Drainage

In part 3 of this review, we'll review the drainage feature of the new Zoot shoes.

Most everyone has run in shoes in wet conditions, and dealt with the feeling of bricks for feet from water weight. Certainly, the longer you have to run in these conditions, the worse it is. Some people have high enough sweat rates to deal with this issue even when the weather isn't wet! (Put me on that list, especially on long runs, made even worse in hotter conditions.)

Studies have shown the average shoe can retain more than 30% of its weight when wet! Take a racing shoe which is 9 ounces, and in wet conditions it becomes 12 ounces. This equates to every 5 steps lifting an additional pound of weight. If you are wearing cotton socks, you’re talking about a nearly 50% gain in weight due to water retention, and it’s down to 3 steps for an additional pound. Multiply this by the number of steps you have to take in a half or full Ironman, and you’re suddenly considering chopping off your feet.

Of course this may sound helpful in a rainy triathlon, but it's not very often we find ourselves in one of those. But let's just consider full and half-Ironman races. Even if it's not raining from the sky, if it's hot or hydration is a big need, you will be pouring water all over yourself. Where does all that water go if not into your mouth? That's right, it drains to your feet. If it's raining, hot or even perfect temps, your feet will get wet from water and sweat, and that means you will be dealing with heavier feet for anywhere from 5-20 miles, maybe longer!

And how many people can stand to wear a light weight racing flat in an Ironman or half-Ironman? Not many, so your shoes are probably heavier than the 9 oz example given above.

Think about XTERRA races, and how many of them end up going thru mud, or running along the beach at Maui.

Or consider an Olympic distance race in hot conditions. Even though these races are shorter, the intensity demands are much higher, and if your feet get wet, you slow down, without fail. In fact, in a recent Men’s Health online article, they state Zoot claims the shoes will make a 40 sec improvement in a 10K due to sweat and water drainage alone. (The author could not find this stated anywhere else, nor find what speed of runner could expect this size gain.)

Alright, water in the shoes sucks, we've established that. Are the Zoot shoes waterproof or something? No, not exactly. The Zoot shoes have established a smart drainage system though.

First off, the upper is a mesh, which doesn’t absorb water. It’s thin and breathable, allowing for water to pass thru it quickly and easily, as well as have sweat able to evaporate from the foot easier.

See the mesh-like upper?

The insert of the shoe has many small holes to create a vent-like passage for the water.

The inserts of the shoe aid in the drainage process.

The shoe also has a downward tilt of the sole, letting gravity pull the water toward the toe box, where it drains out thru the series of holes in the forefoot.

Notice the tilt of the shoe? This produces a gravity flow of water toward the forefoot.

Holes in the forefoot provide simple exits for the water.

Ok, so now we see what the shoe is designed to do, but how does it do in the field? Well, I never noticed weight as an issue with the shoe, and that is the point. Even at Kona, when I wore a thin ActiveFit sock from Zoot, the shoe drained plenty fine in the hot conditions, and orthotics didn’t slow the drainage process.

I am a profuse sweater, and during all my training runs, I never felt sluggish in my feet, like I’ve felt in the past with my trainers. Nor do I have the squishy, squeaking noise from the water and sweat in my shoes.

So are there any negatives? Well, if you wear the shoes regularly, you'll notice the holes in the forefoot are not one-way. By this, I mean water can go in the holes just as easy as it can go out. In a race though, it won't matter, and water exits easily still.

Zoot has done well with the drainage system, and the further your race distance, the more important this feature becomes.


jpboris said...

Hi Jim,

I have read in other reviews that the heel portion of this shoe is very high and may case problems for some people in the Achilles heel area. Did you find this to be the case? Also, I like a big toe box in my shoes and was wondering just how "snug" these shoes feel up front. I am always leery about buying new products sight unseen, so thanks for the review!

Jim Vance said...


Thanks for the comment. Actually, at first the high heel was a concern for many, including those at Zoot. But after much testing, there has been no significant evidence to prove the high heel will be a problem. Now, everyone's feet are different, as well as their biomechanics, so it's impossible to say no one will have problems, but no shoe will ever be perfect for everyone.

As for the toe box, I am not sure how the toe box compares with other brands you tend wear, or models. However, I have not found any issues with the size for me. I would suggest trying on the shoes before buying them. They are coming out in the next few weeks, and you should have an opportunity to try them on at a store near you.

Hope this helps.