Hey! There’s a simple question for you at the end of this, don’t forget to scroll down and click on your choice!
Most people who have met and spent some time with me might have noticed that I am the marketing man’s living nightmare. It’s almost impossible to sell me something I don’t need, let alone want. However, one of the things I pay attention to are my running shoes… but even with them, I’m functional more than fashionable.
I have reviewed other running shoes before, as private requests, but this is the first one that I have been requested to make public. I insisted that I would express my own opinion objectively, so here goes…
The ZPump is being advertised on TV I’m told. I don’t own a TV, so watching TV ads is a rarity for me. I had no idea what I was expecting but I was excited by the idea of a new running shoe experience, a pair of shoes “that wraps nicely around your feet”. The cardboard box the shoes came in were different from the normal coffin style open-close. I liked the cabinet drawer style open-close. I think I’ll hang onto this box for carrying the shoes in my suitcase when I travel.
When choosing a pair of running shoes, it’s important to check your size and fit in the second half of the day (our feet are slightly more voluminous then!) and to pick a half size bigger than what the measurement scale says. I specified in writing when replying to the company that my shoe size was US 9.5 and so when the box that was sent to me said US 9 I was quite disappointed. Even for my favourite pair of running shoes the company does not have the half sizes in India so I have to source them from abroad. But, surely, sending me a US 10 (erring on the side of caution) made more sense for a shoe that claims to wrap around your foot! Anyway, I decided to continue my review without letting the size be an issue.
It’s very important for me for my shoes to have toe room to wiggle my toes up and down – in that regard, I like this pair. They can end up looking rounded and globular at the toe-end, like your grandfather’s shoes, but functionality trumps style here.
Typically, I hope that the last thing a person will look at when they see me are my shoes. But, if that is what must impress them, I’m not sure the Reebok ZPump Fusion is going to cut it. I like the bright red (or lime green) on black and the vertical reflective (night safety) strip at the heel, but to have “pump” in font size gazillion across the shoe, is a bit too loud for a man who usually sticks his nose up at apparel brand labels.
The reason I don’t mind it too much is because mostly what you can see from either side is the “p” – one of my nicknames!
Don’t get me wrong, if you like to wear shoes for their attention value, this pair will do quite well. Just don’t look at them from right above or you’ll be reminded of grandpa during your workout! I also wore them to my gym for a strength training session and had curiosity driven questions from a trainer there and a couple of members. I don’t watch TV but I think they had seen adverts there for it and wanted to know what I thought of it. The pump and the air release buttons are definitely eye catching.
If you have seen me run, you know I like my total body air conditioning. I like my running shoes to also have a decent amount of air circulation too. Given the pump technology and the need for an airtight bladder, this model of shoes fails quite badly I feel when it comes to allowing your feet to breathe. On the other hand, it’s not a heavy pair of shoes implying that there’s been a good choice of rugged but lightweight material. I just wish the sections of the shoe that were not constrained by the pump and bladder technology had better air flow vents.
Although I am a proponent of minimalist running, I prefer ‘normal shoes’ myself. The pair I normally wear to train and race in have flexion from front to back. The Reebok ZPump Fusion has very good grip but also allows twisting much like a pair of minimalist shoe. I’m not sure I like the combination. The sole is quite thick but at the same time I can literally feel the smaller variations in road surface. I am extremely nimble, never having injured myself when running on uneven surfaces (Mumbai roads!) but if you are relatively new to running or sports that require agility on an uneven surface, I advise you to be aware of this feature.
Also, the twisting feature is great if you are a front foot strike runner, like I am, allowing you to take advantage of the rebound spring action in your arch. But if you are flat footed or unsure about the resilience of your arch just be careful as you migrate gradually to this pair from your other running shoes.
The Pump Technology
One reason I am not a cakewalk for a salesperson is because I can usually see through most gimmicks. The pump technology has been around since 1989, I’m told. Not being someone who runs in Reeboks usually, I was excited about exploring the possibility of this improving my running experience. Oddly enough, the box contained no information about how to use the pump and I had to search on the internet for clarifications. I could feel the pump action make the shoe wrap around my foot up to the middle of the arch. I’m glad it does not wrap around the toe area, allowing sufficient wiggle room. At one point I felt the bladder inside push into the underside of the front of my foot when my walking gait was a bit off – felt much like a pair of socks that had ridden down the foot. Other than that, the closer grip between heel and arch section felt like a good option to have.
In my regular running shoes, I often find the rigid material pressing into my foot to a point of pain all along where the natural contours of my feet don’t match the top rim of the shoe around the ankle. What I really liked about the ZPump is the softness in the shoe. Perhaps some might say it’s too soft with too much give but for me it’s nice to have at least one pair that is comfortable along the dimension of softness!
There’s a fair amount of confusion about the pricing. I’m told by the company, and the box confirms it, that the retail price in India is Rs 15k. But anyone who would normally afford that budget for a pair of running shoes would typically also have access to overseas markets where it’s clearly retailing at about half that price! Anyone Googling this shoe brand/model will come across the international prices. Not sure how that will pan out for Reebok India.
I’d give the Reebok ZPump Fusion a thumbs up for attention catching, grip, comfort and conversation value. I’m neutral about the cushioning and wrap-around feature. And, I’d say I’m negative about the not-cool look when viewed from above and the sky-high retail price in India. Overall, I’d say, “Go into the store, try it on, if it makes you feel good, and the price doesn’t matter, it would make an interesting pair to migrate to for your runs or other workouts”.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.