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Running Shoe Review: Reebok Zig Carbon

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“This is radical!” I found myself saying this right after opening the box of new Zig Carbon running shoes provided to me by Reebok. The sole of the ZigLite line of shoes was described by a magazine writer as looking like a Slinky. I think the Zig Carbon’s sole looks like toothpaste, squeezed from a tube, that’s frozen into a saw-tooth pattern.

Reebok Zig Carbon (Amazon)The Zig Carbon comes in a color scheme described by the manufacturer as excellent red, black, tin grey and white. It’s snappy and can be made even more so by pulling out the standard black laces and substituting the alternate pair of red laces included in the box. The fit of the shoe is wondrous, at a half-size up it feels just right from back to front (the shoe’s rear snugly surrounds the ankles). The shoe is quite comfortable for walking and jogging, and this comfort is enhanced by the fact that the upper’s materials flex and “give” with every foot strike. The materials actually move away from the foot in action. It’s a nice feature especially as a few other running shoes claim to offer a flexible upper but fail to deliver on the promise.

One of the key features on this limited edition shoe is a military grade carbon fiber plate. The plate acts as a full-sole rock and hazardous ground materials protector. And yet the shoe, in the men’s version, weighs just about 7.4 ounces.

This is not a minimalist shoe. When you first put the Zig Carbon on it feels high. I would estimate that the heel drop runs somewhere between 9.5 to 12mm. It’s a shoe that will appeal to heel strikers and it should also work quite well for mid-foot landers.

The sole covers the entire bottom of the shoe and then some. It actually angles out from the edges like some trail shoes of a few years back. The insole fits well and provides a rubbery protective feel. It sits on top of the upper surface of the slip-lasted midsole which also feels rubbery. Working together, the two surfaces provide a big measure of energy return for the wearer.

Although this is a neutral shoe, the Zig Carbon provides more than a smidgen of stability. A number of minimal to moderate pronators should be able to jog in it. The mesh on the shoe’s forefoot upper provides breathability for runs in hot weather. The laces on this model stay tied and there are two flap-covered eyelets that serve to keep the soft (dare I use the word rubberized?) tongue in place. The fit of the Zig Carbon is so snug and secure that it parallels the feeling of a slip on triathlon shoe.

Initial runs on concrete and asphalt street roads confirm that the ride of the Zig Carbon is ultra-smooth, bouncy and responsive. These shoes make you feel racing flat fast, and that feeling is furthered by the forefoot’s flexibility. There’s a grove in the forefoot that seems to snap, in a pleasant way, with every step. And as you’re moving forward in the Zig Carbon, you can feel your toes splaying and griping in an almost feline fashion.

Running on a crushed gravel trail was painless and proved the worth of the carbon plate. There is some slippage since the sole is not designed for trail running but one’s feet are not punished. The protective aspects of the shoe are also felt on a rocky trail. The sole will, naturally, grab and retain some small rocks.

The Zig Carbon provides a very nice ride on a grass covered trail, and it delivers a bouncy, fun ride on hard-packed dirt.

These shoes made me do something I usually avoid at all costs. They made me proceed to a crushed gravel track to run laps at a quicker pace. The shoe also provides a sense of confidence which is no small thing.

The Reebok Zig Carbon is worth checking out if you’re in the market for a lightweight running shoe that does virtually everything well. It does most things well while protecting the feet at a level that’s almost above and beyond the call of duty.

There are said to be some 9,000 sensory nerve endings in the human foot. About 8,900 of them were happy in the innovative Zig Carbon running shoe. 8,900 nerves can’t be wrong.

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About Joseph Arellano

Joseph Arellano wrote music reviews in college for the campus newspaper and FM radio station. In recent years he has written book reviews for several publications including San Francisco Book Review, Sacramento Book Review, Portland Book Review and the Tulsa Book Review. He also maintains the Joseph's Reviews blog. For Blogcritics, Joseph writes articles about music, books, TV programs, running and walking shoes, and athletic gear. He believes that most problems can be solved through the purchase of a new pair of running shoes.