Experimenting with ZEM Shoes

  • Posted on: 2 July 2013
  • By: sheldonkreger

Many drummers like the feel of playing bass pedals with bare feet. Other drummers prefer to wear their favorite pair of drumming shoes while they play. Some people really don't care either way.

Experimentation is Good

Regardless of what we think is comfortable, it's always fun to 'step out' of the comfort zone and try something new (pun intended). Only by experimenting can we really find the things that work best at a certain point in time.

Personally, I've found that certain kinds of shoes work better than others. I've always been able to adapt no matter what kind of shoes I was wearing. But, I won't deny that I have pretty strong preferences toward certain kinds of shoes. I like to have a certain balance with the pedal, being able to sustain momentum between strokes, and also being able to feel the response naturally.

Recently, a friend of mine (who is a runner) said he really enjoyed the 'barefoot style' shoes and encouraged me to try a pair. ZEM stands for 'Zone of Endless Motion', which I think is a nice analogy to what happens to the body of a drummer while playing: We enter a zone of endless motion, which manifests as a groove on the kit.

Intrigued by this idea, and in the jest of an experimental mindset, I decided to give the ZEM a try. Why not?

The Feel of the ZEM

Playing with a barefoot style shoe (like the ZEM) is definitely different than playing with normal shoes. The foot can feel the pedal board in a more detailed way. And, the response from the foot to the pedal seems more direct. Sensitivity is the key word I would use to describe the feel of the ZEM. But, because there *is* a rubber sole, there is still some grip, as opposed to the slippery sliding motion of playing in socks. There is also less shock to the foot during each stroke.

I think that practicing with the ZEM is helping me develop a more nuanced awareness of the way my foot controls the bass pedals. Even if I don't end up playing with them all the time, I do think it was a good experiment and that drummers who really enjoy foot technique would also have a lot of fun with these.

As a strength athlete, I've also enjoyed using the ZEM's for deadlift-style pulling movements, certain kinds of squats, and to wear while I'm stretching. I've been trying to gain the mobility to do the splits in the last few months, and the fit of the ZEM allows me to hold some pretty awkward positions without slipping.

Why the ZEM

Although there are a few different manufacturers making this style of shoe, I think the ZEM is a great choice for a few reasons.

1. There is a wide variety of styles and colors to choose from.

2. The shoes are comfortable.

3. The manufacturing is solid; they are very high quality and built to last a long time.


Drummers who like to play in socks should give the ZEM a try. They offer a bit more control and 'umph' without sacrificing too much sensitivity. In addition, drummers who really love foot technique, and drummers who just love experimenting will also enjoy the fresh feel on the bass pedals provided by the ZEM.

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