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The competitive world of running shoes and products can overwhelm athletes looking for the right product to pick. Alameda Runners recently caught up with Christina Bracken,ZEMgearco-founder, and she answered a few questions we had.

Alameda Runners first mentioned something about ZEMgear last year, and the company continues to expand its product line.

ZEMgear is in a suddenly crowded market of minimalist footwear, but runners have three basic reasons to choose ZEMgear over the competition, according to Bracken: Fit flexibility, price, and aesthetics.

“ZEMs are easy-in and easy out, and include 4-way stretch uppers accommodate almost any foot shape: longer toes, wider feet, onset of bunion, higher instep – our patterns can hold pretty much any foot shape,” Alameda Runners learned from Bracken. “ZEMs are considerably less expensive that most other brands while offering high-grade, professional performance.”

To help bring new attention to the company, ZEMgear recently began offering products at REI retail stores and through the REI website.

“REI is a leader in the Outdoor world of footwear and gear. Many customers see REI as an ‘authenticator’ for a brand – especially a newly arrived brand in an emerging category. REI found and identified ZEMgear at the January 2011 Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City when we also won our 3M IN-NEW-VATION award for being the most innovative new footwear brand at the show.”

Indeed, even if you only go to your local REI store for ideas on new products you can buy online – for a lower price – you’re guaranteed to not fight junk in the store. Any product sold in REI is a victory, especially if you’re a smaller company looking for more exposure to athletes.

Trying to switch from traditional running shoes to minimalist footwear has caused some runners to suffer major injury. Similar to building base miles when starting out, runners should take their time before making the transition.

“Moderation is key: as with any new endeavor it is necessary to ease into minimal activities with care and with caution. It is not difficult or complicated – but no one would suggest to go to the gym for 3 hours the first time you decide to exercise. If you had worn gloves for the last 20 years you would never think of chopping wood or digging in the dirt with bare hands.”

The rest of the interview available after the jump:

ZEMgear offered a few helpful tips to ease into minimalist running:

To help ease athletes into minimalist footwear, ZEMgear had this to say:

  • Get used to your barefoot shoe at home in familiar environment
  • Start walking before you run
  • Run only for a few hundred yards when trying it the first time
  • STOP when anything does not feel right
  • Be patient and allow muscles, tendons and senses to adjust to a new way of using your feet.
  • Understand that running barefoot involves a lot more than just your feet. Senses, core muscles and balance are re-adjusting to an entirely new way of receiving information – all via the newly awakened 250,000 nerve endings in your feet.

If you’re looking for additional information about trying out minimal running, there are a couple of great published resources: Active published a good guide; Competitor Magazine discusses who should use minimalist running; and Running Times talks about the transition.

ZEMgear plans to have a busy 2012, with new product developments, a new website in the works, and attending tradeshows.

“ZEMgear is constantly working on new products. The most recent addition to our collection is the TERRA (Mens, Womens and Kids). For the FW 2012 season we are expanding ZEMgear proudcts’ versalility into cooler and wetter weather by introducing the APEX, HERO and CINCH: all are featuring a high abrasion outer fabric in combination with ThermoPrene and a soft & cozy insulating athletic lining. More info on these products soon on our Facebook and website.”

Feel free to stop by @ZEMgear to take a look at the company’s active Twitter account. As always, please feel free to visit @Alamedarunners for the Alameda Runners Twitter.

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