Reebok Zoku Runner

Footwear design trends have come and gone over the decades, with some being more tenacious than others. Canvas, suede, leather, and synthetic mesh have all been used to varying degrees of effectiveness, with some being successful enough for widespread adoption while others have become relegated to a niche. One of the more recent developments that has gained considerable popularity in recent years is the knit fabric style of running shoe. Common examples of this can be seen from high-profile manufacturers such as Nike and Adidas, with their respective Flyknit and Primeknit technologies. Now, Reebok has adopted this same design strategy with their Zoku Runner shoe, utilizing a similar style of construction and design. But is this a good fit for the runner’s wardrobe, or are these shoes just another passing fad?

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Where to Buy
Where to Buy
Pros & Cons
  • Fantastic stability and responsiveness from the midsole
  • Excellent traction and durability from the outsole
  • Highly breathable and snug-fitting upper
  • Lightweight design with appealing style
  • Consumer-friendly price perfect for curious runners
  • Cons
    • Largely derivative design imitates other footwear manufacturers
    • Less flexible than its appearance would suggest
    • Key Features
      One thing that Reebok has consistently hit the mark within their designs is a good outsole. Regardless of whatever other issues their footwear may have, just about every offering from these shoe manufacturers has a well-made and high performing outsole. Whether it’s a training shoe, running shoe, or casual sneaker, Reebok doesn’t cut any corners on the underfoot. This same statement applies to the outsole of the Zoku Runner since it was made from high-abrasion hard rubber. A subtle amount of treading has also been implemented in various forms and in different directions, providing enough traction to accommodate a typical run without slowing the wearer down with too much weight or grip.
      Reebok implemented their popular and successful DMX foam padding for the midsole of this running shoe. This form of underfoot cushioning was also found in some of their other products such as work boots and sneakers. The reason for their continued usage of this particular form of midsole material is that it offers an impressive amount of support and cushioning in a package with a conveniently low weight. Because of this, runners have stated that they felt decent responsiveness and durability while wearing these Reebok runners.
      This is the main selling point of the Reebok Zoku Runner and the key trait that sets it apart from other running shoes made by this company. Much like Nike’s Flyknit and Adidas’ Primeknit, Reebok’s Ultraknit offers benefits to the shoe’s breathability, stability, and weight from its inclusion. The knit fabric used to create this shoe’s upper offers many benefits, but it also comes with some caveats. For example, this material isn’t nearly as protective for a wearer’s foot than many other options, and it also offers a diminished degree of durability. Fortunately, the negatives are negligible considering the intended use of this running shoe and the environments in which they are appropriate to run in.
      Although Reebok hasn’t given an average weight to these shoes, testimonials left behind from satisfied customers can give an idea of how heavy these shoes feel. According to these reviewers, the Reebok Zoku Runner feels very light on their feet. This is most likely due to the use of Reebok’s Ultraknit material for the upper portion, although the lighter DMX midsole foam also contributes to their lighter weight. One area where weight was not removed is the outsole, although its design does focus around providing adequate traction without needing to add more weight. This distribution results in the lighter feeling while these shoes are worn, which can then be translated into a less strenuous and more aerodynamic running session.
      The primary benefit that is gained from any knit fabric material is an increase in breathability. This same fact applies to the Reebok Zoku Runner and its Ultraknit upper construction; thanks to several small gaps in the knit pattern of this material, air can easily enter and escape from the interior of this shoe. With free airflow throughout its entirety, runners should have no reason to worry about their feet feeling uncomfortably warm or sweaty while wearing these Reebok runners. This particular design aspect even makes these shoes ideal for running in hotter climates and will help to reduce the potential of foot odor.
      While running shoes need to provide a decent amount of protection and support in order to be effective, comfort plays a significant role in the experience for the wearer. After all, an individual won’t want to wear a pair of shoes that don’t feel comfortable even if they provide fantastic secondary benefits. Fortunately, the Reebok Zoku Runner provides a comfortable fit and ride through multiple avenues. First, the lighter weight reduces fatigue while running, allowing for longer running sessions. Second, the use of highly breathable Ultraknit fabric ensures that the wearer’s feet won’t become too hot or sweaty. Finally, the DMX Lite midsole and hard rubber outsole provide a comfortable shield for the wearer’s underfoot so they don’t feel pain from repetitive foot strikes.
      Reebok isn’t a shoe designer that is known for their acute sense of style. They certainly aren’t known for making ugly products, but their ability to design fashionable athletic apparel is overshadowed by offerings from athleisure titans Nike and Adidas. It seems that their implementation of a knit fabric style for the Zoku Runner is an attempt to capture some of the acclaims garnered towards these other manufacturers, as it has similarities in form and function to Nike’s Flyknit and Adidas’ Primeknit lines of running shoes. The end result is a style that is certainly appealing but does little to define itself as different from its contemporaries. That said, a few of the rarer color options that can be found for this product manage to offer a refreshing aesthetic.
      As can be expected from a running shoe that features an upper made from knit fabric, the Reebok Zoku Runner doesn’t offer a great deal of durability up top. This may be cause for concern in the eyes of runners looking for a pair of shoes that can handle some non-technical trail running; however, the vast majority of potential customers who are simply looking for something to wear for standard running sessions won’t encounter any problems in this area. It also helps that these shoes offer fantastically durable midsoles and outsoles, meaning they provide resilience from damage in the most important areas.
      Much of what was said about this shoe’s durability could also apply to its protection. Since the upper portion of the Reebok Zoku Runner doesn’t offer the same durability as those made from a sturdier material, it makes sense that they don’t offer a great deal of protection either. However, this has been remedied somewhat thanks to the addition of a small forefoot guard in front and a TPU cage around the midfoot. Aside from these two features, the rest of the Zoku Runner provides the same level of protection as can be expected from a high-end running shoe.
      An immediately noticeable benefit that comes with the lightweight design of these Reebok running shoes is a much more significant feeling of responsiveness during a running session. In conjunction with a spongy DMX midsole, the tight-fitting and thin Ultraknit upper ensures that each stride a runner makes is instantaneous to the point that these shoes feel almost like an extension of the wearer’s body. This is something Reebok has excelled at providing in many of their athletic shoes, including their popular CrossFit trainers. When the same design strategies used there were applied to the Zoku Runner, the end result is a shoe that can help shave seconds off the wearer’s run times.
      Despite having a lighter weight and using less material in its construction, the Reebok Zoku Runner is able to achieve a level of support that is much tougher for many heavier and thicker footwear products to match. A great deal of this success can be attributed to the DMX Lite midsole, of course, since the primary purpose of this core footwear component is to ensure the wearer’s feet are properly supported during their run. However, the midfoot cage located on the upper is another powerful component of these shoes that ensure a higher amount of support for the wearer’s foot, particularly in cases where they may experience pronation discrepancies.
      Due to design limitations that are built into most running shoes for the purpose of providing a lighter and more responsive ride, the potential running environments for individuals to use them on is somewhat limited. These environments are usually the same as those an individual may encounter on a casual day-to-day basis, such as a sidewalk, road, or grassy field. In the case of the Reebok Zoku Runner, enough durability, traction, and stability are present in its design to handle some tougher environments than these, including some non-technical trails. However, the thin upper offers an inadequate level of protection for harsher running terrain and ultimately limits these shoes to the same traditional running shoe environments.
      Thankfully, the cost of the Reebok Zoku Runner is low enough that individuals who are on the fence about it can take a chance on a purchase without wasting a great deal of money. Oftentimes, footwear products that are made in a similar style with thin material and a lighter weight will still cost more money due to the brand appeal or quality of design work. The aforementioned manufacturers Adidas and Nike are commonly guilty of this business practice. This is something that gives the Zoku Runner an edge over products made from these other brands since runners who are curious to try the knit fabric style of running shoes can more easily justify the purchase of this Reebok product over more expensive Flyknit or Primeknit varieties.
      As has been previously mentioned, Reebok does an excellent job designing their outsoles to be stable, supportive, and offer a competitive level of traction. This is also the case for their Zoku Runner and its well-designed underfoot. The treading on this shoe’s outsole is significant enough to ensure a good grip with lots of control while running but not so pronounced as to slow down or excessively burden the wearer. This was accomplished through the use of clever design work; rather than use a consistent tread pattern like many running shoes and some trail shoes, the Zoku Runner uses ridges and lugs of varying sizes to cover key regions of the underfoot for targeted effectiveness.
      Due to the lightweight design of the Reebok Zoku Runner, a high amount of flexibility is to be expected. However, many wearers may be surprised to find that these shoes are much more rigid than their appearance lets on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since enough pliability is present in its design to ensure a comfortable ride. However, runners expecting something more in line with a minimalist road runner will need to adjust their expectations accordingly.
      In order to create a footwear product that accentuates the running experience rather than simply accommodating it, Reebok understands that the shoe needs to offer a high degree of stability. This was achieved in the Zoku Runner with resounding success by implementing stability features in nearly every aspect of its construction. From the upper’s tight-fitting material to the dependable DMX Lite midsole and the expertly crafted hard rubber outsole, these shoes will ensure that the wearer is in full control of their movements even while running at the fastest speeds.
      It is difficult to approximate the exact heel drop of these running shoes since the manufacturers have given no exact measurement in the difference of elevation between the heel and forefoot. However, it appears that this level of elevation is less than that found in common running shoes while still being higher than the level found in training or trail running shoes. This means that a compromise has been reached between the extra heel cushioning gained from a high drop and the extra stability gained from a low one.
      Key Features

      • Hard rubber outsole

      • DMX Lite midsole

      • Ultraknit fabric upper

      • Midrange heel drop

      • Slight treading on the underfoot

      Bottom Line
      While the Reebok Zoku Runner doesn’t reinvent the running shoe, it does offer a highly competent take on the popular knit fabric style. With its excellent fashion sense and powerful performance, this is a safe bet for any runner looking to try a thinner and more breathable running shoe.
      Where to Buy
      By Mike Valverde
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 27. 2021

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