Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

I have had my Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove shoes for a few days now and I wanted to talk about my initial impressions because they haven been very positive so far. I will post an update after I have had a chance to get out a few more times with them.

Before my run, I did make one modification to the shoe that I have been starting to do with all of my laced shoes--I added a set of lock laces so I can put them on and take them off fast, and not have to deal with flopping laces while running. For my first run with them, I took them out to a snow covered rail trail... not on purpose, but it is pretty typical of most of the trails here in southeastern Pennsylvania right now. I was able to try it on a variety of surfaces, both snow covered, ice covered, rocks, dirt, mud and pavement, and also on both flat and hilly trails. All of these surfaces in only 6 1/2 miles. I found them very slippery on ice within the first tenth of a mile, so I did still have to use my YakTrax for certain sections of the trail, but I would likely have had to do this with any shoe. They worked great on all of the non-ice surfaces, including the snow and mud. I was able to run with the same mid-foot landing that I have been using with my Vibram FiveFinger KSO Trek's. Speaking of those, the soles on the Merrell's are eerily similar, but that is because the Merrell's also use a sole made by Vibram. I found the sole to have what felt like the same level of protection as the KSO Trek's, which is perfect for the types of trails that I usually run on. The grips on the front of the sole made climbing a muddy section of trail no problem. I really like that the Merrell's have a zero heel drop and great treads for off-road use. They also worked well on the paved surfaces that I ran on. I used lightweight hiker sock with them due to the cold weather. I found they had great ventilation, which worked out well for me this time. I can imagine they would have been pretty cold if worn without socks in this weather. It is my personal opinion that the styling of these shoes is pretty slick, and I would feel comfortable wearing these to work (and I have already done so.) I also like the color choices (I went with the black/red.)

There were only a few things that I found that I do not like about them. First, I think they are a little expensive for what they are, but then again, they are priced very competitively based on other similar shoes that are either out or coming out soon. It seems like the manufacturers of most minimalist shoes think we need to pay more for less. I obviously got over this as I paid for them anyway, knowing that they are really not that much more expensive than a typical running shoe. The only other thing I found about the fit was that they are pretty tight in the center arch area. This only seems to affect how easy they are to put on and take off, and did not affect the fit once they were on. They felt snug but not too tight, and the toe box was definitely roomy.

I purchased my pair at Trail Creek Outfitters in Glen Mills, PA for $110 (which is the suggested retail price.)

Update 3/7/2011: I have now had my Trail Glove's for about a month now and I have put over 60 running miles on them. I still feel these are the best minimalist running shoes I have ever used. They have held up very well and are showing no signs of wear. They have been put through a lot more surfaces (mostly trails) including a lot more mud and they are still handling very well. I have been wearing them with a variety of socks, both heavier and lightweight, and they feel good no matter what weight sock I wear. I highly recommend the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves.

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