Merrell is a shoe and apparell company that specializes in high quality outdoor-wear. About a year ago, Merrell and Vibram announced a new shoe line, the “Merrell Barefoot Collection” that would consist of ultra comfortable shoes for trail running and causal wear, and they would all be sporting a Vibram sole. In February 2011 that shoe line became a reality.
A few weeks ago the fine folks over at Merrell sent us a couple of different pairs of shoes from this new line. These Merrell Barefoot shoes are true minimalist shoes that feature a zero drop heel, an expansive toebox, and, ahem, a Vibram sole. Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our reviews of the various models along with a plethora of photos. First up are the Merrell True Glove’s.
The Merrell Barefoot True Gloves at First Glance
At first glance, the Merrell True Glove shoes are pretty darn good looking. While it seems that many minimalist shoes these days are sacrificing something in the looks department, I actually think that these shoes lineup nicely with the styles currently popular in non-minimalist shoes. The True Glove’s look like a combination of running and trail shoes with just a dash of hiking boot ruggedness tossed in. I’ve worn them with shorts while running and also with jeans while hanging out casually (pics of both in the images below), and I think that they hold their own very well.
One think that may seem a bit abnormal on the shoes is the larger black rubber cover over the toes, call the ‘fused rubber toe bumper'; this is something Merrell adds for durability, but it does look a little unique. All-in-all, I’m pretty impressed by the way these shoes look and all of the lady friends I’ve shown them to seem to think they look pretty cool as well.
Technical Specs and Sizing
The Merrell’s have all of the specs that you would demand from a good minimalist running shoe. They have a nice sized toe box, they are light and flexible, the sole is thin but durable, and there is no unnecessary arch or heel support. The materials used in their construction allow you to run and hike in both wet and dry conditions with no problem. In the following sections I’ve provided a few notes on each feature that I noticed.
Light & Flexible
The True Glove’s are pretty light, weighing in at 14.5 ounces for Men’s size 9.5 US. And, the sole is nice and flexible, allowing your foot to bend and flex as if you were running barefoot. As you can see in the images below, I was able to hold the folded shoe with just my pinky and thumb.
A Vibram Sole
With a website called My FiveFingers, you know we’d love a good Vibram sole… and this is no exception. The midsole is 4mm thick EVA and the ball to heel drop is 0mm – exactly what we’d ask for. You can see the sole in the photos below.
A quick word on the toe box: its big enough to let your toes splay out as nature intended. This is critical to a good minimalist shoe, and Merrell makes sure your toes have plenty of room to relax and be their natural selves.
I wear a 9.5 US in regular shoes, and the 9.5 US Merrell’s fit me perfectly. I have seen some people reporting that the shoes run a bit big for them, but this isn’t the case for me. Likewise, Dan Hinckley (who will be reviewing the Trail Gloves) wears a size 11 US and his size 11 Merrell’s were spot on. My recommendation is, assuming you can’t try them on beforehand, to buy the size you normally would for a pair of Nikes. Based on our experience, that will likely fit you just right.
The first day that I wore these for more than about an hour I did experience a bit of chafing on my left Achilles tendon, directly above my heel. The upper edge of the shoe was rubbing vertically and causing some pretty painful irritation. I wasn’t ever planning on wearing socks with these, but the rubbing was too much and I had to slip a pair of socks on. I let the chafing continue on (albeit dulled) through the socks, as I wanted to build up the irritation in that spot on my achilles a little further so that I could let a callous develop. After a few hours, I took the shoes off and didn’t wear them again for another 3 days. During this time, nature took its course and started to toughen the spot up. I let this cycle happen one more time and now I no longer have any irritation – the body is an amazing thing, isn’t it? There isn’t even a visible callous, but the skin in that spot is tougher and the slight rubbing that was occuring just doesn’t seem to irritate it.
Who Should Buy These?
I can imagine a number of use-cases where these shoes make a whole lot of sense. Our perspective is as die-hard Vibram FiveFinger fans, but we appreciate a good shoe when we see it. Some uses/people that these come to mind immediately are:
- Someone who wants to blend in when they go out by wearing a nice pair of casual shoes with jeans.
- Someone who wants a nice casual, minimalist shoe that you can wear to work without the whole office attacking them with bad jokes (ala FiveFingers).
- Trail runners seeking a barefoot/minimalist feel but not yet ready for ‘toe shoes’.
- People who have something unique going on with their toes that prohibits them from wearing FiveFingers comfortably. We get asked about this a lot…whether its a really long big toe, or a very tiny small toe, sometimes abnormally sized toes just don’t jive with FiveFingers. I can’t see any reason, however, that these people couldn’t wear a pair of Merrell’s barefoot shoes to get their minimalist fix.
- People who really can’t stand the attention that FiveFingers tend to attract.
Photos, Photos, Photos
I’m a fan of these True Glove’s and they’ll definitely be in my regular rotation of minimalist shoes. I’m impressed by the quality and attention to detail these have, particularly because these are a fairly new line of shoes for Merrell.
Have you tried any of Merrell’s Barefoot shoes? Do you have any questions about the True Gloves or any other models? Let us know in the comments!