So I received my pair of Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove minimal shoes on Thursday and ran 25km in them on Sunday.
Is that smart?
I dunno. But with my trust in my running style (light, easy, smooth, quick) I felt like I could give them a go. I did wear them pretty much exclusively from the moment I got them right up to the race, but I did pack my Vibrams in my North Face hydration pack just in case I hated the Merrells. I did a lot of range of motion tests, just to see if there was going to be any pinch points or potential hotspots, but I didn’t note any issues that might come up.
I really debated what socks to wear in the Merrells, and ultimately chose the Injinji toe socks. I forget what style they are exactly, but they seemed to hold a bit too much moisture and I did end up getting a small blister on the inside of my right foot, but it was where I had gotten a blister from a 19k treadmill run in my Vibrams a couple weeks ago, so the spot was ripe for a re-do. The blister was not painful at all, and I actually didn’t notice it until I got home and was doing a bit of a foot health check. The next run outside, I’ll try a thinner pair of tech socks and see what that feels like. I think I probably chose the Injinji’s because it made a possible switch to the 5’s easier if needed.
So, I can’t give a real review yet, based on one 25k run, but I can give you my first impressions and general thoughts.
Disclaimer: I am a barefoot runner, I use shoes like I use clothes; As necessary.
That said, winter in Calgary is pretty brutal and barefooting is almost impossible (Almost, right Paul?). I am not that devout as a barefooter to try and do something stupid and run in snow or weather below freezing. I’m just a realist, and I love running too much to jeopardize myself with a potential but avoidable injury.
THAT said, I looked at the overall minimalist shoe offerings with great interest.
Merrell was at the top of my interest pile from the moment I figured out that Barefoot Angie Bee was in Grand Rapids to be interviewed as a barefoot ambassador and that Merrell is located in Grand Rapids. I put 2 and 2 together, did a quick Google Search and found a corporate note that mentioned a minimal trail shoe being developed by Merrell. I've been intrigued with their product, and their commitment to proper barefootery, what with the website, the use of prominent barefooters as technique experts and the apparent quality of the product.
Well, when they got here, Traci was smitten with them, so they passed the style test right away. (She takes a size 7 in the Ladies Pace Glove if anyone wanted to send the chicks version, btw, just sayin’)
Ok, so from an overall comfort level for the days prior to the race I give them a 2 thumbs up! They are quite smooth inside with no noticeable rubs where the different material areas join up, and the sole is quite form fitting, and maybe gives the impression of a bit of support (not noticeable when running) in the arch area, which would probably help the confidence of shod runners as they transition or train minimally. Without socks I found the interior quite velvety almost.
They do have some relatively aggressive lugs as they are made for the trail, but walking around on pavement and in stores they weren’t noticeable. One thing tho (picky), the vibram sole is quite squeaky when a bit wet on tile floors in stores. I had to adjust my gait to avoid a pretty annoying screek with every step (will the education ever stop?)
I actually don’t have too much to say about them during the race, and that says a LOT! I only thought about them when I thought about them. I mean, they didn’t give me any reason to worry or think or curse at them. they just did their job of minimally protecting my feet for the duration of the run. Even when I was done and standing around chatting and waiting for my buds, did I ever have the urge to take them off due to discomfort or anything. I will say that the Trail Pedigree that Merrell is known for was probably a big asset for the uneven, frozen and difficult terrain on Monday. I could still feel the nuances of the terrain under foot (read: Skidoo tracks), and that is always a good thing for a barefooter.
What I can say about them in the short time that I’ve had them is, They are really comfy. The heel pocket is a snug and as perfect as I have experienced in any shoe, the mid foot fit is snug and confidence inspiring without any undo gimmicks, the omni-fit lacing actually matches the shape of my foot and the toe area is roomy and allows for full toe splay (including room for my Morton's toe)
I now wear this shoe everywhere, as it fits the bill of a traditional looking shoe (I am a attention seeker, bit I actually hate the attention in walmart in my 5’s, some days I just want to pick up the laundry soap without having a big deal made over the monkey shoes in the checkout line), and the fact that I was wearing my NB 1063’s for errand wear, seemed to be actually hurting my feet, because since I got my Merrells and have been wearing them exclusively, some of my chronic heel pain has gone away again! Yay!
Amazing to think these shoes are the same size!!
It’s a good start with my Merrells! Gord’s Running Store in Calgary has stock if anyone is interested in trying them on. Tell him I sent you!
Ok, How do I feel and why should you care? I feel great and you shouldn’t care. This is about me, right? Well, to be clear, I am talking about how I specifically feel since the race on Monday. Really REALLY good! My body took the distance and managed it during, and has recovered remarkably well! I am so pleased. I can remember how disabled I would be after anything over 10k when I was getting started in running, but now I can go out and rock a 25k race (longest ever) in some really questionable conditions, without any side effects. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few minor tight spots, but NOTHing in the big picture. I didn’t even take a post race advil this time.