Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Merrell Road Glove Review


Barefoot running is a fad. There. I said it. The sole of the human foot was not designed to run over broken glass or over jagged rocks. Which is why so many "barefoot runners" are obsessed with the funniest misnomer in running shoes today - "barefoot running shoes".
Have to lead with the hook. "Barefoot" running isn't the best idea, even though lots of people do it. But the princples that it is based on make a lot sense. The human foot, not designed to run over broken glass or other sharp objects, is designed to run without: arch supports, motion control footbeds, or whatever the heck this monster is supposed to do.

Since the inception of this blog, one of my main goals has been to document my journey from aforementioned overbuilt shoes to lower built, lighter weight shoes that actually let your foot do the work.

This wasn't what I was looking for when I bought my pair of Merrell's. I had a $20 off coupon to Dick's Sporting Goods, wanted decent shoes to walk around San Francisco in on vacation, read a ton of reviews online, and thought this running shoe might be a good one. Strange reason to buy running shoes, but 1) my Achilles needs some help getting used to flat (i.e. not "sloped" shoes) shoes since I want to run in them and 2) Merrell builds great shoes and their "barefoot" line has some fairly solid thinking behind it. My thinking was that walking around in these would be a good step forward out of the sloped shoes I am used to wearing (even at work).

Stats:

6.9 oz
Zero drop
4mm of midsole EVA cushion

How I Used the Shoe

I've used these shoes for two things 1) A training aid during the warm up and cool down portions of runs and 2) A casual shoe I wear when I am out and about.

For the training runs, I started out with 10 minutes at the beginning of my run, and after a few weeks I added a 10 minute cooldown. I'm to the point now where I can run 40 minutes in them with no problem. THe next step is to add 5 minutes to one more run during the week, and then up to 10, and then 20, you get the idea.

This shoe will never be my everday high mileage trainer. My legs and feet are just not conditioned to the point where they can do that in these shoes yet. I will still run everything over 45 minutes in neutral cushioned trainers or racing flats, but these shoes will be an important part of my training regimen during the week.

I can tell a difference in my calves after wearing these. My step in ALL Of my running shoes is lighter and more explosive off the ground. My calves feel like they did something even when I wear cushioned trainers, which means I must be running further out from my heel towards the midfoot or forefoot. I'm not sure if I qualify as a 100% midfoot runner yet, but there is at least progress.
The yellow portion is a very soft foam - lots of use of this shoe and no real breakdown yet. The dirty garage floor really helps you see it.

Likes

I really like this shoe. It fits my foot great, I wear it everywhere because there is no cushion to wear out (OK, besides the non-existent midsole), and for a shoe that isn't super flexible and is actually kind of stiff for its intended use, it flexes with my foot just the way I would want it to. I have never worn it trail running (REAL trail running), it has pretty good grip and really feels like it should weigh more than it does. I wore it hiking and walking for long stretches on a recent trip and held up great. Except for the smell (more on that later), this shoe works great for everything.

My foot runs narrow at the heel out to a wide forefoot, and the Road Glove fit my foot great. My forefoot has tons of room and my toes can pretty much wiggle around. This way my feet can splay out during contact with the ground.

I also have a terrible neuroma in my right foot, and this doesn't bother me at all when I wear these shoes. Must have something to do with the fact my forefoot has plenty of room.

The interior of the shoe is very comfortable and feels like it has a lot of material in it, even though it is lightweight. The shoe just feels like it has so much more to it than 6.9 oz. allows. The shoe is designed to be worn sockless, something I have not done yet.

The shoes are just OK looking, maybe a little on the ugly end of the continuum , but more importantly they function great and I enjoy wearing them. As I've said, they are my go to shoe when I am running (pun intended) to the grocery store or out doing anything causal. Add that these are machine washable (I know, right!?) and we have a winner! No, I have not run mine through our brand new washer and dryer, but I could!

Dislikes

Remember my comment about the smell? Your feet will get hot in these shoes after too long. When I was wearing these as my everyday shoe on vacation, I would be in them quite a long time, walking around or driving between vineyards (would have loved to have gone for a run when we were in Napa/Calistoga). After day one, the shoes already smelled. And this was without the help out hot weather or really sweaty feet. Once temps did rise to, say, 60 degrees, my feet started to get really hot. But the shoes still smell a little, and I'm not 100% sold that the anti-smell fabric is very effective

I have this same problem when I wear them now, even casually. I am not further than a 4-mile run in them, so running it is hard for me to say (not sure I would run much further than 4 miles in a shoe with this little protecton), but I've been wearing them out for a few hours at a time, and I am careful to only do that when I know it will be kind of cold out. I know my feet will get hot.

The Vibram outsole shoes little degradation and actually stll has the little "checkered" designs on the green nubs. A decent number of miles and no noticeable wear and tear on the outsole.
This is not a deal breaker for me. And I could wear them without socks, which would probably help, but I have not taken that step yet.

Summary

The outsole is pretty durable, the shoes have over 50 miles of running and many times that in walking in them and the grade of the tread looks brand new. I have a feeling this shoe will last a very long time. There is no real cushioning in the shoe to break down (some might even look forward to the day the EVA in the midsole degrades) so prolonged use isn't a problem as long as the tread is in decent shape. I expect to put a lot of miles in these shoes, especially as the amount of time I spend running in them increases.

If you are in the market for a bare bones, extreme minimalist shoe, this is your shoe. Although your feet might get a little hot, the other features of the shoe more than make up for it.

SCORING

Half point off for being kind of ugly (yes, I do care), one point off for being a little warm, and we have a 8.5 out of 10 score for this shoe.

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