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Merrell Embark Glove GORE-Tex Barefoot Running Shoes Review

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Need a good all-weather minimalist running shoe? Want waterproof protection? Want good performance? Look no further than the Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe

Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe Features

UPPER / LINING

  • Synthetic leather and mesh upper
  • GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort footwear lining protects feet and keeps them dry
  • Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing System provides a precise, glove-like fit
  • Microfiber footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odor
  • 4 mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions

MIDSOLE / OUTSOLE

  • 1 mm forefoot shock absorption plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure
  • 0mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain
  • Vibram® Trail glove Sole/Rubber Compound TC-1

Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running ShoeReview

The Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe is the cold/all weather shoe in Merrell’s Barefoot line. It comes fully lined with Gore-tex making it waterproof and warm.

At the base the Embark is very similar to the Merrell Trail Glove and the Merrell Sonic Glove (click links for reviews. Same last, same overall look and feel, same running performance.

The running performance is high, same as the other models. Running in them just feels good. The sole is similar to the Trail Glove and Sonic Glove. Four mm thick, zero drop, and good tread pattern. The Gore-tex keeps your feet fully dry on wet or snowy runs. Just don’t step in deep puddles. One thing of note on the Gore-tex, it really holds in heat (i.e. doesn’t breathe as well as a non-lined shoe) which for me means it is a cold-weather only shoe. The heat retention is a great benefit on frigid days.

For all the similarities to the other models that I love I did find some drawbacks that I wasn’t super stoked on. Some are big and some are minor.

First the Embark has more volume than the Trail and Sonic Gloves. It’s not a lot but it’s noticeable. As a result I had to cinch down the laces to the max to get the fit I wanted. Maybe the additional volume is to accommodate thicker socks for cold weather running? I’m not sure on this one.

The foot opening is stiffer than other models too. This wouldn’t be an issue except the back side is turned in just enough that it rubs on my Achilles. Maybe it’s just my pair but it hasn’t “self-corrected” with use. I either have to tape my Achilles or get blisters every time I wear them. This is close to a deal breaker for me. They felt better on today’s run so maybe they need more time. See my picture to the right to see how much the back is angled in. You can also tell on the “Tex” that the side curves in as well. This also rubs but hasn’t caused blisters. This could just be my pair.

Last thing, it’s minor, but the shoelaces are twice as long as they need to be. I have to tie seven knots so the laces don’t drag on the ground. I know it’s just the shoelaces but it’s a pain.

The Good

  • Strong performing shoe, just like the others I’ve tested from the Merrell Barefoot line
  • GORE-Tex keeps your feet dry and warm

The Bad

  • Extra Volume was almost too much
  • Back ribbing is stiff and rubs the Achilles
  • Shoes laces are too long

Bottom Line:

The Embark is a good all-weather show. Just try it on to make sure you won’t get any rubbing on the Achilles.

Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe

Merrell Sonic Glove Review

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

I’ve been sold on minimalist running shoes for about a year now. The Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe is a nice addition to your running shoe arsenal.

Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe Features

UPPER/LINING

  • Microfiber footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odor
  • Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing System provides a precise, glovelike fit

MIDSOLE/OUTSOLE

  • 4 mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions
  • 1 mm forefoot shock absorbtion plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure
  • 0mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain
  • Vegan friendly footwear
  • Vibram® Trail Glove Sole/Rubber Compound TC-1
  • Men’s Weight: 6.5 ozs (1/2 pair)
  • Price: $125

Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe Review

The Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe is very similar to the Trail Glove shoes. You can read my review of the Trail Glove here.

The Sonic Glove and the Trail Glove are very similar. The Sonic Glove shoes are relatively lightweight, the Omni-Fit lacing allows for a precise fit, and soles are very similar. The soles give great performance on dry trails but do slip around a little on muddy trails and in the snow.

The biggest differences between the Sonic Glove and the Trail Glove are: upper, lacing, and breatheability.

The upper is a softshell material. It provides greater protection over the mesh of the Trail Glove from the elements. While not totally waterproof, it does shed some water. It’s also great for dusty trails. It really helps keep the dust out of the shoe. One potential drawback that I’ve found is the breatheability isn’t quite as good as mesh. On hot days, this could be an issue. But for cooler weather I’ve liked it.

The lacing changed up a little too. The biggest difference is there are four “loop” eyelets vs five on the Trail Glove. I haven’t noticed any performance differences between 4 vs 5. I still get a great fit when tying my shoes. I don’t have to cinch them quite as tight since the softshell doesn’t stretch as much as the mesh.

Sizing still runs about the same, a little big. If you’re between sizes, you could likely go a half size down and be fine.

I think Merrell hit a home run with the Trail Glove and Sonic Glove is no exception. Very similar shoe but will fit a different set of needs.

The Good

  • Softshell upper gives protection from elements and makes the shoe a little warmer than mesh models
  • Same great sole

The Bad

  • If you run where it’s hot or you don’t like hot feet, the softshell upper might not work for you
  • Sole is still a little slippery in the mud

Bottom Line:

The Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe is a great minimalist shoe. Good for running in variable weather.

Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe

New Balance Minimus Trail Running Shoe Review

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

What’s barefoot without actually being barefoot? The New Balance Minimus MT10 Trail Running Shoes. The right nomenclature is “minimalist” and the Minimus is New Balance’s answer to the growing minimalist running movement. New Balance gave me the opportunity this summer to test a pair of the Minimus MT10 shoes.

New Balance Minimus MT10 Trail Running Shoes Features

  • Deconstructed ACTEVA midsole provides great flexibility and a featherweight cushion
  • Minimal Vibram outsole for lightweight traction and durability
  • Synthetic/Mesh upper provides lightweight comfort and support
  • Odor Resistant
  • 4 mm drop (9 mm heel/5 mm forefoot)
  • D width
  • Price: $99.95

New Balance Minimus MT10 Trail Running Shoes Review

Overall, the New Balance Minimus MT10 Trail Running Shoes impressed me. It’s a fairly lightweight shoe that is well constructed, fits nicely, performs well, and looks good (come on admit it, you want your running shoes to look good).

Performance: The Minimus MT10 is a good performing shoe. The most notable feature I thought, was the 4mm drop. For those who are unfamiliar with drop, it is the height different between the forefoot and heel (in this case the forefoot is 5mm thick and the heel is 9mm thick). The reason this was so pronounced for me is I’ve running in a zero drop shoe for the entire year so far. If you are coming from a typical shoe you might not notice this as much. There are a few benefits of a 4mm drop shoe over a zero drop. First, if you are making the transition from regular shoes to minimalist, this will help. It’s not as dramatic as going to zero and the transition will be a little less dramatic (and painful, depending on if you push it too much in the beginning). Second, I found the 4mm drop effective in having an almost flat foot strike. With a zero drop there was a more pronounced forefoot strike to heel movement. With the 4mm I almost always have a near flat strike. This can be more comfortable. Some proponents will argue that a zero drop shoe is more ‘pure’ but I think you need to try both.

One feature that New Balance included that I really like is the wide rubber strap that spans the toe box. This helps provide stability and structure to all the mesh in the shoe. With a lot of mesh shoes I’ve experienced a lot of side to side play which isn’t good on the trails and can lead to instability and blisters. The toe strap, as I’ve come to call it, helps keep your foot stable and minimizes the side to side sliding.

Lastly the soles. I have both positive and negative comments about the soles. Starting with the positive, the Miminal Vibram outsole is fairly sticky and provides good traction on rocks/hard surfaces. It is a little softer which helps with the traction and is nice if you have to run on paved surfaces. Now for the negative: if you run on very rocky or gravelly trails, you can feel even the smallest rocks. The dot pattern is nice, however, the gaps between the dots are soft and if you happen to land on a rock or other hard/pointy surface you definitely feel it. Most of the trails I am running on are either rocky (think big rocks) or gravelly. After a few miles the bottoms of my feet get very sore. This is an issue with a lot of minimalist shoes, however, I noticed it more with the Minimus MT10. Now, if you spend most of your time running buff trails, you have no worries. If you split your time between roads and trails, it’s less of a worry. It would be nice to have something a little more stiff to help minimize the soreness. One of the photos to the right gives a close up of the soles. You can see the tread wear along with the gaps in the dot pattern.

Fit: I have what I’d call a typical sized foot. I wear an 11 in trail running shoes as it gives me a little bit of room and the Minimus MT10 fit true to size. Width wise, the fit is also good. It is narrow enough that you can dial in the fit with the lacing without having to cinch it all the way down, yet wide enough that your foot won’t feel scrunched.

Construction: after 40 years of so of making shoes, you’d expect just that. Out of the box the stitching, glue, materials all looked good on basic inspection. After a couple months of testing construction has held up and I haven’t noticed any loose threads or flaps. Two of the photos on the right show the shoes after a couple months of use.

My final, very minor comment is this: The Minimus MT10 comes in an awesome orange color which is always worth extra points in my book.

The Good

  • Well made, high performing shoe
  • Toe strap minimizes side-to-side play
  • 4mm helps ease into minimalist running & provides a more flat footed strike
  • Orange!

The Bad

  • Sole is soft & gaps in sole provide a lot of soreness when running rocky/gravelling trails
  • 4mm drop (depends on your stance) if you want a more ‘pure’ minimalist experience

Bottom Line:

The New Balance Minimus MT10 is a great shoe for both new entrants into the minimalist running scene and veterans. It performs well, is built to last, and is a great shoe to run in. Just be weary of rocky trails.

Buy Now: Pick up some New Balance Minimus MT10 Trail Running Shoes

Vibram Five Fingers – Gear Review

Monday, March 14th, 2011

If you haven’t had the pleasure of cramming your pinky toe into the Vibram Five Fingers yet then you are behind the times. Barefoot running…well I guess, SEMI-barefoot running is creating buzz all over the pavement. After my experience with the rubber socks I have become quite the advocate for the footwear shift.

Barefoot Running

A couple years ago I was working at Backcountry.com when one Brett Williams walked barefoot across the office. The company is casual but I wasn’t sure if this was pushing the hygiene envelope a little too much. Later I noticed he would wear these funky toe shoes which were the Vibram Five fingers. He gave me a quick sales pitch on why barefoot running would turn me into bionic man over night but other than that I put this topic on the back burner.

Last fall this trend seemed to take off and hit my desk once again. Vibram was gracious to send me a pair and for the last six months I’ve been rockin’ the rubber toes. Barefoot running is like telemarking. It was this VIP elite group of people but then when Adam Buchanan started doing it everyone joined in. So if you’ve recently adopted the Five Fingers, you’re welcome.

Starting Slow with the Vibram Five Fingers

I spent about 20 minutes maneuvering each pinky toe into it’s place for my pilot run. After walking around in them a bit my feet felt absolutely free. As if they have been trying to tell me something for a long time. I walked around for the afternoon and by the time I got home I ripped them off and rubbed my shins. The advice “take it easy at first” really set in deep.

I’m no expert or foot scientist but you have to take it slow. This is a whole new way of walking/running and our feet take a while to get use to it. On my next jaunt I ran one lap at the track and called it a day. Another thing you will notice is feeling EVERY little rock which also takes some coordination while running.

Using the Vibram Fingers

After you get past the rocks and shin splints, running in this type of footwear is amazing. The experience makes it so you can focus on what you are doing. Free your heels, free your feet. See, I told you this was like telemarking.

If you take these out in public get ready for the comments. But mostly you’ll find people have tried them and like them. Over the past 6 months I haven’t heard much negative feedback, unless they haven’t used them which makes no sense whatsoever.

Cross fit is perfect for the Vibrams. I followed my doctor friend the other day in a session and was bugged he had his Vibrams and I was reviewing the Saucony Kinvara. I went back to the gym and tried a balance exercise with a medicine ball where you stand on blocks. I loved how I could focus on my balance and feel every little movement in my feet.

Things to consider with Vibram Five Fingers

  • You don’t need socks and you’ll like it. I was worried about stink and sweat but the KSO model I have are great.
  • If you live near sand, start using them on sand or a padded track. I’ve heard people seriously wrecking themselves pumping out 6 miles on their first day. No bueno.
  • Using the Vibrams isn’t like switching from a Dana Designs pack to an Osprey. This is a lifestyle change. Don’t follow the crowd if you don’t want to re-consider your feetsies.
  • They can be used for everything. I love going to the grocery store and to the park with the kids. I even tried using them in my kayak which was awesome.

Give the Vibram Five Fingers a try. Worse comes to worse they will be super healthy for you. Oh, and word on the street for the new styles coming out: full-on kangaroo leather boots. Yeah, I know. Justin Bieber is going to be stoked.

BUY NOW:The Vibram Five Fingers on Gear.com.

Merrell Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes Review

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

“Free my feet!” is becoming my new running mantra with the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes.

“Free Your Feet!” is the official new call coming from Merrell Shoes. Merrell has recently launched a new barefoot running line of shoes. I was plenty stoked when they sent me a pair of the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes to get in a month of testing before they were released.

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes Features

UPPER/LINING

  • Microfiber and breathable air mesh upper
  • Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing system secured with welded TPU provides a precise, glove-like fit
  • Fused rubber toe bumper provides ultimate durability
  • Synthetic leather rear foot sling provides stability
  • Flexible plate in the forefoot protects the foot from stone bruises
  • Non-removable microfiber footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odor

MIDSOLE/OUTSOLE

  • 4mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions
  • 1mm forefoot shock absorption plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure
  • 0mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain
  • Vibram® Trail Glove Sole/ Rubber Compound TC-1
  • Men’s Weight: 6.2 ozs / 175.8 gm (1/2 pair)
  • Price: $110

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes Review

Out of the box I was impressed with the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes. They are light in weight, great style, well constructed, and ready for running. As soon as I put them on I knew things were going to be different.

The uppers are super airy mesh. I’ve always worn socks while running, always. My feet sweat a ton and I have to wear socks or else the funk gets unbearable. The mesh allows for high ventilation and breathability. Granted it’s winter time and that will play a factor but it’s been super warm here as a late in Central Oregon and I’ve been out in 60 degree sunny days and haven’t had any issues with too much sweat. On that same token, I’ve worn these shoes out on 30 degree days (perhaps a bit colder too) with no socks and my feet have not been too cold. Moving along with this topic, the footbed does really resist odor. I’ve put about 6 weeks of running on my shoes and they don’t smell at all.

The Omni-Fit™ lacing system is good and it does allow for a precise fit. What I have come across is between the mesh and the placement of the laces I have to cinch them down almost as tight as they go to get a secure fit. If you have a very low volume foot, keep this in mind.

Enough of that, let’s talk about the sole. The specs say it all…4mm of midsole provides a little cushion (not much at all) and 1mm shock plate does about the same. What you end up with is essentially one step away from actually running in your bare feet. I’ve run on the road in my bare feet before but I’m a trail runner. I haven’t mustered the cojones to hit the trails in my bare feet. With the Men’s Trail Glove it’s as close as you can get. The sole provides just enough protection that your feet aren’t getting chewed up but there is enough sensitivity that you can still feel the trail and textures of it. I’ve found that I have to steer clear of anything larger than a pebble or else I feel it, a lot. But hey, you should be missing most all of that stuff anyway.

In most all situations the Vibram sole is good. For dry trails it gives you enough traction to run without slippage. The toe section features an aggressive, toothy tread to help give additional traction. Where I found the sole to come up lacking in the mud and muck. Even in just a light mud I was losing traction and slipping around. In heavier muds it was pretty bad. I’d like to see a more aggressive tread pattern on upcoming models.

One thing I would add is a GORE-Tex option would be nice. From what I hear that option will be coming soon, which makes me glad.

On fit, the Trail Glove runs almost true to size. I normally wear a size 11 in running shoes (sized just a little long to prevent toe-bump). When I put the size 11 Trail Glove on they seem just a little bigger than a 11 usually fits me (maybe 1/4 size if that). While running though, the fit is fine. I haven’t noticed any differences from my regular shoes in terms of sizing.

Overall as running shoes, these shoes are great. As I said in the intro I am embracing the mantra to free my feet. I almost fully converted. At this point all but my longest runs are in the Trail Gloves. In the coming weeks that will change as well. Well done Merrell, well done.

On a non-running related note: I’ve worn these shoes for other workouts as well and they perform nicely. If you are going to make the switch for running, make the switch for the rest of your workouts as well. And then go ahead and the make the switch for your everyday.

Merrell has a fantastic site called the Barefoot Connection that gives tips on barefoot running, how to get started, and a few other things. In the near future they’ll have a barefoot app and more things to choose from.

Check out the rest of the Merrell Barefoot line.

The Good

  • More natural running experience with the protection your feet need for the trail
  • Good fit
  • Solid construction

The Bad

  • Tread needs to be more aggressive for the mud
  • I have to cinch the laces almost all the way up to get the secure fit I want

Bottom Line:

Do your feet and body a favor and make the switch to barefoot with the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes. You won’t be disappointed. I’ve freed my feet.

Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes

Merrell Launches Barefoot Training Education Web Site

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

ROCKFORD, Mich. (February 1, 2011) – In tandem with its first barefoot collection of shoes hitting market, Merrell launches a new microsite, merrell.com/barefoot, the “go-to” resource on how to begin and train for barefoot running and adventure. As part of the launch, Merrell will introduce the Merrell Bareform Training Technique that incorporates proper running form, body strengthening and a flexibility regime for top condition training. Partnering with key barefoot and running ambassadors, such as Walt Reynolds, a top trainer, coach and owner of NovaSport Athlete Development, and Jason Robillard, barefoot ultra marathoner and founder of the Barefoot Running University, the site will introduce barefoot adventure to fans through videos, tips and news articles related to the growing barefoot movement.

“As we looked at the fast-paced barefoot movement and listened to key influencers in barefoot running and lifestyle, we realized there was no place consumers could go to learn about the necessary training and education needed for barefoot adventure,” said Craig Throne, vice president of global marketing manager at Merrell. “As we introduce an entire collection of barefoot shoes with the goal of getting more people outside having fun, we want to make sure there is a resource so that runners and outdoor enthusiasts don’t just jump into a pair of barefoot or minimalist shoes without the proper background.”

“My primary decision to work with Merrell was based on their dedication to education around barefoot,” said Jason Robillard, barefoot ultra marathoner and founder of the Barefoot Running University. “To date, every other manufacturer of minimalist shoes has done a poor job of educating people about proper running gait when transitioning from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes or barefoot. Merrell is the first to fill this education void, and I am more than happy to help them do so. My ultimate goal in the promotion of barefoot running has always been education. We can help fuel their enthusiasm about barefoot running while providing solid information to prevent them from injury.”

“I am a firm believer that everyone can ‘move better’ and barefoot is the best way to do so,” said Walt Reynolds, long-time trainer, coach and owner of NovaSport Athlete Development. “I am thrilled to help Merrell develop an educational program that supports their new barefoot line of shoes. The Merrell Bareform Training program combines the benefits of proper running form with total body conditioning, strength & mobility exercises that apply to hikers and climbers as well. This is a whole-body program that will benefit every active person, no matter what outdoor adventure they choose.”

This March Merrell is planning to introduce a barefoot training iPhone application designed to introduce runners and outdoor enthusiasts to the barefoot movement and provide the education needed to begin to run and move. There will be a mix of four training intervals to instruct on the natural way to run, with a midfoot to forefoot landing, and aids in developing ankle, knee and hip stability to promote good movement. The application will also host a Merrell Barefoot iTunes mix that is based on the 180 beat-per-minute cadence of a natural running stride.

Merrell Barefoot will be available at retail stores and on merrell.com in February. Merrell Barefoot blends minimalist design for added foot freedom with specific traction zones to meet the needs of any terrain – from street to trail. The designs help engage the feet for a more natural stride by moving the wearer off the heel and encouraging forward momentum to a mid-foot landing with lower impact and a more aligned and efficient gait. This technique helps stimulate and strength muscles strength in the legs and feet.

Merrell® is a brand within the Outdoor Group, a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc. that also includes Chaco and Patagonia Footwear. Merrell believes in encouraging everyone to get outside, be active and have fun, and is the largest outdoor brand partner of the National Park Foundation. Wolverine World Wide, Inc. is headquartered in Rockford, Michigan. The company’s portfolio of highly-recognized brands includes: Bates®, Chaco, Cushe®, Hush Puppies®, Merrell®, Sebago® and Wolverine®. The Company is also the exclusive footwear licensee of the following popular brands: CAT®, Harley-Davidson® and Patagonia®. The Company’s products are carried by leading retailers in the U.S. and globally in nearly 180 countries and territories.

More Info: Visit Merrell.com/Barefoot

Do you barefoot run? Harvard study says you should

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

In a news release by SportsOneSource, quoting a recent Harvard study on barefoot running, the results show that barefoot runners have less injuries and are more efficient runners overall. Despite what you’d think, barefoot running (once your feet are sufficiently seasoned) is safer and better for the body. As an alternative, you could also try the Vibram Five Fingers shoes for foot protection in a barefoot-esque package or go with Newton shoes for a forefoot running endeavor. Read on.

SportsOneSource, Jan 28, 2009 — According to a study from Harvard researchers, runners who eschew shoes may be less likely to do serious injury to their feet because they hold their feet differently. Writing in the journal Nature, Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and colleagues found that runners who wear shoes tend to hit the ground with their heels first, whereas barefoot runners put the balls of the feet down first.

“People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike,” Lieberman said in a statement. “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.”

“Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world’s hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot.”

Lieberman and his colleagues at Harvard, the University of Glasgow, and Kenya’s Moi University studied runners who had always run barefoot, those who had always worn shoes and runners who had abandoned shoes. Barefoot runners had a springier step overall, and used their calf and foot muscles more efficiently, they found.

People used to running in shoes should not start barefoot trotting right away, Lieberman cautioned. “If you’ve been a heel-striker all your life, you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles,” he said.

But he noted that evolution is on his side.

“Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s,” Lieberman said.

Image courtesy The Denver Post. (gracias!)