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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Merrell Road Glove Review



I've been looking forward to doing this review for a while.  At least in my mind, my first Merrell product review is what started it all for me.  I actually established my reputation as a blogger by criticizing Merrell.  I became the blogger who would say exactly how they felt about a shoe, regardless of whether I put companies off.  Merrell has been good to me, whether they like it or not. 

And Merrell has responded to my tough love.  First by begrudgingly sending me to act a fool in NYC in Jason Robillard's play-at-home version of the show "Entourage".  Then by developing their their new Road Glove.  Okay...they developed the Road Glove first.  But if I said it the other way it would interrupt my flow. 

How did they respond to my critiques of the Trail Glove?  By only kind of listening to me.  Good call Merrell.  It's pretty clear that listening to MGBG all the time isn't a good business model.

But that's okay.  Citizens...the folks at Merrell are smart.  Really smart.  They get this whole minimalist movement thing.  In fact, I think they get it more than I do.  They get that most people who will buy a minimalist shoe in 2012 will not be like me.  They won't want something that looks like a big leather sock or ninja-turtle feet.  They will want this:



Now if you've been paying attention, you'll notice that minimal shoes generally fall into two camps.  There are the shoes that look and act more like shoes, and the shoes that look and act more like slippers.  A VIVOBAREFOOT shoe would certainly fall into the former category.  A Soft Star shoe would fall into the latter.  I'm more of a fan of the latter.  The Merrell Road Glove is more of the former.



In fact, the best way I can think of to talk about the Road Glove is to compare it to its older brother: the Trail Glove.  Especially when it comes to the shoe's upper.  Except for some minor differences, the upper of the Road Glove is nearly identical to that of the Trail Glove.  The graphics and color schemes are of course different.  The mesh used on the upper is slightly different (but not enough to comment on further).  It also uses a more traditional lacing system.  Otherwise, the Road Glove has everything the Trail Glove has, right down to the slight toe spring.  And, just like with the Trail Glove, the toe spring isn't noticeable.  So don't be complaining about it!

 

Still looking familiar?  The Road Glove also looks almost identical to the Trail Glove from the back.  Same heel collar.  Same seamless interior that allows you to wear them without socks.  So that's all I'm going to say about that.



The real differences start when you turn the shoe over.  What you'll find at first glance is an outsole not unlike it's older brother the Trail Glove, but with tread more conducive to gripping asphalt.  But look closer and you'll see that this outsole is actually more built-up.  The Road Glove has a more pronounced heel; a fix to complaints that the Trail Glove is too "top-heavy" to be used on the road.  I believe my exact words were, "It feels like running in clown shoes."  Which by the way, it doesn't.  Running in clown shoes looks more like this:



Thanks to my friend Lyle Lange for this clip.  I knew that a video of someone running in clown shoes would come in handy some day.

Addition #2 to the Road Glove is somewhat of a "molded arch".  Now it's not an arch in the traditional sense as it does not provide any support.  The purpose of the arch is to reinforce the midfoot of the shoe a bit.  Again, this is likely a response to claims that the Trail Glove had too flexible of a midfoot, causing the sensation of a "negative heel drop".



I certainly think that these additions did their job.  The shoe is no longer top-heavy, and feels like an actual zero drop shoe.  I got used to the "arch" very quickly, and found that it kept my foot from flopping around in the shoes (something that usually happens with closed-toe minimal shoes).  I also like that the additional heel material gets rid of the "clown shoe" look that plagued the Trail Glove.  It keeps the same ample toe box of the Trail Glove, but with a much smoother heel to toe profile. 

My main critique of the Road Glove is that although Merrell added features to fix the problems of the Trail Glove, they forgot to take things away.  I'm of the opinion that "less is more" when it comes to making a minimal road shoe.  All that a road shoe needs is a minimal amount of soling material to protect your feet against abrasions and small debris. 

The Road Glove doesn't exactly follow that motto.  Not that it's not a minimal shoe.  It's essentially a Trail Glove for roads.  It keeps the substantial forefoot thickness of the Trail Glove (without the rock plate), and adds an equally substantial heel and arch.  The resulting shoe that too me feels a bit less like the minimal shoes I'm used to, and a bit more like a stripped-down road trainer.  On the spectrum of minimal options, I would put it just below the New Balance Minimus Trail in terms of thickness and flexibility. 

Is that a bad thing?  Yes and no.  Yes for me, because I would have preferred something with a little more groundfeel.  I also find the built-up heel a little clompy at times.  No for most everyone else, because I think a lot of folks love the groundfeel of the Trail Glove, and wished they could enjoy the same on the road.   

So I'm glad that Merrell made this shoe exactly the way they did.  If everyone in the minimalist market made shoes the same way, it would get boring really fast.  Plus, there would be no need for me to acquire new footwear...and we can't have that.  I still have space left in my garage.

In fact, I think there are a ton of people out there who are looking for a Trail Glove, but for roads.  So much in fact, that unless something really drastic happens this shoe is very likely going to be the biggest minimal shoe of 2012. 

Well played Merrell...well played...

Cheers citizens!

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review! I made the switch from a traditional running shoe to Invisible Shoes (Ninja turtle). I really love running in them, but would like to find an alternate shoe that covers my feet. What do you think would be the closest in feel to what I run in now?

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  2. Dang Christian, I want a pair now! Been working out barefoot, and have been doin my warm-up barefoot, just starting look t branching out further, mostly in part to your blog. I will keep track for that chance to win a set. Keep in keeping on my friend, I hope to be up to pace and running with you soon!

    Justin Sabo

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  3. MGBG, good review. I was one of the ones that couldn't wear the trail gloves because of how tight they were in the midfoot (I have wide feet)and they also hurt the arch of my feet. Are these new Road Gloves still really tight in the midfoot like the Trail Gloves? I won't be buying these if they are because that is super uncomfortable and painful for me. I wish more companies would make at least one model of minimalist shoe more like the Altra Adam or VFF so we barefooters had more choices for times when we actually need footwear.

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  4. Thanks for the review. I am excited for this shoe.

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  5. Nick, I don't find the Road Glove to be much wider than the Trail Glove. I agree, Merrell isn't a great shoe for wide feet. The new New Balances for 2012 wi have extra wide sizes. Should be a better shoe for you.

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  6. I dig the review, Brother! I have to differ with you on one point, though: I think the NB Minimus Zero line will enter 2012 with the most hype. It's definitely going to get interesting. What an exciting time for shoe lovers! If (or rather, when) Nike gets into the game, things are gonna get buck wild!

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  7. Merrell will have the Trail Glove available in wide around February 2012

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  8. So I tried on a pair of the Road Gloves last week. They are a big fat no go for me and I would imagine for any other person that is a habitual barefooter that uses shoes only as tools or as needed. That arch that is only supposed to support the shoe? Oh it supports a lot more than that. It felt like standing on a rock with the arch of my feet.

    I really like the look of Merrells shoes, I just wish they would make a true barefoot line instead of a stripped down trainer model as you put it. They are quickly becoming a brand that I have decided to ignore in the future for their inability to produce a shoe for barefooters. Oh well, I guess there are other companies willing to do this and they will get my business instead. I can't believe they call them "Barefoot Shoes". They are nothing like being barefoot.

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    Replies
    1. I had a similar experience, but instead of listening to my feet when I tried on the pair in the store I bought them. I've run over 50 miles in the shoes and worn them casually. I liked them a lot, but the arch molding has continued to cause problems for me. I've had to stop wearing the shoes due to pain in the arch. I've gone back to my VFF's, Osma Feelmax, and running barefoot. The pain seems to be going away. Whether or not the arch provides support, it does cause pressure for me. I liked the shoes a lot because they seem tough and durable for a lot of different uses, but now I'm not sure I'll be able to wear them. I'm someone who transitioned to minimal footwear about two years ago, and I think my feet now prefer zero arch molding.

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  9. Love the trail glove. It is my ONLY off road shoe. From a quick loop in the dirt to a hilly 50k. Love them! Not sure about the road version...think I'll wait for the new NB minimalist model to come out...
    -mw

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  10. I bought a pair at a local store thinking they were Trail Gloves. They felt great on the first trail run in them though. On the road, I still prefer my 2 pairs of Puma H-Streets.

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  11. Have about 20 miles on the RG and I don't notice the arch, but I have normal arches and a neutral stride. Others without both, might not like them. The arch is not supportive.

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