Merrell Barefoot Shoes Review

Introduction

I've spent a lot of time in a pair of Merrell's barefoot shoes. A lot of time. Hundreds and hundreds of miles, both on the pavement and on the trail. And frankly, I have yet to enjoy a shoe as much as Merrell's barefoot line. I wore my pair so much, that they are dirtied, torn, and destroyed beyond recognition. The only reason I got rid of my most recent pair was because I had actually worn through the sole, almost to where my bare foot was touching the ground.

Needless to say, I've been through the highs and lows of this shoe, and can attest to its stability, versatility, and strength.

Merrell's Men's Trail Glove, part of its barefoot/minimalist line of running shoes.
Merrell's Men's Trail Glove, part of its barefoot/minimalist line of running shoes. | Source

Materials

For me, one of the most important aspects of a shoe is what it's made of. This may seem obvious at first, but a closer look will reveal just how important this aspect is.

Upper Shoe

For starters, shoes that have a slowly drying material like cotton, canvas, or leather, are not only much heavier (which can make a big difference as the miles wear on), but also make it much more likely that your foot will stay wet and accumulate things like blisters and bacteria. On the other hand, certain synthetic fibers, if not put together properly, are really rough on the feet, and make for an unpleasant run, replete with blistering and raw spots.

Merrell has a superb blend of outer mesh on the upper part of the shoe that makes drying a cinch and keeps your feet breathing throughout the run (if you don't think that's important, try running with plastic bags over your feet the next time you go out and see how far you make it). The gentle inner lining and foot bed is treated to help reduce odor. Of course, eventually this wears off, but exposes another wonderful aspect of Merrell's minimalist/barefoot shoes--you can toss them in the wash, over, and over, and over.

The upper comes in both a simple, but fun variety. You have the straightforward chromatic grey and black on one side, and the electric neon colors like red and green on the other. Not a ton of room for any sort of customized look, but if you're buying a pair of Merrell's barefoot shoes for the color, you're probably doing it wrong.

Sole

This is at the heart of the matter (Get it? Sole--Heart? I know, it's weak). I am one of those people who hates purchasing new things. Nothing bugs me more than having to buy an expensive anything, and then have to do it again in six months. Enter Vibram.

Now, Vibram Fivefingers have seen both glory and hell in a short amount of time; let's face it, the Fivefingers are one of those things that asthestically on bored with, or... you actually have taste. But regardless of where you fall on the whole Fivefingers being ugly/useless, Vibram makes really, really tough products. And the soles on the Merrell barefoot line are no exception. These soles have a great patterned and textured layout that makes it easy to move on the asphalt, or in the mud. What's more, their thin nature allows for the foot to go through a full range of motion. They bend and flex with each foot-strike.

But more importantly, Merrell's soles are the perfect thickness--they allow you to feel the earth underneath you (very important for lightening up those steps and reaping the benefits of proper technique), but still protect your feet from the hazards like roots, rocks, and glass. The sole wraps up over the front of the toes, also protecting those from harm. I've been thankful during many a race after slamming my toes into a root, fulling expecting to have busted or broken a toe, and run (not walk) away without a scratch.

While I love the protection of this aspect of the shoe, it also proved to be one of the only week spots. The place where the upper material met the sole over my toes started to break and split apart after the first hundred miles. I fixed it with some Shoe Goo, and kept on truckin', and hopefully newer versions of Merrell's barefoot line will improve this design flaw.

Finally, as I said earlier in my review, I love things that last forever. And for whatever reason, Vibram's technology is magic--I ran on pavement and trails, and the soles just kept on going, long after I thought I would grind them down or punch through them on the trails.

Merrell's Women's Pace Glove 3, part of its barefoot/minimalist lineup.
Merrell's Women's Pace Glove 3, part of its barefoot/minimalist lineup. | Source
Merrell's barefoot "claims." Does it really hold up though?
Merrell's barefoot "claims." Does it really hold up though? | Source

The Ride

All of the discussion about materials and durability doesn't mean a whole lot if you hate how the shoe feels. And here again, Merrell's barefoot and minimalist line shines.

As I stated, the soles on all of the barefoot shoes have just enough give to let you experience what you're running on, without hurting yourself in the process. The shoes fit snugly, both with and without socks, and although some folks have complained about chaffing, particularly on the back of the heel, I've had no issues of that sort. There was a breaking in period, as there is without almost any shoe, but I was comfortably doing my long runs in Merrell's pretty quickly.

The lightweight material and build makes moving in shoe seem almost effortless, and once you get going, you forget you have them on, which in my opinion, is the hallmark of a great barefoot/minimalist shoe. The traction control is great for both long winding runs, but I also put them to the test playing everything from tag with kids to capture the flag with much younger, faster individuals. Again, no complaints, other than my calves hurting for three days.

My one complaint about the Merrell's ride is that at times, if I was pushing the shoe really hard, it seemed to come a little lose. Not enough to cause injury, but just enough that I slid around more than I should inside of them. Again, this might be less of an issue with their current lace style. I also found that towards the end of my pair's life, the insole and fabric had worn down to the point that I was mostly on rubber, which had my sliding around a little too much. This is mostly likely a product of my unwillingness to toss them and get a new pair, then a fault in the shoe.

Conclusion

Simply put, Merrell's line of barefoot shoes is as exciting as it is easy to run in--effortless, painless, and, well, just darn near impossible to break. Post below with any comments, questions or suggestions, and I hope you found my review of Merrell's barefoot shoes helpful in choosing your next running shoe. Unless someone can convert me, I'll be a Merrell user for years to come.

My Rating

4 stars for Merrell's Barefoot Shoes

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© 2015 saxrunner

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