Back in March, I named four running shoes I would keep my eye on this year as I was on the market for a pair of minimalist trail running/hiking shoes. After two months of deliberation, I picked the Merrell Women’s Pace Glove. I think Merrell, as a shoe company, is one of the few that has truly embraced the minimalist movement (rather than other companies that are just following the market). They’ve started their own barefoot race series (The Merrell Naked Foot 5k) and maintain a blog dedicated to barefoot running. At the beginning of this year they introduced a great barefoot/minimalist shoe line. One plus (for me) is that they’ve collaborated with Vibram to manufacture the rubber soles for the entire line; it makes me feel like I’m not cheating on my Bikilas!
Here’s a snippet from the website:
Merrell Barefoot (Trail and Pace Glove) named Best Debut by Runner’s World Magazine, April 2011.
Best Trail Running Shoe: Shape Magazine, 2011 Shoe Guide
Designed specifically for women, less is definitely more when exploring with our Vibram®-soled Pace Glove natural adventure shoe. All the protection your feet need from rocks and roots, and an ultra-lightweight upper with a synthetic leather foot sling for stability fits like a glove.
Heel-Forefoot-Drop: The pace glove is categorized as a “zero-drop” shoe. This means that there is 0mm from the ball to the heel (no raised heel) — just like the way your feet are naturally designed!
Toe-box: When I first tried them on at the store, I thought it was a bit strange how much room there was in the toe-box. My feet fit them lengthwise perfectly and I knew that they were designed to be worn without socks. So it wasn’t until I finally ran in them, that it clicked why there was so much space. The extra room gives your toes a certain kind of freedom similar to that felt in Vibram FiveFingers. In this way, because the toes are not strapped down too tightly, it functions nicely to emulate barefoot running.
Other Concerns: I have seen complaints that the elastic heel can create blisters or cut into the heel. I personally haven’t run into any issues like that at all; I find it rather comfortable, actually. There’s always moleskin available for the rescue if that does end up happening.
There are four available colorways on the website: Lavender-Lustre, Chili Pepper, Yellow, and Black. All are very pretty, in my humble opinion. Local REI stores currently only offer Black and Lavender-Luster for the women’s line. The male equivalent, the Trail Glove, is offered at REI in Smoke-Adventure Yellow and Black/Red. Note: if you’re used to the attention that VFF’s inevitably bring, you will not be getting it while wearing the Pace Glove. Perhaps people will be looking at my face more now as opposed to my feet!
I test drove them out on both treadmill and pavement this past week and they felt great; beautifully light, springy, and flexible. Surprisingly, it was quite a comparable experience to running in the Bikilas and will serve as a great alternative. What does set it apart is that I know I’ll be able to use these for trail running; I stepped on all sorts of surfaces and wasn’t phased by any of the changes. I’m really impressed by Merrell in their first line of barefoot shoes, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll continue to give us in the future.