Monday, January 24, 2011

Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove Reveiw

   I am a barefoot runner at heart and have worked long and hard to program my mind and body to run efficiently with a gentle and smooth midfoot landing and strong upright form.  When trying out shoes I will critique them based on whether or not they aid or impede my barefoot running form.
Quite simply, the Merrell Women's Pace Glove  is like a Vibrams One Finger. They have an excellent balance between protection and ground feel.  I have gathered a nice tool box of minimal shoes so I have a basis of comparison.
I also was fortunate enough to try both the Pace and the Merrell Men's Trail Glove .
 This will be a review of the womens Pace gloves however I must add in some points about the Trail to have a balanced review.

  Merrell has a long standing relationship with Vibrams as many of their shoes use a Vibrams sole.   I was sent a pair of Vibrams KSO Treks last summer and I was able to compare the VFF and Barefoot Gloves.  When I spoke with the people at Merrell in October they seemed pleased with their relationship with Vibrams.  Many of their shoes use a Vibrams sole.  Vibrams has a niche in the shoe market that Merrell would not be trying to usurp but build upon.  I personally love the l Tim Burton inspired look although many people find it very disagreeable to their aesthetics.  The Merrell Barefoot line is a nice alternative for those looking for a minimal shoe without the crazy gecko style.

 The sole of the Pace Glove is the same as my VFF KSO Treks although a bit thicker to provide added protection.  They have lugs on the the sole where the toes would be and make the One Finger reference even more fitting.

  When I first was offered the shoes I was dubious about how minimal they were.  They look like a much more substantial shoe in photographs. When I received them I was surprised and very pleased that they were so light and the sole so thin.
  The first thing I did when taking them out of the box was to roll them into a ball and test how flexible and thin the sole really was.  I also weighed them on my kitchen scale.  The size 10 womens Pace Gloves weigh in at 6.1 ounces.  The Pace Gloves are light, attractive, and have zero heel toe drop.  They have great traction and seem very durable. These  are excellent characteristics for a  minimal shoe.

  Both the Trail Glove and the Pace Glove have a protection area on the medial side of the sole that I find very hard not to think about.  It does not support the arch however it is thicker than the same area on other minimal shoes like the VFF and Evo's.  You can see it in the above photo above where you can see the sole of the shoe.  Its like and extension of the sole.  I do think it provides added protection however I think it is not necessary for most conditions.
  During the Living History Farms Race I was racing along through the woods and stepped on a 3-4 inch cut off sapling hidden in some leaves.  I was a bit bruised however the KSO Treks protected my foot with just the leather material.    I think that replacing this area on the Gloves with thinner material would be a benefit in later versions.  For the sake of brevity, that area of the shoe throws off my groove for the first couple miles until I forget that it is there.  From another perspective, these shoes are the trail shoe in the Merrell barefoot lineup and meant to offer protection off road.

The pace glove has a stretchy area on the back of the ankle at the heel tab.  It has led to much discussion on the forums and facebook.  I personally did not notice any discomfort nor did I notice any distraction from the different style of the heel tab.

  I found both the Pace and Trail  to be comfortable with or without socks.  The Trail Gloves rubbed on my right arch the first time without socks and then not a problem after that initial run.  Due to the Pace gloves being a bit narrow I have not run over 12 miles at a time in them.

  They are more comfortable after they have had some miles put on them although this is the case with most shoes after you break them in like a good pair of jeans!  The Pace and Trail gloves both have two areas of EVA padding that makes them feel mildly cushioned.  This was a strange feeling to have such a light shoe feel padded.   The padding does seem to break down over time and reduce the cushioned feeling.   It did not pose a problem with my running form and I did not experience any discomfort like I would with a conventional trainer.  These shoes are pleasingly minimal overall.

   I do however think the heel cup is much smaller in the womens Pace than the mens Trail Glove.  I have narrow feet and even after considerable widening of my forefoot from running barefoot, I still have relatively narrow feet.  I felt like the Pace Gloves were a hair too narrow overall.    After a long run I expect my feet to swell and the shoes become uncomfortably tight and there is not enough give in the lacing system of the womens to accommodated this.
In comparison, the Trail Glove is wide enough to accommodate adequate splay yet the lacing allows for control over the tightness that keeps the shoe from sliding around on my feet as I run as well as room to accommodate swelling.

  For shorter runs the Pace gloves do have enough room for me to wear wool socks.   This does reduce the ground feel a little but not enough to sacrifice warmth when in the snow!   I was very pleased at how warm my feet stayed despite being in very cold environments.  The above photo was taken on a sunny 12 degree day here in Des Moines.  The route I ran was my "hilly route" and I felt confident in my footing on the slick terrain.  The upper of the shoe is mesh and has excellent breath-ability in the warmer months and yet kept my feet warm enough in the colder months as well.

Merrell has a reputation for making shoes that last for years and years and I think that the Barefoot Collection  will be no different in this regard. I wouldn't be surprised if they become more comfortable as the miles add up.   I think that you will be happy with either the Pace or the Trail depending on the width of your foot.  If you have the opportunity to try them on before purchase I would recommend that.
They are available in select stores now however they will be available at the first of February.

I have been quite happy to work with Merrell and look forward to trying the the other styles in the womens line.  I plan to wear the Merrell shoes to supplement my efforts at Mind the Ducks in May.

Ordering the Womens Pace glove through Amazon helps support this blog!! 

Order the Mens Trail Glove by following this link!
Merrell Mens Trail Glove


Anonymous said...

Very cool! They sound great. I am getting TERRIFIED to purchase anything any more.

Neil Zee said...

Thats a pretty thorough review! Great job!

shel said...

thanks. that settles it, going for the trail glove!

Junk Miler said...

It's interesting about the diminished ground feel; I've gotten so used to swearing at least once during a run from stepping on a rock. Now when I wear them, I seek rocks out just to stomp on them.

Hello, my name is Josh and I'm a ground feel addict. (Hi, Josh!)

Courtney @ I CAN DO THIS said...

Woah, I'm glad you took the pic of them curled up. You're right - they look like a much more substantial shoe in the pics! Wow!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Great review. Awesome photos. I love the honest thorough opinion.

CCJade23 said...

Excellent review, thanks!

Stephen Boulet said...

I have just gotten the trail glove (men's) and have noticed a bit of a groove right under the ball of my foot that feel a bit like Newton's lug does. But the trail glove is designed for trails, so I really should run on trails before deciding how I like them. OTOH, I just got some Luna (original with the suede top and elasticized laces). I have only taken them out a few hundred yards, but I'm in sandal love. Injinji socks + sandals should work great in these 20 degree Illinois days.

Margothere said...

Thanks for the review! More reasons to try them out. Any recommendations as far as fit goes?

Unknown said...

@Mamarunsbarefoot, I hear ya. I started running barefoot because more shoes just did not fit in the budget and the shoes I had hurt my whole body. I wish you the best and that you find an option that works for you! Spring will be so nice!!!

Unknown said...

@Shel, I was thinking of you when I wrote much of the parts about the differences in the shoes. For an ultrarunning female I say go with the Trail.

Unknown said...

@BFJosh, I too am a ground feel addict! When gravel feels like a rough massage you know you've got issues!!!

@Stephen Boulet, I would love to try Lunas but even with the 50% off that Ted gave me I still can't justify buying shoes. I do think that wool socks would be enough in dry cold weather.

Unknown said...

@Margothere, They seemed true to length. I like my shoes a bit long and wide so varying terrain does not lead to my toes hitting the end of my shoe and they can accommodate swelling on long runs. They will have half sizes as far as I know.

AM! said...

Hi there!
cool shoes to review! I love the rolling em' up photo!

and honest review.

Margothere said...

Thanks, Angie!

B. Kramer said...

I have yet to read a bad review of these. I'm curious to try them, but my wallet is hesitant. Nice, thorough review. Cheers!

funderson said...

These look like a nice solution to my winter foot wear woes! Also, for the rocky-ass trails we have here. Thanks for the review! I trust you to point me in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Now that the roads our clear from the latest round of snow here in Massachusetts, I decided to go out for a run in my new Merrell Pace Gloves. What was supposed to be an easy 5 miler turned into a fast (for me) 5 miler because I felt so great! The Pace Gloves are the BEST I’ve ever run in and I’m not just saying that…they felt tons better than even my VFF Bikilas (see my shoe history below). I have somewhat wide feet (not extremely so) and between the Injinji socks and the wide toe box of the Pace Gloves, my feet were in heaven! My toes were free to splay as much as they wanted with no excess movement. The sole is just thick enough to keep my feet warm and provide traction (for those times I was in the snow/slush) but not so thick that I lost the ground feel. I think as the sole breaks in a little that will improve even more so. They are breathable, but felt warm and comfy in 33 degrees (a heat wave!) I’m SO glad I got them!

Shoe History (since I started running 2 years ago): Various styles of Asaics, Nike Lunar Glides, Mizuno Wave Riders, Nike Free 3.0, Saucony Kinvara (returned these), Saucony ProGrid A4, VFF Bikilas.

Anonymous said...

This is a great review! I was looking for forums about these shoes. Does the Pace Glove fit true to size? I wear a size 9 and wanted to make sure I don't have to order a half size larger or smaller. I heard the toe area is a little longer.

Unknown said...

I think they fit pretty true to size in length. If you are concerned with width (women) then you might want to try them on first if you think you have wide feet.

Anonymous said...

Hi Angie - Thank you for the review. How wide are your feet? I'm trying to choose between the pace glove and trail glove, and find it interesting that even with "narrow" feet you found the pace glove too narrow. I've got the pace glove and while it is not huge, the fabric has a lot of give.

Unknown said...

I just measured my foot at the widest point of my splay and it was 3 and 6/8" standing. Its not a matter of the shoes being too narrow on runs up to about 12 or so miles it was a lack of potential to accommodate swelling.
It does have a lot of give and are comfortable in width under most running circumstances however if I need a shoe for longer than 12 miles I am going to put on the Trail Gloves.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, very interesting - I get that now that I try them on again... not a lot of room for swelling... I sure can't wait for these to be in stores where I can try everything on without a lot of shipping!

Unknown said...

You are most welcome!
Merrell is offering free shipping for 30 days to address all of the sizing questions.
here is a link with more information and coupon codes.

Unknown said...

I got the Pace Gloves for my birthday and LOVED them! Great review!

Chris J said...

I tried the Trail Glove on and while they seeme awesome I wondered about the rise in the arches. I wear Vibrams for the most part so any rise in the arch feels strange. Thank you for touching on that in your review.

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