Once again, I'm fashionably late to the shoe-review party. While the other running bloggers have already reviewed and re-reviewed the Merrell Road Glove, I'm just now posting my own insights on this groovy shoe.
For those of you who prefer not to read through my typical drivel, I'll go ahead and give you the conclusion to my review now (Don't expect this kind of Brechtian courtesy in forthcoming shoe reviews, though):
After running 60-or-so miles in my pair of Merrell Barefoot Road Gloves over the past couple of weeks, I can confidently confirm that what you've already read about the shoe is all you'll need to know. The other reviewers got it right, especially the ones who corrected the more critical ones. The only thing left to do is pick a color, try on the shoe, and make a final decision.
Ah, thank you reader! I'll be sure to make the rest of this post extra wordy and full of superfluous remarks encased in parentheses (just for you).
Merrell Makes This
The numerous Road Glove reviews already in existence online are a testament to Merrell's marketing strategy. For instance, when I first read about how Merrell "gets it" on Jason Robillard's blog, I thought he was just being nice to his sponsor.
But, if you pay attention, you can see that Merrell strives to maintain a palpable connection with their customers. The Merrell facebook posts are frequent and friendly, making fans feel valued. And, the overall approach Merrell is taking to crafting their Barefoot line seems enthusiastically well planned.
And, of course, the fact that so many bloggers have already reviewed the Road Glove at least once indicates to me just how much value Merrell attributes to virtual-word-of-mouth marketing, so to speak.
With that kind of attention to quality and grass-roots promotion, It's no wonder that Merrell is so highly regarded. I mean, who doesn't like Merrell? The company is practically synonymous with outdoor activities. And, the name—"Merrell"—rolls off the tongue as if one were speaking to a loyal dog.
Disliking Merrell is like hating trees and mountains. What kind of person hates a tree?
In my mind, Merrell's corporate policy mandates that offices close early when the weather's nice. The coffee is probably always awesome. And, every employee is exposed to natural light for no less than 100% of the day. Even the bathrooms in Merrell offices have a skylight so as to allow for appreciation of the outdoors.
There's a video about barefoot running, too. But, this one's more amusing.
More importantly, or, perhaps equally so, Merrell wants people to have fun. Would a company make a commercial like this if they didn't rank fun and humor up there with breathing and general well being? No, such a company would not.
And, that's an important thing to consider, the promotion of fun. The fact that a fun-loving company like Merrell makes the Road Glove is a big deal.
Barefoot is Best, Especially with a Barefoot Shoe
The irony of describing a shoe with a term that means the exact opposite of what that descriptor means probably strikes several people as strange. Rightly so. How many of us would want a "shirtless shirt" or "commando underwear"? (Okay, the latter is pretty funny, now that I think about it)
But, there's already been a discussion or two about the appropriateness of using the term "barefoot shoe". And, I'll leave that to the authorities. My point is that irony ads a good dose of fun to this particular shoe.
I mean, Merrell also calls it a glove, when, in fact, it looks more like a mitten minus a thumb. (Coincidentially, one of Merrell's primary offices is in Michigan; which, as everyone knows, also resembles a mitten)
So, really with at least two contradictions in the name of this shoe, Merrell is practically daring you not to give it a try!
"Barefoot? Pfft, it's a shoe. How can a shoe make you barefoot? Lemme see that!"
"Road Glove? Pfft, VFFs are more like gloves. This is just like a regular ol' shoe! Lemme try that!"
See? It works, the contradictory product naming. The counterintuitive adjective-noun combo breaks down your mental defenses. And, you're open to putting these bad boys on your feet for a run, because, really, they happen to look damn good.
And, then you put them on. And, you run for a bit. And, you find that all that natural form stuff you've been practicing is easier than ever in the Road Gloves.
But, you're uncertain about the grip that the shoes have around your midfeet. Yet, your toes splay wildly and securely and happily. So, the grip around your midfoot makes sense. And, you just start running further until you realize that the store employees are chasing you, because it looks like you're trying to steal the shoes. But, you're not. (You swear)
Honestly, more than any other minimal-ish shoe I currently wear, the Road Gloves are the ones that make me want to kick 'em off at the end of a run and finish the last mile or so running barefoot. That's a good thing, not a negative remark about the shoes.
The Road Glove's zero-droppedness and flat outsole make running on pavement with proper form fun and efficient. And, for me, this really makes barefoot running more accessible. (Bold text intentional)
The Road Glove's Arch Enemies
Let's just talk about this arch thingy for a moment: If you've read more than one review of the Road Glove already, you've read something that's either negative or defensive about the "arch support" built into the shoe, comments denouncing the shoe for being far from minimal.
See, there's a smooth bump on the insole that conforms to a person's arch rather snuggly. And, at first, the sensation might make a runner think his arch is being overly supported.
I was concerned about my arch area, too, at first. But, that's because I was not used to the way Merrell's barefoot shoes are made to embrace the foot. After a few minutes of running in the shoe, I realized that this arch security exists to allow the toes to enjoy that roomy toe box without having to endure a sloppy fit.
This is where the "glove" part of the name applies. This snug midfoot area makes the shoes fit "like a glove." They don't fit like a mitten. No one says something fits like a mitten. And, if they did, they'd probably be talking about a mitten.
Consequently, this glove-like fit can make taking the shoes on and off a bit of a challenge. People who wear the Trail Gloves are familiar with this quality of the design. And, well, hey, at least the shoes don't fall off your feet.
The Trail Runner's Road Shoe
Most people might think of naturey stuff first when talking about Merrell. But, most people are also aware that the company has been making urban footwear for a while. So, the Merrells are no strangers to pavement.
But, thanks to the success of the Trail Glove, I think that Merrell was a bit hesitant to take too much away from their original barefoot outsole. (MGBG thinks something like this, too) Either that, or they're just incredibly practical shoe designers who consider the fact that a person buying this for road wear might like to take it off pavement for a few miles.
Due to the density and exceptional grip of the Vibram outsole, the Road Glove is well made for trail running. That "specialized forefoot plate" and tough Vibram rubber stuff protect the feet from pointy things on the ground. And, I've seen numerous pictures of a fellow Merrell Road Glove wearer traipsing over wet rocks and loose leaves. Even I've had a chance to test the Road Glove's muster over some lightly technical trail with splendid success.
Granted, the Road Glove is probably not going to be my first choice for a trail run. But, that's because I have an abnormal number of shoes in my arsenal. So, I can be picky about my shoe-to-terrain decision. (Essentially, I'm partial to the more flexible, plateless trail shoes that allow my feet to bend over pointy things. That's just me)
Not the Conclusion
I like the road glove. Lots of other reviewers like the Road Glove.
Some shoes fit people perfectly. Some shoes are the exact opposite of what a person needs.
Feel free to ask questions below. And, as always, Thanks for reading!