I mean, that is the curse or blessing of every sophomore effort in most any industry, right? How many awesome new bands live up to the expectations of their fans with the release of their second album? Exactly. (Right, you can answer that two ways)
Well, let's go ahead and clarify the one thing you need to know right away about the Road Glove 2: It is not the same shoe as the original Road Glove. Whether that is good or bad depends entirely on you, of course. And, I suggest this comparison of the original Road Glove to the Road Glove 2 for a pointed perspective, against which I am hard-pressed to argue.
What it Was
Since the Road Glove came on the scene in early 2012, Merrell has been taking lots of notes from the feedback they've received. Merrell listens to their customers. And, Merrell customers are a varied bunch. So, the designers clearly had to glean just as much helpful info from the superlative reviews as they did from the critical comments.
But, does that devotion to customer feedback lead to creating an even better shoe? In fact, Merrell's conscientious attention to customers led to the design of two exceptional shoes! We now have the Vapor Glove!
(We'll get into details about the Vapor Glove in another review)
It would be fair to say that everything the Road Glove 2 isn't for those runners who wanted the original to be more minimal, the Vapor Glove is in spades. Thus, the Road Glove 2 gets to be what the original wasn't for people who wanted a little more cushioning and shoe when they tried the first Road Glove rendition. (Read that a couple times if it doesn't make sense)
So, boo hoo: Road Glove 2 is more shoe than before. But, yay: Vapor Glove!
Or, yessss: Road Glove 2 is more shoe than before. And, oh, a Vapor Glove.
What it Is
In my opinion, the Road Glove 2 is a good looking shoe. I've already discussed at length the design and aesthetic appeal of the M-Connect series. So, let's move on.
The Road Glove 2 is lighter than it looks. Merrell is fairly good at making this a given in the makeup of most any of the Barefoot-inspired shoes. But, I had my doubts, since the more linear profile of the Road Glove 2 gives it a bulkier appearance. However, I picked it up and—boom—lightweight!
(The men's US size 9 weighs 7.0 oz*. So, that means my size 12 weighs approximately whatever-it's-light-enough ounces.)
Time to try it on. So, I slide my foot into the left shoe easily. There was no struggling or extreme loosening of the laces. The foot goes into the shoe as quickly as it took for you to finish this sentence. Cool, right?
Tying the laces and noticing that my lateral pinky toe is not bothered at all, I'm amazed by the roominess in the forefoot. And, I don't mean there's a lot of room for four of my toes. No, all the toes have room! Narrowness is not even in this shoe's vocabulary (assuming that it could talk).
Basically, I'm telling you that the Road Glove 2 is a wide shoe, people. I'd say it rivals other wide, foot-shaped shoes in the width department. And, it accomplishes this kickass girth in style.
You don't look at it and, say, "Ah, look how wide that Road Glove 2 is! It must be the widest running shoe in the world!" No, you don't say that at all, even if you see it next to the Road Glove . This is because the design of the Road Glove 2 is, shall we say, slimming? Yes, we'll say that.
And, since we're talking about room for my toes, lets talk about the room offered to my heel. There's a lot of that, too. And, well, personally, I'd prefer a little less room in the heel.
Sometimes I get too much of a thing that's, in most cases, always good. And, I just can't dig all the goodness that's being offered. So, in this case, I have to get particular about my lacing architecture in order to handle all the roominess the Road Glove 2 affords my ankle and heel. This isn't a problem. But, it's not a sign of perfection either. It might be perfect for other feet though.
Now, I stand up, and I almost gasp. What the... What is that under my midfoot? Is it? Is it a supportive arch bump? NO! Noooo!
Keep in mind that my feet were using the original Road Glove as a frame of reference for this new version of the shoe. So, when I stood up and felt the pressure under my arches, I was dismayed to realize that the bump was not the same grippy component that I accepted in the original Road Glove. It would seem that the wider last made the inclusion of a grippier, arch-hugging midsole rather prohibitive. So, if the shoe is not truly glove-like on your foot, you're going to feel this arch "support".
However! The midsole arch is less conspicuous when you're running. It even dissipates a bit after a couple of runs in the shoes. So, don't let that mention of the arch bump scare you if you are adverse to arch bumps. This is a fairly unique characteristic of the Road Glove 2. And, you really only know how you'll like it if you try it on yourself.
Once I made my peace with the Road Glove 2's interior topography, I started running down the road and noticed that the "ride" felt smooth and just slightly on the soft side. With a stack height of 9.5 mm*, I was surprised by how Merrell's designers balanced the soft with the firm in this shoe's sole. (Road Glove 1 wearers, the 2 is softer than what you're used to)
As I am writing this review, this is how the RG2 outsole looks on the Merrell site. It is not correct. You can see how they were first planning to fuse the new outsole onto the narrower middle portion of the original Road Glove. So, it's interesting.
The flexible tread pattern is nifty, because it seems to connect better with the road than the almost trail-like outsole on the preceding Road Glove. There's greater surface area covered by the revised Vibram outsole on this shoe. And, that seems to provide a stable footfall on flat surfaces.
The grid pattern coupled with special flex points in the outsole make the shoe fairly flexible for a solid run on pavement. You can bend the forefoot in places where it should be bent. And, again, that's good enough for road running.
What it Shall Be
I'd say the Road Glove 2 is more of a shoe-wearer's shoe rather than a barefooter's shoe. And, that's a nice thing for the runner who wants to step further down in drop and stack height while maintaining a degree of comfort and, yes, support.
Essentially, the Road Glove 2 is a great shoe. Merrell seems to have created this update with a great deal of thought and purpose, designing a shoe that will fulfill the needs of a lot of runners who want to run lots of miles on lots of pavement.
Try it on. See how it feels.
Thanks for reading!
*Specifications obtained from OptimalRun.com.