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Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove Review

Posted by on Jan 12, 2011 | 11 Comments

Merrell’s Pace Glove shoe part of their new line of barefoot-inspired minimalist shoes.  I recently reviewed the awesome Trail Glove.  The Pace is the female running shoe counterpart to the Trail Glove.  Shelly has been testing this shoe for several months.  Before I dive into the details of the shoe, it may be worthwhile to review Shelly’s running history.

Shelly was my original inspiration to begin running in the first place.  When we first met, neither of us had a lot of money.  Running was a fun activity we could do together, and we liked the health benefits.  Eventually she convinced me to begin running races.  Needless to say, she got me hooked.

Over the course of a few years, we had three kids.  Shelly was either pregnant or recovering from pregnancy.  During one of the recovery periods, she started experiencing injuries that limited her running.

About the same time, she read Born to Run.  Sadly, McDougall did what I couldn’t do despite my YEARS of attempted persuasion- she tried running barefoot.

Like so many other people, her injuries soon faded away.  Since winter was near, she did a majority of her running in Vibram’s KSOs.  Over the next year, she would intermittently mix barefoot and minimally-shod running.  This included her first ultramarathon experience at last years’ Mind the Ducks 12 Hour, where she ran an impressive 40.2 miles.  In case you missed the link, read Shelly’s blog here.

When Merrell contacted me about their upcoming line of minimalist shoes, Shelly’s first question was “Will there be a woman’s version?!?”  Since beginning to run barefoot AND facing tough terrain and adverse winter weather, she has become well-versed in minimalist footwear.

I was happy to learn there WAS a woman’s version.  In fact, there are three women’s versions in the lineup.  As I mentioned earlier, Shelly tested the Pace Gloves.

Shoe Characteristics

The Pace is very similar to the Trail Glove in regards to construction.  Both shoes share the same bulletproof Vibram outsole (as does the rest of the men’s and woman’s lineup).  The shoe also has a very similar upper.  The most significant difference is the heel tab (top of the part that holds the ankle).  As you can see from the picture below, the Pace has a stretchable area here.

Sole

The sole could best be described as multipurpose.  It has relatively aggressive tread, including toe lugs (just like the Vibram Treks).  On hard surfaces, the tread is more or less flat so the shoe can work as either a trail shoe or road shoe.  Based on my experiences with the Trail Glove, the sole is incredibly durable.  It is zero-dropped, meaning the heel is the same thickness as the forefoot: a critically-important minimalist shoe quality.  Check out the pictures in my review- those shoes had slightly over 300 miles on them.  Shelly’s shoes pictured here have been used for about 200 miles.

Upper

The upper is made from a breathable mesh material that creates very good ventilation.  The pictures pretty much tell the story.

The interior is very similar to the Trail Glove.  It is designed to be worn sockless, but Shelly often wears Injinji toe socks with the shoes.

Cushioning

Like the trail glove, the Pace has 4mm of EVA cushioning.  Shelly didn’t mind the cushioning as much as I did when the shoes were brand new.  However, she did note the shoe quickly conformed to the shape of her feet.  This is one benefit of the nominal amount of EVA I forgot to mention in the Trail Glove review.  I discuss the cushioning in more detail below.

Overall Construction

This shoe, like the Trail Glove, is manufactured to last a long, long time.  Merrell has a sterling reputation for quality, and this shoe seems to be no different.  It is impossible to predict the mileage you can expect from these, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some people get close to 1,500 to 2,000 miles per pair.

Shelly’s Impressions- Pros

Shelly had this to say about the shoes:

  • “The style is fashionable.  The colors and design are very good. “
  • “The shoes are lightweight and flexible, they bend easily.”
  • “I normally wear Injinji toe socks with the shoes as they allow a little more freedom than traditional socks, which allows more toe splay.  For more warmth, wool socks could be worn easily.”
  • “The traction was great!  The shoe also provided a lot of ground feel for the level of protection.”
  • “This is a MUCH better trail shoe than the KSO, especially in snow, mud, or other slippery conditions.”
  • “At the HUFF 50k in December, a guy noticed the shoes.  I told him “This is the only place you’ll have a guy notice what shoes you’re wearing”


Shelly’s Impressions- Cons

  • “There was some rubbing on my Achilles tendon when wearing the shoes without socks.”

Shelly did have another concern with the shoe.  She was not a fan of using the shoe for road running.  After trying to diagnose exactly why, I suspect it’s for the same reason I didn’t like the shoes for road running.  When running barefoot, you acclimate to the feeling of hardness beneath your feet.  It results is accurate feedback that allows you to adjust form easily.  The very minimal cushioning in this shoe interferes with that feedback to some degree.

In my test pair, I found the shoes developed into very good road shoes as the EVA cushioning broke down a little bit after about 100 miles.  Since we don’t run many roads, Shelly hasn’t tested the shoes on roads since passing that mileage threshold.  All of her road runs occurred when the shoes were brand new.  In the near future, we should be doing a fairly long road run and she’ll get the opportunity to reevaluate the shoes.

This issue is a bit tricky because I suspect most runners will appreciate the minimal cushioning.  About the only people that will see it as a negative quality are us dedicated barefoot runners that enjoy running marathon distances and more on asphalt.  Because of this, our input on cushioning may be difficult to generalize to the wider runner population.

Shelly’s other “con” has nothing to do with the shoe itself.  Her feet are slightly different sizes, which results in difficult fitting.  The smaller foot invariably has a bit too much room within the shoe, which results in unusual rubbing, which requires her to wear socks.  It would be great if shoe manufacturers sold shoes individually… matching each foot to the appropriate size.  I’m sure it would be a logistical nightmare, but I’m sure a lot of people have the same issue.

Compared to Vibram’s Five Fingers

Shelly had been a die-hard Vibram fan since she began her barefoot/minimalist shoe journey.  With the exception of her Terra Plana Kalis she uses for work, the Five Fingers were the only minimalist shoes she found that were adequate for women. This shoe shares almost all of the same technical minimalist shoe merits of the Five Fingers, just without the separated toes.

As a testament to the value of the Pace, she has used her Vibram KSOs once since she received the Merrells.  I think her experiences will be replicated by many- they will eagerly ditch the Five Fingers for the “one-fingered” Merrells.  I would expect Five Fingers sales to suffer in the next year.  Don’t sell your Vibram stock just yet, though… they’ll sell plenty of soles to Merrell.

Availability

The Pace will be available on February 1st of 2011 in many locations.  It has been rumored that some select stores carry them right now.  I am not quite sure which stores will have them, and when said stores will receive the shoes.  At this point, my best recommendation would be to check out Merrell’s dealer locator here.  Go to your local retailer and inquire about the barefoot-inspired line.  I believe retailers should know if and when they will carry the shoes.  They may even know what other stores will carry the shoes.  You can also contact Merrell here, or visit their Facebook page here.   Tell them you read our reviews. :-)

<shameless plug>

As long as you’re there, feel free to mention how awesome it would be if they carried a selection of barefoot running books:-)

</shameless plug>

The Bottom Line

Gone are the days of searching for obscure footwear that meets the needs of barefoot runners searching for minimal protection.  We no longer have to scour our online communities searching for solutions to an age-old problem- how do we find a shoe that doesn’t interfere with our feet?  Several companies have stepped up and started listening.  They started producing shoes that work.  In my opinion, Merrell has taken the lead among these brave pioneers.  Their entire barefoot-inspired lineup will help reshape the shoe industry’s perception of “minimalist shoes”.

Like I mentioned in the Trail Glove review, these shoes are just one of several excellent options.  I have my personal “top five” list, but I would encourage all runners  to test each of the available options.  Each of us are individuals.  It is important to do our own experimentation; find our own way.  This is especially true for women, which are often neglected by minimalist shoe manufacturers.  Shelly has tried quite a few; these are her hands-down favorites.  Go to your local running stores and test the options.  You will fall in love with one of them.  I think you will come to the same solution we did… the Merrells will top your list, too.

[edit] = many people have asked about the weight of this shoe and the Trail Glove.  I somehow lost my scale.  As soon as I find it, I will post the weights of both. Shoe weights: Trail Glove size 12 = 8.2 ounces/shoe; Pace Glove size 10 = 6.2 ounces/shoe.

[Edit #2- Just received word the Gazelle Sports stores in West Michigan are stocking the Merrells as of Wednesday, January 12th.  If you’re in the area, check them out!  If you’re not in the area, try contacting them for Internet sales.  Tell them Jason sent you.]

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11 Comments

  1. Brandon Mulnix
    January 17, 2011

    Got Emily and I a pair of the trail gloves today. After wearing Vibram Trecs I can feel the little bit of cushioning in the Arch, but it doesn’t seem too noticeable. The great people at Gazelle had them. Can’t wait to run in them tomorrow.

  2. Lorcan
    January 15, 2011

    Will Merrell be releasing a road version of these?

  3. Jen
    January 12, 2011

    I saw them on the website and have waiting for Shelly’s review. I wondered about the back of the design and why it was different than the men’s. It’s great to see that companies are listening to what customers want. Maybe prices on the other minimal shoes will drop in response to some competition!

  4. C. Beth
    January 12, 2011

    Great review, Jason. I’m excited about this, the Altra Eve, & the Zem…. It’s nice to have TOO MANY options for 2011 minimalist shoes! I just posted a link to your review on my FB page.

  5. Jason
    January 12, 2011

    Beth- both Shelly and I prefer the Merrells over Vibrams, especially on trails.

    Shel-no idea… I haven’t talked to the design team yet.

    Christian- I know they’ve been released at a few stores, but I don’t have a list at this time.

  6. Scott Brady
    January 12, 2011

    Thanks, nice review. As is the Trail Glove one.

    For those of us in the UK, I had it confirmed today that Merrell will be releasing the Barefoot Collection onto the UK market in April 2011.

    fyi I’m not a runner, but a fitness/gym guy. I already own a pair of Feelmax Niesa and Terra Plana Aqueous. I look forward to lifting some weight and training inside and out wearing a pair from the Merrell Barefoot Collection. I also very much like the look of casual shoe too; the Tough Glove.

    Cheers
    Scott

  7. Christian Peterson
    January 12, 2011

    You can buy the trail glove shoes right now at Schuler Shoes. I saw them in the window of the store last weekend.

  8. edh
    January 12, 2011

    Nice. Personally, I think I will stick with the VFF KSO Treks for trails, but my kids want something that doesn’t look so strange and these look like they will fit the bill perfectly.

  9. shel
    January 12, 2011

    jason, can you address why they chose to go with the elastic on the back of the women’s model? did you find any slipping on the heel in the model you tested. i am actually tempted to buy the men’s version because i am not to keen on that elastic….

  10. Beth
    January 12, 2011

    Hi guys, I was waiting for Shelley’s review! I really do need another pair of something that’s not Lunas (it is icy here in Georgia and I am hating the treadmill). Would you all both recommend buying a pair of these versus Vibrams? Since I splurged for the Lunas in the fall I can really only afford one or the other. I run mostly roads (Lunas) but am running more trails these days. Lunas on trails = OUCH for me. Thanks for the review!
    –Beth (chickpastor)

  11. Sarah AJ
    January 12, 2011

    These look awesome!