A few days ago I had a conversation with friends about the running shoe industry. Several people had been expressing frustration about the ever-changing landscape of shoes. Some people had their favorite models discontinued by a particular manufacturer. The “update” made the shoe significantly worse. The motivation for a new model clearly wasn’t to make a better product; the motivation was to get a different product to the market. It’s an all-too-common strategy among many shoe manufacturers.
Admittedly, when I first heard Merrell was introducing an entire lineup of barefoot-inspired shoes across multiple sports, I was worried. Despite their track record of listening to consumer feedback over the last two years, I was worried the new M-Connect lineup would introduce a lot of new “gimmicks” much like other manufacturers seem to do.
The theory is good- produce barefoot-inspired shoes for running, hiking, the gym… whatever. Merrell’s previous offerings were superb, and each generation improved upon the last. I’ve used them for everything from Crossfit workouts to finishing multiple 100 milers to my everyday work shoe when teaching and delivering packages for UPS. Would the new lineup continue this excellence, or would Merrell make a fatal flaw and produce a lineup with lots of flash but little substance?
After testing most of the M-Connect lineup, I can confidently say Merell has managed to surpass all my expectations. Specific updated models such as the Road Glove 2, Bare Access 2, and Mix Master 2 retain all the qualities that made the previous versions winners while still making significant improvements.
New models such as the Vapor Glove and Proterra expand the lineup to new territory- specifically ultraminimal and hiking.
Over the next few days, I’ll post about the specific models, how they’re intended to be used, and how I use them. Hint- so far, I’ve tested them while road running, trail running on both technical and nontechnical trails, hiking, walking, swimming, boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, jiu jitsu, functional fitness crosstraining, parking lot football, and some feeble attempts at parkour.
Needless to say, the 2013 M-Connect lineup is the most versatile minimalist shoe lineup ever produced. If you do any physical activity, there’s a shoe for you. Merrell continues to learn from their customers and evolve appropriately.
Stay tuned for the rundown of specific models in the coming days!