An Unqualified Review: Merrell Road Gloves & Other Shoe Thoughts
Over the years, not only has my running form and endurance changed and evolved, but so have my shoe choices. Thus far, I’ve avoided providing any detailed shoe reviews, despite them being perhaps the single most important aspect of anyone’s running experience. The amount of literature on running shoes is extensive to say the least, most of it happening within the last 30 years as the modern running shoe has taken hold. Shoes are reviewed extensively, put through their paces, and feedback on them is offered from every corner of the running world. As such, shoe reviews have never seemed like something I felt a need to comment on, other than to perhaps share the shoes I happen to be running in at any given moment. There are plenty of other folks commenting on any pair of shoes I happen to pick up, and ultimately, everyone experiences them differently. Consider this post my brief exception before I retreat back into the other varied minutia of my running life.
When I truly began running (the first time), I started running in a pair of Nike running shoes (I can’t even recall the style at this point). I bought them not because they were the perfect shoe for my running style, but because they were compatible with my Nike Plus foot pod, I liked the way they looked, and they were on sale. What did I know? Those seemed to be the most pressing distinctions at the time. I ran in them as I went through my couch-to-5k program, and they seemed to be working fine. Truth-be-told, I wouldn’t have known any better because I didn’t really know what “good” running felt like anyway. Then I took a hiatus from running- clearly it wasn’t just the shoes that weren’t prepared to fully commit to the activity.
When I began running again (and for good) a few years later, I knew I needed a new pair of shoes. I started with a pair of generic Adidas shoes, which felt fine. However, I began to learn more about running, and discover various resources. At this junction, I realized that shoes did seem to matter much more than I thought, and I needed to get a pair that were “right” for me. I headed to a local running store, and discovered the Pearl Izumi Syncrofloat III. They fit better than any shoe I had tried on, and the seamless upper felt great compared to other shoes I had worn in the past. I went through three pairs of these shoes and thoroughly enjoyed them. My distances were increasing, my endurance was improving, and my patellar tendonitis was emerging. After about a year of PT, I knew I needed to change something about my running but nothing seemed to work.
I decided to switch up my shoes, despite enjoying the Pearl Izumi pair. I spent some time reading reviews and settled on the Brooks Ghost 3. Every review I read was stellar, and they received various accolades from Runner’s World and other running authorities. Sure enough, they felt great, seemed to fit well, and I finished several marathons in them. However, my knee pains weren’t subsiding. I assumed the Ghosts just weren’t the shoe for me and I went back to Pearl Izumi. They had transitioned from the Syncrofloat 3 to the 4 by this point, so I ordered a pair. I’m not entirely sure how they changed the shoe, but I knew within about 20 miles that they weren’t going to work for me. They were hitting my heel wrong, and my arch was not syncing well with the sole of the shoes.
Now, in addition to my addiction to running, I’m also very passionate about paying as little as possible for things I need. I end up finding a lot of great deals, and GroupOn has been very good to me in that regard. I happened to see an offer for a discount at a local cycling and running store I had yet to visit, so I picked it up. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone- I’d pick up a new pair of shoes and check out a new shop in the process. When I got there, I was surprised to find out that they offered free videotaped gait analysis. So, I climbed up on the treadmill had my gait analyzed. As it turned out, I was pronating a decent amount. Neither of the shoes I had previously tried offered any form to counteract that awkward impact, which was very likely causing at least a large part of my knee issues. I tried on a pair of Mizuno Elixir 6/7‘s and they fit beautifully. Not only that, but my gait shift enough that I could actually see the difference in the video. They are a neutral shoe with just enough adjustment to make all the difference for me as a mild over-pronator. I’m now on my third pair, and I couldn’t be happier.
This is all my round-about-way of letting you know that after some deliberation on purchasing a pair of minimalist shoes for everyday wear, I decided on the Merrell Road Glove. Of all the minimalist shoes I tried on, they felt the most natural on my feet. I’ve had them for about two weeks now and I couldn’t be happier. The transition to walking in minimalist shoes has not been nearly as extreme as I expected it to be. Despite being a “zero drop” shoe, they are incredibly comfortable and offer a nice thick Vibram outer-sole for traction. They fit well in the heel, and the mesh upper (w/ leather stripping) fits snuggly (I just couldn’t bring myself to say “like a glove”) without being too tight when laced up. I’m especially pleased with the extra wide toe box, which gives my toes plenty of room to splay as I walk. I can already tell that I’m adjusting into a more mid-foot strike, which is what I was hoping for in the first place. In the end, the Tough Glove is proving to be an excellent choice. Although I have no intention of picking up minimalist running any time soon, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to take them out for a mile or two just to see what it feels like!