observations on gear, adventure, and the world

Merrill Trail Glove

Yes the Trail Glove is a shoe born from the Born-to-Run craze. If you haven’t read the book, make that happen, it’s a good read, and a well told story, and turns out to be much less wacky than you’d expect if you imagine a book about wacky folks running naked through the street. I was actually disappointed that there wasn’t more naked running in the street. I’m going to leave that scintillating discussion for another post and talk about what my feet tell me about the trail glove.

I got the shoes this spring and have, run (trail and road), hiked, scrambled, bouldered, 3rd Classed, waded, and canyoneered in them.

One more barefoot running conversation note: You gotta walk good in these shoes or they hurt. If you go pounding your heel on the ground it’s gonna mess you up. But they have a website, a pamphlet, and an iPhone app all devoted to helping you not do this wrong.

I’ll go through my uses and impressions:

(1)Running: I like to run barefoot (on this more to come) because of the sensitivity and technique feedback. Specifically, if you run wrong in regular shoes you don’t feel it until later and it’s hard to teach your self to correct gait issues without lots of help, but barefoot you feel problems instantly and your body for the most part is programed to fix the problem. Now, if it’s cold, or dark, or sharp gravel, I really like these shoes. I loose some of the sensitivity but they give good protection.

(2)Canyoneering: For the Keyhole and going up the lower section of Orderville (up to the Guillotine) these shoes were phenomenal.  I understand that there are other canyons with significantly different demands on footware. The vibram soles are great, they stick well to wet and even sandy rock. For climbing up and down lower orderville their sensitivity made down climbing the bouldery moves a lot of fun. You can really feel the rock and that gives you confidance in the holds and the rock even if you can’t see  because you’re down-climbing a waterfall.

(3) Bouldering/scrambeling: the thin soles with sticky vibram rubber make for great smearing shoe. Not much support for edging, but great for walking up to a boulder and trying a few moves before you bust out your rock shoes. For 3rd classing and scrambling the low profile sole makes sprains and ankle breaks very unlikely, however there is little protection if something big falls on your foot or if you fall on something big. while there is a good toebox protecting chunk of rubber up front, you still need to make the call when it’s time for something toughter. That said I’m continually surprised by how often these shoes make sketchy sections of approach decidedly un-sketchy.

There were only two contexts where they were clearly the wrong shoe for the job.

(1) Walking up the lower section of the narrows in Zion National Park. The fast current and the large rocks (about the size of a soccer ball but with flat and irregular sides, sort of like what you find in talus strewn approaches in Little Cottonwood Canyon) made the sensitivity of the shoes a problem for me. I ended up opting for a shoe with a little more protection.

(2) Snow. Cold and wet is not what these shoes were meant for. There is a gortex version out, I”m interested to see how far it can go. Insulation is limited but you can wear socks and a very light breathable gaiter which should do quite well. Although once you are moving in deep snow then it’s time to think about a more substantial sole.

My feet feel better from going barefoot and using these shoes. They’ve performed flawlessly in the desert, and they are a great option for camp shoes. Think about it a 16 oz fully functional approach shoe. There are very few times where I won’t have these at least nearby.

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