I bought some Merrell Trail Gloves. For my feet. It turns out they can’t be used as gloves at all, and believe me I HAVE TRIED. I’ve put a few miles on them now, so it’s time to share the thoughts that have formed in my brain, by vomiting them onto my hands and forcing the resultant mixture of bile and partially digested oats into the keyboard of my contuter. LET’S DO THIS.
As I think I have already stated on my exhaustive (haha) review of the VIVOBAREFOOT (their caps) Neo Trails, I do like a bargain. And in case I wasn’t clear enough about it, let me reiterate: I do like a bargain. To be honest, I just can’t bring myself to spend eighty quid on a pair of running shoes. I don’t care how great they’re meant to be, that’s money I could be spending on art pamphlets and Kestrel. So, like some kind of virtual shoe scavenger, I regularly scour the internet for bargains. And I found one. Some bloody idiot had bought a pair of Trail Gloves, not realising that they offer no ‘arch support’, whatever that’s meant to be. So he sent them back to Amazon, and I snapped them up for about thirty-five quid. EAT THAT, MERRELL.
Well, here’s the first fuck up. Unlike when I bought my Neo Trails, this time there was only one pair (and therefore only one size) to choose from. They were a 9.5, which means nine-and-a-half but is quicker to type. After the experience of having to come down a size with the Neo Trails, I gambled on the 9.5s being a perfect fit. They weren’t. They were fucking tiny. It was like trying to squeeze my feet into a doll’s slipper. Exactly like that. So, what to do? Well, of course, I should have sent them back. But that would be akin to admitting defeat. I was determined to make these shoes bend to my iron will/feet, AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I DID. Once I’d completely knackered my feet and essentially crippled myself. Obviously.
When I first tried them on, my toes were very close to the end of the shoe to the point where they actually touched when I ran. They felt tight across the whole front section of the shoe. If Merrell really wanted to accurately convey the fit of these shoes, they should have called them Trail Rubber Johnnies. I’ve no idea why they didn’t. It was clear that they were too small for me (JUST LIKE ALL RUBBER JOHNNIES EXCEPT THE BIG ONES HAHA). So I did the only thing I could do in the situation: I put them on and went for an eight mile run. Here’s what happened.
So yeah, that feeling of soreness that started around mile three? I ignored that. It was a lovely day. I was running with my wife. To be honest, as ever with these kinds of thing, the pain is never that bad while you’re moving. It’s when you stop. And specifically when I tried to get the fucking things off my feet. There isn’t a lot of blood on my feet. It was all on the shoes. It has actually soaked through the whole front section on each foot. They were red. It occurred to me to take a photo, but to be honest I was so disgusted at myself (again) for having ignored all the signs that I was hurting myself, I just couldn’t face it. You can see what happened. I wasn’t wearing socks and the knuckle of each big toe got rubbed raw. Ouch.
A pretty inauspicious start. But I didn’t want to give up on them, because the truth was that they’d felt pretty good at first. So I cleaned them up (my wife cleaned them up) and came up with a plan. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it worked. I decided to wear them. A lot. Round the house, picking up the kids, pretty much everywhere. I wore them (with socks) for around two months, and bugger me if they didn’t stretch. And so, around the beginning of September, I started running in them again, and so far I haven’t looked back. (That’s a figure of speech; I have occasionally looked back to see if I’m being chased by a cow or some goats.)
This highlights a few issues. One: buying running shoes off the internet isn’t ideal if you’re not able to try more than one size. Two: hoping for the best is not a good idea if you’re fairly sure that your shoes are too small. And three: I’m a dick. Basically, don’t be put off by the above. Try some on first, but as a regular guideline I’d say go for your normal shoe size. I take a 10, but have managed to get the 9.5s to stretch to my feet. Not an ideal solution.
My initial reaction when I saw the Trail Gloves was that they looked great. They’re a more aesthetically pleasing shape than the Neo Trails with them being narrower, although that won’t necessarily be a plus point for you if you’re into a less snug fit. I wore mine all over the place for weeks, and drew many appreciative glances and comments. That’s complete bollocks. They didn’t draw a single appreciative glance or comment. But I liked the look of them, and as my opinion is obviously more valid than anyone else’s, that’s really all that matters. But there is a problem. There’s a large-ish ‘M’ on the tongue, which I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest almost certainly stands for ‘Merrell’. It looks like the Morrison’s logo. For fuck’s sake, Merrell. Pretty much the last impression I want to make on people while I’m wearing state of the art minimalist running shoes is that I bought them from a poor man’s Tesco.
Fit and feel
Right, well, yes. After my little hiccup, I’ll admit there was a bit of trepidation when I started running in the Trail Gloves again. But I needn’t have worried. I kept my runs pretty short for the first couple of weeks (maximum of five miles) and wore socks. I don’t really like wearing socks when I run, but the memory of those manky feet in the picture above had not yet faded. After the first few runs, I couldn’t believe I’d had such a problem with the Trail Gloves. They felt… great. Like I’d been wearing them for years. The ground feel isn’t quite as good as the Neo Trail, which is pretty much as expected given the sole is slightly thicker – 4mm against 2.5mm on the Neo Trail. But that hasn’t been an issue for me at all – the ground feel is still great. It’s more of a regular sole – the Neo Trail has great big lugs on top of that 2.5mm, whereas the depth on the Trail Glove is more constant. Consequently, the Trail Glove isn’t quite as grippy as the Neo Trail. I find myself having to be notably more careful on muddy surfaces in the Trail Glove, but it’s a small gripe. I had one complaint with the Neo Trails, and that was the sole around the lugs could be punctured quite easily (and bloody painfully) by any thorns that you might step on. The Trail Gloves feel much more secure in this regard, but time will tell.
One area where the Trail Gloves really do out-perform the Neo Trails is in dealing with water. The Neo Trails were pretty good at wicking away liquid, but the Trail Gloves are on another level. On my run today, I had to cross a knee-deep stream. They were absolutely soaked, for all of about thirty seconds. Run through a puddle and your foot will feel wet for one step. By the time it hits the floor again you won’t notice it. How do they do this? SCIENCE.
I don’t do a lot of road running, but they are definitely nicer than the Neo Trails when I do. And they’re quieter as well, meaning I am better equipped to sneak up on people before running them through with my forearm blade and then ripping their spine out from the skull JUST KIDDING.
I’ve just realised that I’ve pretty much already covered this. It’s almost as if I’m a fucking idiot with no idea how to write reviews, isn’t it? Christ. There’s actually been a five day break in my writing this. I stopped after ‘I don’t do a lot of road running’ and I’ve just started again and I can’t really be arsed to read it all back. But I’m fairly sure I said that the Trail Gloves weren’t as grippy as the Neo Trails? Did I? Well, it doesn’t matter now. They’re not, that’s what matters. Running over a bit of muddy path, I started to do a perfect impersonation of Jim Dale in Carry On Matron. The bit where he goes careering down the corridor, inexplicably on roller skates. A brief search of YouTube has just revealed that I might have imagined that. I can only find him running about pissed and ending up on a trolley, but I’m sure I’ve seen a clip where he’s on roller skates. Either way, you’re just going to have to imagine Jim Dale out of the Carry On films careering down a corridor on roller skates, then imagine that it’s me and not Jim Dale and that I’m not on roller skates in a corridor, I’m actually trying to run across a muddy field. I can only apologise for this review.
Er, what else? They don’t smell as bad as my Neo Trails. Does anyone care about that, really? I don’t. I quite like smelling my running shoes, but not in a dirty way. I’m giving up on this section now.
Yeah, they’re great. Probably prefer them to my Neo Trails, at least until I get a new pair of them and change my mind again. What do you want from me? Buy a pair and see for yourself. Make sure you try some on though. That’s solid gold advice, right there. But come on. It’s only running shoes isn’t it? It’s not like you’re buying a yacht or something.