Review-Merrell Bare Access Arc

Review-Merrell Bare Access Arc

Guest review by Nicole

The Merrell Bare Access Arc 2 is my first barefoot shoe, and I'm incredibly happy to have this as part of my hiking gear.

I always thought I disliked hiking long distances, as my feet would feel heavy even in normal cross-trainers. However, two months after switching to the Bare Access, I can easily do 10-12 miles, and am now working my way up to longer hikes.

I used the Merrells in Glacier National Park last week and took them on 46 miles of a wide variety of trails. Trail conditions included well-groomed packed-dirt, areas of large and small rock, and even crossing narrow areas of waterfall. I was very happy with the grip and stability on all surfaces.

Review-Merrell Bare Access Arc
Crossing Grinnell Glacier Trail waterfall

After hiking Grinnell Glacier trail, which had the most areas of small and medium sharp rock, my feet were pretty tender. On all other days my feet felt like they had a workout, but were not sore. I wore them with wicking sport liner socks as well as lightweight merino socks, and my feet always felt dry, comfortable, and light. The shoes got a bit of internal and external wear on the trip but the sole tread still looks very good and I expect them to last another hundred or so miles.

Prior to this trip, I wore these shoes 2-3 miles a day in and around NYC without socks, and took them on about 40 miles of primarily well-groomed, packed-dirt local trails with a wicking liner sock. They performed really well in both situations. On one of the hikes, we were caught in a rain storm on the way back to the car. During the light rain, my feet felt comfortable even though damp, so much so that I praised them to my hiking partners. However, probably like just about any shoe, once it was raining hard and I was walking through puddles, they got a little heavier and squishy. They took about 5 hours in the sun to completely dry out, and lost their "no-smell" properties.

After my experience in Glacier, I am ordering the Vivobarefoot Neo Trail Running shoe for extra protection when I know that trails will have areas of sharp rock, but plan to continue to wear these as my primary city footwear and for soft or short trails.

Thanks for the guest review, Nicole!

Note: If you're looking to pick up the Merrell Bare Access Arc 2, it can be found online at REI?on sale, incidentally.

Topo Atheltic RR Split-Toe Shoe Review

Topo Atheltic RR Split-Toe Shoe Review

Guest review by Christian Messerschmidt

Introduction

After an incessant rainfall during early summer had confined my runs to the pavement because of tough mudder-like (I'd guess) trail conditions in South Carolina, my feet were begging for a little tender love and care. I have been running mainly in New Balance Minimus Zeros and Vibram Bikilas and so I was looking for something a bit more cushioned on my 10+ mile runs. I am a rather recent convert to Vibram Five Fingers and numerous racing flats- it has been two years since I have ditched my prescription of running shoes from the traditional stability category. In addition to the above shoes I have also been using an Altra The One.

There has been a sizeable amount of publicity about the newly launched Topo Athletic shoe company. Tony Post, former CEO of Vibram USA and lifetime top distance runner, conducted a great pre-release campaign that generated lots of publicity among runners and fitness enthusiasts alike. In fact, I was reminded of the marketing initiative that the Korean car company Daewoo used in Europe in the mid-nineties. Both utilized tactics that were supposed to generate strong brand recognition and a pull from consumers asking their retailers for a chance to check out their products.

In the case of Topo Athletic, the shoes they have released are the RR (the performance trainer/race model reviewed here), RT (all around running shoe) and RX (fitness/gym shoe). Today, I'm reviewing the racing model?the Topo Athletic RR. After the jump!

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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in TrekSport FiveFingers

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in TrekSport FiveFingers

I got the following photos and user story in the mailbag from Jerry, who recently completed section "J" of the Pacific Crest Trail (more on this here ? east of Seattle, Washington) . Jerry did the hike in Vibram FiveFingers TrekSports.

I wanted to hike the popular 74 mile section J of Pacific Crest Trail in central Cascades for some time and this year I finally found time to do it. I have been day hiking in VFF for years, and really loving it. But those were all day hikes. And as I was curious to see how the VFF would hold up to a long backpacking trip, I decided to do it 100%, with no backup shoes.

Things I was a little worried about was ankle stability, which all the hiking boots advertise so much. The other thing that is constant hazard is kicking a root or rock with a single toe, which happens frequently if you don't pay attention to every step. But unlike sprained ankle, a toe is just painful and doesn't limit your ability to hike. Last thing was the unknown, what will the weight of the pack do to my feet, and also the long miles I need to cover every day to complete the section in 4 days.

Day 1: All great and especially the first 20 miles were just great, it felt just like any day hike I've done before. After that, my feet started to get tired and by mile 25 I could feel every single muscle in my feet.

Day 2: Perhaps doing so many miles on the first day was a bad idea, as my feet were really painful and I wasn't able to do more than just 13 miles then next day. All the muscles in the feet were very sore and I also started to get some blisters from the rocky trail. I thought I wouldn't be able to complete the trip and seriously considered looking for some way out.

Day 3: It was still a bit tough in the morning, but by noon it felt like the feet were getting a bit numb and I had no problem hiking 20 miles and could go more if I didn't meet other hikers and decided to camp in a great spot with them.

Day 4: Again, the previous day was probably too much, but it might just be cumulative stress for the feet. My feet felt a little swollen and I felt unpleasant pain around the arch area with every step. It didn't help that the last 16 miles of the trip is on rocky ridges. It was a real challenge to make it, and it literally felt like the Passion of Christ.

After the trip, I had really hard time walking, especially barefoot, for the first day. Two days later I could walk and run normally. All the blisters have actually healed, didn't come off.

Even though it is very rugged trail, I never felt my ankle was in any danger, felt always stable and safe. I had advantage in creek crossings compared to those wearing boots.

Final thoughts: As 'civilized' people, we haven't walked barefoot in decades. It will take long time to get used to it again. It would be smart to do two day trips at first to see how the feet handle the weight and rugged terrain. The rocks and roots on the trail will cause blisters, but the added weight will effect every muscle and the arch structure of your feet.

It was an awesome experience, especially conditioning of my will (and feet). I will certainly do some more overnight backpacking trips and by next summer, another 120 mile PCT section comes to mind.

— Jerry.

Thanks for sharing, Jerry! It reads as though you had a bit of a trial by fire but that all in all you felt pretty good about it (given you're anticipating another, longer hike!).

Thanks for sharing!

Exodus Minimalist Sandals Review

Exodus Minimalist Sandals Review

I received an email a few weeks ago from Ryan, the founder of a new minimalist sandal company called Exodus Sandals. My immediate thought—before even seeing a pair of the sandals—was something like, "Oh another huaraches-making company?" I was pleasantly surprised to find I was mistaken. Exodus Sandals were something new—a minimalist sandal that isn't based on the huaraches-design!

Ryan had me measure up my feet and promptly sent me a custom-made pair of Exodus Sandals. What follows is a review of these thin-soled, barefoot-minded sandals. After the jump!

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Golf Review - Speed XC Lite from Vibram

Golf Review - Speed XC Lite from Vibram

Justin recently reviewed the Speed XC Lite from a casual perspective with lots of information and photos. Given that the XC-lite is actually listed in Vibram?s golf category, this review focuses on the functionality of the shoes primarily from a golfing perspective. If you?ve ever golfed in FiveFingers, you know how comfortable "barefoot" golf can be. And if you haven't, what are you waiting for? Read on for my experience with the Speed XC Lite.

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Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO

Coming Spring 2014Subscribe to stay up-to-date on the release (And catch more upcoming minimalist shoes for 2014)!

If there was one model that brought Vibrams to the masses, it had to have been the FiveFingers KSO. When it launched, there weren't many other toe shoe options outside of the open-topped Classic and Sprint FiveFingers and the water-centric Flows. The KSO just had the right balance of ground feel, ease of fit, aesthetics, and foot coverage (to "keep stuff out") that made them the "go to" for newcomers to toe shoes.

A lot has happened since the KSO made waves in the barefoot shoes scene not the least of which has been Vibram's dramatic expansion of it's line to include all sorts of activity-centric sole designs.

One of the most exciting new sole platforms has been that of the EL-X that came out Spring 2013. Vibram launched the EL-X (an "Entry-Level crosstrainer") as a way to get a lot of ground feel at a super-affordable pricepoint (You can find them for $65!).

So where to next? Come Spring 2014, Vibram will be launching a laced version of the EL-X—and you guessed it, it's being branded as the evolution of the original KSO—meet the FiveFingers KSO EVO!

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