Barefoot Shoes

“Merrell Barefoot” Shoes partner with Vibram, slated for Spring 2011

…and a special message from Vibram Five Fingers to counterfeiters!First the “select footwear” partnership with Merrell …Vibram has partnered with Merrell to launch “Merrell Barefoot,” a collection of “six minimalist styles for men and women”…

…and a special message from Vibram Five Fingers to counterfeiters!

Footwear Plus Magazine coverFirst the “select footwear” partnership with Merrell … (or jump to the “message“)

Vibram has partnered with Merrell to launch “Merrell Barefoot,” a collection of “six minimalist styles for men and women” for Spring 2011 according to a July 2010 article titled Sole Mates written by Greg Dutter for Footwear Plus Magazine (Click “Current issue,” page 42: also here).

According to the article, the partnership plays off of the two brands being “long-term partners in creating some of the outdoor market’s top-selling shoes” with Merrell’s aim being “to build on what Vibram is creating [around barefoot technology] for a Merrell audience that’s potentially a little different,” according to Merrell’s general manager, Jim Zwiers.

That said, don’t expect Merrell Barefoot to look like Vibram Five Fingers — these are slated to be mono-toed “shoes.” Per the article:

The difference starts with Merrell foregoing FiveFingers’ glove-like toe design for what Zwiers describes as an “actual shoe.” Other differences include a narrower last, a little added cushioning in the forefoot area, padding in the tongue and heel, Merrell’s proprietary Omni-Fit lacing system on most styles, and lightweight upper materials … Zwiers notes the differences are largely cosmetic and wearers still get the full barefoot experience …”

Further details about Merrell Barefoot indicate that the shoes will be lightweight, with the lightest coming in under 5 ounces per shoe for women and 7 ounces per shoe for men. The line will retail between $90 and $120.

Perhaps anticipating the future of minimalist footwear and increasing demand for shoes that cater to feet (and not vice versa!), Merrell Barefoot is already planning for an expanded line in 2012.

So what is going on here? It’s not surprising that we are starting to see other shoe manufacturers get in on the production of minimalist “barefoot shoes” after seeing the rampant growth of Vibram Five Fingers (Note on page 20 of Footwear Plus is an article about barefoot running!). Indeed, the article also mentions in an aside that, “Vibram is developing a barefoot running collection with a leading athletic brand.” Interesting.

I’ll be curious to see how this Merrell Barefoot line turns out — immediate questions that spring to mind:

  • How will the narrower last affect barefoot feel? Will toes still be able to splay naturally?
  • When it’s all said and done, how much sole are we talking about here?
  • Is there a heel-toe drop? How neutral is the shoe?

Lots of questions and I guess we’re just gonna have to wait until more information is released about “Merrell Barefoot” shoes. That said, It’s worth noting that the above pictured yellow and black Merrell Barefoot shoe had a byline calling it the “Trail Glove.” Shouldn’t it be the Trail Mitten? Just sayin’!

Finally, I’ll wrap this up with a hilarious advertisement by Vibram that graced the back cover of Footwear Plus and a question: what do you think about the Merrell Barefoot? Sound off in the comments!

The back of Footwear Plus magazine, Vibram has a special message “to anyone thinking about infringing on any of our 200+ patents and trademarks.” (Perhaps they’re referring to the fake Five Fingers producers?)

The back of Footwear Plus magazine, Vibram has a special message "to anyone thinking about infringing on any of our 200+ patents and trademarks."

Images reprinted with permission from Footwear Plus magazine! Thanks Footwear Plus!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

22 replies on ““Merrell Barefoot” Shoes partner with Vibram, slated for Spring 2011”

A friend who works at a running store told me about this a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t know whether to believe him. I’m excited for this. Merrell makes the best hiking boots and shoes I’ve ever worn, so I’m excited what they an do with a minimal style. Question – will there be running shoes or just the typical merrell hiking/outdoor style? I guess if they’re really minimal, you should be able to use the same shoe for both…

Really excited for the Merrell line. It’s always been one of my favorite “foot coffins” especially since they have so many style with a wide toe box. It’ll be great to have a possible winter alternative for here in Chicago that doesn’t cost me $450 for custom boots.

I suppose it seems natural that Vibram and Merrell are partnering in the minimalist shoe category. I love Merrell shoes, some of the most comfortable “shoes” i’ve worn, I still think I’ll stay with five fingers. And the magazine add is hilarious!

“…a narrower last, a little added
cushioning in the forefoot area, padding
in the tongue and heel…”

Stop that. Words like narrow, cushioning,
and padding don’t mix well with minimalist

Vibram’s comment on copies, can I get a poster of that?? It’s GREAT! hehe
Laughs aside, I agree with the above. Narrow, and cushioning and padding have no place in minimalist footwear.

Nice advert against the counterfeits – i’d love to see owners of genuine fivefingers send in photos of them reproducing the advert with their own shoes as a sign of support to the cause, as in “here’s what i think of fakes” – unless that’s too close to counterfeiting itself 🙂 ha ha

“Stop that. Words like narrow, cushioning, and padding don’t mix well with minimalist runners.”

It’s all relative. The Bikila has more cushioning (a thicker sole) under the forefoot than, say, a classic, and it has padding at the achilles (which is what I think they mean here – not padding under the heel). Some people criticize the Bikila for those reasons, but many of us find it to be the best VFF for running.

So when they say “narrower,” I ask, “compared to what.” When they say “add a little padding/cushioning,” I ask “what is the starting point that you’re adding to?”

For some, anything more substantial than a classic is too much, and that’s fine. But even among minimalist runners, there are those of us who are perfectly fine (and in fact appreciate) with some slight movement away from the super minimal (i.e. a classic/sprint). Exactly where these Merrells fall remains to be seen.

I would love to see merrell with a shoe like that. I was wondering when that was gona happen. And screw those counterfeiters! I always see the adds on facebook and write a report on them but it probably doesn’t matter to them cuz they’re gettin their money.

I’m a VFF supporter, but the one area that I think VFFs (so far) have not covered is waterproof footwear. In the PNW it is wet a LOT of the time. If VFF can figure out how to do a breathable waterproof fabric on the foot-gloves great; if it takes a “mitten” and collaboration with Merrell, that’s OK too. Bring it on!!!

Please, please, PLEASE! make them in a wide width. Right now there are ZERO manufacturers making athletic shoes with a neutral sole for WIDE feet. I love my VFF’s but they can’t be worn everywhere and the soles aren’t thick enough to protect me from the heat of the pavement here in the south.

Great. So it’s a shoe. The 5’s popularity has warranted Vibram to sell out their revolutionary concepts to your standard shoe company, thus reducing their innovative footwear to now encompass “minimalist footwear”…in the form of a shoe. No toes. Just another shoe.

Not so special. Nothing new. And sadly–surprisingly coming from a company that has done so much for barefooting in such a short period of time–entirely predictable.

I’ll take 5’s any day. Passing them off as Merrells of all things is a joke, and it just discredits Vibram’s established cred among those who value their pioneering tech as just that: The next best thing to BEING barefoot.

“…a narrower last, a little added
cushioning in the forefoot area, padding
in the tongue and heel…”

agree with Jason… maybe an option for a transition shoe, for those interested in a “transition” shoe… definitely not for me as i have a very wide size 5 foot with playful-splayful toes
ill stick with the real deal or go naked

as for the ad, sign me up for the poster too! a t-shirt to wear while im out running or wherever would be awesome!

While I loved my VFF Sprints and I have some Bikilas, frankly I am tired of having fabric between my toes all the time, especially the little toe. I almost had my little toe ripped off hiking down Mt. Monadnock in NH, something that probably wouldn’t have happened if I were wearing shoes with a traditional toe box. Also, I’ve been running without any shoes for a few weeks now, and I really notice the difference it makes not having my toes encased in material. I wish Vibram would make a mono-toed shoe with the same width, materials, thicknesses and technology as their VFF’s. Unfortunately, these Merrell’s don’t look like they are going to be wide enough. I wonder why they chose to use a more narrow last?

I agree with Ziz. I love everything about my Classics but sometimes I want one big stretchy toe box. Once in a while I get a little tired of picking twigs out from betwix my toes. I’m looking into Feelmax next.

I’ll be interested in the Merrells after kicking my little toe on a rock and breaking it while wearing VFFs.
I run mostly totally barefoot but some trails are just too rocky and carry VFFs for when I get to the rough stuff.
Just having a little more toe protection on the trails I run on would be helpful.

i’m an ex-runner with much foot problems. Been wearing MBT’s but very heavy. Just bought new Merrell true glove vibram light weights and feet never felt better. I wear a wide shoe but the standard is wide enough for my feet and has wide toe box. I will wear them for a full week then try running.

I picked up my Merrills on Monday at REI in Manhattan Beach, CA. I wore them for the rest of the day. I tested them out a bit on a loop around the park. Everyone says go slow until you know how they affect you.
I like how my stride naturally comes up on the ball of my foot. This morning I cranked out a mile, and shaved two minutes off my normal time. By the end of that mile I was feeling sore in my calves. So I walked back. The stiffness has pretty much worked itself out by now (1:00 pm).
I’ll be wearing them all day tomorrow at a health fair promoting Vemma. My next run comes up on Friday, and I’ll probably post a blog about my Merrill barefoot shoes over the weekend. They are so comfy! I’d wear them all day if I could.

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