…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!