Note from Greg — I’ve been hassling my poor girlfriend for months to try minimalist running, experiment with form, try on some of the weirder shoes at the running store. Mostly she’s resisted. But I finally got her to try out a few and write about them. So here’s her review…
I am NOT a minimalist runner. Greg, the boyfriend with whom many of you are already acquainted, jumped on the minimalist bandwagon after a running-related knee injury and I staunchly refused to take part because, well, it seemed absurd. And because I watched his perfectly soft, baby-skinned feet turn to blood blisters and callouses… on purpose
. Many times.
So, how did I come to own a pair of Merrell’s Pace Glove minimalist shoes? Well, I might have had a sip of the CrossFit Kool-Aid
. After that, I not only agreed to pay an arm and a leg to join CrossFit, but when they told me I needed expensive new minimalist shoes for the “best experience,” I gladly went out and bought some. My first pair was a set of white/hot pink New Balance Minimus Zeros. I bought them because, at the time, they were the only ones available at the local running store. While they are perfectly functional, I look like a clown in them. I know I’m not supposed to care what I look like at 6:15 AM while working out, but I’m a girl, so shut up. Plus, the “clown” feeling carried over into awkward function.
On a whim while on trip to Athens, GA, I ended up picking up a pair of purple/grey Merrell’s that were much more suitable for me – in both form and function.
The original Pace Glove
What you get (Pace Gloves — v1)
From Merrell’s specs:
Get out and get in touch with nature in the barefoot run Pace Glove from Merrell. Designed specifically for women, the Pace Glove is a barefoot trail running shoe with a lightweight, glove-like fit and zero-drop heel, allowing you to run the way you were meant to. These women’s barefoot shoes have a little extra protection in the toe and sides to help you avoid injuries from rocks and roots and an ultra-lightweight upper with a synthetic leather foot sling for stability. Plus, the wide toe box lets your feet splay naturally, and the Vibram soles provide traction over even the slipperiest trails. Stimulate and strengthen your muscles and realign your gait while enjoying the beauty of nature when you get outside in our barefoot trail running shoes.
And the more specific stats:
- 4mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions
- 1mm forefoot shock absorption plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure
- 0mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain
- Wash as needed in cold water, gentle cycle and air dry
- Vegan friendly footwear
- Vibram Trail Glove Sole/ Rubber Compound TC-1
- Women’s Weight: 4.7 ozs / 133.3 gm (1/2 pair)
These babies also have a microfiber, air mesh cover, Merrell’s “Omni-Fit” lacing system, and as mentioned above, have a rubber toe bumper to prevent stubbing.
I use these most often for CrossFit, but have also taken them on shorter road/trail runs.
They really and truly do fit like a glove. I got my normal shoe size (7), and, at first, I thought they were a bit too snug (when standing, there’s no extra room for my toes and they are tight across the arch), but I have found that I actually prefer that, for CrossFit especially. There’s nothing worse than missing a PR because your foot slipped in your shoe during the lift.
I’ve seen a couple reviews that say the heel is too wide or that the pleated fabric at the upper ankle rubs the Achilles. I have not found either of those that to be the case. Again, for CrossFit, the stability in the heel/ankle is most important. I have only done short runs with these, however, so can’t speak to how that piece may perform/rub with extreme distance running.
The rubber toe bumper is FANTASTIC. Not a single bruise, black toenail or blister yet! It works for box jumps, roots, and rock collisions alike.
The mesh outer fabric is perfect for CrossFit and warm temperatures. They breathe really well.
On the flip side, the high breathability is not ideal for running in colder weather conditions, even with socks. My toes go numb in cold temperatures.
But aside from that I don’t have anything negative to say about these. I occasionally experience pain in my inner arches during particularly lift-heavy CrossFit workouts, but I think that is due to poor form and weak foot muscles, not the shoes. I’m definitely still adjusting to the minimalist world.
I am not very adept at minimalist running yet. I haven’t practiced enough to truly lock in the proper form. I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid injury, and I’ve definitely noticed that recurring injuries are one of the deciding factors for many runners to get serious about the transition. Plus I tend to run fairly light already as well as land more mid-foot than heel anyway.
All that said, I am still in that stage where I generally feel awkward running in any minimalist shoes. But it’s notable that I have not had any pain or injury running with the Merrells. I just feel like a baby who’s starting to take her first steps.
Final thoughts (v1)
After writing this whole review up, I realized the most important piece of information about the Pace Glove – I don’t notice them at all. Isn’t that what minimalist shoes are all about?
Merrell Pace Glove (Version 2)
The Pace Glove, version 2
The most recent iteration of the Merrell Pace Glove lives up to its former version… mostly. With a few improvements along the way.
What you get (v2)
- Synthetic leather and breathable air mesh cover
- Water repellant and stain resistant
- 0 mm drop, 4 mm cush, 9.5 mm stack height
- Vibram soles
- TrailProtect pad in forefoot
- Excellent colors – yellow and blue or black and purple
Comparison to original Pace Glove
Pace Glove v1 on the left, v2 on the right.
The most obvious difference for me was sizing; the Pace Glove 2’s are MUCH longer – even in the same size. 10-15 mm or so. For me, this was a big deterrent. As noted in my original Pace Glove review, the snug fit was perfect for CrossFit and I had no issues on shorter runs. I imagine the sizing was modified for longer distance and/or trail runners to account for swelling or maybe even greater toe splay, but it’s not ideal for CrossFit. I’ve experienced forefoot pain after WODs in these and I’m convinced it’s because my feet slip around in the too-roomy toe box. I’d be better off going completely barefoot.
Sizing down may help solve the issue, but given that the width stayed about the same for the same sizes across both versions it may not. Suffice to say that if you had an absolutely perfect fit with the original version you may get frustrated trying to find that again.
The arch is a bit narrower than the original Pace Gloves, which I hardly notice. The “toe bumper” is less substantial, although still effective, so I would consider this a design score for Merrell. The pleated fabric at the top of the heel cup was replaced with a uniform piece of fabric all the way around. I think this is probably the best feature; although the pleated fabric did not bother me in particular, it did seem unnecessary and it appears Merrell listened to other reviewers who complained about this design oddity.
Final thoughts (v2)
Merrell’s Pace Glove 2’s are nicer looking than the original model and a number of minor design “flaws” were addressed with the new model, including removal of that pleated area. However, I just can’t help but be miffed at the length-sizing difference.
Due to the better overall fit, my preference is still for the original. But given the design upgrades, if you can find a size that fits you just right in v2 that’s the one you’re likely to prefer.