Although they just arrived to the minimalist market less than a year ago, Merrell certainly seems determined to make up for lost time.
In Spring 2012, the company is plunging in with both feet, introducing multiple product lines intended for virtually any activity you can think of. My Merrell rep sent me the official press release and some advance photos, and it’s honestly somewhat mind-boggling to keep track of all the options the company will offer next year. I’m going to be involved with testing some of these products – but to keep things simple (and to prevent me from getting carpal tunnel syndrome from writing so many reviews), I’ll focus mostly on the running products, some of which are shown below.
But first, a general rundown of four new Barefoot lines Merrell will offer in the Spring, and the number of models in each: you’ll see the Barefoot Run for road running (2 models), Barefoot Train for general athletic training (3 models), Barefoot Water for water enthusiasts (10 – count ‘em, TEN models), and Barefoot Life for everyday casual use (7 models). They’ll also offer an Access line (2 models) that is intended as a transitional shoe, with a zero drop platform and moderate (8mm) midsole cushioning.
Merrell Women's Dash Glove
The Barefoot Run line will be the road running counterpart to Merrell’s outstanding Trail Glove and Pace Glove minimalist trail shoes. (See my men’s Trail Glove review here , and my women’s Pace Glove review here .) These will also come in gender-specific versions: the Dash Glove for women, and the Road Glove for men.
Merrell Men's Road Glove
Although my wife has tested Merrell’s Barefoot shoes (with a Lithe Glove review coming shortly), she’s most interested in the Bare Access Arc, one of the new transitional models for Spring. Her preference is for zero-drop shoes with moderate cushioning, such as the GoLite Amp Lite and the Altra Intuition (review coming shortly also).
Merrell Women's Access Glove
I’m somewhat curious as to how sales of the new Barefoot lines will fare across the board; one possible downside of so many options is that there may not be any standout model that makes a big impact on market share like the Trail Glove managed to do this summer. There’s bound to be a certain paradox of choice involved with so many new models hitting the market at once, and it wouldn’t surprise me if several of the new styles disappear fairly quickly after release, especially in the water and lifestyle categories. Time will tell, though – and I’ve certainly guessed wrong before.
All of the Spring 2012 styles are scheduled to be released in February, and select items will be reviewed here as well. If you’re interested in the very long-winded version of this preview, the entire press release follows below.
** Merrell Expands Barefoot Designs to Run and Play Naturally with BareForm Fit and Zero Drop Approach
Spring 2012 Marks New Road Barefoot and Access Running; Barefoot Water; Training and Lifestyle Shoes
ROCKFORD, Mich. (June 2011) – Bringing the benefits of barefoot running to other activities, Merrell expands its barefoot-inspired shoe offerings with new Barefoot Run road running shoes, Barefoot Train, for athletic training, Barefoot Water for water enthusiasts and Barefoot Life, for a connected fit and feel in all steps of life. In running, Road and Dash Gloves offer a natural fit for road surfaces. New Merrell Access running designs are “gateway” running shoes that maintain Merrell’s zero drop, foot contoured design approach with a 8 mm M-Bound cushion for an entry into natural movement. New barefoot styles will be available in February 2012 at Merrell retailers and on merrell.com.
“As we looked to design the next generation of Merrell Barefoot, we did a lot of listening and learning,” said Craig Throne, vice president of global marketing at Merrell. “We realized that the benefits of barefoot running should be leveraged to other activities where enthusiasts want a barefoot fit and ground feel but need a bit of protection. Our Merrell approach is simple, we work from the ground up knowing that the closer a runner is to his or her terrain, the better a runner’s form.”
Run Naturally – Barefoot Running Shoes
Connecting runners to the road with a natural stride, Merrell introduces gender specific barefoot road running shoes that provide a zero drop ride to let feet land pancake flat. Dash Glove for women is a synthetic leather and mesh running shoe with DWR treated uppers to repel water. Reflective details offer visibility in low light. Road Glove for men is a synthetic leather and mesh running shoe with a fused rubber toe bumper for durability and protection.
Knowing that runners have individual needs, Merrell is providing a range of barefoot options for the “right shoe for you.” Merrell Bare Access (for men) and Bare Access Arc (for women) are positioned as “gateway” running shoes that maintain Merrell’s zero drop, foot contoured design approach with an 8 mm M Bound cushion for an entry into Merrell’s BareForm movement.
Water enthusiasts can now experience the benefits of Merrell Barefoot. From stand-up paddling to scrambling through rivers and canyoneering, Merrell Barefoot Water allows feet to feel the underwater terrain with the slight protection needed. A Vibram sole provides extra grip enhancing traction and performance on boards, riverbeds and boats.
For men, Current Glove is a water-friendly lace-up with drainage ports in the heel and toe to shed water. For a quick-cinch fit, Rapid Glove is a slip-on with an adjustable in-step webbing strap for a precise fit. New barefoot water worthy sandals include: Hydro Wrap, a sandal with a rear sling for stability and three strap hook and loop closure for adjustability; Aqua Wrap, a secure fitting, double hook and loop closure sandal; Battari Wrap, an easy on and off sandal; and Paciki Wrap, a barefoot flip flop.
For women, Swift Glove is a lace up with a bellows tongue to keep debris out. For an easy on and off water companion, River Glove is a Mary Jane styled slide. Sandals that keep enthusiasts connected include Pipidae Wrap with a three-strap closure system and secure heel and Hylidae Wrap, a playful criss-cross strapped design with a toe loop for added femininity.
From yoga to circuit training and Cross Fit, Merrell Barefoot Train shoes encourage natural motion to align and empower the body. The BareForm design allows the foot to splay pancake flat for greater stability and sensory feedback. This improves alignment and stimulates muscles for optimal strength and conditioning. Introduced in the fall, the Embark Glove Gore-Tex and Sonic Glove soft shell barefoot shoes for men offer next-to-skin protection for any fitness adventure. For women, the new Lithe MJ Glove offers the power of connection in a fabric and synthetic leather Mary Jane style ideal for cross training.
Putting the power of intention on feet for everyday adventures, Merrell Barefoot Life shoes sport the wellness and foot strengthening benefits of barefoot in stylish silhouettes to wear out to dinner, at work or to the farmer’s market. Each step is taken the way nature intended. Two new styles for guys offer just enough underfoot protection, while letting feet land flat and feel the terrain on which they play. Edge Glove is a progressive, athletic sneaker and Slant Glove is a slip-on moc. For women, five new whimsical styles keep feet connected and body aligned. Serene Glove is a barefoot ballet slipper with a playful ankle ribbon for unique styling. Delight Glove is a casual moc and Wonder Glove is a cute Mary Jane style. For warm weather jaunts, Spirit Wrap is a barefoot sandal with an ankle wrap detail and Burst Wrap is a barely-there flip-flop.
Merrell’s mission is to inspire the outdoor athlete in everyone by aligning its “Let’s Get Outside” brand to increase outdoor participation with running and adventure races, festivals and other community events to increase outdoor participation. By partnering with events such as the Oyster Racing Series, the Down & Dirty Mud Run, the Naked Foot 5K, food and wine festivals and the Mountain Jam Music Festival, all representing a similar inclusive outdoor ethos, Merrell is working to inspire more people to get outside and live outdoor lifestyles. Once you're out there, Merrell provides the shoes and clothing to keep you going in full comfort and performance. Merrell is also a partner and proud supporter of our Public Lands through its affiliations with the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day and National Parks Foundation. These synergized partnerships aim to make our natural playgrounds more visible and accessible in an effort to inspire more people to get outside and enjoy their natural resources.
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