Those strange shoes pictured above look like a cross between rock climbing shoes and water socks. They’re my new Merrell Pace Glove barefoot running shoes. They took me to the Vancouver waterfront where I found a lovely Holland America cruise ship, the Zuiderdam, to pose them with for a nice Tidal Life tie in.
The color is Lavender Lustre, one of two colors available at my nearest REI store, the other was black. If I’d been offered all the colors they come in I’d probably have chosen Ice (a lime green) or Aluminum (a silver-gray and olive combination). But lavender suits me just fine.
As do the shoes themselves.
And that could be the end of this review except …
Hold on, Barefoot Shoes?
Oxymoron I know.
Ummm … Why do barefoot shoes exist?
My water peeps might not be up on what’s happening in the world of running shoes. We’re more geared to mud boots, hip waders, flip flops and deck shoes.
Barefoot is the latest craze in running. Though Olympic runners Zola Budd and Abebe Bikila made barefoot running famous years ago, this latest trend appears to have started with a book called Born To Run, which introduces the idea that foot anatomy/mechanics isn’t enhanced by the increasingly thick wads of cushioning pumped into shoes by Nike, Adidas and their ilk over the past 30 years.
Tom read the book and in the process diagnosed all of my leg and foot injuries as shoe related and prescribed barefoot running as the panacea. He hasn’t gone the barefoot route, but I was intrigued, because over the past year I’ve been plagued with Achilles tendonitis, knee strains and pulled hamstrings.
The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico run in leather sandals. Hardcore stateside devotees of the sport often wear nothing at all. Of course capitalism dictates that every idea must have a saleable product to go with it. We can’t have millions of Americans abandoning shoes, that would kill yet another industry. So all the sport shoe companies – tongues firmly in cheeks – now make shoes for barefoot, aka minimalist, runners. Or for squeamish, prissy-pants American runners who can’t face letting their tender soles contact bare earth. (Or, in our developed environment, asphalt, concrete, broken glass, gravel, chewing gum and toxic spills.)
Why I bought barefoot shoes
And then there are folks like me, who don’t mind dirty feet but who are addicted to intact toes. I’ve a history of breaking small bones – finger, nose, tail and toe – so you are not getting me out there running trails with no shoes on.
When my right big toe started to hurt a few years ago I thought I’d developed a bunion, but when I finally got an x-ray the doctor found that the joint is actually dislocated and bone is rubbing on bone. I’ve played soccer for years, so I suppose I injured it during a game. Most of the time it doesn’t hamper my running, but occasionally I get stepped on or strike the ball wrong and the joint gets pretty painful for a week or two.
The fix for this problem is surgery and the recovery involves several months of putting no weight on that foot. I simply can’t face that long a period of inactivity. So I manage the pain with Ibuprofen and shoes that don’t press on the joint.
All of which means I’m always on the lookout for shoes that won’t hurt.
When I decided to go to Tbex (the Travel Blog Exchange conference) I knew I was going to be doing a fair amount of walking over the three days I would be staying in Vancouver, BC. In the market for a good new pair of walking shoes I decided to try the barefoot styles.
Golditoes goes shoe shopping
I started by trying on those funky ones with toes. Not only did my fragile little piggies feel too vulnerable in those, but a seam cut right across that painful joint. The Merrells however, turned out to be just right.
These are the kind of shoes I never want to take off. They fit like the glove they’re named for and are comfortable for everything. I wore them while hiking to and from my hotel. I wore them while high-fiving throngs of Canucks fans after their last home win. Wasn’t there for the riots after the loss, had I been, I might have tested the running comfort at that point. I wore them to parties, and out to dinner with other travel bloggers, I wore them shopping on Robson Street and I wore them while drinking coffee on the quay-side with a cruise ship.
Back home I’ve worn them to work, to work out at the gym, to soccer games, on an trail hike at Fort Ebey and walking on the beach. In all these situations I could feel the shape of the ground under my feet. The soles, though made of tough Vibram, are thin and flexible. On the rocky beach I felt each individual stone. An eerie, but not unpleasant sensation. Pleased to report that I did not feel the sharp barnacles.
Because of the aforementioned Achilles problem I have not yet worn my Merrells for running. I’m in week three of an eight week no-running phase of rehabbing the tendon. I can’t even play soccer for five more weeks. (Might as well be dead!) But a running shoe wasn’t really what I was after. I wanted, and found, a great walking and all around activity shoe.
The final word
I will be buying at least one more pair of Pace Gloves. Lavender Lustre doesn’t go with everything I own.