Sunday, November 13, 2011

Merrell Dash Gloves: I don't do reviews..

However, in this case I will make an exception.  This is my concept review; imagine a wine review, however, it's not wine, but well shoes.  Confused?  Well grab a glass of wine and may-be it will make more sense ;)

So here goes...

Year:  To be released 2012.  Although I managed to grab an early pair in the same fashion of a restaurant trying to grab the first Beaujolais nouveau of the season.
Price: TBA
Region: Designed for road and easy trail. may be found on technical trail but only when worn by a lunatic looking for an easy escape from life - literally.
Color: Ranging from "pink and purple" to "Grey and Lime Green"
Aroma: Currently the least fragrant although a winter of wet running may create a more distinct nose.
Texture: A seamless upper design.  A breathable mesh that allows drainage and an overall dry finish.  A moulded Vibram sole with a the flexibility of a fledgling gymnast.  Finds itself easy to bend forwards but a little stiff bending back.
Taste: Minimalist road runners who are looking for ground feel with the ability to keep their toes during damp winter runs.  Should also appeal to those that like an "all-rounder"; the indoor gym rat and the outdoor jogging bunny,
Disadvantages:  Can be a bit of a slippery customer if you decide to partner up with it on a soggy grass and slippy forest trail.
Finish: I think a long lasting finish that may leave the pleasant dirt-filled taste of experimentation and pushing your limits.
KittyK rating: 4 out of 5

For the more serious readers out there - there may be some:

Merrell Dash Gloves - Out Feb 2012.
As you can tell this pair has been worn - LOTS
So, I snagged a pair of these from Merrell whilst in New York for the 2011 NYC Barefoot Race. One of the perks for the Merrell Roundtable I was invited to.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and you have to grab the goodies whilst you can; I am fairly sure I behaved badly enough that I won't be invited back ;)  So here's my BIAS warning; when reading the review, consider that I did get these for free! ;)

To date I have run in them in the following conditions:
Road, Easy trail, warm temperatures (23C/74F), cool temperatures, sun and rain.  I have tried cross-fit, outdoor boot-camps and fitness classes.  I have even managed a bit of muddy semi-technical mountain bike trail.  You name it I have probably tried it - within reason of course. In our house shoes never make it to the bedroom.  Lest said about that the better I think. *cough*

To date I have probably worn them for approximately.. well most of the time I have had them and I think this is the beauty of the Dash gloves.  So far there hasn't been a minimalist shoe out there that you can throw on and do most things in.  Wether it's dashing to the bank and grocery store (like me this morning), or going for a quick run around the easy inlet trail. Going to a Zumba class, the gym, or a a cross-fit bootcamp, these fit the bill. Indoors and outdoors, they will work.  I have to admit I was quite surprised about how versatile these shoes were.  Quite often with minimalist shoes, they will do one job; they will do it remarkably well, but as soon as you take them out of their comfort zone you have had it.  This was the case with the Merrell Pace gloves; take them on technical trail and well.. WOW. Take them for a walk around town and they weren't as comfortable - not overly bad, just noticeably different.  This was the first time I have had a pair of shoes where I was able to use them in a variety of environments.

I think there were some serious design changes between the Merrell Pace Gloves and the Merrell Dash Gloves.  Someone must have told Merrell some things because they listened.  Gone is the rock-plate of the Pace Gloves.  This was probably where I had the biggest issues with the Pace Gloves.  Just for me, the combination of the snug arch of the sole and the foot plate, meant that on road or easy trail, I could feel the change in my form.  It wasn't noticeable on technical trail or serious incline/declines, but on flat surfaces, yeah it was there.  The Snug fitting sole along the arch is there on the Dash Gloves, but now it doesn't appear as noticeable and I am finding the more I wear them, the less I feel it.  It could be I am just getting used to it; perhaps my "hobbit" feet are just stretching the uppers to that well-worn feel. 

Also gone are the Luggs  that were apparent  on the front of the Pace Gloves.  That's understandable. This isn't a trail shoe; additional traction as you bomb up and down mountains isn't needed.  I compared the sole of the Dash gloves to those of the Merrell Barefoot Kids shoes.  They are pretty much the same.  I think this is the one thing other runners had been asking for and I am glad Merrell complied.

Dash Gloves compared to a pair of
Merrell Kids barefoot
Merrell Dash and Lithe gloves, side by side

The lacing system is pretty much the same as the rest of the Merrell line-up.  They hold the shoes onto your feet and only occasionally come undone if you are a completely unable to tie shoes properly - like me.  They seemed less prone to coming undone than my Pace gloves, so I count that as a plus. :)

A pair of well worn Merrell Pace Gloves
alongside a pair of well worn
Merrell Dash Gloves
The heel  is the same as the Pace gloves; there is an elasticated heel instead of a conventional heel.  I am pretty glad about this.  I know the elasticated heel isn't to everyone's taste, but if you have small "fairy/hobbit" feet like me, it's a god-send.  The problem I have with conventional running shoe heel is that they usually ride a little high for me, so as I am running I can feel them digging into the backs of my heel.  I suffered this a little with the Merrell Lithe Gloves and this issue was so bad on my NB Minimus that I gave up wearing them for a long time until I had the courage to grab a stanley-knife and hack the backs off them.  If you have smaller feet, you may find the elasticated heel much kinder to your achilles heel!

As you can see the Shape and Size of both the
Merrell Lithe Gloves and the Dash gloves
are very similar
The shape and size of the sole is pretty much the same as the Pace/Lithe Gloves, so expect the same amount of toe-box room and general fit. They have a moderately wide toe-box.  The lateral support across the arch is snug but not uncomfortable.

The are pretty flexible; you can easily roll them into a ball - the usual trick to check the flexibility.  They are of course zero drop; no heel-toe height differences to worry about.

So far so good - well for me and my duck-like feet anyway.  So how do they handle (said in a Jeremy Clarkson Top-Gear kind of way)?

Pretty good on what they are designed for.  They handled a Zumba class pretty well, (with the help of the "Z-sliders"; a hairband for your shoes, just don't go there).  I have tried the Zumba class with a number of other minimal shoes (mainly the Pace gloves and the VFF Sprints) and these were the most comfortable.  I ran a few sessions with my running club (road running) and I didn't suffer from the change in form I had suffered from the Pace gloves.  On easy trail, they worked well - not as much ground feel as maybe my VFF's but enough that that I was able to keep my form in check. 

That doesn't mean there were no area's they had difficulty with.  I went to an outdoor bootcamp in the pouring rain and I did have to be extra cautious.  On the leaf-strew uphills we were working on, I could feel some slipping.  As to the wet grass we were working on, for quick, tight turns I was all over the place.  I was a little cautious on the wet easy forest trail, but they did hold up better than I expected.  This isn't a surprise - without the Luggs, the grip is compromised and as such in exceptionally wet or sloppy terrain, the shoes will be a little harder to handle. So on icy roads (not that I have had the opportunity to test this yet) I can imagine you would have to be a little careful.  Saying that, I did run on some damp semi-technical bike trail and they were better than I expected.  I wouldn't recommend it as a trail shoe but if the mood took you and you saw a bit of trail as you were running along, these shoes wouldn't stop you from going there.  I think their only weakness is very slippy and wet terrain.

As to my other criteria for a good minimal shoe, they performed quite well.  My feet were warm even during the soaking rain.  I have very funky feet and I suffer with the cold terribly. So warm feet even under wet conditions is a big plus for me.  Even though my feet and socks did get completely drenched during the bootcamp, the shoes drained very quickly.  I was surprised that it only took a couple of hours over a heating vent to dry them out completely.  With some of my minimal shoes, it was usually an overnight job.

Not the prettiest shoe out there; Not as pretty as the mens version
However, it's not looks that matter - supposedly ;)
 I will be interested to see what other styling options may be forthcoming.  I currently have the purple/pink variety, which certainly get noticed.  I recently went shopping for winter boots and the store assistants were more interested in the shoes I was wearing (i.e. the Dash gloves) than any they were selling.  The styling for the Dash Glove doesn't seem to be as sleek as the styling on the Men's version (Road Glove).  I think the term "striking", i.e in a "not completely hideous but certainly not the Prom Queen".  I am not sure if that's just because I have small feet, but I have heard of the same complaint from other quarters too.  That's a shame, because I think the Men's version of the Dash Glove is a fantastically looking shoe.

So overall, it's a shoe that performs a number of jobs quite well and that's rare in a minimal shoe.  I think it's the shoe that will probably appeal to the female runner who is considering a minimalist shoe for the first time.  It looks like a normal running shoe, it does everything you need it to do as you are starting out.  I can see the Merrell Dash Gloves being the shoe that people are directed to when they first start out Minimalist  running; like the VFF's were a couple of years ago.  The advantage the Dash Gloves have is that it doesn't scream; look at me! and I think this will appeal to a lot of women.  In fact as a test, I lent them to a friend who I am coaching.  She is new to running and we are starting out the right way; good form, as close to barefoot as possible.  Let’s just say, her comments were along the lines of, “They are so comfy, they are like running in slippers”.  I was on the point of having to wrestle them away. 

Yep, Definitely the "grab them off the shelf and run" staple that we have been looking for.  

NOTE:  Apologies in the time it's taken to get the review out.  When I test something, I REALLY want to test it...:)


  1. Awesome review!!! Thank you for taking your time to do it right

  2. Interesting. I'm looking for something up that alley, so if I'm still looking when they come out, I'll definitely handle a pair or two. Thanks!

  3. Thanks Kate! How are they for road running?

  4. Hi Sally, actually pretty good. I think they are a better road runner than say the others in the Merrell collection. I haven't tried the VIVOBarefoots (mainly because I can't afford their price tag to buy them), so I can't comment on that. Compared to the NB Minimus Trail and the VFF's, I would certain prefer these over those. I have fit issues with the Minimus and I have huge problems with cold weather running in the VFF's.

  5. I really like those shoes! They look really cute. Much better than my stupid greyish Saucony's…

    Mom's Home Run

  6. I absolutely agree with your evaluation of the Pace Glove and how it changes form on easy trail or roads. I noticed the same thing!