Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: INKnBURN Tech Tube

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Modeling for Instagram.

I know a lot of you runners like to wear hats on sunny days, especially in San Diego you all seem to swear by them. But, I don’t like them. They feel hot and big and binding on my head, I feel like I can’t see everything with the visor in my way, and…alright I’ll say it…they’re just not feminine. But I’m not an idiot (well, not most of the time), so I know that especially on hot, sunny days, I need something to protect my head and keep sweat out of my eyes. Sometimes I can’t stand anything on my head at all because it’s too hot, but otherwise, I prefer to wear tube-shaped head wraps. And since I’m such a big fan of INKnBURN, you know I had to try out their tech tube.

Like all the other INKnBURN products, the Tech Tube is super adorable. It comes in everyone’s favorite designs like Current (the style I have) and Lust, and it looks great (it goes really well with my new Leaf Tech Shirt, by the way). Just look at these tech tubes on InB’s beautiful clothing model, Holly Miller!

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Holly looks great in everything!

The tech tube is also really versatile. You can wear it as a headband, under or over your hair. You can wear it around your neck and face as a gaiter on cold days. You can un-bunch it and cover your whole head. You can wear it around your wrist to dab sweat from your face. If you’re skinny enough, you can even use it as a belt to hold small items (I’ve seen my friend Krista do this with a buff).

tubealoneInB’s tech tube is made out of the same material as their tech shirts: lightweight polyester mesh. You know, that sweat-wicking fabric everyone likes. And as advertised, the fabric does absorb and wick sweat from your body. But as a comparison to other head wraps I’ve used, which are made of cotton blends, the InB tech tube seems to hold in more warmth. Because of this, I think it would probably be best suited for cooler days. It’s also a little less stretchy than other head wraps, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you wear it and the size/shape of your head. My head is rather small, and my hair is fine and quite silky/slippery. The combination of those two things means that on a windy day, my tech tube doesn’t stay put on my head. I almost lost it last week when I ran at the beach!

That said, almost nothing ever stays put on my pin-like, silky little head. People with less pin-like heads and/or thicker hair always tend to have less of an issue than me.

To combat the slip-off, I will often wear low pigtails or a pair of messy buns to hold the tube in place, toward the front of my head. Or I bunch a majority of the fabric to the front of my forehead, close to my eyebrows, which keeps the tube leveraged correctly. A head wrap hardly does any good keeping sweat away if it’s behind your hairline, anyhow.

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Holding the tech tube on my head with some messy buns.

Hot yoga class is my favorite place to wear the tech tube. I sweat my butt off in that class and the tech tube covers up my yucky sweaty head, and keeps me from having to dab my face every thirty seconds.

Outside of exercise, I like to wear my INKnBURN tech tube as a fashion accessory. It’s pretty enough to wear with my yoga pants and a t-shirt (the SoCal uniform) when I run errands around town or to cover up a bad hair day. Which I have a lot of, now that I work from home and have become too lazy to use my hairdryer.

Check out all the tech tube styles on INKnBURN’s website!

And also, check me out on a St. Patrick’s Day run in the new INKnBURN craze: the Leaf Tech Shirt! Looks awesome, and it’s well-timed too…since green is Pantone’s 2013 Color of the Year.

And yes, my socks do say “BEER” on them.

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Review: INKnBURN Handheld

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I received a Handheld bottle holder from the lovely folks at INKnBURN a couple of weeks back. The nifty neoprene pouch came in one of my favorite INKnBURN design patterns, the Sugar Skull. I absolutely love it.

These days I prefer to run with a handheld bottle over a hydration pack or belt, unless it’s really hot and I’m going on a very long run. I bring my bottle with me on any run over four or five miles. INKnBURN’s handheld fits really well over my favorite Ultimate Direction 16 ounce bottle (note: this item does not come with a water bottle, but they offer one for $5 on the site), and I like it better than the cover I got with the bottle, so I’ve kept it. Why? Well…

  • The stretchy neoprene fabric is much softer and more comfortable. I don’t want to go back to the old bottle holder now. This is not something I pictured myself saying, but there it is.
  • The all-over fabric insulates the bottle: keeps water cool longer without freezing my hand off. Also, it absorbs condensation from the bottle and sweat from my hands, which keeps the bottle from slipping.
  • Unlike most other bottle covers, this one is actually easy to put on the bottle and take off. This is useful when you want to wash the bottle but not have a yucky wet cover during your run.
  • It fits just about any bottle, even the large 20 ounce ones. That way you can switch bottles and still use the same holder.
  • The pockets are large and plentiful. The strap has a pocket that will hold gels or a key, and there is a really large foldover pocket on the front that can hold things as large as an iPhone (yup, it’s true!). The fabric is super stretchy. I usually use it for tissues and spare cash.
  • Adjustable strap with convenient thumb hole. I don’t typically use it, but I know that a lot of people like the thumb hole in the strap.
  • It’s attractive! You can wear your favorite INKnBURN design on your hand! So much prettier than the plain, always dirty-looking bottle holders that you usually see.

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Most importantly, I like to ask myself this question before posting my review: After trying this item for free, would I actually buy it? Even at $39.95 a pop, I still would buy this handheld holder. I know what you’re thinking: the price is a tad stiff. But just like anything from INKnBURN, what you get for that price is a top-quality, 100% American Made product, backed by an insanely creative team of real people with a commitment to innovative products, beautiful design and excellent customer service. This is not some cheap crap made in Taiwan by a 12 year old getting paid 75 cents a day: it’s INKnBURN. Know what the “n “ stands for? NOTCRAP.

Sorry, I really wanted that joke to work out better.

Check out some of the other colorful designs that INKnBURN offers in the handheld holder!

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Boston’s Pride

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On April 15th, 2013, twenty-six thousand people lined up at the starting line for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. These people were runners who worked their asses off to train for one of the oldest and most celebrated races to occur each year. A race held in one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world, and my home town. All around them, hundreds of thousands of supporters lined the streets from Hopkinton to Boston. On April 15th, 2013, these runners and their amazing Boston-bred supporters showed the entire world just how incredible the human race is.

You’re probably expecting to see hundreds entries pop up all over the blogosphere about this awful tragedy. Many writers will seek solace in putting words to paper on this day. Everyone is sad. Shocked. Angry. Hurting. But, at least for me, there is an underlining emotion behind all of the negative ones: pride.

If you love movies like I do, you’ve seen a thousand tragedies happen on screen. You’ve seen it all. Bombs blowing up in buildings, cars, on airplanes, you’ve seen depictions of war, destruction, distopia. You’ve seen giant alien monsters crush entire cities and bullets pierce hundreds of brave main characters and evil bad guys. In the movies, where the one or two bravest and best fictional heroes fight evil to its doom every time, the hundreds of innocent nameless people caught in the mix are always running fast and far away from the danger.

What I saw yesterday afternoon when I turned on my television was a scene right out of a horror film. Giant explosions of fire and smoke, people screaming, glass shards blowing. Nothing could prepare me or anyone else watching for that reality, and my brain wanted to remain convinced that it was all fake.

But, very much unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a movie screen, everybody close to the explosion was running into the danger, not away from it. It was one of the most incredibly unexpected things I have ever seen. Runners, spectators, officials…all of the innocent nameless people. They were running toward the fire, the smoke, toward the people who were hurt by the blast. They didn’t know if there were going to be more explosions, and they didn’t care. They pulled down fences, they ripped off their own shirts to use for rags, they came in droves to help wherever they could. They weren’t asked. They didn’t even think about it. On my television screen I saw dozens of nameless innocent people becoming heroes, right before my very eyes.

What a sight. I just couldn’t ignore the incredible goodness amidst the badness.

mrrogers1Many people will recall this event as an awful tragedy, a terrorist act, a bloody date in history. And it is all of those things. But perhaps even more importantly, this event is an opportunity. That’s right. It’s an opportunity for each one of us watching that dreadful horror movie to remember the enormous amount of good that exists in all of us. And the courage. With all that’s going on in the world of politics and international affairs, it can be easy to lose your faith in the altruistic nature of the human race. Yes, one or more – but few – individuals are responsible for creating this evil. But their numbers are infinitesimal, as compared to the many, the droves of the benevolent.

Events such as the tragedy at the Boston Marathon ask us…no, beg us to unite in recognition of the greatness that we are, and the greatness that we can be for one another. On April 15th, 2013, there were no Democrats, no Republicans, no minorities, no gays, no Muslims, no gun-supporters, no pro-lifers, no politicians…just a lot of great people. A lot of heroes.

You make me proud, Boston.

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Defiance {Prompted}

The following post is part of what I hope will be an ongoing writing exercise that my friend Kathy and I have decided to undertake together. We are currently choosing topics from a list of prompts that can be found here. I intend to use a varying array of writing styles and techniques, and to limit my editing. Therefore many of these posts may not look anything like the rest of the stuff I write on this blog. I’m okay with that, if you are. I invite those of you with blogs of your own to participate with us! But if you’re not into it that’s okay too. I’ll title these posts differently so they are easy to skip past if you wish to do so. And as always, thanks for reading!

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de·fi·ance [dih-fahy-uhns]
noun
1.
a daring or bold resistance to authority or to any opposing force.

2. open disregard; contempt (often followed by of): defiance of danger.
3. a challenge to meet in combat or in a contest.

On the whole of my life, I have never really done things the way that I was supposed to.

It all started when I was a baby. My father told me several times the story of my milk bottle. Whenever I had a bottle I would hold it in my left hand, and if he took it from me and put it into my right hand, I would switch it back every time. I defied him to change my left-handedness.

But I guess I never noticed my defiant streak until rather recently, as I’ve spent more time looking back on my life, and surveying the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I used to think that I was the obedient type, because I’m a nice person and I don’t really get into any trouble. But now I realize that even though I wasn’t a troublemaker, in very subtle ways I have always been as defiant as they come. And this defiance has led me to be headstrong, but also quite stable and independent in many very important ways.

When you’re a kid, being different from everyone else is a bad thing. Kids don’t really have enough perspective to find the value in differences: they see any all variation from their own likeness as an obvious negative. Well, come to think of it a lot of adults still think that way, always judging those around them for daring to do things differently. But this post isn’t about them.

As I think more and more about it, I realize I have always been kind of different from everybody else. Growing up, I was the only girl in my family with brown hair instead of blonde, and the only one who wanted to go outside and build forts instead of playing with Barbies or helping the adults cook in the kitchen. I was also the only girl in my grade who went to gymnastics class instead of joining the basketball team.  When all the kids wrote stories for a school-wide literary publication, I wrote a poem with an illustration. In a world full of teachers, nurses and electrical engineers, I got my degree in art.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to embrace my individuality. I feel that it helps me to know myself, and knowing myself has helped me to make decisions based on what I want, rather than what I’m supposed to want. For example, knowing that I don’t want to have children. That I don’t like the idea of owning the home I live in. That I prefer the west coast over the east. That I prefer to run barefoot. That I’d rather live in the mountains of North County than in the close, crowded downtown San Diego, where all my cool friends live. I support gay marriage, dig Paleo over Vegan, and would prefer to run with a bunch of obnoxious, tutu-wearing, beer-drinking Hash House Harriers over serious road marathoners, any day.

Historically, I’ve received a lot of flak for my individuality. People just don’t like it when you aren’t exactly like them. But even though I was nice about it, I’ve always remained defiant to the end: I don’t have to be like you, or your daughters or your sister or your last girlfriend or your best friend or the person whose job position I’m replacing. I only have to be me (so screw you).

These are all things I’ve learned about myself, on my own. Nobody influenced or told me to do these things. I don’t follow anyone, nor do I try to cut the first trails. I do what feels right for me, not for someone else. I don’t need anyone to agree with me in order to validate my choices. I just am who I am. I love this chick, and I defy anyone who would try to change her left-handedness.

 


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Review: Merrell Vapor Glove

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Let me start off by saying that I really hate being the only reviewer to give a beloved new shoe model a less than stellar review. It stinks. I feel like a jerk. But I have integrity, dammit! I’m just reporting the facts, here, folks. Okay…that’s a lie – mostly everything in this blog is heresay and opinion – but hey, a fact or two does slip in ever so often.

Back to the review. I wanted to love this shoe. I really did. The Merrell Vapor Glove was fabled to be the second coming of the almighty KSO. This model was supposed to become the next new be-all, end-all of the minimalist road shoe. I was ready to love this baby for as long as it held together, or at least until Merrell made something even better to replace it.

Well, as it turns out, the first thing happened a lot sooner than expected. But let’s tell the story from the beginning.

I got my pair in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I rejoiced. I thanked my Merrell contact profusely. I put them on. They felt awesome. They looked awesome. I rejoiced even more. And then I took them out for a seven mile run, without socks.

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Here is where I’ll pause to applaud the greatest thing about this shoe: the sole. Zero drop, 5mm of flexible Vibram TC1 rubber, the only thing between you and the earth. By feel alone, this shoe is as flexible and light as my reigning favorite, the Vibram See-Ya. The Vapor Glove sole just rocks. It’s just the right thing. And then there’s the upper. It is gorgeous and colorful, and at first glance it really seems quite open, spacious. I mean, the whole shoe has this pleasant, slipper-like feel, reminiscent of what VIVOBAREFOOT usually does. My kind of shoe, right?

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Well, about two miles into that run I started to feel some rubbing at my toes, from the upper crinkling in as my feet bent and flexed. At first I suspected sloppy form, since I was headed up a hill at the time. But soon I realized I’m feeling it in both feet, which is usually not a form issue for me. A mile later I stopped to take them off and wrap tissues around my chafed toes (I always have something with me that can double as toilet paper). Eventually the paper rubbed away and the toe chafing got worse, until it eventually became numb. That’s usually not a great sign. I stopped the run at 7 instead of 10 and by the time I got home I had three abrasions on my toes that needed significant wrapping every time I wore shoes again for the following week.

Figuring that the issue was probably just a combination of my soft sock feet (I wore socks all winter) and the unfortunate placement of my toes in the shoe, I waited a couple weeks and then took the Vapor Gloves out for another four-mile spin by the beach. This time I wore socks. The run was fabulous. But, I didn’t notice until I got home that I had managed to rub off part the upper, on the outside of the shoe just below the bones of my pinky toe. Where there should have been bright green mesh attached to rubber, all I could see was my black Injinji sock. What the hell.

Boo :(

Boo 😦

As I stood there in disbelief, I shifted my foot around in the shoe. At first glance there seemed to be plenty of room on the sole for my foot. There was even a quarter inch of space between my big toes and the inside edge of the sole. What gives? So then I took a few steps, and I realized that the way the last is shaped, it forces my foot to shift so that the lateral side pushes out. Result: I spent 11 miles running on the upper of my shoe. Bam.

A possible added issue: the sole is really razor-thin and doesn’t continue very far up the sides, like you’d see on most shoes. By this regard, the super- thin sole has a slight disadvantage: it’s so flexible that instead of my foot being cradled in, it is allowed to move around the shoe and land in the wrong spot.

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I’ve been reviewing shoes for a few years now, but I’ve never broken one before. This is a first. And I will say that I’m super bummed about it because, as I said before, I really wanted Merrell to come out with my next big, favorite minimalist road shoe. Not many minimalist companies have really nailed the road shoe so far, at least as compared to the variety of exceptional trail offerings out there.

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All that said, I still believe Merrell is headed in the right direction. It’s really refreshing to see them take a plunge into the world of true “barefoot-like” footwear. The Vapor Glove has just the right sole: one that feels more like a light rock-and-dirt barrier than a shoe. The design is glossy, colorful and more on-trend than most of the stuff they make. But I can’t recommend this shoe to anyone with wide feet, unless you like dropping $80 on gorgeous running shoes that might only make it 10 miles.

I’ll admit my foot is probably not exactly typical, and the Vapor Glove won’t be a fit problem for most folks with very straight, average feet. But I want to point out that a wider foot is at least somewhat typical for minimalist runners who spend all their time barefoot or in shoes that let their bones splay to their full potential. My feet have been the same width even as I’ve gained and lost weight through the years – but since I started running barefoot my feet have become even wider and longer. I hope the guys over at Merrell will think about coming out with a wide version of the Vapor Glove, or at least take this feedback on toward planning small changes to the next model.

And if so, my Hawaiian feet and I will be waiting.


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Sing {Prompted}

The following post is part of what I hope will be an ongoing writing exercise that my friend Kathy and I have decided to undertake together. We are currently choosing topics from a list of prompts that can be found here. I intend to use a varying array of writing styles and techniques, and to limit my editing. Therefore many of these posts may not look anything like the rest of the stuff I write on this blog. I’m okay with that, if you are. I invite those of you with blogs of your own to participate with us! But if you’re not into it that’s okay too. I’ll title these posts differently so they are easy to skip past if you wish to do so. And as always, thanks for reading!

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EveryHeartSings

26 Things that Make My Heart Sing

  1. Stepping outside into a warm and sunny, cloudless blue sky day.
  2. Walking barefoot on warm pavement. In public.
  3. Glancing down at my running watch and seeing  9:00 or 8:00 pace, when I just feel like I’m jogging.
  4. Watching my dog sprint across an open field.
  5. Remembering that I live in San Diego, California. Where I have wanted to live since I was a child.
  6. The sight of the ocean. Anytime, any ocean.
  7. The look on someone’s face when they love something I’ve just given them.
  8. Running all the way up a steep hill, instead of walking.
  9. Running Flying back down.
  10. Looking around a crowded table and realizing I that love everyone there.
  11. Waking up in bed and remembering it’s Saturday.
  12. Reading the first ten pages of a novel and knowing it’s going to be a great one.
  13. Signing up for a big, exciting race.
  14. The first few scenes of a movie I’m excited to see.
  15. Randomly coming across something I’ve designed or written.
  16. Singing at the top of my lungs to one of my favorite songs, when no one is listening.
  17. Remembering that I married the greatest man that I ever met.
  18. Standing at the top of a big hill and seeing the ocean and the snowcapped mountains all at once.
  19. Meeting a new person and knowing right away that they are going to become a great friend.
  20. Getting a package in the mail, and then realizing it’s for me.
  21. Sticking my hand out of my open car window as I speed down the freeway on a warm day.
  22. Cooking for a bunch of people in my home.
  23. Spending the entire day with my husband, and nobody else.
  24. The first sip of beer after a long, hard run with my buddy Kate.
  25. Taking a great photo of myself.
  26. Sitting down for coffee and looking across the table at my greatest friend, Kathy.


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Review: Merrell Pace Glove 2

bothOf all the shoes I have reviewed on this blog, the Merrell Pace Glove 2 has received by far the most rigorous testing, and in the least amount of time. That is, indeed, if you can call what I do “testing.” Some might consider it more like beating the hell out of a new pair of shoes, and then waxing poetic about what happened. Either way, prior to throwing them in the washing machine for proper review photos, my pair of Pace Glove 2s were “tested” out on pavement, dirt, sand, mud, run through puddles  and have been completely submerged in waist-deep streams. They have run on endless flat ground, run uphill, run downhill, run sideways, climbed on sheer rock and skidded across beds of algae. I’ve worn them to the beach, to the grocery store, to a hair appointment, to clean my dog’s poop in the backyard, to walk said dog, and yes, I’ve even worn them running.

sideviewBecause of my positive history with the original Pace Glove, I had a feeling that this second incarnation was also going to become one of my go-to trail kicks. And for the most part, it has. There are many things about the PG2 that will make it one of 2013’s best minimalist trail shoes, and a few things that might have been better off left unchanged.

This Shoe Has Some Sole

bottomtopFirst, I want to talk bits and parts. The PG2 has kept a lot of the same great features as the original, and left a few behind.  So what’s the same? First and foremost, the amazing zero-drop, 4mm Vibram sole. You know, the sole that earned this shoe the Runner’s World Best Debut award, and Shape Magazine’s Best Shoe in 2011. You may not have ever heard of such accolades, but that sort of stuff is a big deal to shoe manufacturers…probably a lot like the Motor Trend award is to car makers. But, I digress. The sole is exactly the same, except the update has just a tad bit more cushion and stack height, at 9.5mm. The original had somewhere around 5mm with the rock plate, if I remember correctly. Anyway I don’t notice a difference, so really it’s neither here nor there.

One interesting aside I have about the sole of this shoe is its amazing traction. This shoe is made for trails so naturally it’s going to do well at grabbing onto dirt and soil. But in my travels I have come across a few giant boulders that just needed to be scaled (Hey, I like views. I also like pretending I’m 8 years old), and I really didn’t expect the PG sole to be so insanely sticky. Climbing rocks in these shoes is akin to sticking suction cups onto a car window. It felt like cheating! After my first rock-playground encounter in this shoe, I decided that I would have to make a note of it in my review.

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The upper of the PG2 is also made of the same breathable mesh, which is excellent for escaping heat…and also for draining rain puddles, slush or stream water, if necessary. And for those who cared, they also use the same anti-slip laces as before.

What’s the Difference

Now I’ll talk about what Merrell changed in this model. Superficially, they made the shoe look a hell of a lot cooler. They gave it a sportier look, more reminiscent of what they did with the Dash Glove (and less like a typical Merrell-brand hiking shoe). So far there are only two colorways up on the site, green/blue and gray/pink, but I’m guessing that they’ll add more as the model gains traction. They’ve also added a membrane-like rubbery material over parts of the upper. I’m not sure if there’s any practical use for this material, but either way I’ve managed to rub some of it off on the outside edge.

One of the biggest and most questionable changes in this shoe is the heel cup. Due to popular demand (my source at Merrell tells me), the elastic has been taken out of the heel cup on the Pace Glove 2, so that now it mimics that of the Men’s Trail Glove. I will admit that as I’ve started running harder trails, I’ve come to have mixed feelings about the original Pace Glove because of this very feature. The elastic heel would occasionally force my foot forward and squish my toes against the front of the shoe. I earned many a black toenail from the original Pace Glove, and as a result I wished I had ordered a half size larger. Without the elastic on the PG2, My heel doesn’t slide forward anymore, and I don’t foresee any more toenail injuries. Problem solved. However, I am going to admit that I actually do miss the elastic now because the PG2 feels looser, and somewhat less secure, than the original Pace Glove. But this feeling could also be due to the other big change: the lacing system.

The purple and gray shoe in this comparison is the Wide-Width Pace Glove that I reviewed last year.

The purple and gray shoe in this comparison is the Wide-Width Pace Glove that I reviewed last year.

Merrell does pretty well with its patented “Omni-Fit” lacing system, which is fancy talk for lacing that is integrated into the tongue and upper, to give you a more adjustable and secure fit. In the original Pace Glove and Trail Glove, the Omni-Fit parts were made of heavy-duty non-stretch nylon webbing. But on the TG2 they included some elastic. The really great thing that this addition does: it makes offering a Wide-width version of the shoe’s last (which is what I needed in the original PG) pretty much unnecessary. The really not good thing that it does: it makes the shoe never, ever, ever feel like it’s tight enough.

Elastic in the Omni-Fit.

Elastic in the Omni-Fit.

Being that I have wide feet, the added elastic inside the lacing system lends the upper a lot more give. I no longer have that lateral “crunched” feeling that I used to get with the regular-width original Pace Glove. Basic foot space is a lot less limited in the new model. However, the longer I wore the PG2, the tighter I found myself lacing them. Combine that with the new looser heel cup, and my feet are moving around inside this shoe like a hamster on a flatbed truck. Now, that’s not really a problem if I’m running on some semi-flat trails (like a normal person would do), but when faced with some of the crazy-steep, loose-dirt-and-rock descents I regularly encounter out here in the hills of San Diego, a secure shoe fit means better traction and balance for me. It may just be a preference or terrain thing, or because I tend to wear socks on trails to keep out debris, but for me this was a sticking point with the Pace Glove 2.

In Conclusion

By most every count, the new Pace Glove 2 (and men’s Trail Glove 2) is an excellent, well-made minimalist shoe, as was anticipated by us minimalist shoe nerds. Being one of those nerds, I will admit that I expect and demand more from Merrell than from any other minimalist shoe brand, because in a lot of ways I’m more emotionally invested in their success. Kind of like the teacher being harder on her own kid than on the other students in her class.

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The now-archaic burrito-in-the-shoe demonstration. It’s still fun.

But really, as far as cons go, that’s really it. Merrell was smart not to change any of the stuff that made this shoe one of the best out there. The zero-drop, the great last, the excellent ground feel, durability and trail performance. The shoe is attractive, extremely well-made and even with its aforementioned drawbacks, it still outperforms every other minimalist trail shoe I have tried so far. This is true because Merrell knows feet, and also because they do an excellent job of hearing the needs of their target audience and giving them what they ask for. And what more, I dare say, could you ask for?

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