Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: Merrell Vapor Glove

myfeet

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.

bothfront
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?

bottom
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 ūüė¶

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.

twisty

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.

back
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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Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Lucy Lite

I have been a VIVOBAREFOOT tester for some time now, I have all of their best shoes in ¬†my closet. Some of them I have loved, some not as much, but overall I have come to know what to expect from them. The Lucy Lite is much the same thing. It was mostly predictable. But that’s not at all a bad thing.

Looks & Features

The Lucy Lite, like a few other styles in VIVO’s line, is a simple, classic shoe with very few bells and whistles. And with its simple mesh upper and very slim 3mm zero-drop TPU sole, I guess you could say that its design is pretty darn minimalist all around.

Like the Neo, the Lucy Lite has a bit of a 70’s retro throwback look to it. In fact it has a lot of the same qualities as the Neo. The Lucy Lite is a tad lighter in weight, though to be honest I couldn’t really tell. And it has a bit more of a “foot-shaped’ last.

But although it seems to be more popular, I actually find the Lucy Lite to be even less feminine-looking than the Neo. Now, I’m not exactly the frilly pink pastel type, but I’ve always thought VIVO could stand to do a little more in the looks department overall when it comes to their women’s shoes.

Comfort

Despite its low-tech materials and super-minimalist profile, the Lucy Lite spares nothing in the way of comfort. I think I can safely say that this is the most comfortable shoe in my entire closet. Yup. It is soft, very wide and roomy, as well as infinitely flexible and cushiony. Now, before you minimalist purists get your panties in a bind, I only mean that the upper is cushiony! The entire collar of the shoe has some very generous padding, and there’s also some on the tongue. All that means is these babies are comfy from the first step you take in them.

It also means that they’re very warm. Not a summer shoe, unless you summer in Antarctica (I hear it’s 31 degrees and snowing today in Base Esperanza). My first run in these was on an 88 degree evening, and my feet all but melted in these shoes. Pick it up for this fall and winter, and I guarantee it’ll be one of your favorites for roads. The jury is out about really icy roads, though. Some have said that VIVO’s road shoes are not great on ice, with their almost nonexistent grip, but they do seem pretty sticky to me.

I don’t wear socks in these, and I have had no rubbing or blisters whatsoever. So the liner works pretty well if you prefer to go sockless in road shoes like me. Just remember to throw them in the washer ever so often, to avoid the notorious barefoot-shoe-stink. I believe the key is to get them clean before they start to stink. I also keep the removable insoles in, because they absorb a lot of sweat and you can replace them down the road.

One other thing to note is they run a tad short like the Neo, so order a half size up.

Performance

Since it boasts the classic VIVOBAREFOOT sole, the Lucy Lite performs exactly as predicted. Excellent ground feel, superior flexibility and lots of room for your piggies to do their thing. Like I often say about VIVO’s shoes, the Lucy Lite fits like it’s just there to protect your foot, but not bind it. It fits more like a slipper than most other brands, many of which try to fit your foot more like a sock. I’m not saying either one is better, but I like to point out the difference because of the wide range of preferences between people. I don’t think this shoe is good for trails because its ground-feel is way high; I prefer more grip and protection against the bruising rocks and roots that line the trails I run. Also I think some people with very narrow feet might find this shoe has too much room, and their feet might knock around inside it, and throw off their form. For someone with a very narrow foot I would recommend going with the Evo II (review forthcoming).

Final Thoughts

  • I really like this shoe. It’s one of the most undeniably comfortable styles of minimalist shoe on the market
  • a true minimalist shoe with zero-drop soles and excellent ground feel
  • extremely wide last and good seamless sock-liner
  • clean, retro styling – but could be more feminine to compete with the rest of what’s out there now
  • a great cool-weather shoe that will keep you warm and relatively dry
  • the perfect minimalist hang-around kick, if you’ve already got enough running shoes
  • Not a bad price point at $100

I hope that this review has been helpful. If indeed I have helped along your decision to purchase a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, please show me some love by entering VIVO’s site via my blog. You can do that by entering any of the links on this article or by clicking the VIVOBAREFOOT banner to the right. Thanks so much and happy running!