Reviewed by: migangelo Date Product Reviewed: 05/28/2011 Product Type: Footwear I want to thank planetshoes.com for the free shoes. It took me a long time to write this review because I developed a love/hate relationship with the Merrell Trail Gloves. Opening the box was like being a kid on Christmas morning. New shoes might not excite most kids, but this one knew they were coming, and they were free! They are pretty light to hold, and I did the standard shoe reviewer test of rolling it in a ball. It passed no problem. The outsole is Vibram, and the same one they use for Treks so it is very aggressive. I own Bikilas, and those are the only running shoes I have ever bought, so to see how aggressive the sole is was awesome for me. I put them on and struggled. In the midfoot of the shoe, it is very tight. This is the place most manufactures place arch support. I was worried it would cause a flare up of my plantar fasciitis. Thankfully that didn't happen. It gives a snug feel to the foot but opens up nice and wide in the toe box. I have wide feet. I have always had a problem buying shoes. They feel good in the store, but after a week of wear, they hurt my feet because they are too narrow, and my feet are too wide. After being barefoot for a year they are even wider. With some 11mm of cushioning they are quite soft. I would like to see a bit less. I had to move my weight around on my feet to get a good feel of the shoe and ground. With as much material as there is between you and the ground, you still get some good ground feel. I'm not a women, but I love shoes, so I do have some experience here when I say they have some good ground feel even with that awesome tread. I'm sure the cushioning will break down, so they won't feel so squishy, but hopefully Merrell thinks about taking some out. Ok, I got them on and used to the feel, so I took them out for my first run and hated them. My entire left leg tensed up. I'm used to running in Bikilas, and the weight difference is only 1.4 ounces, hardly anything. I don't know what it was, but I had to walk the last mile of my run. I was miserable and not happy for my first outing. Now for a little background: I have been having some form issues before wearing the shoes. My left calf would get tight on me, so I expected that and didn't worry when that happened. When my whole leg tensed up, I got too distracted and too miserable to continue. A few days later, I decided it was time to take them out again. This time, I decided if the pain returned, I would push through it. It did return, and I did push through it. I went for a longer run. While it wasn't a great experience, it was good. Here, it gets a little fuzzy for me as to how many times I went for a run in the shoes. I mixed it in with some barefoot runs to get my form back on track. The next two runs or so my knees hurt, and I suffered some shin splint pain in my left leg. It was either the third or fourth time out the pain was so great I had to take them off and get back to my car barefoot. No problem but frustrating that these are supposed to mimic barefoot running, yet they are causing me knee pain. I haven't experienced knee pain like that ever, even when I ran in more traditional shoes. I wanted to be fair to the shoes and give them enough attempts to write a good review. It was stressing me out that I might have to write a bad review. I let TJ know what was going on and asked if she might find someone else who wants the shoes to write a good review for them. She told me not to worry about and to just be honest. Great. Stress gone. I made sure to take my runs on familiar trails. I had to be fair, so I stayed consistent with my runs. A couple of weeks ago Paraganek and I ran this popular trail we have used previously. It had been raining, so the trail was muddy. No, wait. It was muddy in a couple of spots. This is such a popular trail the dirt is hard packed, very hard packed so that only the top layer came loose. It didn't get muddy or soggy but took on more of a slip n slide consistency. There were spots that were like running on Teflon, to give you an idea of how slippery it was. I fell. A lot. Paraganek also fell. No injuries, except I finished with a big blood blister on one toe, a bruised toe, a scraped knee, and bruised knees. We had a lot of fun, but I wouldn't do it again. I'm currently in school to further my education. I gave two speeches in one week about barefoot running: one as a persuasive speech for public speaking and another version for my philosophy class. They were slightly similar yet tweaked for each class and backed with scientific evidence. I showed everyone the shoes I run in, and, of course, showed off my Merrells. I felt bad telling everyone I wasn't happy with the shoes. After my last speech, I went home for my dog and headed for the trails with the Merrell Trail Gloves in hand. It rained a little earlier, and they called for more rain the whole day. I live in Portland, OR, so rain is as common here as air. I thought it would be a good test to run the same trail that had me on my butt so many times just two weeks ago. I hit the trail and was going a little faster than I can barefoot. It has some very technical parts throughout, especially in the beginning, which also turns into the end once you come back. No problems. I made it off the path and onto a small stretch of street in preparation for an upcoming trail race. They did well on there, better than I thought they would. Now came the test. Back on the trail and up some steep hills. It happened again. My knees were in pain, and I was ticked off and ready to ditch the shoes on the trail. I cursed them and just walked uphill. I wasn't going to give up that easily. It flattened out slightly before going downhill. I knew this would be the big test as two weeks previously, I was either on my backside or walking because of how slippery the trail was. This time, turned out to be the polar opposite to that run. I bombed down the hill. The only time I stopped was to make sure my dog was with me. He's 12 lbs. and gets distracted easily with all the wonderful smells of the trails. I run him off-leash so that we both can play. This being a weekday made it easy as we only saw two dogs out there. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. I was ready to give these shoes away, but after that last run, I’m going to keep them. As much as I like my Bikilas, they don't do well in mud. These Merrell Trail Gloves handled the mud like a child handles candy. They get it everywhere and can hide it where you would never think of looking because they just crave the stuff. The shoes attack the trails and mud in a similar fashion. They seek out mud and tempt you to go fast over rocks and tree roots. They help keep running fun when rain and mud would have a barefooter on their backside. EDIT: i didn't wear these long enough to give them a durability rating. 5 or 6 runs doesn't tell you too much. i guess you can say they have held up well. i also should warn to wear socks with them as they do cause blisters even though they were made to be worn without socks. i got a few blisters in them as well as a few others i have spoken with. i also didn't do any cross training as they were just too muddy to wear to the gym. maybe one day but not yet.