If you’re a minimalist trail runner, the following might represent some kind of dream scenario:
1) An established, well-respected gear company known for its comfortable, durable footwear fully commits itself to not just a single minimalist style, but a whole series of options for a variety of outdoor activities, and …
2) That company has a partnership with the preeminent manufacturer of high-performance outsoles in the world.
If that’s the case, last week’s announcement from Merrell and Vibram was certainly a dream come true.
Several websites (such as FeedTheHabit.com, which has the whole press release) have reported on the new Merrell Barefoot line, billed as “minimalist, lightweight, versatile and efficient footwear,” and scheduled for release in February 2011. Merrell has a longstanding relationship with Vibram, whose CEO Tony Post is “excited to extend the benefits of barefoot alternatives in the outdoors.”
Post’s endorsement is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First is that Merrell Barefoot doesn’t necessarily represent a threat to Vibram’s market share or stature in the minimalist community; rather, it's a sign that the community is growing and diversifying to such an extent that there's room enough for everyone. To minimalist fans, this is great news – because the more options we have, the more likely we are to find that “perfect” design that works best for us.
The second thing Post’s remark indicates is that this isn’t simply a company calling something minimal just because it’s the trendy thing to do. Vibram knows what true minimalist shoes are, and they wouldn’t be promoting Merrell’s new offerings as barefoot alternatives if they weren’t the real deal.
From this point, I’ll let pictures tell the rest of the story. Merrell provided me with some images of the new models, which I’ve combined with brief descriptions from the press release below:
Men’s Trail Glove: an athletic trail runner for a close-to-terrain ride. Mesh and synthetic leather upper.
Men’s True Glove: a streamlined, all-terrain multi-sport shoe for scrambling across creeks and crags with natural ease. Mesh and synthetic leather upper.
Men’s Tough Glove: Tough to see details due to the color, but this is a foot-conforming soft leather model, with versatility for wearing around town or into a spontaneous game of Ultimate Frisbee (seriously, it says that).
Women’s Pace Glove: a low-profile trail runner with breathable mesh upper.
Women’s Power Glove: ankle-high design with Velcro closures for multi-purpose on- or off-trail activity.
Women’s Pure Glove: a super low-profile Lycra mesh Mary Jane for multi-purpose activity.
At first glance, the lineup looks pretty impressive – and having two companies with such an established track record involved is quite reassuring from a quality and performance standpoint. Until they’re released, however, we’ll all just have to speculate about how they'll measure up. In the meantime, check out Merrell’s blog for more information, and hopefully you can check back here in 2011 for first looks and reviews of these very promising new models.
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