*Admin note: a standard review follows below, along with an
announcement from Merrell and a product review update afterward.
One of our family’s annual springtime traditions is to order the kids their summer sandals. With the prospect of hot days, lot of outdoor activity, and frequent trips to the lake, river, or beach on tap, they need something that can handle a wide variety of uses as well as repeated trips in and out of the water.
In previous years we typically get them Tevas or Land’s End water sandals, but I often find myself wishing there was something more in line with the barefoot ideal. It seemed crazy that the vast majority of sandals still had built-up heels and thick midsole cushioning – which was why I was very happy to get a look at Merrell’s Summer 2012 footwear catalog.
|Merrell Barefoot Hylidae Wrap sandal, Drizzle color|
More specifically, my daughter has been wearing the Merrell Barefoot Hylidae Wrap sandal for about a month now, which is part of the “Water” subcategory of the company’s extensive Barefoot line. The male equivalent is the Aqua Wrap, which in my opinion isn’t nearly as colorful a name as Hylidae, which is the scientific name for a Family of tree frogs – many of which, like the sandals themselves, are semi-aquatic.
Like any good tree frog, the Hylidae Wrap is also very brightly colored – at least, my daughter’s version (known as Drizzle) is, with a color scheme that’s right in her pre-teen wheelhouse. You can also get them in silver or black, but no one wants to see a black tree frog, right? For a summertime water shoe, the brighter, the better – at least in my daughter’s opinion.
Obviously there are a lot of reasons why I approve of the shoe also. There’s a mere 4mm compression molded insole for basic comfort while maintaining outstanding ground feel. It’s a completely flat, flexible platform with no drop from heel to toe. At a mere 5.2 oz, it’s very lightweight, and the upper is open enough to allow full freedom of movement of the foot during any activity. And if you happen to insist on vegan footwear, the Hylidae Wrap is a safe choice in that regard as well.
The upper has drawn my daughter a lot of attention because of its styling. There’s something about the criss-crossing of nylon straps and synthetic leather along with the contrasting color that catches the eye; I stopped counting the number of times people spontaneously told my daughter how much they like her shoes – and for an 11-year-old girl, that’s a pretty cool thing to happen.
Two of the straps are Velcro closures, so there’s a lot of adjustability for individual preferences. All of the synthetic leather surfaces have a thin neoprene lining for additional comfort, along with an antimicrobial coating to manage odor control. My daughter wears these as all-day shoes and hasn’t had any problems with discomfort.
Antimicrobial coating is also used on the EVA footbed, which is contoured to slightly cradle the foot and keep it secure inside the upper.
Of course, tree frogs are known for their sticky grip, and the Hylidae does a great job of mimicking that characteristic with a high performance rubber outsole. The only odd thing about the outsole rubber is Vibram’s name for it: they call it the Gecko Glove outsole, a reptilian moniker that doesn’t jive with the amphibian theme of the shoe. But maybe that’s just me being picky.
For practical purposes, the Vibram outsole provides great traction on nearly every possible surface. There are 2mm lugs to help grip in loose gravel, and the rubber compound holds on pretty effectively on wet rocks. The outsole is also non-marking, in case your daughter wants to wear them to gym class when fall rolls around.
Thanks to its ability to combine high performance aquatic function with barefoot friendly construction, Merrell’s Barefoot Hylidae Wrap is probably one of the best developments of summer for both my daughter and me. It retails for $85 from Amazon.com.
*Product provided by Merrell
**If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two more Merrell related notes …
1) This week the company launched a new promotional campaign with a simple yet very noble goal: using its love of the outdoors as a catalyst to build a community of athletes who exercise outside. They’re calling it The Pack, and there’s only one rule: go outside and do something! A promotional video follows below, which was especially timely for my family, in that it prominently features stand up paddleboarding – an activity my family and I have done a lot of this week. Check out The Pack website here, and check out the promo video below:
“Welcome to the Pack” by Merrell (click to play):
2) As for my family’s outdoor activity: it’s been a week of hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, running (a little bit), paddleboarding, and generally playing around in the great outdoors – and pretty much everyone in my family has been doing it in Merrell shoes. My wife and son brought a single pair of shoes each: Trail Gloves for my son, and Pace Gloves for my wife. One of my daughters is using the Dash Gloves, and the other is wearing the Hylidae sandals reviewed above. (Since I’m the resident shoe diva, I brought multiple pairs to use.)
|L to R: Pace Gloves, Trail Gloves, Hylidae sandals, Dash Gloves|
The point here is that everybody’s shoes have proven remarkably versatile in wet and dry conditions, and extremely durable, especially considering that in some cases the shoes in question are more than one year old. I’m often asked about what single shoe I’d recommend if you can only buy one pair – and if you have a wide variety of outdoor activities on tap, it’s hard to do better than Merrells.
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