I've been running in Merrel Trail Gloves on and off since Spring. They're the kind of shoe that draws love or hate reactions. I returned them twice before I settled on keeping them and I'm glad I did. They were Merrell's first foray into minimal shoes and now their second release is out, the Sonic Glove.
As far as I can tell this love hate thing is a product of the mid foot construction of the shoe. These shoes are designed to fit tightly around the arch but to be completely open in the front allowing your forefoot to spread in a very natural way. To me this feels right. I lace the front of the shoe as loosely as I can to give my flappy duck feet room. Many people say this makes the shoe feel like it is two different shoes at once.
The sonic glove is almost exactly the same shoe. The changes they've made are to the upper and not to the sole. Being a minimalist shoe, the sole is "zero drop', meaning that there is no elevation at the heal. The sole is completely flat. This allows you to maintain the form you would have if you were barefoot, and your foot to do the same.
If you can see in the picture below, the trail glove has a mesh upper. It is very open and perfect for Summer. It was breathable and incredibly light. The sonic glove is more solid above as they were looking to winterize the shoe a bit. I ran in it Sat and Sun, and wore it all day yesterday at work. They feel much warmer which is a big thing for me in this weather. I hate cold feet.
The upper on the SG is water resistant (not proof) so the dewy grass doesn't get my feet wet in the morning, but I'm not jumping in any puddles. They are just as light and feel almost identical but a bit more substantial. I started to get a blister on the back of my heal yesterday (no socks) and I think this is because that upper is a bit more rigid so they will need some more breaking-in than the trail gloves did.
Over-all I like Merrell's minimalist shoes a lot. I ran a couple weeks ago barefoot on a cold day and was really uncomfortable on Michigan's rough blacktop with cold feet. Since then I've been running in the trail gloves almost exclusively and now I have something warmer to work with. It's too late for me to break these in for the marathon on Sun but hopefully Chicago will grace us with a beautiful warm Fall day.
Another really excellent benefit to minimalist shoes that was pointed out to me is the fact that without all of that built up foam, there is nothing to break down in the shoe. The thing that makes your average running shoe useless after a while is the foam getting beaten down until it no longer provides that cushion you were getting at the beginning. These shoes never provide that. All of the cushioning and shock absorption comes from your excellent gait. You know, the one you've been working on for months in order to make sure you aren't hurting yourself when you take off those big cushy shoes?
That's the last point I'd like to make I guess. These shoes are minimal. In order to run in them you have to have an idea of what minimalist form is. Merrell has done an excellent job of bringing staff on to educate people on this. There are a rash of injuries in the running world from people reading inspiring books and going out to run around barefoot. This transition should take months to accomplish and should be done quite carefully. If you are not careful you will end up with stress fractures and over use injuries. SLOW TRANSITION.
I love these as running shoes but also how they feel as kicking around shoes, and that's actually the best place to start. If you're thinking about making a transition away from regular running shoes, this might be a good time to pick up a pair like this and wear them casually to get a feel for the minimalist sole.