The Merrel Sonic Gloves, despite the name, are an item of footwear. In fact, they’re a bit more than that. They’re pretty cool footwear that protect your feet while you effectively run barefoot. The soles are a tough Vibram and designed for a bit of off road running. I’d be wary of using them for fell running as the grip is good, but not that good, but they’re perfectly fine for your usual trail. These were supplied in a funky hi-viz yellow and lime, called Kryptonite, that tends to fit in with the gear I wear this time of year (though they do come in an equally flashy orange and couple of more subdued options of blue or gray). The packing is fully recylcleable and stress free. I’ve dumped mine into the compost bin.
They fit your foot like a glove, hence the name, and officially you don’t need to wear socks with them. The fit is certainly tight, but comfortable and you quickly forget you’re wearing them. The weight, or lack of it, certainly helps and at only185g per pair you can’t get much lighter. There’s no reason why you couldn’t take these as secondary footwear on a longer trail, especially for general camp wear and river crossing. Though there’s no reason why you couldn’t wear them for the walking if you’ve got used to them.
That’s the main problem. You can’t just wear them and run, well, not your full training schedule. As you’re running barefoot, you’ve forgone the support that you usually get and you’ll know it soon into your run. The Merrell Way website and app advises a months’ training before even running 1 mile, though I think that has to be for a total non runner. The vids on that page are also equally prescriptive so I decided to do it the Mud and Routes way (aka not the recommended way!)
So my first run was significantly longer than recommended, and had I been listening to the Merrell app, then I’d still be pirouetting and stretching at home at this stage. Not for me. I don’t get out of the house for less than a 5k run, and I didn’t fancy carrying a spare set of trainers in order to get half my run barefoot and the other half not. Arriving at the Peteborough Marriot, I rarely get running in these sort of places, but forced myself to get onto the nearby cycle track (link) in what turned out to be a pleasant run.
The run itself wasn’t easy. Coming off the back of some sort of ‘bug’, this was my first run for a few weeks and It’s impossible for me to distinguish between the effects of that and the effects of the different styles of running. While the Merrel video recommends some faffy stretching and a mincing like motion with the arms (see the video here), I’m the type of runner that runs because it’s easy. You move forward a bit faaster than walking for a set distance or time and then stop. That is it. Anything more makes it complicated. If I was a contender, with my room booked in London next summer (and a table booked at the official ‘restaurant’ every night.. no thanks). You probably should do some of the exercises mentioned in the official video, but one look at the trail running vid and jumping around twigs to increase agility put me right off. The best way to improve your agility for trail running is trail running, get on some rough paths. Even if you live in an urban environment, you can probably find somewhere suitable (so long as it isn’t indoors!).
The first thing I noticed, rather worryingly was how uncomfortable the shoes were on the top of the foot and while I had a sore achilles, it was no sorer than it usually is on a first run and needs stretching a few times into a run. What I did notice was the effort needed to keep yourself running properly – after about 4km it was a struggle to keep the forefoot/ midfoot striking. Lacking any sort of coushioning, you’ll not want to land on your heels. Imagine jumping in your bare feet and landing hard on your heels. It hurts.
I don’t think my running form is particularly poor, I certainly don’t heel strike and being able to do 5km from the off seems to suggest that. By the end, I felt a little sore in the lower back, like I’d been running uphill. The back of my heels had blistered slightly too, so they might need a plaster.
On returning and removing the shoes, I realised why they’d been so uncomfortable as a piece of cardboard fell out of each one.
On subsequent runs, with the offending packaging removed, the shoes were comfortable. I had to wear thin socks, but that may be an idea if you tend to blister around the ankles with almost every shoe like me (I can only wear boot style casual shoes for that reason).
One point with the shoes that I’ve ignored is the whole philosophy surrounding barefoot running. On one side you’ve got the trainer manufacturers who seem to insist that the human foot, after millions of years evolving into the perfect running organ, complete with it’s own shock absorbers, needs improvement with a bit of foam and plastic. On the other are those who think that running shoes are a con and you don’t need to wear anything. I’m certain some of those will think that the likes of Merrell and Vibram are jumping on the bandwagon and just exploiting the bare foot running fraternity, while others will see it as a pragmatic way of getting into the sport. I personally feel that with the number of dog eggs present on my usual runs that running without any protection would just not be practical.
I’m willing to give it a try, and while my foray into barefoot running is barely started, I’ll report on that in the spring. Meanwhile, these shoes provide a comfortable and practical way of getting into barefoot running.
Review sponsored, but not influenced, by Nature Shop UK – an online retailer selling premium “nature inspired” brands and products that are kind to your body and to the environment. We are committed to making a positive difference to the world that we all live in with a specific focus on preservation of the natural environment and in helping the lives of children who will inherit this beautiful world of ours. We have offices and distribution centres in Rustington, West Sussex in the United Kingdom and in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand.