Merrell Proterra Vim (Mid) Sport Review

 Posted by on September 4, 2013  1 Response »
Sep 042013
 
Merrell Connect Proterra HT 3

Fieldwork and minimalist shoes are not two things I ever planned on combining. Hiking over rubbly lava flows, through dense brush and over downed trees, and on steep slopes, all while carrying a pack loaded up with 40 pounds of rocks, requires sturdy shoes, whether I like it or not. Features like a thicker, stiffer sole and a high-cut vamp (meaning that it extends up around your ankles) help provide stability and protection for your feet and ankles across a variety of surfaces, which is very important safety-wise in the backcountry. However, during the past couple of field seasons (after making the switch to minimalist shoes), encasing my feet in traditional hiking shoes for 8-10 hours a day made my toes feel super cramped, and the larger heel-toe differential and added weight felt really odd (and tiring).

Despite this, I had pretty much resigned myself to having to deal with wearing my traditional hiking shoes in the field. But then, earlier this year (and much to my excitement), Merrell added the Proterra, a hiking shoe, to their M-Connect (Barefoot) line, and I was lucky enough to get a pair to test. Although I was still a bit skeptical about them being able to handle the rigors of fieldwork (they are still more minimal than my traditional hiking shoes, after all), I finally got the chance to take them on some heavy-duty hikes out in the field a couple of weeks ago, and ended up being completely blown away by their performance. Read on to learn why!


Brand: Merrell

Name: Proterra Vim Mid Sport

Color Options: Women’s – Sea Shore (Blue), Aluminum (Tan); Men’s – Castle Rock (Gray)

Weight: 1 lb 9 oz

Drop: 4 mm

Other: 20.5 mm stack heigh (9.5 mm cush); bellows tongue to keep debris out; treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution

Price: $120


Performance

The first day I chose to wear the Proterras in the field, I felt like I was taking a risk. I’d already worn them on a couple of short hikes, with well-worn, easy-to-traverse trails, so I wasn’t worried about breaking them in, but knowing that I was going to have to carry 30-40 pounds of rock and hike through dense forest was a bit intimidating. The second I slipped them on my feet that first morning, though, I knew I had made the right choice (especially since I had been wearing my old hiking shoes for a few days before that). My toes finally felt like they had some “breathing” room, my feet didn’t feel so heavy, and the low heel-toe drop felt much more natural. As far as stability goes, Merrell hits the nail on the head with their claim that these shoes provide “control and stability through improved muscle awareness.” The only criticism I have with regard to stability is that, in the Vim Mid Sport version of the shoe, the portion of the shoe that extends up around the ankle is still fairly low, and I think the boot could provide better ankle stability if it was a little higher.

Hiking_ProterrasThe Proterras are also impressively well made. I admit I was initially a bit worried that the thin material used to construct the upper (which I can only think to compare to a thicker version of the material used to make tents, although it is reinforced by rubber strapping) tearing easily. I managed to snag my boots pretty hard on downed tree branches several times, though, and it didn’t create so much as a scuff on the fabric. However, the thin, mesh-like quality of the fabric does have a downside when it comes to keeping fine dust (like the volcanic ash at my field site) out. My feet ended up very dusty every day, although so did my mother’s, and she wore a traditional pair of hiking shoes.

Obviously, there are some situations for which a minimalist hiking shoe, even one as sturdy as the Proterra, is not appropriate. Very steep slopes, especially ones that are unstable or that require you to be roped up, still require a heavy duty hiking boot, with thick soles and ankle stabilization. The Proterra is also not water-resistant/proof. This means that it is more breathable and an overall lighter shoe, which is great for day hikes, but it would not be a great choice for your only shoe say, on a backpacking trip, where you might encounter rain, muddy trails, or even snow. That said, a waterproof version is already available for men (albeit at a significantly higher price) and a waterproof women’s model is set to be released this fall.

Merrell Connect Proterra HT 8

Comfort

Although the Proterra is lightweight and features a low heel-toe drop, it is definitely what I would describe as rugged and sturdy relative to all of my other minimalist shoes. Of course, this is as it should be, considering it is a hiking boot. Compared to my traditional hiking shoes, the Proterras feel incredible on my feet. They are worlds different when it comes to weight, and there’s few things so wonderful as a wide toe box after your toes have been crammed into a standard width toe box for a few days. One thing I was especially thrilled to discover is that the Proterras lack is the aggressive arch contouring that is present in most of the Merrell Barefoot line (and that requires a somewhat lengthy break-in period to mold them to your foot). The most important thing is that my feet felt utterly relaxed all day, no matter the terrain, while wearing my Proterras.

Aesthetics

The Merrell M-Connect line is pretty reliable when it comes to aesthetics, and the Proterras fit right in. They have a very modern, sporty look as far as hiking shoes go. Most of the color options are more subdued compared to other Merrell Barefoot shoes, but this is not unusual for a hiking shoe, and I suppose it wouldn’t make much sense to use bright fabrics that would end up looking dull and dirty pretty quickly upon use. A big plus for some may be that these shoes are not super unusual looking, so you don’t have to deal with strange looks from fellow hikers who can’t figure out what’s going on with your feet.

Pros

  • Incredibly durable, but still remarkably lightweight and breathable
  • Very comfortable, especially the wide toe box that allows plenty of room for both toes and thick hiking socks
  • Allow for impressive amounts of stability and control over a wide variety of terrain
  • Modern, sporty, but not unusual looking
  • No uncomfortable arch contouring as is present in many Merrell Barefoot shoes

Cons

  • Not water resistant or waterproof
  • More ankle stability could be provided by a slightly higher ankle collar in the Vim Mid Sport

Summary

As far as minimalist hiking boots go, the Merrell Proterra is what dreams are made of. I was unsure about how these shoes would perform during field work, but found that they are the most comfortable hiking boots I have ever worn in my life. They are an excellent addition to the Merrell M-Connect Line, and will hopefully be the model upon which future hiking boots are built and added to the barefoot collection.

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Soft Star Moc3 RunAmoc Review

 Posted by on August 29, 2013  No Responses »
Aug 292013
 
adult-moc3-runamoc-blue

Sandals, socks, and toe shoes are just some of the types of footwear I never thought I would go running in prior to our introduction to minimalist shoes (not to mention going completely barefoot).  Just two years later and I’m going out for runs in all of the above, and now I can add 2 mm thick running moccasins (Soft Star Moc3s to be exact) to the list.  Soft Star may look familiar to those of you who are long time Technically Running readers, since Meagan did a review of the RunAmoc Dash about a year and a half ago, but the Moc3, which is one of their newest models, has little in common with the Dash.  In fact, both models are so different that they could almost be confused as being made my different companies!  Point being, while moccasins might bring to mind some of the simplest shoes ever made, Soft Star does a remarkable job at making a wide variety of moccasin styles for many different uses!

Brand: Soft Star

Name: Moc3 RunAmoc

Color Options: Black, Red, White, Blue

Weight: 5oz

Drop: 0mm

Other: 2mm stack height

Price: $94


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Lems Primal 2 Review

 Posted by on July 24, 2013  No Responses »
Jul 242013
 
Lems Primal2 - 02

Terminator 2, Aliens, X-Men 2, Evil Dead 2, and The Dark Knight. All films that are arguably better than their predecessors.  And yet, as most movie fans know, it is rare that the sequel lives up to (or exceeds) the hype of the original. Apparently this is not the case in the shoe world. This year has already seen the introduction of many solid (or improved) sequels from companies like Merrell (the Trail Glove 2/Road Glove 2) and Brooks (the Pure Flow 2/Pure Connect 2).  With this review, I’m happy to announce that Lems (AKA Stems/Lemings), has also come out with a sequel shoe, the Primal 2, that allows them to retain their title of King of the minimalist casual/easy hiking shoe arena.

Brand: Lems

Name: Primal 2

Color Options: Men’s – Black/Slate/Brown, Women’s – Black/Sky/Brown/Frost

Weight: 6.9oz

Drop: 0mm

Stack Height: 8mm

Price: $95


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SKORA PHASE Review

 Posted by on July 8, 2013  2 Responses »
Jul 082013
 
SKORA PHASE 4

I’d like to begin this review similar to my last SKORA review and talk about the brand as a whole.  In that post, I referred to the many awards and praises that SKORA has received, including a reference to SKORA being “the Apple of running shoes”.  At first, I thought that analogy was made based on the quality of the design and materials used in SKORA FORM (their higher-end model), but now that I’ve tried one of the entry-level models (the PHASE), I’ve realized that, like Apple, SKORA’s goal is to offer an experience to its customers, no matter what the price point.  From the well-designed box with a magnetized lid, to the artistic design of the shoes themselves, you are ready to hit the road and never look back the moment you open up your pair of SKORAs.

Brand: SKORA

Name: PHASE

Color Options: Men’s – Red/Black/White & Black/Black/White (pictured) Women’s – Blue/Pink/White & Purple/Black/Green

Weight: 7.20z

Drop: 0mm

Other: 8mm stack height

Price: $110


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Tune Footwear Loafer Review

 Posted by on June 14, 2013  4 Responses »
Jun 142013
 
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Today, we’re going to take a little detour from our normal “programming.” For those of you looking for running shoe reviews, I’ll direct you to our sidebar where we have all of our recent reviews listed, but, for those of you looking for a minimalist dress shoe designed by a team with fitness and health on their mind, you’ve come to the right place.  Mike, the brains behind Tune Footwear, first came up with the idea for these shoes because of his passion for running, as well as his interest in the minimalist shoe movement.  As his professional career progressed, he found there was a need for a minimalist dress shoe in the market, and took it upon himself to design a shoe that offers both style and versatility to the minimalist enthusiast. Thus, Tune Footwear was born.


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SKORA CORE Review

 Posted by on June 7, 2013  3 Responses »
Jun 072013
 
SKORA_CORE-W02_lateral_39_3

It’s been almost a a year and a half since Skora burst onto the minimalist scene with the release of their original models, the Base and Form, becoming what can only be described as the “luxury car” of the minimalist shoe world. From their inspired “Run Real” campaign, to the beautiful design and quality construction of the shoes themselves, it wasn’t hard to see why people were willing to shell out almost $200 to get their hands on a pair, and the overwhelming consensus was that they were definitely worth the money. By the time the women’s models were finally released last August (about 7 months after the men’s), I was practically beside myself with excitement to get the chance to test out the Base model. Unfortunately, because my feet are quite narrow, the straps didn’t quite hold things in place well enough for me, and I struggled with uncomfortable rubbing on the balls of my feet.

Because I loved the overall fit, feel, and style of the Base, however, I wanted another shot at Skoras, and I thought a pair with laces would solve my rubbing problems by allowing me to better secure my feet. So, I was very happy to get the chance to test a pair of Skora’s new model, the Core, which is one of two new styles added to the Skora line this spring. Like the Form (reviewed by Steve), the Core’s upper is made of goat-leather, and it features similar design elements (e.g., asymmetrical lacing), but is somewhat less expensive ($155 relative to $185 for the Form). The $30 difference can be accounted for in several elements of the design, such as the lack of a velcro heel adjustment strap, simpler stitching/construction of the upper (in the Core), and differences in the material and structure of the soles. Despite being priced as a “lesser” shoe than the Form, though, the Core holds its own as a great (and in some ways better) minimalist running (and casual!) shoe, and it, along with the Phase, further solidify Skora’s position as one of the best minimalist shoe companies around today.


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Lems Boulder Boot Review

 Posted by on May 4, 2013  1 Response »
May 042013
 
Lems_BoulderBoot_1

My Stem Primal Origins, which are the original shoes made by Lems (before they were even called Lems), remain one of my favorite shoes I have tested for Technically Running. They have held up remarkably well considering the hundreds of walking and running miles I’ve put on them. You can imagine, then, that when I heard Lems was going to be making a minimalist boot, I was over the moon. As a geologist, and as someone who just likes to be outdoors in general, I spend a lot of time camping and hiking, so a minimalist boot for hiking or just hanging out around camp has been on my wish-list for a while. Of course, there were a few options available that pre-dated the release of the Boulder Boot, but as soon as I heard Lems was making a boot, I just knew they would be the ones to do it right and make it worth the wait. Luckily, I was right! Much like my Stems, as soon as the Boulder Boots entered our apartment, they became one of my go-to shoes, and, despite being a boot, I expect to get a lot of mileage on them wearing them casually, as well as for hiking/camping. Continue reading »

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