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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Merrell Flux Glove Sport Review

 Posted by on January 28, 2013  1 Response »
Jan 282013
 
Merell Flux Glove 8

Brand: Merrell

Name: Barefoot Train Flux Glove Sport

Color Options: Men Only - Black/Light Firefly, Boulder Vibrant Orange, Wild Dove/Silver, Saffron Castle Rock, Apollo/Vibrant Orange (pictured)

Weight: 6.8oz per shoe (13.6oz per pair)

Drop: 0mm

Other: 4mm compression molded EVA midsole cushion

Price: $100


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Jul 062012
 
fall-spring-shoes

Howdy! Hope all of our U.S. readers had a great 4th of July, and that our fellow Midwesterners are managing to beat the heat that continues to plague us. We got a run in on Tuesday afternoon, and it was brutal outside–I don’t know how you Southerners do it! Thanks to the soaring temperatures, and now that we’re about halfway through summer, I’ve been starting to look forward to fall, cooler weather, and, of course, the first releases of a whole new batch of minimalist shoes! There are a lot of exciting new styles, and updates to existing styles, such as new colors and laced versions, coming out from many of the major minimalist shoe companies this fall/spring. So, I wanted to put together a quick list of the upcoming shoes I am most looking forward to. Click through to check it out! Continue reading »

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Married in a Minimalist Style

 Posted by on June 11, 2012  1 Response »
Jun 112012
 
MeaganAndSteve-291

We’re back!  After two weeks of wedding preparation, our wedding, and our honeymoon, Meagan and Steve are finally back and ready to post.  Before we get into all of the things we missed while we were gone, we’d like to fill everyone in on how we celebrated our marriage and how the last two weeks have been influenced by our love for minimalist shoes.  As you can tell by the picture on the right, for our wedding, I went with one of my favorite pairs of shoes and rocked the Vibram FiveFingers Speeds, while Meagan found a pair of Merrell Barefoot Life Wonder Gloves that matched perfectly with her dress.  The event took place in our current hometown of Madison, WI, where the ceremony was in the Frank Lloyd Wright Unitarian Meeting House and the reception was held in the Overture Center for the Arts.  The following photos were taken by our fantastic photographers from Amelia John, Jennifer & Andrew.  The night went off without a hitch (or with a hitch, ha…ha….ha…) and we were able to sneak some of our own minimalist surprises into the event.

More pictures after the jump!

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Merrell Embark Glove Review

 Posted by on February 5, 2012  3 Responses »
Feb 052012
 
MRL-W15633-120210

Brand: Merrell

Name: Men’s Barefoot-Train Embark Glove – GORE-TEX®

Color Options: 4 – Deep Olive/Kryptonite, Black/Olympia Blue, Castle Rock/Adventure Yellow, Castle Rock/Dark Cheddar

Weight: 9.2 oz (1/2 pair) (varies with size)

Drop: 0mm ball to heel

Other: GORE-TEX® lining (waterproof), Vibram® Trail Glove sole

Price: $170.00


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Staying Warm and Staying Minimal

 Posted by on December 18, 2011  No Responses »
Dec 182011
 

For those of you who run in Vibram FiveFingers, and, like Meagan and I, are going to attempt to brave the great outdoors this winter by continuing to run outside, this post is for you!

Yesterday was a bit of a reality check for both Meagan and I when we headed to Milwaukee to lock down a DJ for our wedding. We found, to our surprise, when we pulled out of the underground parking garage of our apartment complex, that we had finally received some snow!  I didn’t think much of it at first, but as we pulled up to the gas station, I shivered because I realized I was wearing my Vibram FiveFinger Speeds and knew that my toes were going to be soaked in an instant.  The second I stepped out of the car, the wet pavement took over my helpless shoes.  I knew at that moment that we were going to need something more substantial (but still minimal) to run in during the treacherous winter months of Wisconsin.

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