Merrell Trail Glove 2 Review (and the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon)

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while, but I’m quite glad it has because I’m able to say a bit more since running in these shoes in the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon.

The original Merrell Trail Glove was my very first pair of minimalist running shoes after I had used the Vibram Fivefinger Bikilas for over a year. At the time running shoe companies seemed to be starting on the path to offering this type of shoe, but Merrell seemed to be ahead of the competition (with the possible exception of Vivobarefoot whose casual shoes I had been wearing for over a year also, but I hadn’t found their shoes easy to run in initially, and never tried running in them again).

I loved my Trail Gloves – these shoes quickly became my shoe of choice (and became my shoes to be used for longer runs after I bought a pair of New Balance Minimus Road Zero – which became my favorite shoe for shorter runs – up to about 5 miles or so).

When my original pair of Trail Gloves began to wear out, I started to try to use the New Balance Minimus for longer runs, but they just weren’t as comfortable as the Trail Gloves over about 8 miles. This lead me to try some of the alternatives that are now available (mainly buying what was on sale, but that also seemed to get good reviews) – I’ve written about some of these over the last few months.

A few weeks ago it suddenly dawned on me that I’d pretty much abandoned the Trail Glove and I wasn’t entirely sure why. In seeing that there was a new model (the Trail Glove 2), and seeing my reasonable REI dividend and a 20% off coupon, I decided to buy them.

photo

The day they arrived I got home from work planning on running, so I took them out of the box and tried them on. The first thing I noticed was how tight they felt across the widest part of my foot and also that they seemed marginally longer then the old Trail Glove, but not long enough to warrant trying the size down.

Slightly different sizing

Slightly different sizing

I wondered if the tightness was something that I would get used to so I started out with a short run. After a while I decided I needed to mess around with loosening the laces and I was able to loosen them up enough to feel more comfortable.

After running more they still weren’t feeling right – more adjustments were needed, and actually it seemed that every time I ran in them for the first few runs I needed to make adjustments.

Despite this minor issue, these shoes still felt great – giving just the right amount of feedback from the road they feel easy to run in, and when my feet strike the ground it just feels right (more so, I think, than any other shoe I own).

So, on to the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon…

I got these shoes in early April, and it’s been a difficult few weeks in terms of getting out for a long run because of various things at home, so the half marathon was my longest run to date in these shoes (and, I just realized, my longest run since March 25th).

For some reason I convinced myself that maybe I could run this race as fast as I did last year (despite the fact I know I have been slower lately) and that’s how I started. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have the issues I had at the Miles for Music 20k so I had some Shot Bloks in my pocket and made sure I had some water on the course (I still haven’t worked out how to drink out of those cups while running – any tips?).

I’m not sure if it was the water, or just because I think I messed up my pre-race nutrition again (another thing I still haven’t quite worked out), but I felt like I was developing a stitch after about 4 miles. It didn’t bother me too much until around 10 miles when I really had to stop for a short while to try to get it to go away. I had to try again a few steps later, but after that it didn’t seem as bad, but I never really regained my momentum. Up until then I was more or less exactly on a 7 minute mile pace, but couldn’t keep it going (I already knew I wouldn’t be able to, as there’s quite a bit of uphill in the last couple of miles of this race), and I finished in 1:33:18 which is almost exactly half way between the times of my two other half marathons.

2.2 miles to go (thanks David Schatz for the photo)

2.2 miles to go (thanks David Schatz for the photo)

Anyway, back to the shoes… At the end of the race the only issue I had with my feet was that the top of my right foot was tender and hurting where the shoes touched them. I have no idea whether that’s because I need to make another adjustment to the laces, but I suspect so. The top of my foot was tender for the next day or so. I suspect maybe the shoe was rubbing during the run, or perhaps they were just too tight.

They are definitely still the most comfortable shoes I have for long runs and hopefully I will get them adjusted correctly to not cause me any issues – this is the first time I have ever had to mess around so much with a pair of shoes though so who knows.

At the finish

At the finish

UPDATE – MAY 20th 2013: I finally decided that perhaps I should be trying the size smaller in the Trail Glove 2. I went along to the REI store near work (REI Soho) and tried on the next size down. They seem like a better fit, and with the REI 100% satisfaction guarantee I was able to do a straight exchange which is fantastic as I have had the shoes for 2 months and must have put a fair few miles on them. When I’ve run in them a few times I will write a new review but here’s hoping they will be perfect, although they are still tighter across the foot than the original ones were so we’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE – JUNE 28th 2013: As this seems to be getting a reasonable number of search hits I thought it worthwhile giving an update again. The Merrell Trail Glove 2 have become my go-to long distance shoe. They are equally as comfortable as the original Trail Glove (now that I have the smaller size) and maybe even slightly more comfortable overall. I have had no issues over long distance (20 miles or more), and there are no signs of wear other than the expected wear of the number of miles run in them.

UPDATE: JULY 20th 2013: More thoughts here.

UPDATE: OCT 18th 2013: After over 410 miles it might be time for a new pair (but they’re not dead yet) – see them here.

UPDATE: NOV 22nd 2013: I completed the Philadelphia Marathon in my older pair of Merrell Trail Glove 2s (rather than my new pair) and they worked very well for me even with 480 miles on them now. Read about it here.

UPDATE: APR 9th, 2014: These shoes are now kept in England for when I visit (which has been a lot lately) and now they have over 600 miles on them. There are some very smooth patches on the bottom in the biggest wear points from how I run which is obviously to be expected, but I successfully used them in a cross country 10k this past weekend with no problems.

Boston marathon thoughts

It’s on every runner’s mind, and lots of other people’s too. After the initial shock you start to wonder why – why attack an event that unites so many different people? why attack people who have worked hard at bettering themselves (runners account for some of the nicest people I know)? why attack their families and friends who have come out to support them in this achievement? why attack others who have no connection to this race other than wanting to just cheer people on to the finish?

One thing this has done for me is to make my desire to run the Boston Marathon stronger. I thought maybe one day I could get fast enough to qualify – I know, I haven’t even run my first marathon yet, but I’m determined now to try and make sure that happens sooner rather than later.

Running photos #RVRR30for30

So, this month, the running club I belong to, RVRR, is coming up on it’s 30th anniversary, and there is a hashtag floating around the twitter world, and Instagram to go along with it – #rvrr30for30

The idea is for club members to post 30 pictures from 30 runs for the 30th anniversary.

I resisted Instagram (and twitter for that matter) for a long while, but finally installed Instagram to take part.

Here’s my first picture, from my run yesterday – my first run since Monday (within an hour of my wife getting back from her trip – which had stopped me from running):

photo (1)

Here’s a link for the twitter hashtag: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23rvrr30for30

And for the Instagram posts: http://statigr.am/tag/rvrr30for30

Indian Trails photos

Well, in my last post I mentioned I was looking forward to seeing the photos from Indian Trails because I broke out in a big smile/bit of a laugh as I started coming down the last hill. It seems that the photos don’t necessarily show that although the facial expressions are “different”, does this look like part of a laugh?

Does this show the beginnings of a smile?

Does this show the beginnings of a smile?

Or this?

it-4

 

All my photos are here.

This one I like because I think it’s the only time I’ve been photographed with both feet off the ground:

it-2

 

This week I’ve been forced into resting – I’ve been at home alone with 2 kids since Tuesday and still have to survive that until sometime tomorrow. As soon as the wife gets back I can see me heading out the door for a long run.

 

The race my Newton’s were made for.

If you’ve read my blog before you may have seen my thoughts on the Newton Running Distance, and in my follow up post I had suggested that these may be good shoes for running hills.

Well, those shoes have become my “shoes for running hills” (not something I do often actually, so I’ve only worn them twice more since my last post). There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The extra cushioning makes going downhill much easier – on steeper hills, in more minimal shoes, you have to be more careful about the heel being forced to come down first, so these shoes give more protection in the hill, allowing you to just go with it.
  2. On the flat I felt they forced me more into a midfoot strike rather than my usual forefoot, but for running uphill you’re forced more to the forefoot anyway.

So, what was the perfect race for these shoes (for me at least)?

Indian Trails. Despite the name this is a 15k road race, but a hilly one. There are also several stretches of gravel road on the race (which is another reason these shoes worked out well for me – I didn’t have to worry about the larger stones striking against the bottom of my foot).

Last week I looked back at my performance last year on this race, and somehow I managed to do that race at an incredibly fast pace for me even wearing, if I recall correctly, my Vibram Fivefingers (it was either that or the Merrell Trail Gloves, but I’m not sure) – it seems that I must have forgotten my watch that day so I have no record of the splits, but I do recall going out way too fast and fading to the point where I was really struggling at the end. I also had the problem afterwards that the bottom of my foot, in particular my heel, was hurting at the end even though I thought I was avoiding landing on my heel while coming down the steeper hills.

I was not expecting to be as fast this year, and my goal was not speed – my goal was to enjoy it (and to make sure I actually took in the fantastic Manhattan skyline view from the last hill which I somehow could not recall from last year  – probably through exhaustion).

So, what actually happened in the race. Well, pretty much what I hoped with the added bonus of being faster than I thought I would be – only 37 seconds slower than last year. I’m pretty sure that this was achieved only through being able to go faster on the downhill sections because of my shoe choice. The last downhill was very steep, and I let myself go dramatically, recording a pace of 5:11 at one point. You can pretty much see that reflected in my mile splits as mile 9 was at a 6:16 pace. It’s also pretty easy to see here where the hills were (I hadn’t reset my watch so the first 2 splits recorded were from a short warm up): http://connect.garmin.com/activity/294850083 – average pace this year 7:01/mile compared to last year 6:57/mile, but I felt great at the end this year so I consider this a success.

I’m looking forward to seeing the official photos from this race, as I’m pretty sure they were taking pictures on that last downhill and I was almost laughing as I started to come down – will be disappointed if they didn’t catch that on film.