Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Product Review - Merrell Sonic Glove




The Sonic Glove is the next step in Merrell's barefoot running range. On the outside they look very similar to the Trail Glove, and for all intents and purposes they are, except for one major factor...the upper. These shoes have a flexible upper that allows your foot to breathe, but most importantly keeps your foot dry.

Quote from Merrell:

"Move in sync with your natural stride over any terrain you choose wearing our supple Sonic Glove barefoot training shoe. A breathable, flexible soft-shell upper moulds to your foot while pulling moisture out to keep it dry. The Vibram® sole and minimal cushioning underfoot give you close-to-the-ground protection and traction for unlimited access to any adventure."

Technical Information

UPPER/LINING 
• Textile upper 
• Microfiber footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odour 
• Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing System provides a precise, glovelike fit 

MIDSOLE/OUTSOLE 
• 4 mm compression moulded EVA midsole cushions 
• 1 mm forefoot shock absorption plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure 
• 0mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain 
• Vegan friendly footwear 
• Vibram® Trail Glove Sole/Rubber Compound TC-1
• Men’s Weight: 6.5 ozs (1/2 pair)


First Impressions

Straight out of the box, you can see that these shoes mean business. With the new textile upper and the Vibram Sole, this shoe screams trial running.  The general look and feel of the shoe has not changed much from the Trail Glove, so it does beg the question why?  The answer I found was that the Sonic is more of an Autumn/Winter shoe due to the water repellent nature of the upper.  The sole is the same as the Trail Glove, and the Omni-Fit Lacing system, although tight at first, actually hugs the foot quite nicely.  I am glad that the colour schemes for the Sonic have been a bit more radical as I have never been a fan of plain running shoes.




The Feel

As most of my minimalistic shoes have some sort of Velcro, it was nice to go back to laces.  What I did find was that it was quite hard to slip your foot into the shoe unless you really loosen off the new lace system.  Once on, you notice that the shoe is very snug fitting, but with plenty of room around the toe-box which is very important.  I would suggest going up half a size as these shoes are quite snug out of the factory.  The overall feel was one of support, without feeling restricted.  The only weird thing for me was getting used to the extra grip at the front of the shoe which seemed to lift the toes up.

The Outsole

The sole from what I can see, is identical to the Trail Glove.  I would say that this is a good mid-point for anyone wishing to try running in minimalistic shoes without going to the extreme of the Vibrams.  I found that I could still differentiate between surfaces, but the feedback was cancelled out a bit due to the absorption plates on the forefoot, which to me is where I would like the feedback.  The level of grip on the other hand is great.  I really put the shoes through their paces with a multiple terrain tester run and a 10 mile cross country race, with a mixture of surfaces from tarmac, woodland trail, ploughed fields, and grass, and was not let down.  The only concern I would have is the raised sole at the very front of the shoe on a steep downhill section.  I did find that I was having difficulty finding grip and it was a bit touch and go, but I guess you can’t have it all.




Testing

Normally I have a structured approach to testing for any shoe that I review, but for the Sonic Glove I thought I would just hit the trails. This is a shoe that I would exclusively use off road as the sole offers little grip on wet tarmac and feels a little uncomfortable on a hard flat surface due to the grip pattern.  So this is what I did:


  1. 10 km trail run over a variety of surfaces.  (Gravel, mud, tarmac, woodland)
  2. 5 km night run along a canal path, mostly gravel
  3. 10 mile cross country (Pretty much any surface you can think of)


Conclusion

The Sonic Glove is an excellent zero drop, minimalistic running shoe.  I am sure that it is marketed to suit all surfaces, but my personal opinion is that this is a shoe for the trails.  The Sonic is light and comfortable, and I only suffered a small blister on the top of my foot after to 10 mile race.  I put this down to the shoe being a week old and I had not worn them in, so my fault.
The design, and build quality is what you would expect from Merrell.  This is a quality product, in an ever-growing market. I feel that they have covered all bases with this shoe and the Trail Glove, the latter been mainly for spring/summer use. 
I only have one niggling complaint with the Sonic, and it is that the area around the ankle folds when running, which allows small stones in the shoe.  I suppose, if you wear socks, this would not be an issue, but I like to run without them.

Overall, the Sonic Glove has opened up a new dimension of running for me with the ever growing minimalistic trail running movement.  Bring on the rain, bring on the snow, and bring on the trails...

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