With the wild success of the Vibram Five Fingers shoes and the recent barefoot running buzz, many shoe manufacturers are taking a harder look at their designs–wondering if simpler is better. Merrell and Vibram are partnering to deliver a minimalistic new footwear design that’s not as funky as Five Fingers, but promises nearly all the same benefits.

In a recent visit to Runner’s Corner (my local running store), I’ve been thinking hard about switching to zeroed shoes and trying the Five Fingers designs. With my flat feet, I’m confident I could improve my mechanics and reduce joint pain. I’m looking forward to these new designs as a stylish-looking alternative to the admittedly-funky Vibram Five Fingers shoes.

Full press release below.

ROCKFORD, Mich. (June 14, 2010) – Merrell®, a leading outdoor footwear and apparel brand known for out-of-the-box comfort and versatility, and Vibram®, the world leader in advanced performance sole design and makers of the well known Five Fingers® barefoot concept, exclusively collaborate to create an outsole design that aids in multi-directional movement and adaptability. The end result is Merrell Barefoot, a collection of minimalist, lightweight, versatile and efficient footwear. The collection is a progression of shoes that meet the varying needs of outdoor enthusiasts. All will be available at retail and on merrell.com in February 2011.

“As minimalist footwear and barefoot running continue to stay at the height of discussion and in the heart of the enthusiast, we saw the clear need to bring barefoot outdoors, beyond running and fitness,” said Clark Matis, original founder and current designer and developer at Merrell. “Having been with Merrell for 26 years now, it is exciting to see the brand continue to push the design boundaries in the outdoor industry. Our partnership with Vibram, and its expertise in barefoot running and fitness, allows us to introduce the ideal barefoot designs for all outdoor activities. Merrell Barefoot provides a good balance of foot freedom, surface protection and cushioning to help outdoor enthusiasts avoid injury and strengthen their muscles while doing what they love

“Merrell is a long-term partner of ours and we are excited to extend the benefits of barefoot alternatives in the outdoors,” said Tony Post, President & CEO of Vibram USA.

“For feet to be healthy, we believe they need to be stimulated and exercised, which will in turn improve the body’s balance and agility. On that premise, we collaborated with Merrell to develop an exclusive outsole that aids in stride efficiency and adaptability for all outdoor terrain.”

Merrell Barefoot blends minimalist design for added foot freedom with specific traction zones to meet the needs of any terrain – from street to trail. The designs help engage the feet for a more natural stride by moving the wearer off the heel and encouraging forward momentum to a mid-foot landing with lower impact and a more aligned and efficient gait. Stimulated muscles increase core strength, amp up agility and build the body’s ability to burn more calories.

For men, Trail Glove is an athletic trail runner for a close-to-terrain ride. For scrambling across creeks and crags with natural ease, True Glove is a streamlined, all-terrain multi-sport shoe. Both feature synthetic leather and mesh uppers and the proprietary Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing system that quickly cinches for a precise fit. An internal support construction secures the mid-foot for optimal fit and responsiveness. Rounding out Merrell

Barefoot for men is Tough Glove, a foot-conforming soft leather style, designed with ultimate versatility for wear around town or into a spontaneous game of ultimate Frisbee.

Merrell also brings an entire category of barefoot fit and function to women’s-specific outdoor footwear. These patterns designed and engineered by women let enthusiasts get closer to the terrain on which they play in three new Merrell Barefoot designs. Pace Glove, a low-profile trail runner, is constructed with a breathable mesh upper, and advanced protection underfoot is mapped with minimal cushioning where it’s most needed. A Merrell Omni-Fit lace system quickly pulls tight for an individualized fit and optimal responsiveness on uneven terrain.

Two multi-activity feminine styles are ideal barefoot companions for on and off trail adventures and great for a commute to work, a walk around town, or a casual hike with friends. Power Glove takes outdoor style to the next level in a soft leather ankle high design with three Easy Z-Rap™ Velcro closures that secure the foot for simple, lightweight performance. Pure Glove is a super low-profile Lycra mesh Mary Jane with a hook and loop closure strap for a precise and secure fit.

More Info: Visit Merrell.com

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. These are the trail shoes I’ve been looking for–but they won’t be out until February of next year, and I’m contemplating a trail ultra in October.

    Any suggestions for a minimalist trail shoe that’s available now–perhaps the MT/WT101 from New Balance, or something from Inov-8?

    • Don’t waster your money on these sort of shoes, if you want the benefits go with FIVE FINGERS! If you look at their ad they are still heal striking, toes cramped. I will admit they look rediculous, but after running in them for 2 years I put more mileage, less joint pain than a conventional shoe. The only reason why all the shoe companies are making these are they are worried by the success and benefits of five fingers.

    • If you have normal feet that is, long and narrow big toe, compared to the other toes just doesnt fit the pattern, and therefor fivefingers are not the best shoes for all..

  2. I finally had a chance to get a good look at the Barefoot collection. I think this goes almost without saying that they are really minimalist shoes with the Vibram outsole that encourages proper “barefoot-style” running. I’m looking forward to getting these out on the trail.

    Talking with a few people who have started using them, there is a break-in period (breaking in your body, that is) on these shoes to get your body used to them, but once you’re used to it, all is well.

  3. This is great news for the female consumer looking for a minimalist shoe that looks good. I know the VFF are awesome, but there is no way I would wear that shoe because it is just plain UGLY…

    • What?!?! You have something against the funky Five Fingers look? Geez… 🙂 I agree, they do look borderline creepy, so these shoes are definitely a step up in style while maintaining a minimalist function and feel. Glad you’re excited about them, too!

  4. Dude, VFF’s will fix your flat feet up quick smart. They strengthen your feet muscles and lift your arch(low arches=flat feet).

  5. Pingback: EnduranceBuzz.com » Dirt and Distance Bites: Trail Running Clinic – Grand Slam of Trail Running – Trail Running Shoe Choices Expanding in 2011

  6. The girl in the women’s collection leaflet is heel striking. Actually, some of these models seem to have some positive drop, such as Men’s Trail Glove.

    BTW, those who find VFFs ugly, they may also dislike “hand” gloves because they look almost like… HANDS, ugh!

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