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“Barefoot” running shoe review

April 17, 2011

Although I bought them a month ago, today was the first day I took my Merrell Women’s Barefoot Pace Glove shoes out on the trail.

To put the word “Barefoot” in the name of any shoe is ridiculous…if you have shoes on, you’re definitely not barefoot. However, these are lightweight, flexible, and minimally padded shoes that I bought for the three reasons barefoot running guru Jason Robillard  has cited: very hot or very cold or very long trail sessions.

Today fell into the first category…at 3 pm, when I wanted to hit the trails at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, the ground was still pretty warm after a day of SoCal spring sunshine. So I slipped on and tied up my new Merrells and started walking (no running till my knee feels better).

Verdict: like so many have posted/blogged/reviewed in discussions about this brand-new model of shoe, the elastic at the back of the ankle was a bit uncomfortable after an hour. So I slipped the shoes off and stuck them into my day pack (along with the sunglasses, beer can, and two empty water bottles found along the trail this afternoon). No visible blistering, but definitely rubbed a bit back there.

Another hour and twenty minutes of barefooting completed my fabulous trek up and down the lizardy trails of the old Barham Ranch, the ground still a little toasty. By the end, my soles were beginning to feel baked, BBQ’d–maybe even tenderized–so that final 20 yards of parking lot back to the car made the poky over- layer of decomposed granite feel like decomposed daggers.

Next time I’ll wear socks; I think that might take care of the ankle chafing. Even better: next time I’ll head out at 5 pm, and not need any shoes at all.

Today’s sightings: April flowers and lizards…one zipped between my feet as I was strolling along the ridge-top trail lined with chamise in bloom:

None of the lizards that stopped to stare back at me seemed interested in any bare feet photo ops today.

I saw only one snake, and that one barely, out of the corner of my eye; it was a slender little dark slitherer (striped racer?) that disappeared into the sage almost before my eyeballs registered his movement

No rattlesnakes, but I did find a patch of rattlesnake weed (once thought to be a remedy for snake-bite).

Other notable bloomers this afternoon: deer weed (the yellow blossoms turn reddish orange after pollination) and caterpillar phacelia (which does indeed look like caterpillars).

I took the newly “improved” Coachwhip trail . . . last time I hiked it I had enjoyed its straightforward (straight down!) super-rutted ruggedness—pretty much impassable to all but careful hikers. Well, it’s been widened and leveled and switchbacked and bermed and now it’s a hard-packed freeway for wheeled recreationists, who must have been able to see how grumpy this all made me: one helmeted gentleman made a point to tell me to “have a nice day.” I thanked him, but not all that enthusiastically. Progress and improvements can make me a little gloomy . . .

But then I happened upon mariposa lilies waving to me, reminding me (these are, after all, the “lilies of the field” Jesus said were worth considering) that . . . that . . . that they are perfectly pink or lavander and make a fine transitory dance hall for pollinators who love them too.

Oh to be able to enjoy that right now, and leave tomorrow’s progress unworried over (at least until tomorrow).

. . . but I think the Merrells will work fine at the Grand Canyon this summer . . .

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