Friday, August 23, 2013
Minimalist Showdown: Merrell Vapor Glove vs. Vivobarefoot The One.. Review and Giveaway!
As you know, my preference is to run trails whenever I can, but I still get my share of road/track running in while training. So, I was excited to get the opportunity to test out some minimalist road shoes from two terrific companies, Merrell and Vivobarefoot.
The shoes in question are the Merrell Vapor Glove and the Vivobarefoot The One. What I love about both of these shoes is that they are a true minimalist shoe, or at least the most minimalist "shoe" I have run in. In my book, a minimalist shoe must be zero drop, flexible, and allow your foot as much freedom to move as naturally as possible. Granted, inside of this definition leaves a lot of room for differences in stack height, ground feel etc. So, stick around and I'll give you my impressions of both shoes, and also an opportunity to win a pair for yourself!
Ok... first off, just a few of the specs on these shoes. The Vapor Gloves have a 5.5mm stack height, breathable mesh upper, vibram sole, and the typical TPU heel sling found on other Merrell minimalist shoes. They are very light weight, with the spec sheet noting them at 5 oz.
The Ones sport a 3mm puncture proof sole made of V-sense TPU (no, I don't know what that is, but it sounds really cool!), and a 3mm removable poly insole for a total stack height of 6mm. The weight on these is closer to 8 oz, but I believe if you remove the insole you are probably closer to 7 or less.
When comparing the two shoes, there are a variety of areas that they share similar features.
Both shoes are very very flexible. The are easily rolled up or folded lengthwise. And they weigh next to nothing. In my book they are very light and very comparable.. I mean when you are 25 lbs overweight, what's an ounce or so between shoes? :-)
That said, the Vapor Gloves may be just a tad bit more flexible as you can see in the pics to the left here, however compared to other minimalist shoes I run in, these two are by far the flimsiest. But that isn't a bad thing. I believe that both of these shoes have made a giant leap towards a truly minimal shoe, and perhaps shoes that might be tolerated by those who choose to only run barefoot.
The uppers on both shoes are very breathable and comfortable to wear in warmer temps. I wouldn't venture far in these in the winter, or in wet weather unless you are wearing socks for those conditions.
Finally, they both have very comfortable inner linings. I kept the insoles in the Vivo's to keep a similar stack height comparison. I always run with socks in my shoes (light weight Injinji's), so I can't speak to how well they work sockless. Both shoes utilize a anti-bacterial treatment in their fabrics, so hopefully odor is at a minimum!
Ok, so what sets these great shoes apart from each other?
First off, the soles are quite a bit different. While they are relatively smooth overall, the Vapor Gloves have deeper grooves in the sole. This allows it to be just a bit more flexible, however it means picking up a lot of the tiny chunks of decomposed granite that seems to be everywhere in Colorado. I often have to bend them and pick the rocks out if I ever walk inside with them (which I guess I shouldn't, but anyway)
The sole on the Ones is very smooth with just the slight hexagonal impression to provide some traction, but this pattern does not pick up stuff from the road very easily. Also, the material used has a less rubbery feel as compared to the Vibram sole on the Vapor Gloves. I've put about 40 miles on each pair so far, but not enough to notice any difference in wear.
In addition to the difference in the sole material and pattern, you have also probably noticed that the Vapor Glove is more narrow than the Ones. The Ones carry the signature wide toe box of most of the Vivobarefoot models, while the Vapor Glove seems to be modeled more closely to the original Trail Glove in terms of width and structure.
OK! enough with the blah blah blah already... I mean how long can you go on about shoes? Well, if you are talking about me, obviously a long time! By now you just want to know 1. How do they perform? and 2. Which one is best?!
Honestly, both of these shoes perform amazingly well. I've run in both on training runs and in a few races and I've not been disappointed. If you are looking for a really minimalist shoe that lets your feet do what they were built for, you can't go wrong. However, the greatest difference in these shoes is the fit, and what kind of fit you prefer. If you have narrow feet, the Vivo's will probably be too wide and roomy. If you have wide feet, the Vapor Gloves are probably going to be too constricting.
Now.. if you have "average" feet like mine (at least I think they are average), you can really go either way. Basically the Vapor Glove truly fits like a "glove". When I wear them, it feels like a second skin. Sometimes it feels a little constricting, but the shoe is so light and flexible, I am ok with it. The Ones fit much more freely, going the opposite direction by allowing your feet and toes the freedom to relax stretch out and just run. So, it comes down to what you prefer... the feeling of feet dipped in rubber and ready to fly, or the feeling of freedom and a shoe that is barely there. Either way, both shoes do terrific job of letting you run naturally and comfortably.
Also, from a ground feel perspective, the stack height between the two shoes feels very similar, and the feeling on smooth pavement is about the same in both shoes. However, if you run across anything like a rock, the Vapor Gloves will delivery a much sharper sting, as compared to the Ones, which seem to disperse a poke a little better. Much more relevant for trail running, vs road running.
Finally, the MSRP for the Vapor Glove is $80 and for The One it is $115, BUT I've seen prices all over the map depending on the retailer and size.. anywhere from $55 to $80, so shop around!
Ultimately I lean towards the easy feeling of the Vivo's, but that is really a personal choice, and I can easily and happily run in either!
Ok... if you have made it this far.. congratulations! You must be a total minimalist shoe nerd like me! As a reward for sticking it out, I'm happy to say that the great folks at Vivobarefoot have provided a pair of The Ones to one of you! If you'd like to enter, just use the Rafflecopter thingy below.. I'll run this contest until Thursday August 29th, 2013 10PM MST, and then select a lucky winner randomly. Oh, and this contest is open to the residents of planet Earth only!
a Rafflecopter giveaway